My Third Date with Pete

If I tell you this story with Pete is a trilogy, would that be a big enough hint about how this thing goes down?

Most of my friends, when I told them about our two dates, flipped out. I’m not usually a two-date girl, definitely not a three-date girl, and they could see the potential for another date as well as I could. And I guess that my storytelling skills are better than I thought, because when they asked about it, when I was going to see Pete again, my noncommittal shrug totally baffled them.

Didn’t I want to see him again?

Didn’t I? Did I? I wasn’t sure. We had fun together, post-bowling that is. But at the same time, I wasn’t thinking about kissing him anymore. And when I realized it had been three days since our date and I hadn’t heard from her, all it garnered was a thoughtful, “huh,” and a shrug. Look, I’m all about letting love have time to grow, but I wasn’t even sure if I liked the seeds I was about to plant.

Maybe it WAS the bowling.

My friends blamed my hesitation on my poor sportsmanship during the bowling game. They warned me about the shrinking pool of Dateables our age. They tried to argue the logic of at least seeing Pete one more time. And I could acknowledge that at least, so when he finally texted me after a week and a half of nothing, I played along.

He asked about my plans that weekend, and I gave him a run down of the scheduled events, expecting him to pick a time that was free.

Except, he didn’t. He invited himself to the movies with my best friend and her boyfriend.

That’s cool. It could be like a fun little double date. Besides, a third date is as good a time as any for a guy to meet Anne. If she doesn’t approve, it’s over anyway. Most likely at least.

So I agreed to this. Except I TOLD him, VERY clearly, that we had to be at the movie theatre a half an hour before the movie started. Movies are very important to me and I hated missing previews.

You know what’s coming, right? A text from Pete a half hour before the movie starts, telling me he’s just leaving his apartment, and could I buy his ticket for him to save time? A phone call telling us to go ahead and get seats and that he’ll let us know when he’s arrived. A text five minutes AFTER the movie starts letting me know he’s there and needs his ticket.

An ENTIRE movie spent trying to focus despite the hair playing, “cute” elbow nuzzling, and finger plucking that he must have thought was cute.

Oh, and he TALKED during the movie. Gag on a spoon.

When the credits began to roll and the lights came up, I didn’t know whether to comment on the movie first or introduce Pete to Anne and her boyfriend. It didn’t matter much, since Pete barely gave them more than a head nod.

As we were walking out of the theatre, Pete rested his hand on my elbow, “Can I walk you to your car?”

“Please,” I said. As in, Please, escort me out of this unimpressive situation and thank you for not asking me out to coffee now, or a drink, or some other night-extending waste of time.

When we got to my car, I could tell he was trying to draw me in. And to be honest, I was trying my very hardest not to even look him in the eye. I was disappointed. What happened to the interesting guy who so coyly convinced me to give him my number? What happened to the fun guy who could surprise my expectations by drinks at Applebee’s? What happened to the vulnerable guy who could open up about his emotions in the middle of the bowling alley?

And as I was opening my car door and slipping into my seat for a pucker-free escape, Pete grabbed the door.

“Wait,” he said. — No no please, I thought. — “Let me pay you back for the movie ticket.”

He opened up his wallet. “I’ve only got five bucks.”

He handed me the bill, and I took it like a golden ticket. A guy who waits ten days to text, shows up late for the movie, and barely pays for his own ticket, let alone mine? He sounds just as uninterested as I am. Another promising beginning proved as just the typically unsensational experience. My optimistic side is hardly disappointed–though my cynical side is feeling vindicated, once again.

Maybe we can just be friends. If either of us can ever muster enough motivation to break out our texting fingers again.

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#18 Don’t Agree on Anything–Including the State of your Relationship

Once upon a time there was a lovely girl named Selena. Selena had a big heart and a strong character and, of course, like all heroines, smoking hot too. Selena worked at a research lab, trying to help scientists and teachers and occupational therapists better understand autism. I’m not saying she was Ma Theresa. I mean, she worked at a RESEARCH lab, and sometimes very late at night they would–well, that’s not pertinent.

