3. professor: interstate puck songs

A few days after our first meeting over London Fogs I wasn’t sure what to think about the professor. He’d joined Instagram, presumably to get a better look at the photos I’d shown him at Starbucks. But he was seemed aloof in his suggestion that I let him take me to dinner sometime and he hadn’t actually called like he said he would. So you may remember I had thrown a variable to test his interest and intent; to paraphrase:

Me: One day I’m sure you’ll hear about something and think, that’s weird, and you can tell me about it. Something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random. Dinner is fun but a story is priceless … it’s just an idea. I’m going to crash. Have a good night.

I woke the next day without expectation for the challenge issued and enjoyed both the sensibility and whimsy of my morning routine: coffee, vitamins, makeup, hair, and lastly, a quick shuffle of my tarot deck. I flipped the a card; hello Knight of Swords. He is handsome, fearless, motivated, and driven to action, and I wondered if his presence would guide a project at work today. I posted a photo to my Instagram and after my quick commute I rolled my office chair across the grey carpet to my desk … *ding* … a text from the professor. Or was it … the Knight?

Prof: Hey there Queen of Cups. Hope you’re kicking butt today as always. I’m cranking out work stuff at the office. I need a list of your fears and phobias etc. I want you to be comfy and enjoy stuff that we might do …

I’d never told the professor I use tarot cards so I knew he’d seen it on my Instagram Story. But his greeting gave me pause. The Queen of Cups is a beautiful, calm, and connected to her emotions. I pondered what, if anything, he knew about her meaning. Did he know the compliment he was paying? I replied, trying not to get ahead of myself.

Me: I call myself a “band-aid ripper”, even if I’m terrified, I just do it anyway … but I know your schedule is crazy so take your time.
Prof: Mother nature isn’t helping … but we will find something fun and hopefully a bit exciting. Can you get away on a weekday?
Me: Generally … yes.

And a few hours later, close to 2pm, the professor Knight showed his gallantry.

Prof: What’s going down at work? Any plans tonight?
Me: Zero presently.
Prof: Give me a second.
Prof: Ever been to a hockey game … last minute tickets … good seats by the glass … please don’t feel obligated … [US city] a bit of a haul.

For context, the professor was proposing a 7-hour date crossing an international border.

Me: Let’s go.

Roughly 3 hours after he’d asked my plans for the night, with only a few quippy logistical texts about where to meet, what to wear, and where we’d eat, I watched the professor’s grey pickup pull up in front of my white hatchback. We greeted (though I can’t remember exactly how), we put my coat in his backseat, and as I buckled my seatbelt I watched as he poked through the audio menu on his dashboard and chose a playlist. “Mimi Stuff” showed across the screen for a moment, then he tapped back to the GPS of our route. Songs I told him I liked in the two weeks of chatting came through the speakers. I was rendered completely speechless by the gesture.

The professor flexed his teaching skills as he explained the rules of hockey and we shared our experiences with sports in general; the near 2-hour drive was filled to bursting with effortless conversation. Our undeniable connection was ironically challenged in peculiar fashion soon after. While looking at each other’s passports while waiting to cross the border the professor asked me something entirely unexpected, “Your last name is Xxxxxxx?” I laughed out loud at the absurdity of the question before the reality hit me, we actually didn’t know each others last names.

Mr. and Ms. Just-Found-Out-Each-Others-Last-Names crossed an international border and soon parked in a lot beside the arena on a cobblestone lined street. We walked shoulder to shoulder towards and through the venue to find a beer concession stand. I ordered us two citra beers and as the cashier asked to see my ID I heard the professor teasingly tut over my shoulder. Her eyebrow raised “You’re born in September?” she asked and I nodded. “VIRGO” she whooped at me, remarking to the professor “Aren’t you lucky?” He asked if she wanted to see his ID as well and she declined with as much cheek as I could’ve hoped for.

The professor leaned his right bicep into my left shoulder when we took our seats second row from the glass and elaborated on his Hockey 101 lesson. It was as close as we’d ever been physically and I took the opportunity to take him in: dewy skin, slightly gelled short shorn hair, and smelt wholesomely of laundry detergent. He asked me to cheers our beers, and as I obliged he stopped my abruptly. “It’s bad luck to look away.” He scolded me gently and I admitted that I break eye-contact frequently but never intentionally. “It’s ok. You’re shy. I’m shy too.” I managed to hold eye contact as we clinked cups again and he explained the German superstition of seven years of bad sex. During intermission a little while later as we ventured back upstairs for arena grub I felt the professor’s hand on the small of my back as we wove through the crowd of beards and jerseys. “Does this happen to you a lot?” he asked. I turned over my shoulder to ask him what he meant. “Every guy in here is looking at you.” I dismissed his observation externally while taking in its validity internally, unsure if it was me or us, but in truth, all I could think about was the warmth of his hand through my sweater. We returned to our seats with handfuls of chicken wings, fries and beer and watched through to the end of the game. We agreed to have drink nearby and the professor tugged my shoulder tight under his arm in the lobby and began scrolling through his phone to find somewhere interesting. It was another moment that just immediately stuck; being held close while we found a reason to stay together just a little longer. Just a short stroll down the road we sat together at a high-top table in a dimly lit pub and talked about our extended families a while before we made out way to his truck.

