Second Act

So this story comes from a few years ago, with someone I would go on to date for a while. We had known each other for a few months by the time we started dating, and it was one of the few relationships that I have had that didn’t spring from the internet. Ok, well…it mostly didn’t. I met him through a former partner that I met through the internet…so maybe everything does stem from Tinder? Kinda feels like there are about three degrees of separation from Tinder. It has Kevin Bacon beat.

But anyway. I think I bring up the fact that we had known each other for a few months because that should have made dating less awkward, right? But, yeah, no. because dating makes EVERYTHING awkward.

For our first date, we went to a local art gallery. Neither of us had been there before, and our hopes were high. Until we walked in and realized that things were a little too abstract. Like, we thought we found the storage room…and it was an exhibit. Conversation was a little awkward, but overall we were fine. And we had a very sweet kiss at the end of the date as I hopped on my bike in the rain but I pedaled away feeling like it was a sunny warm day.

Second dates are the WORST in my opinion. I think they are waaaay more stressful than the first. The first date is known to be a shit show and so many first dates don’t have a second act. But on the second date, it feels like there is more at stake. This is where you decide about a third. Or a fourth. Or if you are going to get rejected again when you put yourself out there. And a second date tends to be where you are supposed to open up a bit more. And get into the opinions and feelings stuff that makes for a reason to have a third date. While I of course want a partner, it’s scary to open up and to trust someone with your emotions…and to me the second date opens up that door.

This guy seemed to also feel that way. So, to make sure it wasn’t awkward, he did the most awkward thing I could think of: he brought a list of questions to ask someone on a date. Like, had it printed off and not just a ref on his phone or something. And the conversation wasn’t even that awkward when he whipped it out—he whipped it out prematurely. (The list. Not his stuff. Mind out of gutter.)

It was actually one of the most endearing things anyone has ever done.

He barely looked me in the eye, and said that he was nervous and doesn’t date much so didn’t want to mess up. I was torn between hugging him, kissing him, or laughing in absolute relief that finally I wasn’t the one who was the most nervous. I refrained from doing any of these things because I didn’t want to overwhelm him. Instead, I made myself as quiet and relaxed and as safe as possible and asked him to read a question.

He asked something about who my hero in my family is.

At that time, I was in a difficult space with my family for various reasons, and wasn’t doing much in the way of communicating with them. So this was a hard question. I wasn’t ready to divulge any of that muck just yet—it wasn’t even sorted out in my head yet. I pondered the question, and then my answer surprised me. I responded that my dad is. My dad and I traditionally have a strained relationship. But it is because we are SO similar. We are both stubborn, highly intellectually intelligent, traditionally not super emotionally intelligent (though I am really working on this!), and highly competitive. So I talked about that, and how my dad worked his ass off for his family even when we didn’t all get along that great. Even if this wasn’t the space I was currently in, I was actually oddly grateful for him for bringing up this thought process.

Of course, I wasn’t going to say much of this out loud until much later.

So I decided to ask it back to him: who is your family hero?

He responded that he hates his family and hasn’t talked to any of them regularly in years.

Wait…so you asked me and pushed me to do all this digging and processing and threw me into this weird spiral…and you can’t actually answer it?

Well played, my friend. Well played.

Maybe I should have just been honest. For my most recent long-term relationship, she and I dove into our family dynamics on our first date and I found so much I could relate to and feel so not alone about. But I guess you just need to evaluate where you are in life, where you are in your self progression, and how much alcohol is in you.

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Missed Connections

So for my writing group, we are working on individual pieces on connection. Which is a perfect topic for me to tackle. Dating and relationships are all about connection: having it, or (more entertainingly) not having it.

We need to find someone we connect with to be able to start a relationship. Someone who makes us feel safe and trusted and taken care of. It always amazes me just how unique that combination has to be for everyone to work. Like, I adore many of my friends’ partners.

But I’ll never date them. Or even want to.

Because I know that we won’t connect in the right ways. And to me, connection is key.

But what works for some may not work for others even though they are friends. Like this aaaamazing situation my friend recently witnessed. She was at a party, and one of her friends decided to bring the woman he had been dating for a few weeks with him. Let’s call them Joe and Sara. They made the rounds, and Joe was introducing Sara left and right. At one point, his best friend (let’s call him Steve) walked in a bit late and came over to say hi.

Then things got awkward.

When Joe went to introduce his date, Steve got awkward and so did Sara.

Why?

Because Steve and Sara had gone on a date. That clearly went terribly. And now she was dating Steve’s best bud…and would be stuck dealing with a guy she clearly didn’t like.

Yeah, this is terrible for them. I mean, awkward city, and a truly difficult sitch.

For the rest of us?

Hilarious. And many of us have either been in that exact situation, or something similar enough to relate and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not them in this position.