One day Selena was giving a lecture to a group of teachers about the newest discoveries in autism research. At the end of the lecture, a ruggedly handsome and smolderingly vulnerable man approached her. His name was Justin, and though he wasn’t a teacher, he was an architect who had just returned from three years building houses in war torn Uganda, his newborn nephew had autism, and he wanted to be as informed as he could be so as to provide his nephew with the best support he could. Selena’s soft heart was touched, and she offered to meet Justin again for coffee to give him more information.

It did not take long for the relationship to turn romantic. Justin persistently but non-stalkerishly pursued Selena, taking her out to dinner, sending her flowers, texting with sweet excitement about their dates. And when Justin introduced Selena to his sister’s family, and his adorable little nephew, she knew that he was falling in love with her. Also, it was good that he was into that late night stuff too.

OMG, aren't they like, SO super cute?

Selena and Justin delved into a wonderful, lovey-dovey, sickening to their friends relationship. Justin was sweet and attentive and would come over to shovel Selena’s driveway in the winter. Selena was supportive and understanding and was just naughty enough to make Justin feel like he was dating a seductress and not a slut. After two years, they moved in together.

After four more years, Selena had resorted to online auctions to ice the sore spot in her life.

Selena wanted to get married.

Some people don’t want to get married. I have opinions enough of dating and marriage, hooking up and living together, but I also hold, for the most part, that if two people agree on the state of their relationship, there’s no problem. If two people want to live together, raise children, build a home, and never get married, that’s completely their prerogative. The problem sneaks in when the two individuals want DIFFERENT things.

Whenever anyone brought marriage up to Justin, he would grunt. Not in an assenting or even noncommittal way, in a “shut-the-hell-up-no-one-gives-a-baby-panda’s-ass” way. Justin’s family had been through several divorces, and he just couldn’t see the value of marriage in today’s transient culture. And because Selena was level-headed and mostly reasonable, she didn’t push or manipulate. She loved Justin and respected his opinions and only faked a pregnancy once.

She thought he was going to propose that night. He just sang her some dumb song.

But now she was in her late 30s, with a man she loved but who didn’t share her life dreams, and she had to make a choice–stay with Justin, a dreamboat in a fantasy river, or end it and look for a lover who wanted the same life she did.

Ok, so, the story of Selena and Justin may not be exactly accurate, but I do know a couple who has been together for over five years, and the guy has zero interest in proposing–not because he doesn’t have enough money or because he thinks he’s too young or because he has something else he wants to accomplish first. He just has no intention of getting married. And he doesn’t want children. Ever. And my friend is caught–stay with a guy she loves who won’t marry her or move on.

Here’s the problem, and this may seem a little harsh, but I’m just going to say it–Justin is never going to wake up one day and realize he wants to marry Selena. For the most part, people resist change. And if Justin is comfortable–if he LIKES the state of his relationship–he’s not going to spontaneously become interested in matrimony and shared names. So for Selena to hang around, hoping that one day his eyes will be opened to the beauty of legally forever, is stupid.

She has three options–

1. Stay with him. If Selena decides she loves Justin more than her own dreams of marriage and babies. And that is totally cool–if she REALLY decides she wants Justin more than her own family. But Selena does want a family. Really really badly. And usually, when we sacrifice our dreams for another, seeds are planted. Resentment. Frustration. And sadness. If Selena stays with Justin, it’s not a compromise. It’s a complete surrender.

2. Give him an ultimatum. This is dumb. If he proposes, he’s only doing it because she forced him into it, and that just seems… bad. If he doesn’t propose, either they break up or she sticks with him, her bluff called and everyone knowing it.

3. Leave. Just leave. Just tell him, “Hey, I’ve love you, but I know that what you want and what I want are different. And I need a relationship with a guy who wants what I want.” And then it’s over.

Selena compensates for her lack of an engagement ring with other obnoxious jewelry.

Yes, it will suck, but if Justin is going to recognize the value of marriage, it’s going to be because he lost a girl he wanted to be with forever. And I’m not saying that he will. Door #3 is a risk–Justin may never connect the sadness of the breakup with his inability to commit. And it’s very unlikely that if he DOES change, that he’ll pursue Selena again. The most likely best case scenario is that, by Selena dumping Justin, the next time he’s with a girl who he wants to love forever, he’ll let her know. In every way possible. He’ll take the chance with her and risk his love on marriage.

And Selena, the wonderfully chic, awesomely cool girl that she is, will meet an guy of comparative character, who’ll want to give her everything she’s dreamed of.