The soundtrack of that drive home included the professor’s very varied music taste as well as what seemed to be an endless list of restaurants, markets, villages and activities he wanted to take me to. I told him how good the date had been for me, “the tarot card … the playlist … I don’t think you know how special that was.” He admitted the Queen of Cups was something he researched that morning when he saw my Instagram; he’d wanted to find the card that most reflected what he thought of me.

I was completely enamored. Smitten. Stupid.

We rolled up to a lone hatchback in a parking lot by the highway and hugged across the console of his truck. “Wait, no, oh my god no, a hug?” I thought as I breathed him in. And then suddenly … you know the kind of kiss that makes you dizzy? You know the kind of kiss that comes with an existential crisis? You know the kind of kiss that makes your climb over a pickup truck console? I found myself locked in the kind of kiss that I’ve never known how to get out of either gracefully or with my clothes intact. So I did what any reasonable and socially-unawkward adult woman would do: mid-kiss I blindly reached backwards in the darkness for the truck doorknob, clicked it open and tossed my feet out to the pavement behind me. That is how I ended that kiss … ridiculously. “Goodbye” I shouted insolently, knowing full well how entirely bewildered and flushed I looked. The professor rolled down his window and teased as I fumbled my keys for longer than humanly possible. I texted the professor when I’d got home as he asked and then said goodnight.

Sometime in the week after our international first date my wish for “something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random” came true when the professor had a “dude night” with a single-and-dating-dad friend:

Prof: I told him the whole Match story about how I met you and our journey to [US city].
Me: Did he think you were nuts for going international with a stranger?
Prof: Yah, he said that. I didn’t. It wasn’t too international and you’re not that strange.kiss emoji

Prof: Life is pretty damn good. Good night! You get a kissy emoji. I want to just grab you and kiss you right now.
Me: Same. A lot a lot.

 

Until next time.

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2. professor: foggy like sunday morning

The professor + me + London Fogs on a Sunday morning.

Two weeks after receiving the first message from the professor on a Sunday morning I put on high-waist blue jeans, a pale pink knit sort-of cropped sweater, and maroon heeled Timberland boots arriving with enough time to grab a table and second guess (re: wipe off) my bold lipstick. I saw the professor in the parking lot adjusting the collar of his coat looking noticeably nervous but as he walked through the door he smiled brightly. I stood up and hugged him before he removed his coat revealing a buttoned shirt and fitted jeans.

We sat down across from one another at a table with two chairs in the middle of a Starbucks, my Starbucks in fact so while I felt at home, I also felt just a little on display. My baristas see me every day (sans gentleman accompaniment), recognize my daughter, and know our orders upon sight. The tables are oft filled with faces I’ve seen a hundred times one of which, a white-haired businessman, was seated beside us with a quizzical brow in piquedly eavesdropping. I consider the 12-year gap when I see the white-hair’s gaze dart away sheepishly as I catch his eye. I don’t feel the gap but for just a second, I wonder if others see it.

london fog

Context, chemistry and consideration.

Before we met, I’d told the professor I had a knack for interpersonal context, an ironclad memory, and explained to him that I use language and anecdotes to help inform the way I communicate and understand the people in my life. Thus far the professor had opted to share his experiences as a father and of travel, so I wasn’t surprised when he pulled out his cellphone to show me videos of his ski trip; as we chatted, cheek to cheek over his phone I mobile ordered two grande London Fogs. I would eventually reciprocate and scrolled through my Instagram sharing my own sort of context. We drank our teas and chatted without pause from 9:30 until about noon. It was plainly apparent that we had conversational chemistry. Agreeability aside, I wondered what minutiae might make us incompatible.

Our lifestyles are similar, but 50% custody of one child and majority custody of three makes for a very different level of “availability” for dating. I decided to ask him bluntly, “You’re very busy. Is how your schedule has been since we started talking fairly typical for you?” He seemed to know emphatically what I meant. “No not at all … I swear.” He looked me right in the eye so I believed him.

Good manners, good intentions, and goodbyes.

The Starbucks tête a tête ended as the professor smiled warmly across the table at me and lamented that he should get back; I remarked on the thoughtfulness in his coming all the way to me. He suggested he’d like to take me to “dinner soon and I agreed (for the record, he pumped his fist in a winning gesture, it was adorkable). He asked if he could call me on the phone that evening and I agreed. He walked me to my car, we hugged and he shyly kissed my cheek, insisting we’d be talking later.

And I felt really good about it … until I didn’t, like 10 hours later.

Because? He didn’t call that night. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. What did he do? He texted without making plans, asking my schedule, or offering his availability. He texted what he was doing, where he was, who he was with. Each text a tiny little green bubble of contraction. The assurance that he was never normally that busy was demonstrably false.

I know myself better than ever before – I just hadn’t put my mouth where my mind was.

I’m learning if I want to have any sense of self, I should be able to define what “my terms of engagement” are.

