MORE ADVENTURES IN DATING
Over the last year and a half, during my dating offensive of the western states I spent so many hours that I can't get back on dates where I was actually counting the minutes until I could go home and watch bad TV. I decided I might as well write them down as cautionary tales for the future, I have this propensity to say yes to dates that I really don't want to go on. I am the eternal optimist because, you just never know. That guy that you are in no way attracted to, just might turn out to be the one, if you give him a chance. That is my mother's voice in my head and through the years my mother has been mostly right so, you never know...
These stories are also entertaining - after enough time has passed. Although my friends think they're hilarious when I call them the day after and run the details past them just to be sure I'm not being "too picky" and "too hard on the guy". This is a story from the end of last year - so the trauma has passed. These are just dating stories. Someday I'll write about some of the relationships - jeez, I really wish I'd been born into a culture of arranged marriage. So it would just be over with and people could stop asking me when I'm going to find a nice guy. Or stop trying to set me up with the "nice guys" they know.
So this first sentence should now begin... Late last year
I was “set up” by my friend Evan – who is gay – so I figured at least this man would be straight, because Evan would know right? This man was someone he’d met at a networking event who was wanting to date a great woman and Evan thinks I’m great. He forwarded an e-mail to me which had pictures and a bio wherein this man described himself as a children’s social worker involved in a very special program and also a licensed MFT. I was interested in his work with children and that motivated me to want to meet him. We agreed to meet for coffee. He picks a Starbucks near my house and tells me that he likes the music they play at this one. I think it’s strange that he even knows what kind of music they play. I arrive first, on time, get my coffee, find a table and sit down to read the paper. He arrives late…
He is a smallish man, slight in stature, maybe 5’7” and sports a Van Dyke goatee and a diamond stud in his left earlobe. His face is rather gaunt most likely owing to the fact that he weighs 135 pounds soaking wet. He had described himself as a young 48 and relates how just recently a colleague at work told him that she thought he could not be more than 42. I think that this is probably because he’s seemed to be 42 since birth. I also think that he is overly concerned about age, but perhaps he’s in midlife crisis. His fashion choices include what he clearly considers to be rakish accessories – a wool scarf, a leather vest, yet they miss the mark and he looks more like a small boy dressed up for a special occasion by his mother who still shops in the 1972 Sears catalogue. In fact he dresses a lot like my father, who is still living in the 70s, right down to the diamond stud in its desperate attempt at being hip. I only realize this in retrospect and if I were attracted I think it would be reason for concern.
He speaks softly in very measured sentences. It’s like sipping a chamomile tea and Valium cocktail. His focus on me is intense – he stares deeply into my eyes as he asks me questions: What am I looking for in a relationship? Do I want children? (because he doesn’t). While I talk he makes affirmative noises, mm-hmming, and nodding, staring at me intensely, slowly blinking. I am, at first amused, so involved in observing him that I listen with only half an ear as he tells me that he has just ended a 3 month relationship with a woman that he was very attracted to, but he ultimately realized that in the bigger picture they didn’t connect in some very important ways. I ask him what he means and he says that she was not bright enough for him.
The blender starts to buzz in the background and he closes his eyes, holding up a hand, asking me to stop speaking mid-sentence until it has ceased. I raise an eyebrow in question and he explains that he is a Highly Sensitive Person. He has been reading a book about the HSP (highly sensitive person) and realizes that he has been so all of his life. He is easily overwhelmed by loud noises and crowds, or as he puts it “aroused”, and all of his life people have thought that he was just shy, but really he’s just an HSP and according to the book this is something that should be celebrated. The HSP is special because their sensitivity makes them able to connect very deeply with others and to be sensitive to their needs – like at a party if someone is uncomfortable he always feels this and he also knows what to do to make them more comfortable, by turning down the music and the lights. I don’t really know how to respond but I wonder if he knows what the psychological term “projection” means, and I am visualizing him sitting in a room lit with candles and new age music playing low in the background and considering that a real good wingding. I am also thinking that going to see the kind of live music I like is probably not something he would enjoy. In fact, going to see X would probably be a torturous and traumatically arousing experience for him. So live music is probably not something we could do together because I don’t do Yanni (although he is kind of sexy in that hairy Greek way).
Even so, I enjoy the attention and his interest in all things me – hey, it’s my favorite subject! Because I wasn’t sure how this would go I have scheduled a bikini wax for 12:30 and I leave feeling like he definitely falls under the three date rule – one for yes, one for no, and one for maybe. This was the maybe date. I am pretty sure we don’t have a lot in common, but he’s a good listener. He asks if he can call me and I say yes and head off.
