I Always Fall For Lucy's Football Trick
So, I was kind of dating a guy. Maybe? It's hard to tell these days.
A couple of weeks ago, after stopping for groceries on my way home from work, faced with the prospect of another Monday evening planted on the sofa with my laptop, halfheartedly working and poking around online while some episode of Gilmore Girls chattered in the background, I decided to change things up. I would stop for a drink at one of my favorite neighborhood bar/restaurants, and sit in the company of other adults for a while before retreating into isolation. Work has been especially kicking my ass of late, and I was tired of being a hermit. Being around people would do me good.
A few sips into my gin cocktail, a man appeared at my side. "Are you waiting for someone?" he asked. I said I was not, and agreed to his offer to join me on the neighboring barstool.
We ended up talking for three hours, about all sorts of things. He was a little more effusive about my awesomeness than I'm usually comfortable with on first meeting, but he seemed so genuinely enthusiastic it was hard to remain aloof. He walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, there was a little kissing. He was eager to see me again, but my schedule was packed until Friday. "Friday!" he exclaimed. "You're going to make me wait all week?" I shrugged apologetically, and he promised to plan an amazing, surprising evening that would be worth the wait.
I went home in a daze. These things don't happen to me on Mondays.
During the week we texted--not excessively, just a bit--and talked on the phone a few times (so old school!). It was clear he was excited and a little nervous about the evening he'd planned; he'd specifically chosen an activity he thought would be "right in my wheelhouse." When he arrived at my place to pick me up, he came bearing (modest) gifts, all thoughtfully chosen based on some of my favorite things I'd mentioned during our various conversations*. No one had ever gone to so much effort for me on a first date; I was charmed.
He was sweet and affectionate as we took a cab to a downtown spot for a quick drink and snack before the mystery event. My friend Morgan was serving tables, and she raised an eyebrow: who was this fellow publicly showering me with affection? I mouthed to her that I'd explain later.
The surprise was a theatre performance, which is in fact right up my alley. We had the most expensive seats in the house, and we sipped our drinks and snuggled and followed the entertainment on the stage below. By the time the show was over, there was no thought of stopping for a proper dinner or another drink. We went straight back to my place.
Over the days that followed we continued to chat and phone, and made plans again for the following weekend. We even had a spontaneous meetup at the place we first met, where he introduced me to some of his fellow regulars. They all knew who I was, as did his family members and several of his friends; I'd heard him mention my name during phone calls in a way that implied the person on the other end needed no further clarification. I was his "special ladyfriend," and while I'd balked at committing to any kind of exclusive arrangement or label until we got to know each other better, he'd made it clear his intention was to make me as much a part of his life as I was willing to be, as I gradually grew more comfortable.
On Saturday afternoon, we headed out to our planned downtown events, this time things I had picked. A sampling of pies by local bakers in a tiny park, gourmet hot dogs, a stroll back uptown to a comic shop (for him) and gallery of works by local artists and artisans (for me), a glass of wine. Another stop at my place so I could change into slightly nicer clothes for an outdoor concert, where we'd connect with a couple of my friends.
So far, so typical early dating scenario, right? Normal as could be.
That's when things took a turn for the weird.
As we walked to the park, I joked that I was looking forward to him meeting my friends, so I could get a third-party opinion on whether I was wasting my time. He laughed, but brought it up again a few moments later. "About the wasting time thing," he said. "Right now I'm just playing it cool. I don't know where this is going, and neither do you." I agreed. We were just two people who liked and were attracted to each other so far, letting things unfold naturally to see if that continued to be the case. Great; we're on the same page.
After a moment or two of companionable silence, still walking toward the concert venue, he said, "I don't think you're a whore for sleeping with me on the first date."
Uh. Okay? Thanks? Me neither? This statement threw me for a loop.
Once we got to the venue and purchased our beers, we continued to discuss our relationship. He explained that he ruined what he believed was his only chance at real love, so wasn't looking for anything long-term. I hold little hope of finding it, myself, but I'm unwilling to settle for something that's framed as superficial and ephemeral right from the start. He made it clear he wasn't into commitment. I found all this very confusing, given that he'd initially pressed for a capital-R relationship.
At that point my friends arrived, so we let the subject drop. The band we'd really come to see began their set, and I was grooving to the music as much as my stilettos would let me in the soft grass.
A few songs in, he leaned over and said something into my ear that I couldn't quite make out, but when I turned to ask him to repeat it he was already pushing his way through the crowds. I thought he had gone in search of a loo, but he didn't return for a long time. (Later he said he'd gone to check football scores.) When he finally reappeared, he announced that he was over the music, so we said our good-byes to my friends and went back to my place, where he promptly fell asleep and started snoring. I retreated to the living room sofa, dozing fitfully until it seemed the worst of the rumbling was over and I tiptoed back into the bedroom. When I slid under the covers, he pulled me close.
I was still confused.
The next morning, our conversation roamed all over, from the crazy rockstar lifestyle he enjoys when he visits LA and NYC for work, to his referring to my friend's girlfriend as "chubby," to saying that my obvious enjoyment of sex was clearly a desperate attempt to get as much as possible while I still could, since soon I'd be too old to land a willing partner. He said he used to be a caveman, a terrible person who'd treated his ex-wife badly, but he'd made it up to her and grown and was now much more enlightened. For instance, he'd figured out what women really want: to feel special, and valued, and seen for who they really are. If you can manage that, he observed, you could get into any woman's pants without a hitch.
Q.E.D., I guess.
As he left, we made desultory conversation about how we'd each be spending our day. No lingering goodbye kiss, no parting embrace, just him walking backwards across my patio to the carport where his car was waiting to take him out of my life forever.
This is why I've given up on dating. Every time I give in, decide to spin the wheel one more time just in case my luck has finally changed, I realize that I'm a magnet for misogynistic, shallow, materialist jerks who just want to get laid. Or, sometimes, I find someone who thinks I'm truly amazing, who loves me for all my foibles and beautiful chaotic messiness, but who isn't all that interested in more visceral pleasures (or just plain isn't attracted to me).
Apparently I'm either lovable or fuckable. That's the best case scenario, of course; to the vast majority of people I'm neither. I've never experienced both at the same time. I try to convince myself that this is just the way it is, accept reality, and be grateful that at least I can get one or the other every couple of years or so. Most days, I can pretend I'm okay with that.
But the worst is when, every once in a great while, someone comes along who seems to magically offer potential for the full package... only to pull away the football just as I finally decide to go in for the kick.
*Specifically, action figures from BtVS, Angel, and Breaking Bad. I'm not really an action figure kind of person, but it was a sweet thought. Now I have to figure out how to get rid of them...