#14 Pre (Dis)Approve

Um, I don’t know about anyone else, but I LOVE gossiping about boys and girls. I hate my guy friends for being so mum about who they like and what they’re doing about it. Then when I get together with Anne [who has a boyfriend and therefore pretty minimal fresh drama in her life], the best we can come up with is–

“So Matt told me that he likes someone.”

“I know!”

“For months!”

“It’s crazy.”

“I wonder who it is.”

“Me too.”

“…”

Then we ponder in silence for a while. And move on.

This activity results in hours of good fun, like the time Matt requested a list of potential girlfriends from Anne and I. [PS. I totally put myself at the top of that list. Mostly because it was just a ridiculous request.]

Just to be clear. If THIS man was asking you to compile a list of potential girlfriends, you would DEFINITELY put yourself at the top. No matter your completely platonic feelings for him.

But. Just like any innocent fun, there’s a seedy underside that comes around to bite you in the butt.

Before I left to spend the holidays with my family, I was spending a lot of time with this great guy, Logan. Like, A LOT. I met him early in December when I went out with some friends from church for lunch. The weekend before I left, I saw him Friday, Saturday, Monday, and twice on Tuesday. For a change, the guy was initiating, inviting me to hang out, laughing at my jokes, texting me first. I felt like I was actually being pursued instead of my usual trend of making my self too accessible for the wrong kind of guy to take advantage of me, and I was having a bloody good time. I was REALLY excited. I was so ready to take a risk on this guy, and I felt pretty confident that he felt the same way about me.

Then I had to leave for ten days for the dumb holidays. But Logan and I texted every day, several hours a day. He texted me on Christmas. He’d say cute things, like when he was out with his family for Chinese and he texted me to let me know that since I was the year of the dragon and he was the year of the rabbit, we were compatible [that was his word too, btw].

Things are going GREAT, I thought. I was practically dating this guy, all but in any official name.

The first week I got back to Michigan, I saw him once. I had to set it up. Which I’m not opposed to, mind you. I’m just neurotic. And it started doubts. Compounded with the fact that we went from texting every day for hours a day to near radio silence, I started to get nervous. Had he lost interest? Had I been played? Had he found someone new?

Still, I tend to recognize when I’m being irrational and neurotic. So I took my fears to my friend Rachel. And I started out positive.

“So there’s this guy.”

And since she also likes gossiping about boys, her face lit up.

“His name is Logan L—-.”

You know how when you’re trying on an outfit you’re really excited about, and you jump out of the dressing room to show your friend, and she’s trying really hard to say something nice because she KNOWS how much you like it, but it’s a struggle to keep a smile on her face and the best she can come with is “wow”?

That’s what Rachel looked like.

Her smile froze, and I could tell she was struggling.

“What?” I asked. But I knew already, because I had overheard something that lunch a month ago, when I first met Logan, I had overheard something and it had bothered me in the very bottom tip of my heart since then.

“It’s just… I thought he was seeing Hilary.”

That little fear in the very bottom tip of my heart exploded.

“Well… what?”

I like Hilary. Except she ALSO has beautiful curly hair and very pretty eyes. So maybe Logan has a type, or she stole all my thunder.

And, without compromising her friendship with Hilary, Rachel told me what she knew. That Hilary and Logan had spent a lot of time together last semester, that it had been undefined but at least looked like it was leading to a relationship, and that when Hilary had finally put her foot down and asked what was going on between the two of them, Logan had said he wasn’t ready for a relationship. By piecing together what Rachel knew and what I knew, we put this DTR between Logan and Hilary about 72 hours before Logan and my friendship started to spark.

To be clear–I don’t mind if Logan dated someone IMMEDIATELY before me. Maybe he was getting to know Hilary, and then in the end decided he didn’t want to date her. Isn’t that the POINT of casual dating and hanging out? To decide if you actually like someone enough to date date them? That’s not what bothered me. What bothered me instead was the fear that this is how he treats ALL his relationships. That his character is flawed by instant but short lived passion, that he can’t commit, that he had wrapped my very fragile heart around his fingers and was about to break it. And those fears overtook any excitement I had about our non-dating relationship and completely broke down any dams logic or rational thinking had put up around my heart and mind.