Next time we speak it is a Monday night. I am returning his call and tell him that I can’t see him the next weekend because I have plans. I suggest dinner some night the following week. He asks me if I’d like to celebrate his birthday with him. Is that weird? I kind of think it is. I mean he’s only just met me. Doesn’t he have friends? He wants to know where I’d like to go? What I like to eat? Hey it’s your birthday – you choose and I’ll be happy to go along. This being settled I want to hang up the phone, eat dinner and watch the football game. He wants to talk. I turn the game on and press mute and off we go. He’s back to asking questions and this time I’m only halfway paying attention because I’m watching the game so I don’t realize that he’s taking me down the road of past relationships. I am answering his questions – and watching the game – and he keeps asking me things like, “and how did that make you feel?” and “what do you think you’d do differently?” And I’m answering him and become aware that I’m starting to feel uncomfortable and little sad and really annoyed. I realize that he’s been analyzing me and that I have made a date to go to dinner with Therapydate. I tell him I need to go eat something – we’ve been on the phone for over an hour. I vow to keep my guard up and wonder if this is how guys feel.
On Sunday morning I am laying in bed, completely content because it’s raining out, my house is clean and I have given myself the whole day off to do nothing but watch football. Therapydate calls. I greet him happily, “hey there, how are you?” He says that he’s listening to one of the cable radio stations that you can get on your TV and the music is sad so he’s feeling kind of teary right now. Oh. I suggest he change over to the gospel channel. “No”, he says, “I’m enjoying just feeling sad.” Okay then. He asks what I’m doing and I tell him about how perfectly happy I am to have nothing to do but lay around my clean house and watch football. There’s a pause. “Football?” he asks, “You watch football? I don’t even watch football.” And now we’ve established another thing we won’t be doing together. “Do you watch basketball?” Not really, I tell him, I’ll watch the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter but up until that point I find it kind of boring and frenetic, not my thing really. He tells me that he loves basketball and he plays down in Venice on a team. He gets quiet and then reverts back to asking me therapy questions, this time about my family. I feel my happiness start to drain away. I wonder silently, if when he’s playing basketball down in Venice with his friends does he ask a teammate who’s just been called for a foul, “how does that make you feel?” Does he get beat up? I change the subject and ask him if he’s inviting any of his friends to come along to celebrate his birthday? He says no, he wants to just be with me although he hastens to add that he has friends he could invite if he wanted. He asks how late can I stay out. I don’t know 11 or so. For some reason this is exciting to him. He tells me that he’s done research and selected a restaurant and wants to know how should we get together. Oh boy. I tell him that I’ll come to his house and we’ll go from there. I don’t want him to know where I live. I think this is pretty much going to be the “no” date. I am also aware that I am entering the PMS zone and allow for the fact that I have a tendency to be irrationally intolerant and pretty much a raging bitch so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The day arrives and I have no idea what to give someone for his birthday whom I know very little about, except that he’s heavily into reflective listening and is highly sensitive. I decide to give him an orchid. I find them fascinating to look at and very calming, and it seems like a good gift for an HSP. I come home from work to a message from him – he wants to give me even more detailed directions to his condo than he gave me on Sunday. He starts describing where he lives and it sounds really complicated. I ask if there’s anywhere for me to park and he says he’ll let me into the parking garage. I offer to pick him up and drive us to the restaurant I don’t want my car trapped behind bars – I may need to escape. I tell him that I’ll call him when I get there and he can come down.
I drive down his street looking at all of the condos – miles of them. I think to myself that I would rather live in a shed that one of these Habi-trails. That PMS is pretty bad, I internally promise to be my nicest and sweetest self. I locate his building and call to say I’m here. I wait and wait and wait and after about 10 minutes he comes down wearing a leather vest again. I am feeling kind of sad for him now because clearly he had big expectations for this evening. On the way to the restaurant we somehow get on the subject of scuba diving. I tell him that I want to get certified but I’m kind of scared of having to clear my mask underwater however, I think it would be magical once I got down there. He tells me that he got certified but doesn’t dive because it gives him too much anxiety to be underwater and dependent on that tank for air. I wonder aloud if he can use his HSP techniques to center and focus on being in the moment and move out of the fear. No. He just starts to hyperventilate and worry about drowning.
The restaurant that he’s selected through his research is a Thai place in the marina. I want to order my regular – spicy beef salad, he wants salmon and he wants me to share. I have to tell him that I don’t care much for salmon, but he should have whatever he wants and not worry about me. He asks if I like fish at all – sure I reply, if I’m eating in a restaurant that specializes in seafood and doesn’t get their fish from local waters. He orders hot sake, which they’re out of and I ask for cold, which they have. He has no idea what that is. I explain that cold sake is actually the better quality akin to fine wine in our country. That high end Japanese restaurants will often carry various kinds and that often they’re poured into wooden boxes for drinking. The evening just kind of goes downhill from here as we go from subject to subject and our disparate personalities become more and more apparent.
