Meet eight. Not 8, not Eight; esthetically, I prefer to see it written in all lowercase for some reason, he’s just “eight”.
In my journal small hearts dot the i’s of my swirly cursive. He’s not the eighth man I’ve slept with and it’s not a reference to an inside joke between the two of us, but all the same, if he ever finds this, he’ll know it’s about him.
Why does eight get written first you’re probably wondering. Simply, at the time of starting this blog, he’s the newest man I’ve slept with. He’s not particularly meaningful to me but he’s a prime example of why you can’t fall in love with potential, only action. When you read how it all went down you’ll wonder if I’m entirely ok with the situation, and in anticipation of what may be a shocking admission, know that I am. But it’s not a good look for eight in the end, or me for that matter; but we’re human, and dating in 2018 is a literal landmine of fuckery.
So swiping right on eight immediately felt kindred, like he was supposed to be my own personal blast from the past; maybe he’s the hidden gem in the peripheral of my entire teenage life. So let me introduce you to what I know about him, it’s not much, you’ll see why: he’s a semi-professional athlete who I happened to attend grades 7-12 with, never crossing paths that we know of. Everything about him, right from seeing his face on Bumble, felt destined to be; a familiar stranger who also lived for the sport I love most. In that first photo he sits in front of a fence in his team uniform, with a goofy and slightly crooked grin peaking out through a thick, brown but extremely well groomed beard. Normally I really dislike beards but because I’m me, I think “Whoa I’m attracted to that beard though, what must that mean”. My mind wandered to sport summer dates with beer in stadium lighting. His eyes are the darkest brown, which always makes me think someone is wiser than their years, even brown eyed babies. My thumb slides across my iPhone screen to reveal his next Bumble photo, an awkward serious-faced selfie-stick travel photo, yes please. He’s totally adorkable for the stick and ballsy enough to travel alone, something I’ve always admired in other people. I like him. I slide my thumb back again to take inventory of his attractiveness.
I remember thinking to myself “my being a single mom is about as much as a deterrent for men is as his being 5’7″ for women, so he’s definitely not out of my league”. I’m so guilty of this, you’ll see snippits of my baggage come up. Ego is a hell of a drug – and I’m making up for lost time after my decade in self-loathing.
My thumb moves again revealing another photo and I find eight with his arms wrapped around the neck of my daughters best friend’s dad, and I start to wonder just how many Kevin Bacon’s (re: points of connection) this guy and I are going to have; destiny is beating my door down here, right? I swipe his face right. Boom, we’re a match.
So I know for a fact I’m quite funny and engaging (and SUPER humble about it as you can tell) and I’d never had a guy not respond to my first message on any dating app … until approximately three left swipes after eight.
Meet Blip. Blip is one of eight’s best friends, so I immediately recognized his face as well from high school. I remember he quietly dated one of my girl friends when we were maybe sixteen; no one really knew they had been together until it was ending. I’m not particularly attracted to Blip, but he’s there on Bumble in a blue windbreaker holding his dog in a cute side-hug on a hiking trail. I have a new puppy and I walk constantly, it’s one of my favourite types of self care, and I think maybe I can strike up a conversation and make a dog walking friend. I know this is incredibly selfish, matching with someone on a dating app and immediately friend-zoning them before putting out a single message. Blip gets a swipe right. Boom, we’re a match, and I tap out a message: “Heyy (two y’s cuz chill girl) … looks like we’re having a high school reunion on Bumble.” This is the message that never gets a reply; I know, I was shocked too. /s Now put blip on the backburner and we’ll come back to him in a while – expect sass and snapchat.
I get tired of swiping and go to my little line of matches for the day, eight being my standout favourite, and I decide the most unique “Kevin Bacon” to reference in my opening line is his connection with my daughters friends’ dad. It will also serve the purpose of getting a major deal breaker out of the way for him, because I never have any way of knowing if the guy swiped right on me without reading my profile “mom of one”. I get a reply not too long after from eight, asking me to elaborate on all our points of connection. He tells me he doesn’t recognize me from high school and that he’s sorry for that. It doesn’t surprise me, there’s a combination of my glowing up since my teens and a major clique mentality from those years that would’ve made me a non-starter for him and his peer group back then. We both agree that his friend’s daughters (my daughters’ friends) are hilarious little characters. I come to learn that his family is close knit, he thinks his parents like his brother best, he seems a little jaded about life, not outright negative, but not looking for any silver linings. My first impression of talking to him is smh at best, and yet my internal monologue about the man tapping words at me through a cellphone? He needs someone like me in his life. Girl. Girl, I know.
I can sense him getting bored every time I try to discuss sports with him. It’s obviously a huge part of his identity and he barely wants to acknowledge it, I found it frustrating. He would message me on weekend nights, I’d be out with friends, I’d tell him about the Fruli strawberry beer I had driven across town to buy, what uptown pub I was en-route to, he’d admit he used to love to dance there a while back, and I’d sign off with an open ended welcome for him to come meet me there.
I’d wake to another Bumble message asking how my night out had been, I’d reply it was really good, thanks. And that’s when the manners rolled in. HE’S SO POLITE. Aloof and hard to read, but man he threw out a thank you every time it could be fit into the text. But I found that I always wanted to just blurt out in all caps: spoiler alert, my weekends nights are always good! Those repetitive chat days turned into a few weeks and eventually I resigned myself that eight either wasn’t interested, or was stuck in some weird lifestyle of only going out with his guy friends for Wednesday wings, and the highlight of this routine was leftovers for lunch Thursday.
When I had finally had enough I sent him one final Bumble message giving him my phone number and suggesting if he would like to grab drinks to use the number. I can’t remember my exact phrasing but I know I tried to impress the finality of my interest in the Bumble texting, while still being friendly and casual about meeting in person. His response was a head scratcher. “Yeah if I’m not on gay afternoon shifts, drinks could be good.” The flippant use of gay immediately brought me back to high school before our societal understanding of what it means to be gay, and just how damaging someone using another’s identity as a synonym for “stupid bullshit” can be. Sure I knew what he meant, the colloquial garbage that is bro-talk, but it rubbed me the wrong way. And when I told my girlfriend, it was an immediate deal breaker for her “Ew. Gross. Next please.” I have always been an excellent judge of character, my gut instincts never seem to steer me wrong, but here was a red flag, and I’m blinking/blanking on it. If you squint long enough at a red flag it’ll look like a strawberry, or something cute.
So I found myself leaving a bit of my self worth in the hands of someone who was not my emotional or intellectual equivalent in a lot of obvious ways. He wasn’t going to help me grow, unless I could get him on a sports field, and so far those suggestions had fallen flat on delivery. He had my number, and I went on with my life. A day or two later he sent me a text and the next chapter of eight began. You’ll laugh, I promise.