When I left Rachel, I was on my way to see him. I had already made plans to hang out with him and some other friends. And I struggled to get my neurotic thinking under control. I didn’t want to have preconceived notions. I didn’t want to judge Logan before he had a chance to actually show me what his character really is. I didn’t know his side of the story. I didn’t know anything except a limited second hand account from the jilted party. It would be unfair of me to change my perceptions of him and behavior towards him off that conversation.

And yet… Maybe it was a warning. Over Christmas break I had to deal with the fears I still have about being in a committed relationship and it was terrifying. I was ready to take a risk on someone whose own intentions I didn’t know. Maybe hearing about Hilary would help keep my own presuppositions in check, reeling me in before I got hurt.

It’s been a few days since I talked with Rachel. When I look back at the time since I’ve come back to Michigan post-holidays, there’s been a definite shift in my relationship with Logan. We see each other and talk less. But he’s also really busy. And it’s only been a week and a half, not really long enough to draw any true conclusions. So I’m still trying to balance my fears and my hopes. Basically, I’m just trying to stop having feelings for him, so that I won’t get too excited when I hear from him or too disappointed if I don’t. I’m letting that conversation with Rachel get into my head only enough to keep me from pushing myself into a type of relationship Logan may not want yet, but trying to keep it quiet enough that I can still hope for the best.

Hell yeah, I'm going to hope for the best. Hell. Yeah.

At the very least, if I find out he’s an emotional man whore and all romantic feelings are drained from my body, I plan on still keeping him around for entertainment purposes. He’s ridiculously funny.

#9 Spend All Your Time Waiting

I recently got an internship, and then the holidays came, and I let this blog fall on the wayside.

My bad.

Also, I know this is TMI, but one of my tonsils swelled up and every time I swallow it’s like someone’s stabbing me in the neck with a fork. That just sucks when you’re home for a holiday where the main event is eating. I just wanted someone to feel bad for me, that’s all.

But today, today, I have a bone to pick [do people say that anymore? I’m young, but I’m not really hip]. I’m about to smack down a throw down. It’s time to call a bitch out.

I’ve got serious issues with Fate.

Fate, Destiny, God’s Will, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t fly with me. The combination of Sofia’s reluctance to put any effort into finding a boy and the advice of all my friends about how, when I have peace with being single, a boy will suddenly appear, has created a perfect storm of outrage. And I’m about to take Destiny to task.

There’s a myth that people believe. I’m going to give you the Christian version of the myth because it’s what I’ve been hearing lately, but if you don’t share the faith, this works equally well interchanged with the amorphous Fate, True Love, whatever, and I’ll show that if you promise to hang through.

This is the conversation that frequently pops up–

Me: I’m ok with being single, but on the other hand, I’d like to not be alone anymore.

Well-meaning Friends: Don’t make a relationship an idol. God has perfect timing. Once you are at peace with not having a boyfriend, one has a funny way of turning up. God’s so funny like that!

Ok. One, this is a way convoluted view of God’s grace and goodness, turning it into some rewards-based system. That ain’t going to fly with me, honey. But two, and most importantly, this is not Biblical. People in the Bible didn’t sit around in the desert dust, going, well, I’m ok with being single, I’m 267 and never been kissed, but it’s ok. I’ve reached a state of enlightenment, and now I will be blessed with a spouse.

When Abraham was getting old, he decided it was time for his son Isaac to be a man and get a woman. So he sent his servant to his family’s family to find his son a wife. He didn’t sit Issac down, give him a man-talk about being content with being single, and then watch from the sidelines as his daughter-in-law suddenly sashayed into their lives. Dude, he even knew which TOWN that girl was coming from.

And let’s not forget the first boy and girl ever, celebrity couple Evam. [Adam and Eve need better publicists.] When God saw that Adam was moping under the apple tree, he didn’t say, “It’s ok. Just wait until you’re satisfied with being the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD. Then we’ll talk. I’ve got funny timing.” No way. He said, “That man needs a WOMAN,” and He made it happen. He didn’t wait for Adam to have any inner peace.

I'm not gonna lie. I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve were WAY hotter.