He has asked for the table in the corner and is annoyed when a party of three are seated next to us and have loud conversation – again with the hand, pausing for silence. He rests his arms on his chair, closes his eyes and takes a big, deep breath, which he releases with an audible, ahhhhhhhhhh. He opens his eyes and looks deeply into mine and I decide to ask him about the relationship that he was just in, the one with the girl who was not so bright. I ask him if it was a physically intimate relationship. He says that it was. I ask him who ended it and he says that he did. I ask him how he thought that made her feel, this not so bright girl. He looks slightly taken aback and then says – I swear to God these are his exact words – “well, her behavior indicated that she was very hurt.” I then wondered aloud what she might’ve learned from the experience and said I hoped that it was that she should value herself more than to be so careless as to throw herself away on a relationship with someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know her before they get in bed. Vicious, I know, but I said it in a very sweet and innocent way – this is my version of therapy talk.
So have you ever lived with anyone?
Yes, about a year ago. I lived with a woman for a year and a half in my place, the one that I own now. It ended when we had were having an argument, well I guess a fight really. I wanted a timeout. To go for a walk. As I was trying to get out of the apartment she threw herself in front of the door and wouldn’t let me out. I had to get physical with her to get out. Once I was out she told me that she was going to get a restraining order and I shouldn’t come back. This was MY PLACE! So I took a walk and went to a bookstore and read for a little bit then I called my friend Dave. He told me, and I agreed, that it would be best to get her out as soon as possible. So that’s what I did. After that I was a little frightened of her, but she left the next month. She moved to a religious community and now she’s married and living in Encinitas with this guy she met and he’s brought her kids out to live with them down there in Encinitas. So have you ever lived with anyone?
No. I can’t imagine it, unless we lived in a duplex. I need a place to go that’s my own.
So you would want two separate residences.
Ideally, yes – a duplex would serve the purpose quite well I think.
He didn’t really like that idea, I could tell. He closed his eyes again and took another deep breath. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. He slowly opened his eyes, smiled and said, “I like this music”. Mmmm-hmmmm, it was new age Asian background music. Not bad, but I wouldn’t necessarily play it at home. I moved on to his family.
So are you going to see your family for the holidays?
No. I don’t really like to spend time around my family.
Oh that’s right. Your mom is a screamer. (I remembered him telling me that he used the “ice mountain” technique to freeze his mother out when he was growing up and she would scream at him.)
Well we have an agreement that I will go home next year for my 50th birthday party and spend three days with them. (Wait, I thought you were a young 48 – you just turned 49? And you already have plans for your 50th birthday party?)
Can you stay in a hotel?
No. That would be weird. I’ll stay at my sister’s house. She has a room that I can go in and shut the door and read. (And that’s not weird – to stay with your family and shut yourself away from them?)
ME:Well, that’s probably better for you than staying with your parents.
Yes. I’m still have an upset with them from when they came to visit when I was living with that woman I told you about and my mom was just relentlessly bitching about how she wasn’t this and she wasn’t that even when I asked her to stop and told her that I really cared about this woman. By the end of the visit my dad admitted to me that he liked her but when he got back home and my mom could hear him talking to me on the phone he would bad mouth her again.
Why does it matter so much what your parents think? I mean you’re a grown man. (You’re a therapist who should have worked through this stuff before they gave you a license)
Well, I won’t allow anyone to be disrespectful to me or someone I care about in my OWN home.
So did you ask them to leave?
Well, that never occurred to me.
Oh. (silently thinking – ooooeeeee! Big mother issues – this is definitely the NO date)
After this I was talking about things I love to do – go to the track to watch Thoroughbred racing. He couldn’t imagine. Fine dining – he doesn’t like to spend a lot of money, he’s a saver. He suggested a walk in the Marina – it was 9:30 and I had afterall said I could stay out until 11 or so. I pointed out that I wasn’t wearing suitable shoes for walking, but let’s just admit right here and now that if I was at all attracted to this man I would have kicked those shoes off and walked barefoot on dirty cement and thought it was incredibly romantic. I pay for dinner when the check arrives. It’s his birthday and although I am starting to be repulsed by the combination of fear and arrogance I really do want to be kind (Note to all men – if a woman pays for herself or both of you on a date early on, odds are she’s trying to buy her way out of the situation – this is probably your last date.)
On the way home he tells me about the political groups that he’s involved with that are doing good work to get Bush out of office, for instance the Moral Majority. I ask if he’s sure about that? I’m wondering if he knows that the Moral Majority is led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and other members of the religious right and they actively hate liberals, gays and feminists and support the bombing of abortion clinics. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they’ve donated a lot of money to getting the shrub elected. I don’t say anything though in case he’s given them money. I tell him that I’m involved with moveon.org and that’s a good group. Oh yes, he knows about them, but he’s real involved with the Moral Majority. Okay, then. I’ve almost got him home it’s 10:15 and I can tell he’s disappointed, but I feel mostly relieved to drop him off and I sincerely hope that he is as aware as I am that we have nothing in common and there is no chemistry – I am not a receptive female. I quickly kiss him on the cheek and say goodbye. He says he’ll call me.
I want to tell him that there is a fine line between tenacity and masochism, but instead I smile, wave and drive off hoping that he was just being nice. Like me.