Because with the advent of online dating, you date a lot of people. A LOT of people. And even in a city, it’s still a fairly small pool, so you date pretty much all the same people. My friends now show me who they are going on dates with and odds are I know one in five of the people they will show me.

Yikes.

But also…good fodder for this blog!

Like the time I was dating this dude for a few weeks. I thought we were becoming exclusive. He clearly didn’t. And started sleeping with someone my roommate was good friends with. My roommate informed both of us and I was given the pleasure of dumping him before she got to.

Guys, free tip: girls talk and they all seem to know each other.

And as a free tip in general:  be careful who you piss off or brush off. Because you may have to continue to deal with them.

When they say:

“Why is your dog so weird?”

You say:  “Check please!”

Yep. True story.

So I have a wonderful dog. She’s a bit wonky, but she’s also a Lab, so it comes with the territory. She just super duper wants attention, wants people to be happy, and most of all wants belly rubs. If I’m in public with her, she attracts attention from pretty much anyone because she’s pretty dang cute and she loves everyone and everything (no joke:  she gets super butt hurt if another living being doesn’t immediately want to be her best friend).

This particular date taught me to bring with her on all first dates because if you don’t like my dog, we aren’t going any farther. She’s the constant in my life and comes first…and was there waaaaay before anyone else.

She’s also kind of me in dog form. So if you don’t like her, we won’t work. As a result, she’s my litmus test. This particular date taught me to bring her on the first or second date to make sure everyone gets along and to screen people out early on.

But the biggest thing this particular moment taught me was to just be yourself right from the start, be open about your priorities, and when someone hits a deal breaker to walk away. So often we ignore red flags and don’t act on our needs or set healthy boundaries from the start. As a result, we enter into relationships from a false standpoint and can’t understand why they crash and burn so badly. It may sound weird to compare my dog to other red flags, but it’s true:  if we are as ruthless with our boundaries and needs as we should be, it may take longer to find that awesome person, but it may save a LOT of pain.

Although…if I was always good about red flags, I wouldn’t have this blog or the boatload of other over the top stories. So maybe (safely) ignoring your red flags can make for some good stories 😀

How to lose a girl in 5 sentences

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been pretty much over the cis male dating scene, and recently discovered a dating app for women called Her.

So THAT’S where y’all have been!

One of the really good things about it is that the app will start a conversation if you match with someone and you are both too introverted to start it. It asks some pretty good conversation starting questions, like,

“Snuggle hard or party late?”
“Should glitter be banned or put EVERYWHERE?”
“What’s the worst mistake you ever made with your hair?”
“Gelato or fro yo?”
etc.

Recently, the app stepped in and started a conversation between a woman and myself with this question:  “Have you ever met someone famous?”

Me:  “Yep! I met Dave Matthews a few years ago and I meet some famous people through my retail job. But the people I am usually most excited to meet are the big names in my field of study (I’m a marine scientist). Those are the ones who I forget my name around. (Yep, kind of a nerd here!)

Her:  “Hi! Interesting! Bye!”

Sigh. Shoulda waited a minute before being SUCH A DORK.

But then…at least I was able to dodge a deal breaker immediately?

I’ve been a little torn about this actually. On the one hand, I thought I was being kinda funny and up front that I’m a professional nerd. But then I have to remember the stigma around being a nerd, and the picture people get in their head of a typical scientist. I have struggled my entire life to break that stigma, but society, TV, movies, and books haven’t really done me any favors. Usually when I meet people in person, it takes them a while before they actually get that I’m a scientist. By then, my charm has totally won them over (or not, but at least they have the real me to go by).

So I guess that is the downfall of this whole online dating thing…it’s soooo easy to flit to the next attractive photo. It’s a good reminder to not judge a bio by its cover…and to be open minded that your perception about someone could be based totally on society’s take on them…and maybe not them.

Job interview (j/k. lol.)

So a few years ago, I was awarded a fellowship for the year following grad school. In this position, I was able to do a lot of networking. At one particular networking event, I met a woman who was a consultant in a field I was very interested in pursuing a job in once my fellowship ended. We chatted for a while and really got along, so she invited me to come into the office for an interview. I jumped at the chance.

A week or so later, I took a day off of my fellowship (which was a difficult maneuver given that it was a limited duration to begin with) and went downtown to meet with this woman. We chatted for a few minutes about her firm…and then she asked me if I was single.

I’m sorry…what?!

I had, in fact, very recently (like, 5 days ago) become single during a painful breakup over a difficult health situation on my partner’s end of things.

I tried to hide that I just wanted to cry over that thought she triggered and instead just said ‘uh…yeah? WHY?!’

“Oh perfect! I have JUST the guy for you!!”