  • First, without clearly expressing exclusivity and monogamy, sex a nonstarter. I told this to the professor week 1 of chatting on Match, which is to say, I give exactly zero fucks if it’s inconvenient or unrealistic of me to have such a rule.
  • Second, within reason I would need to see a person once per week and two weekend days a month to consider our investment in romantic interest (time, emotions, money) worthwhile. Basically, I have enough friends and hobbies plus I’m the proud owner of a really good vibrator, so I’m no longer entertaining friendships or text messages from failed dates.

That’s not to say my expectations or requirements aren’t malleable, they are if and that’s a big if, I’ve got a good vibe about the whole situation. And I can tell you, at 10pm, three days after an unfulfilled phone call, and about 500 texts exposing a man’s true availability and/or intent, I didn’t have a super good vibe when I received yet another non-committal suggestion at the potential of seeing each other “sometime”.

Perhaps we’d both literally and figuratively met our match.

Prof: … just hang with me sometime or let me take you for that burger.
Me: Let’s do something weirder than eat. Something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random.
Prof: Let me consult my nonexistent bucket list … or do we work from yours?
Me: One day I’m sure you’ll hear about something and think, that’s weird, and you can tell me about it. Dinner is fun but a story is priceless.
Prof: Can I still talk to you until I find said priceless thing in my thought cave?
Me: I want you to … listen, I have my own money, I trust you, I’m trying to learn to not be so sheltered … it’s just an idea. I’m going to crash. Have a good night.

About 24 hours later I (unexpectedly) had my first kiss with the professor.

Until next time.

1. professor: opposites attract

Yours truly is back, after a winter dating sabbatical, with a brand new dating dissertation to dissect. I want to introduce you to my current beau, with no promises on how long I will write about him, but also without too much ado, so … class is in session:

Meet the Professor.

  • The professor is occupationally just that, with his additional time spent doing medical research; which is to say without saying too much, that he’s academically decorated, and extremely intelligent. (And ludicrously humble about it.)
  • The professor is 12 years my senior, extensively traveled, and passionate about sports, craft beer and fine dining.
  • The professor is the oldest of three brothers and a father of boys whom he has majority custody of.
  • The professor lives in metropolitan-adjacent suburbia just shy of an hour’s drive from me.
  • The professor has proven to be a consummate gentleman, endlessly interesting, a skosh romantic, patient, and consistent.

To say that we are different might be an understatement.

  • I work in a creative role in a financial firm and I romanticize my cutesy career, flitting around boardrooms full of three-piece suits with a scrunchie in my hair and a quip on my tongue. My office has just one honours college diploma on the wall.
  • I’m a 32 year old that spends the majority of my time writing, reading poetry, eating tacos, dieting, and drinking an ungodly amount of coffee.
  • I’m the youngest of three sisters and a mother to one daughter, whom I only have half of the time.
  • I moved back in with my parents after selling my condo last year and squirreling away equity to begin living an intentionally nomadic sort of lifestyle in my time without my daughter.
  • I described myself to him as awkward, fearful, with a penchant to over-analyze but since we’ve been together he’s referred to me as a humble, witty, sweet, outgoing, funny, unpredictable, and a really intellectually deep girl.

To say our differences make all the difference is absolutely an understatement.

The professor is Roman Catholic; I post a picture of my tarot card each morning to my Instagram story. The professor likes hair bands from the 80’s; I listen to electronic bops and pop. The professor showed me travel photos from beaches in Hawaii and ski hills across the continent; I showed him my Instagram feed of downtown Detroit, margaritas and dive bar dancing. The professor wears button up shirts every day and loves his Sketchers; I wear ripped jeans (that he bashfully admitted he thinks are sexy) and almost exclusively wear Timberlands. The professor is an unbelievable chef, literally astounding; I had to try three times to rip into the foil wrapper of my protein bar last week. The professor won’t put stickers on his laptop; I have tattoos because “it’s just a body.” The professor looked at me in wistful astonishment over dinner one night and said “I’ve never met anyone who thinks the way you do”; when I was feeling particularly amorous one night I told him “You’re my jam, P.” I feel unequivocally his equal opposite.

In one text conversation shortly before we met I said to him: “I’m going to try to ruin this … what’s your sign?” “Cancer.” “No you’re not. You’re one of the signs I’m supposed to be looking for.” And over the next few days the professor, who knew nothing about astrology, sent me screenshots and asked questions or commented to quantify our traits, through astrology. He got to know me, through the lens he knew I’d use to analyze us. He’s left me utterly speechless, more times than I can count, for efforts just like this.
yin yang

I knew then that what we had could be what yin/yang feels like:
small parts of sameness reaching into mirrored opposites. I have to admit I was geeked that the ’69’ symbol for cancer, looks the same.

 

How I met the Professor.

“I remember reading your profile. You are interesting and funny which made you stand out. I was talking to a few girls … but then I started talking to you and I didn’t bother writing them back. I felt bad but … I was just too smitten by your witty sass.”

When the professor first contacted me on Match.com he was outside of my distance settings and I was staunchly against messaging men first. I had spent the majority of that first week on the app liking profiles and then backing out of the ensuring lackluster banter until this came through:

“Hey I’m [Professor] … I’m new to this but thought I’d reach out. Your profile is really clever. Mine, not so much. I am a bit #hockeylife but like all sports, and for some reason hot dogs as well. Did you grow up in [city]?”