Look, this myth permeates our lives, whatever you believe in, God, Fate, True Love. Some people think that once you’re happy with loving yourself you’ll find someone special to love you too. Some people believe that you have a Soul Mate who will make you feel complete like a brand new puzzle. And while I don’t disagree with some underlying truths in these myths, that you should be happy with yourself, that you shouldn’t look for completion in a relationship, that you can’t let the gloominess of being alone swallow you whole, once you learn these lessons, there is no master switch to flip. It’s not like an eligible man is alerted to your new found zen via Bat Single and comes running down the street to you.

This is not an if-then truth. It’s hardly a truth at all. And it has a lot of women sitting on their hands, trying to figure out what’s wrong with THEM that they don’t have a boyfriend, what part of their personal development have the neglected, what how-to empowerment have they not discovered, what part of their faith are they failing. And that’s not ok with me. We don’t EARN boyfriends through self improvement. Love is not an ethereal myth. It’s hard work, getting out there, meeting people, getting to know them, and that’s all BEFORE the relationship starts.

I love the mystery of love, but I’m grounded. And I would much rather have a date from my new full fledged eHarmony membership than to sit around waiting for Destiny to give me a call.

#7 Never Meet Anyone

Meeting a Dateable Boy is half the challenge.

Even though I think there are three major challenges to starting a relationship, these three problems don’t have equal weight. The first obstacle, actually meeting a boy, is the most difficult one to overcome. Especially after college, meeting a single, age appropriate boy is like getting to swim with Shamoo. Exciting *and* a little risky.

In a post collegiate stage of life, in our emerging adulthood (aka prolonged adolescent) stage, what is the best way to mingle and mix? When we’re no longer quarantined in classrooms with co-eds of similar age and interests, how do we go forth and conquer? Once we’ve graduated and left all our clubs and societies and drunk dial make out buddies in the rearview mirror, where can we turn?

The most obvious answer is to Pam and Jim it, meeting, falling in love, pretending you aren’t in love, and eventually marrying someone from your work place. Of course, depending on what field you’ve chosen to work in, there may not be a whole lot of Dateables where you work. I was smart enough to pick an industry that’s powered by young men [this backfires when it comes to employment equality and general sexism. Hey, nothing’s ever free]. However, once you meet someone where you work, the question of work place ethics may [or may not] come into play. Earlier this month I was talking with a film industry friend about his stagnated relationship with a girl from a film set we had all worked on in July. AKA, they were still just friends, despite interest from both parties.

“I just like to keep things professional,” he said.

I reminded him that the project we all worked on together ended over three months ago and then continued to expound in my world weary wisdom that the workplace is our prime potential-boyfriend/girflriend meeting place now that we are “professionals.”

He discarded my advice as cynicism. He is still single.

Adorable? Yes. But The Office has an improbably high number of office romances, I think.

Then we have my friend Oliver, who, with his own girlfriend currently out of the country for a year teaching impoverished kids in Honduras, has a lot of time on his hands that he’s decided to convert into a matchmaking service. Having met his own girlfriend through a friend, his business model relies on him being the catalyst to hook up his friends with more of his friends. Last weekend we were out with a bunch of friends when he cornered me.

“You need to meet my friend Jeremy,” he said. “He’s a really great guy. I think you’ll like him.”

Though I was not as convinced of Oliver skills as he himself is, I’m not one to turn down a freebie introduction.

Jeremy was a really nice guy. He also, in the classic blind date movie scene, was crying in his drink by the end of the night about his ex-girlfriend who dumped him two weeks prior [did I mention it was his birthday too?]. There’s not much of a love connection when you’re trying to pat a guy on the back as he bemoans his bitterness about respecting his ex-girlfriend’s wish to save sex for marriage. Yes, I’m sorry that you didn’t get laid when you wanted to. Yes, it all seems very sad. Yes, let’s get him another Long Island.

My friend Calvin thinks it’s a numbers game. Dateables are all around us, we’re just too busy or too shy to make our own luck and introduce ourselves. And we shouldn’t let rejection get us down. He’s started pushing himself to say hi to five or six women a day to 1. open the doorways of communication and 2. get used to rejection.

If anyone's interested in rejecting this face, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

I see the value in this. Who hasn’t been out and about in a bookstore or on a train or skinny dipping and seen someone across the lake who’s quite handsome and heard some snippet of conversation that’s peaked our interest? Characters on TV and in movies never have problems turning this moments of interest into actual encounters, dates, and a little lip-locking. Could it also be that easy in real life?