“WHAT?!”

I shit you not. I literally gave up a day of work for what I thought was a job interview…to be interviewed to see if I was fit to date her friend. I regained a vague sense of composure over the next few minutes and diplomatically left.

It took me a few days to get over the shock, and it was also humiliating to tell my mentor for my fellowship the following day what had happened. He was appalled and didn’t blame me at all for that experience, and just commiserated with me about how inappropriate that was.

 

A few days went by, and I slowly got over that incident.

Until.

An email introduction appeared.

This chick actually thought it was ok to send an email intro between me and her dude friend.

WHAT?!

And he emailed me immediately asking to meet up.

I was furious. I calmly emailed him back and informed him of the entire situation and thanked him for his interest, but told him I was in no place to date. He was unaware of the whole story, and responded with an emphatic apology and agreed to never contact me again.

 

Fast forward to a few months later. I was hiking with my favorite hiking buddy up to a remote alpine lake. We were having a great time chatting and pushing our limits on a tough hike. At one point about a mile from the top, we paused to try to remember how to breathe and have a normal heartbeat again, and let a group pass. As they trickled by, a woman stopped and excitedly said my name. I jerked my head up to be met face to face with the woman who ‘interviewed’ me.

She was soooo excited to run into me. And she was with the guy she wanted me to date.

Dear life: seriously?!

I put on the fakest smile and immediately deflected. My hiking buddy, seeing that I needed rescuing, did me a solid and took over and got the woman back to passing us by on the hike.

Bitch didn’t even offer us the tequila she was chugging at the lake when we arrived.

 

Fast forward to a few months later. A friend was getting married in a few weeks and she set up a fun bachelorette party evening. She wasn’t someone I knew super well, but I wanted to support her for her big day—and I am not one to turn down a bachelorette party! I excitedly met her and her crew at the first destination…and stopped short the minute I walked into the bar.

Job interview girl was there. And sitting next to my friend.

Dear life: just fuck yourself.

I decided to ignore the situation and just focus on the bride to be. Because…that’s how a grown-up and a friend handles things. There was no way I was going to divert attention away from my friend for her big fun night. So I acknowledged the job interview girl and said ‘oh hi! Good to see you again! I’m so excited we can support our mutual friend on her big night!’

Instead of taking the hint, she immediately started blaring out the entire story at the top of her lungs, taking ALL attention onto herself (and by default, me).

Facepalm. And sigh.

Our poor mutual friend then felt awkward AF about us being in the same room, and started trying to patch things up. I covered for all of us and diverted attention back to her as soon as I possibly could, but I felt awful for having her night start out with such a downer of a moment. In the end, she had a fabulous night that she will remember (through all of our pictures…because we showed her a GOOD night) for the rest of her life. Also, turns out job interview girl has an early bedtime, so that helped divert awkwardness early on.

 

That was the last time I have run into her, but I am still wary of another possible time and the awkward possibilities it could hold.

Tho…as usual, at least it will be memorable (and I’ll be sure to update this entry).

Geography much?!

Ok. So. If you’re going to try to pick someone up…dear god please have a fucking clue of where places are. Especially with respect to what is a state or a city. And not the obscure ones. The common ones. I would never ask anyone to know where my hometown is. But I expect some basic level of knowledge as to major cities (I mean come on—sports teams alone should teach many the basics of where shit is).

Think I’m being overly judgy and mean?

Well. Probably. Usually.

But.

Then there’s this.

A few weeks after moving to the west coast, I went to a local bar to mingle with the locals and start meeting people. I soon realized that it was a little awkward to just go up to people at the bar and insert myself into the conversations, so I ordered a few drinks and tried to look friendly (and this was before the days of smartphones, so I literally could just sit there and pretend to watch the baseball game on the tv above the bar). Eventually, a really cute guy approached with a smile and struck up a conversation. Hellllloooo McDreamy.

But. Wait. Dammit. He’s a wingman.

Sigh.

He set up his friend perfectly. He was an ace at his job. His friend? Ball dropper of all ball droppers. He quickly realized he was out of his comfort zone when he discovered I have a graduate degree in molecular science and was in the process of returning to grad school for another degree (he sold jet skis…which I hate). But he doggedly tried to stick the landing anyway. I attempted to be friendly, and told him a bit about my life, which involved graduate school in SE Virginia, some moving around, and a few years of a big-girl career in Boston. He scrambled to keep the conversation moving forward…and really wiped out when he asked,

“So what part of Boston is Virginia in?”

I shit you not. I was speechless. I asked him to repeat the question, desperately hoping he would think about what he was saying and trying to give him an out. And he repeated himself.

What part of Boston is Virginia in?