I’ve since told the professor that this first message was exactly what I wanted to receive. Why? It felt like what I’d want a man to say if he approached me in real life. Direct, honest, casually compliment, a chance to connect. Despite my admission of being terrible at math, the professor noticed I view a lot of the aspects of life as an algebraic equation, I’ve since wrote the following in a journal:

Each chance at love is just x’s and y’s being added by circumstance, multiplied by attraction, subtracted by deal-breakers, and divided by intent. 

I don’t think I’ve been without a text from him in any day since that first message. We met online just before spring break, taking us both out of our respective cities with our children. We exchanged phone numbers on the eve of his departure:

Prof: Anyways, I’m leaving tomorrow on the mystical journey and I would feel much safer knowing that I had a potential lunch or dinner date lined up with a girl called Mimi. So hopefully you’ll consider it and get back to me if you don’t get a better offer before.
Me: Pack your bag. I will see you when you’re back.
Prof: Is that a yes? Very cavalier.
Me: It’s a fuck yes. I didn’t mean to be cavalier, cheeky yes … my penance … [my number].
Prof: Cheekyness appreciated. In case you need to get ahold of me [his number]. Can I text you?
Me: Of course you can.

The professor and I spent the next week of evenings, a province between us, our kids tucked in bed, sharing our days, interests, extended families and bonding over parent’y nonsense like Mariokart and the bland carby diet that children live on (I call it “beige food”). And after agreeing we were both monogamous relationship types, he said:

Prof: I’m not on Tinder.
Me: I’ve never been on Tinder.
Prof: I’m not a parallel dater.

It was another check in his favour; one that he offered without knowing I would require it to proceed past date one. We discussed how online dating was bizarre, and the parts we couldn’t wrap our heads around. We concluded we were both very picky with dates and at morally at odds with the sincerity of casual dating. I’d always wanted to meet someone who was “new school” enough to online date but “old school” enough to date one person at a time, you know, like 2005.

How the Professor asked to meet me in real life.

The professor made good on his promise the night he got home, offering up a date to drink a tea he was fond of or a meal he knew I liked. I was geeked on this approach as it showed enough interest to do an entire meal, while offering the casual investment of a café meeting.

Prof: Now that I’m back to reality life, I’ve got a hankering for a London Fog, and I was hoping you’d like to get one at your favourite Seattle establishment … or a burger caesar at your favourite place.
Me: Yea of course. Whatever wherever! What’s between us? [Halfway City?]
Prof: I’ll come to [my city]. It’s close. The question is when … are you busy this weekend?
Prof: And don’t reply too quickly … and hold back the excitement.
Me: Stop it. I’m doing my Virgo nervous thing. Let me, lol. But yes I can make time this weekend for sure.
Prof: Pfew. I was preparing for the big rejection. My Saturday is sort of crazy, can you do Friday or Sunday?
Me: I have a cousin visiting Saturday, so that lines up. Sunday fun day?
Prof: For sure! Today is shaping up good. Need a lottery ticket. Catch you in a bit.

And that, dear readers, is where I’ll leave us off. I’m excited to share a bit about our dates with you in the coming blogs because they’re without a doubt the best dates I’ve ever been on in my life. You’ll see why … until next time.

13. fish: reel reflections

Fish: I love you 🙂

I threw my phone across the table of an all-day breakfast diner. “UhhhAH” is the best phonetic spelling of the sound I made. I sat there for a minute, in utter disbelief. Reclaiming my phone from the chrome legged table I ventured to the end of the setting for 7, to show my sisters what had just lit up my phone.

img_5085
The tabletop. The diner. The day he said I love you.

“I’m amorous when I’m hungover” my middle sister tells me. I decide it’s best to assume it means nothing. How could it mean anything else? My thumbs tap a reply:

Me: Are you still hammered?
Fish: Hungover yes
Me: Thoughts on Kansas City [game] next week?

Yes I did. Football. We talked a bit about the upcoming games a bit and then we don’t talk for two days. When he checks in asking how obedience class for my dog is going, I lament that she’s more apt to listen to the trainer than she is to me. He says perhaps it’s because I smell funny, like perfume. We talk scents. And I tell him I like aroma therapy, usually mint and eucalyptus, for headaches or to stress:

Fish: I heard sex was the number 1 stress reliever
Me: I heard men were the number one cause of early death in women\
Fish: Cuddling is too
Me: True. Endorphins, dopamine, or something. You need a cuddle?
Fish: Ya
Me: What’s wrong?
Fish: Ah nothing but i do
Me: Tomorrow?
Fish: Oooh well ya if ud like

I quite literally couldn’t make myself respond. When I say I’m averse to vulnerability I mean, it can stop me dead in my tracks. I can’t move, I can’t speak, I can’t text:

Fish: So ur coming over tm or i didn’t really get it
Fish: So ur not coming over tm?
Fish: 20 hour response time! What the sam dickens

In truth, I have a lot of respect for fish here; I absolutely need(ed) to be called on my bullshit. (And maybe one day I’ll call him on his.) But at any rate it worked. I replied him I was just drinking tea with my mom eleven minutes later:

Fish: U forgot to put in an excuse
Me: No excuse?
Fish: Ya for not msging me back in 20 hours
Fish: At least it wasnt 24 though right? 😉

I apologized. I asked him how his day was. He asked me how mine was, life goes on. I told him how stressful my work has been and that I was tucking into bed early with Netflix and a granola bar.

