I met this couple at a mixer this past weekend. They were wonderful. I instantly made friends with the both of them. They told me the adorable story of how they met and rode city transportation home together. Then they asked me to tell them about some of my first date stories.
I've had a series of unproductive first dates in the past few months. One man told me that his main goal was to have a wife by year's end. Another man gave me his business card and it had a different name on it because he simply had made up a name when we met - his "club name," as he called it. Then there was the hot, successful divorcee who just happened to inhale Tanqueray tonics faster than I could count. He was actually drunk before dinner even arrived on the table. Later he came back from the restroom and sat on the same side of the booth as me, squishing me into the corner and wrapping his arm around me. (Help me, God. Help me, Biaggio waitress.) As it has been seven years since I've been part of the dating scene (even still it's quite different in college) I've mostly seen the first dates as 'practice.'
Several weeks ago I started communicating by e-mail with a guy living on the other side of Wisconsin. I didn't think much of it. I was really busy at the time and he was six hours away. But he had some qualities that intrigued (or entertained) me, so I kept up the conversations. Then he came into Minneapolis on business, so we spent the better part of a day together. Conversation was sweet, and easy, and smooth. It was relaxing. On the spur of the moment we signed up to drive golf balls, and when he hit his balls, his tongue curled out over the top of his lip.
I saw that little tongue curl and my heart did a little skip.
Crap, Emily, I told myself, you cannot like a guy right now. This is supposed to be practice. This is supposed to be for fun. You are coming out of a seven year relationship. Enjoy this time for yourself.
And what the heck, buddy - you're supposed to talk about your mother excessively or make me feel like you might dump my body in a dumpster. But nooo. You paid for dinner, you're a great listener, and you haven't checked out one other woman since being in my presence.
This sucks. So much for practice. This doesn't feel like practice.
I did my best to ignore any signs of a crush developing and finished out the date politely. No first kiss, just a hug, and a promise to talk soon again.
But as I drove away I felt like I was navigating dangerous territory with him.
My marriage almost destroyed me. He broke me down repeatedly until I simply didn't even try to get up anymore. Finally I was able to establish my life on my own, away from him, and a new me emerged. Stronger. Confident. Beautiful. I bloomed. And I made a promise to myself that I would never let that happen to me again.
When I was nannying, I was able to drive a brand new, fully-loaded Passatt. I parked that car in the back of the lot, no matter where I went. I didn't want a single dent or scratch on a door.
In terms of dating, I'm still wanting to park my car in the back of the lot. I don't want any more dents or dings.
Its a difficult exercise to learn to discern between 1) actions and thoughts that protect my own heart and 2) actions and thoughts that outright assume another person wants to hurt or use me.
It's not fun to assume that others will hurt you and use you. So I've since decided that some risks are worth taking, and it's best to just proceed slowly and with caution. If things work out, they will. But as I was learning this lesson with him as my guinea pig, I fear I might have made myself out to be quite the hard-ass, grilling him with every possible question under the sun. Hopefully he'll forgive me for this and maybe even understand.
And in the future maybe I can go golfing with him and his tongue again.