On the other hand… the numbers game makes me uneasy. What’re the chances that this person who snagged your attention based on looks or uncontextualized conversation alone could be both a Dateable and someone who actually shares your interests, worldview, and taste in music? The numbers game is a tricky one to play, and as someone who took Statistics pass/fail because she knew enough about math to realized that to do otherwise would ruin her GPA, I might sit that one out. It’s like playing the Powerball with your required list of Dateable characteristics. You wait for each numbered ping pong ball to pop up. Singleness–match. Looks–match. Geography–match. You’re getting excited by this point. Sense of humor–match. Desired number of kids–match. You’re standing on your couch, bated breath. Faith–Ahhh, hybrid Mormon-Hindu! Why, Lord, why??

Number one hurdle–meeting a Dateable Boy.

That being said, I met someone this weekend. I crashed a law student bowling night, because I like sneaking in places I’ve been invited but clearly don’t belong, and I met a nice, funny, tall Dateable boy. I could wear my favourite four inch wedge heels and still be shorter than him.

So maybe it’s a numbers game of meeting the people your friends work with. Maybe to jump the hurdle without crashing into them you’ve got to combine all these approaches. Or none. Maybe there’s no best way to meet people. All I know is that now that I’ve met a Dateable, there’re still a lot of hurdles to clear.

Because, of course, meeting the boy is just half the challenge.

#6 Dance on your Pedestal

Boys are not the only ones who can be complete idiots when it comes to the opposite sex. They just have a higher fail percentage.

There are some boys that some girls should just never meet. They especially should never become friends. They most especially need to stay away from the kind of relationship where the boy has created a man-made pond by drooling over the girl with little provocation. This is good for no one.

This is the sort of relationship I had with Mark.

Oh, you know, he used to look like a girl, but he and his brothers clean up ok.

Some men treat us like we deserve. Some men admire us and support us and refrain from always trying to fix our problems with unsoliciated advice. They also recognize our flaws, know which of our buttons they shouldn’t push if they don’t want an irrational outburst, and understand that sometimes we are wrong. Then there are some men who put us on a pedestal and stare at us with big doe-eyes wider than Bambi’s.

These men are enablers.

It’s hard enough to be a girl in today’s culture with its Olympic gold medal standards of beauty. The pressure for image control is everywhere. Why do you think girls are such Facebook addicts? And when someone, some poor nice shmuck, creates his own version of us and then actually shows a little affection–not like the loser who brought a rented movie over to our place, felt us up, and then didn’t even text all weekend–it’s hard not to feel a little soft for that guy. And once we start feeling for this poor guy, we realize–we can’t destroy our own pedestal. It would crush him in the tumble. All the poor dude wants is some untouchable muse [they’re usually artists, this kind of guy]. They adore devotion. Is it so difficult to grant him that simple prayer?

The prolem with Enablers is that keeping up a certain image is just exhausting. In my defense, my level of phoniness with Mark was minimal. It just required a certain degree of control over our relationship; I found out quickly that I don’t want the burden of control. Too much thought, too much at stake. And truly, these sort of relationships never work out. Being on a pedestal always keeps you distant from your adorer and gives you vertigo. If you don’t want true intimacy with a person, to be known and still loved, to be actually able to share your heart and your life, then by all means stay up there on your pedestal.

As for me, I’d rather just be eye level.

I have to credit Mark. Even though he was shy, he was brave enough to take his shot with me. The day I left my first university for good, and after Ex-Boyfriend and I were done, Mark kissed me. [Granted, I cried for the next half hour, which is never the response you hope for post-kiss, a combination of emotions, one hour of sleep the night before, a morning of packing everything I owned into a van, and my destroyed hope that Ex-Boyfriend and I would get back together and he’s be the only boy I’d ever kiss.] And over a year later Mark would take a chance again. It would never work out with us. And Mark’s now happily with someone much better for him.

I’ll always be grateful to Mark, not only for the friendship we did have or for the liberation his kiss gave me (oh, the boys I could now kiss that Ex-Boyfriend wouldn’t be the only one!), but also because Mark always seemed to see the best in me. Sometimes when it’s difficult to look at yourself fairly, it’s nice to have someone whose perception is skewed happily in your favor.