Fish: Okay ill assume no cuddles then have a nice night
Me: Already in bed 🙂
Fish: I worked out, now just drinking wine! Ha
Me: Fancy. For the antioxidants?
Fish: I dunno, just wanted that stress relief
Me: Whats the stress?
Fish: Not worth sharing
Me: :/
Fish: Wine helps
Me: Ah fish

So with his intent and meaning entirely unknown, waters muddied, I flopped on the invitation to go cuddle a fish. Some days pass, and on a Thursday in January I’ve climbed in the tub to warm up from our absolutely frigid Canadian winter temperatures of late. Fish is texting me about Netflix and I tell him I might open up my newly arrived box of hangers and reorganize my closet again. He throws out a bunch of words that don’t register with me until it’s too late for me to pull my normal avoidance tactics. I’m bamboozled:

Fish: Ill wait to start the post for you
Me: ?
Fish: Tom hanks meryl streep
Me: I don’t follow
Fish: Its a movie. Award winning flick
Me: You’re putting it on?
Fish: Haha yeah its on crave
Me: Craves a channel I take it?
Fish: Its like Netflix. Ill give you til 9
Me: To come over?
Fish: Haha ya .. I guess its cold though
Me: Hm yeah I jumped in the tub quick. If you’re serious I’ll come.
Fish: Always serious. Are you going to the Canal this weekend?
Me: Unsure yet. But I’ll try to be there by 9.
Fish: Ok

I got out of the tub. And without washing my hair or a stitch of makeup, I put on jogging pants and Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirt, pinched my cheeks in the mirror, a la Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and slid on my winter boots and coat. I was at his front door by 9. I take off the coat that he helped me pick. He offers me a drink which I decline, and we start the movie. Every interaction that night brought me closer to the realization that maybe I’ve romanticized six months of barely knowing yet another man:

  • He remarks “you wore jogging pants”, seeming genuinely surprised.
    • In six months fish has only ever seen me in jeans or underwear or naked. He looked like he was shocked I owned them at all.
  • He earnestly asks me mid-movie if I “ever read the newspaper”.
    • In six months we’ve never discussed politics or current events or what we read. He has no idea I’m an avid reader, that my bedroom is full of books and pens and journals full of quotes. He has no idea I’d always intended to go to school for journalism, but on a whim chose graphic design.
  • He brings his legs up off the ottoman and lays them across my lap. “Is this ok?”
    • In six months we lack the emotional intimacy necessary for him to cuddle me without consent.

That last bit is ironic because when the movie ends he scooted down beside me on the couch and as we started kissing he put his hands down the front of the aforementioned jogging pants, all without a word. We fool around a while and without warning he abruptly says “Oh, you’re probably tired huh?”

giphy-9

In a previous blog fish begged me to stay the night with him before pulling the rug out from under me “Or you know, you can just leave.” I wrote the following:

I was at his kitchen counter collecting my purse and car keys before he even realized what had happened – he was throwing clothes on following me scrambling for an explanation and offering retractions on whatever he said. I caught the look in his eye for just a second – he looked like he felt some combination of bewilderment and horrified. … I cried in my car as I drove home. It was 2am.
– fish 5: ps he loves beer

Six months later, fish is saying to me “we should do this again sometime” and it rang so empty, like I was just another girl, after just another first hookup. I put on my coat in his kitchen, he didn’t walk me to the door, hell, I don’t think I even looked back at him from the door. I didn’t cry in my car this time. I did however hit the girl squad group chat with a little gem of a text: “I just left fish. We watched a movie and he fingerbanged me on the couch. Like I’m 18.” It was 11:07pm.

***

Fish told me several times that while we “weren’t exclusively dating yet, maybe in a few months we would.” I was always relieved, back then, when he said it because I myself needed more time to feel him out, but I found myself missing him or wondering where he was and I knew – things had started to change for me emotionally. So I decided it was time: we reeled him, we kissed him, and now we have to take the hook from his lip and send him back to the sea:

Me: So I was thinking I should talk to you and just say that we’ve probably spent enough time figuring each other out. And whatever our arrangement was before, I’m at the point now where it makes me feel bad. Not bad bad, just not good. If that makes sense.
Fish: Not really but ill go with the flow
Me: I don’t want to be someones friends with benefits. So it is what it is I guess.
Fish: Gotcha. Thought you did for a while. Thats odd [you felt bad], we haven’t even hung out or talked a ton lately.
Me: Yeah maybe that’s why? I missed you and realized we’re on different pages.
Fish: Yeeeh im jsut like always, nnever get serious with anyone
Me: Yeah fair enough I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything differently, you have to do what makes you happy.
Fish: Well going forth as is was still working for me. We could def chill more though if thats what you want. But if not … okay. … If you don’t want to see me at all, that sucks but okay.
Me: I don’t want to be a friend with benefits, to anyone, not just you. I enjoy my time with you but it isn’t going to change the fact that you’re a) not the relationship type or b) I’m not your type.
Fish: I swear u said you didn’t want anything serious a while ago and I went with it. Maybe not?
Me: You aren’t wrong. I absolutely did say that. I’m texting you now because that has changed for me, and I understand it hasn’t for you. It just is what it is.
Fish: Ok. So no hangouts tm? 😛
Me: My kid comes home. But I want to be clear here, how you feel is a sign that we should not spend time together … for me.
Fish: Well u kinda bombarded me after u not caring for a while.
Me: Yeah. I’m not going to wax poetic about this. I did care. It was hurting my feelings. It isn’t your fault. I wasn’t aligning my behavior with things that matter to me. I don’t want to change how you feel at all.
Fish: I do like u but uve decided it appears
Me: Yeah I don’t know. Maybe you like me enough to sleep with me or grab dinners or watch movies, but I’m more than those things. And for the right girl you’ll want more than those things.
Fish: Well I dunno, sorry for ur sudden change of heart
Me: Don’t be. I was never really the FWB type of girl. I don’t regret any of it though.
Fish: Ahhh look what u made me do.
Me: Don’t cry over spilled spaghetti. Enjoy supper!
Fish: U were just upsetting me so i fumbled. Are u going to block and delete me and all that stuff?
Me: No of course not. I’m not mad at you fish, we just want different things. Nobody’s fault.
Fish: Sooo never let u know when im bored and want someone to hangout with or have wine and movies? I just want to know ur rules.
Me: … I’d rather not be called because you’re bored and have nothing better to do. It borders on insulting. I’m kind and fun and people generally call me because they want to be around me, because they recognize those traits.
Fish: I didnt mean it like that, im always bored i live alone
Me: I don’t know what to say? Date someone. Boredom and loneliness are cured by building emotional intimacy.
Fish: Correct but easier said than done
Me: I don’t know.
Fish: Well ur the one that would see me then go on another date that day … if that didnt scream i dont care about u i dont know what does
Me: Fish I haven’t seen another guy since that day but that doesn’t matter here. We had enough time. It’s no ones fault. You’re kind, handsome, well loved, your family is lovely, stable, all good things. It’s just sleeping with someone, missing them, wishing they wanted to see me is unhealthy … for me … for my self worth.
Fish: Uve never said any of this … Im glad we met and shared time together.
Me: I said it when I knew I should. Catch ya on the flippity flop!
Fish: U gonna watch the superbowl?
Me: Of course!

So we say goodbye to fish.

Until next time dear readers.

12. fish: affection & ambiguity

Through writing out the strange tale of fish and I, I’ve gleaned a lot more perspective on his character, and somehow, less on what we’ve been doing with one another all this time. We wear our insecure hearts on our sleeves, just a little, for the right people. We both feel safe with one another emotionally. But we don’t always know how to respond if the other is being vulnerable. Something keeps fish and I entangled; what exactly that is remains to be seen, it could be nefarious or worthwhile. Without direction or intent we seem to be flowing alongside one another, sometimes closer, sometimes less so.

I can only conclude for certain today that I’m not afraid to lose fish to another woman or disinterest; wherever he ends up if he’s happy, I’m happy.

Unbeknownst to fish, by early October I had to gotten out of dating completely, some of the reasons include: the number I’d done on my own heart with a guy I call eight, accepting that I was using attention from men to fuel my self worth, but most of all recognizing that I do suffer from a crippling fear of being alone. I know now that I have no choice but to face this fear alone. I’ve come back to this this quote, so many times:

Learn you way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.  – Elizabeth Gilbert

In the days that follow our last date, a la “Cafe & The Bay” I’m legitimately caught off guard when fish sent me a bunch of duvet cover photos and asked me which I liked best:

pattern
The duvet, uh, we picked?

Fish: Any of these hype?
Me: I don’t know – it’s your bedroom!
Fish: Whats the point shopping with u if u dont voice ur opinion Im not gunna autobuy But if I like one u like its easier
Me: I read somewhere that blue is calming. Haha what?
Fish: Which ones u like?
Me: This is bizarre … the middle one!
Fish: That was in my top 3 Thanks
Me: You sir are welcome.

Fish: But if ur not down to help with anything i wont ask, sorry for bugging
Me: It’s not bugging!!! No ones ever asked me that before is all.
Fish: Its just helpful advice Since i do everything on my own
Me: I’m happy to help. You’re independent, I admire that in you.
Fish: Stamp of approval nice

In the weeks that follow its just us … talking … about anything … except seeing each other … or our feelings, naturally. We talk about the gym and his car window motor repair. I tell him about volunteering with the police where they got me drunk then students practiced administering field sobriety tests on me. Our dads run into each other at the bank and talked briefly (neither dad acknowledged that they both know their kids are, well, you know). He bumps his head at work; I tell him I’ll get him a helmet. I get the flu; he tells me it’s fish withdrawal. His first niece is born and their entire family is head over heels, it’s so sweet. He asks me where to buy pistachio nuts in bulk the cheapest. He asks if I give good groin massages after a hockey game. You know, normal stuff. (Ha.)