Ok buddy, I tried. His wingman heard the question get repeated and literally facepalmed. All I could do was stammer out, “well, the city of Boston is about six sates away from the commonwealth of Virginia.” (Yes, I was a douche about it and said commonwealth instead of state. Technically that’s correct. And I was feeling extra douchy and extra not like helping him out.)

His defense? “My geography isn’t so good—the east coast has so much more complexity than the west coast.”

Sorry dude, you just fail.

I paid my tab and left. I am still wary of that bar. And think of this situation every single time I hang out there or bike by it.

And I’m not alone in people fucking up geography that badly.

One friend was living in DC trying to take a peaceful ride home on the Metro when a dude, who repeatedly talked about how he was a Harvard grad, decided to prove juuuuust how smart he was. He asked her where she was from, and she replied “Minnesota.”

His response? “Oh cool—that’s east of Wisconsin.”

Her reply? “Um. No. I promise you, it’s west of it.” And he went on to insist that his Harvard-educated dumb ass knew that the state where she is from is in a different location than it actually is.

He was such a wad about it that she finally got off the Metro a few stops early, waited until the train left the station, and re-entered to finish her ride home. Because paying twice for the Metro was So Much Better than that individual knowing remotely where she lived, or her putting up with his idiocy for any longer.

The moral of these interactions?

Trust the person who is from the place you are trying to have some knowledge about. And know some fucking basics about your country before you open your mouth. Or else you, too, may end up in a blog post (and probably Facebook).

But…then again, as with all of the eyeroll worthy interactions, I am ok with their existence because, at the end of the day, they are pretty entertaining.

Unicorns exist.

I pinky swear promise.

Ok, I should interrupt here to say that it has been a ROUGH past week since the election and I am personally still reeling. While we need to laugh, and laugh a lot, I thought that a hopeful post might be fitting.

So, unicorns.

I have had the absolute pleasure and joy of being on dates with two of them.

What is a unicorn? To me, a unicorn is that mythical magical person that you wind up on a date with who shakes you to your core in ways you didn’t know you could be shaken up in. They check boxes you didn’t know existed. You are shaken up in all of the best ways. You question all past dates. You question yourself for having ever been with anyone else (except for the explicit purpose of learning about yourself and what you want…and more importantly, what you don’t want).

When you meet a unicorn, you aren’t expecting it. They come out of left field, and usually at a time when you most need it, but most don’t believe it will ever happen.

The first time this happened to me was a few years ago. I had just relocated to the west coast (again…I move around a lot and usually swap coasts. Sorry, Middle America, I’m just not that into you). I had been in my new city for about 2 weeks, and decided to hit up the local free music scene at an outdoor venue.

I felt his energy before I saw him. When I looked up at him, I felt my world move. I could see it in him as well. The rest of the night, though we were surrounded by people, we didn’t notice anyone else. We were on our own date and no one else existed. I found out later that everyone could see this happen so clearly and they just let us be. We went on to have a beautiful but rocky relationship; the timing just wasn’t in our favor and we weren’t meant to be together as partners. But he’s still someone I hold so dearly in my heart, and someone who will never leave my life. He has been my rock in so many situations, and I have been his support as well. My love for him will never fade.

But, as hard as it is, sometimes your unicorn isn’t your mate…but they can be something closer than a best friend because they know your soul, and accept it without question. More than chicken soup for your soul, they hold your soul in a cloud of love.

I recently met another unicorn. She’s just incredible. She soothed my soul and made my heart smile. She made me feel shiny and bright. She came into my life during a hellish week (in the few days before I met her, my dog almost died and I broke my foot). So when I met her, I wasn’t expecting to feel too much emotion—I had been already feeling too much emotion that week. But she held my pain and my true self in a way only one other person has, and my world moved for the second time in my life. Her kindness, compassion, and ability to let me be me without fear has been one of the most incredible things. Being vulnerable with her, and allowing her to see my truth, was the easiest thing. Normally when I open up, I am in the fetal position the next day (or 5) because I don’t know how to go there and be ok with it. As it turns out, life got in the way and we were done as quickly as we got started. But in the end, I am just grateful to have been held in her presence for a little while. And ever since, I have found a whole other gear for holding space for people and for keeping an open heart.

I know this blog is about bad dates. But sometimes you need to remember the good ones. And sometimes you need to just have good ones. These are the ones that renew your faith in this process, and allow you to keep going through the bad ones. When you talk about them, your friends quiet their energy and listen—and are just happy for you. They can feel the change in you when you meet a unicorn.

Even after you put that hilarious spin on the bad ones, and keep laughing, there’s an emptiness that can be overwhelming, and a loss of faith that only those in our shoes understand. So be inspired. And don’t lose hope or your sparkle.

Your unicorn is out there. And with any luck, you’ll get a few—or even better, it works out with your first. ***<3***