Then December comes. I notice he begins to circle back a few times about his experiencing a lot of stress lately; he’s vague and never tells me what is going on, just that he snaps more lately and wanted suggestions for calming down. So we talk about teas, pot, and proper sleep. He starts to talk a lot about Christmas, we talk about our family traditions, I confess I’ve never been single during Christmas. He send me a photo of a drinking game to play while watching Home Alone but something, probably anxiety, kept me thinking, its just about being drunk together. We talk about football, I’d been to most of the Buffalo Bills home games this year and he asked why I never bring him. We talk about hockey and how I still don’t understand the hype. And then …

Then I don’t hear from fish from December 18th until January 1st. Two weeks was the longest, by a lot, we’d ever gone without speaking. He’d asked me to play hooky from work to spend the night with him, and I suggested he’d have to take the day off as well, and he said he would still go to work. “No dice” I said, “Well sometime soon stranger” he replied. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

Then January comes. And the new year brings new confusion when it comes to fish. New Years Day at 3:00pm starts an interesting exchange:

Fish: Happy New Year!! Should we meet up this year? East sides does buy one take one home Sounds hot
Me: This year sounds doable. Lol happy new year! Have a good nite?
Fish: Yaa just over at a buddies house party Even got a kiss Kicker was … it was a boy lol
Me: Romance!
Fish: He got pretty drunk lol!
Me: Not you?
Fish: Enough that I cant move today Think ima order some za tn
Me: Ah good idea
Fish: Come share if u want … but i may not greet you at the door. Im lazy lol

My mom and I had already planned on burrito salads so I declined. And he doubled back on the East Side Marios deal, letting me know that it was over January 20th, so we’d have to go by then. I tell him I could’ve done that week but my daughter had just called and asked to come home early. And then, this next bit, this left me entirely dumbfounded:

Fish: She can come lol
Me: No she cannot lol
Fish: How come!? But ya lemme know What u do for nye?
Me: She would say I’m not allowed to be friends with boys. I stayed home solo. Drank mimosas, smoke joints, and went to bed early. It was heaven.
Fish: What a meanie. Doesn’t she know I’m best friends with kids?
Me: Im sure you’re great with kids. Mine just prefers I only speak to girls, ever.

As I told my mother about this exchange I saw a tinge of something cross her face. “His family would love her you know, dote on her.” “That’s nice to think about but he’s not my boyfriend. He’s not been my boyfriend.” “Well what’s his alternative? To see you, she comes. Or not see you at all.” She’s not wrong, about any of it. It softened me to fish in a lot of ways I didn’t expect.

So with dinner off the table, so to speak, we talk football again. All my teams were out of the playoffs, he asks me to start cheering for his and tells me their next game day/time. I agree. We talk gym stuff and about the love of my life, Starbucks:

Me: Yea but I drink like four coffees a day minimum.
Fish: When should we have a coffee date then, or even better fooood.
Me: I love food so much. It’s legit so good.

We talk food. He knows a lot about my weird diet and the fasting I do; he says he admires my willpower. I tell him the diet stuff comes from a shitty place but at least the outcome is better health; he said he has his shitty places too. It was weirdly comforting? On the weekend I texted him quickly from a restaurant while I was with my daughter, the football game he had asked me to watch was on and his team was on fire:

Me: Touchdown.
Fish: Hahaha yaaaaaaa ur watching 🙂
Fish: Whatta win.

Fish must’ve been out. And drunk. Because he continued:

Fish (@ 2:44am): Soooo happy. *gif of brad pitt dancing* Hello then?
Me (@ 10:43am): Ola

It was a Sunday, I had spent the morning at a little Psychic Fair in town with my sisters, nieces, and daughter, and now, in the early afternoon we were grabbing a quick bite to eat at a populat greasy spoon diner. I, quite literally, threw my phone across the table when one of these messages came through, you’ll know it when you see it:

Fish (@ 1:30pm): They won 🙂
Me: I saw! Happy boy. I was out for dinner with [my daughter] watching while we ate
Fish: I love you 🙂

Until next time dear readers.

11. fish: sourness & sheets

Fish: Have fun on ur date hahaha
Me: Don’t be a dickbag
Fish: Pfff
Me: Don’t pff me. You do your own Tinder stuff I’m sure, no big deal.
Fish: Well like I said have fun.

These are the texts we exchanged after I made the mistake of blurting out that I had a date after waking up in fish’s bed. He was spending his day prepping a ham for his family Thanksgiving but peppered into the conversation later in the evening he asks me “Nothing to report back?” and “How was your trip?” maybe looking for me to elaborate on the date. The only answer I gave was “Fine.” Later in the week, we’d be in touch daily, he circles back to it:

Fish: U go on one date and cant even say hi again!
Me: FISH! What am I supposed to do?
Fish: Go ahead and date him I guess? All good! How was ur day?

What jumps out at me: fish’s assumption that I’ve been on just one date. Only one other date than the two dinners, a walk in the park, and parking lot romp? Only one other date in ~140 days I’ve had free between June and mid October? To the cynic in me the “one date” comment translates to “I assume not a lot of men are interested in you.” And so, we go back to penpals, all the while our calendars beef up with social commitments, none of which include one another. Until during one conversation he implies he’d like to see me, I tried to be playful and tease him, and it falls flat, ugh:

Me: When are you taking me on our next date then sir?
Fish: Tues wed or thur?
Me: We’re sticking to whatever day you pick. Bonus points if you have a plan.
Fish: Well u kinda made me not care much anymore going on dates the same day ur with me. So I dunno. I still wanted to check out that cafe. (I deserved this.)
Me: You have to remember I don’t know how dating works. We hardly see each other. You seem content so I just figured I was supposed to do my own thing. We can talk about it or not. I’m sorry regardless, it was stupid to say to you.
Fish: Ya well, we can just go with the flow then and you can have all ur side stuff too.
Me: I don’t know what to say.
Fish: Thank u?
Me: Jesus fish. If you want a different arrangement you need to speak up. If you don’t, then *shrug*. Let’s do dinner next week. It’s not like I don’t like you and I do want to spend time with you. I don’t know what the expectations are.
Fish: What’s the weekend plan?

I told him about a hand-lettering class I had booked for the weekend. We talked about his upcoming work trip and NHL game. But the important bit: he never picked a day and we never went out. I left for a girls weekend to Detroit a week later – met a guy I’ll call Scarf in a standalone story. Fish stayed in touch, watching my social media, and texted to tell me how “hot” I looked. While driving home he makes a pretty big gesture:

Me: Oh you got me a [hockey] ticket too? 😉
Fish: Not at this present time. U like hockey? If so we should rock a [local] game, I have fun there too.
Me: I don’t know anything about hockey. I’d go to spend time with you.
Fish: Awwwwww.
Me: I’m going to give up on it.
Fish: Uhhhh what? I’m free fri, sat, sun, pick a day and I’m all yours. We can do an activity and food!
Me: You said tues, wed, thur and I never heard from you.
Fish: Well if you pick on of the days I mentioned I’m urs. We can even go away for the weekend! Whatever u wanna do. And if not I wont stop trying. But maybe ur not feeling it? No clue.
Me: I’ve been trying fish.
Fish: So I miss last wed or whatever so now u wanna throw away a whole weekend we could hang out?
Me: We’ve been talking since June. We’ve gone out, what, 3 times?
Fish: So not down this weekend? Thats upsetting but if thats how u want it. Sit on it and let me know.

But don’t worry – his grand gesture – that offer he made on a Sunday, for the following weekend, expired by Tuesday:

Me: I checked and I can do Sat/Sun so if you want to do the weekend thing I’m down.
Fish: Well you never got back to me yesterday about it so I won’t have time to plan anything but I can look into it Friday.
Me: K another time!
Fish: We can stick around here, I was just bombing suggestions.
Me: Yea no prob!
Fish: I also asked u about that virtual reality thing, another question u never answered.
Me: I’m not sure if VR is my sort of thing.
Fish: K
Me: Well this is weird and you have an early flight so … safe travels hope you two have fun!
Fish: U don’t think you’ve been sour to me lately? That kinda just showed u have been. But alright goodnight.
Me: I’m not being sour fish, it’s just, you keep bailing on me. It is what it is. No big deal.
Fish: Wtf i haven’t even bailed. For one i said ill look into niagara im just not promising it and 2nd we can do anything else saturday anywhere.
Me: Ok! This is akward.
Fish: ?
Me: I don’t like confrontation. I just like directness. I’m not super emotional I just need to know what to expect. You gotta do what you gotta do. I’m not sour at you personally, I swear.
Fish: Ya i dont know where this is coming from. U seemed cool with me at beerfest.
Me: I don’t know. You got mad at me. I didn’t expect it. Then I assumed I misunderstood something.
Fish: I was weirded out that u were naked in bed with me one moment and on a date 3 hours later.
Me: Be real fish. You talk to other girls right?
Fish: Ya we’re not dating.
Me: So then?
Fish: Ur blowing what I thought out of proportion.
Me: Then I misunderstood. My bad. Sorted now. Listen, if you just like “chilling” with me – we’re taking the potential of dating off the table. Call a spade a spade.
Fish: At this very moment no, a month or two down the road maybe.

I’d started questioning myself, “Is fish gas-lighting me? Or is he that insecure?” He brought up the fact that I went on that date multiple times, I apologized, and now?

But let’s finish this blog off with a weird two hours, shall we?

Fish texts me on a Friday, about a week after the above, asking if I’m free Saturday and asks if I’d like to finally hit the cafe we’ve been talking about. We also decide to hit The Bay, since I like to cruise the mall, and he had, of course, a giftcard. I ordered a chicken caesar salad and an americano and fish ordered a panini and a french vanilla. The food was fantastic, the cafe was intimate, beautifully decorated and while we ate fish showed me a zombie meatloaf recipe he was going to make. He ate the salad I couldn’t finish, which was sort of weird. I tried to pay the bill and he wouldn’t let me. We talked about what he might need from The Bay while we finished our coffees. “Maybe sheets” he says, “the internet says you’re supposed to replace them every 2 years, so I’m about 3 overdue”. “Ok, mission new sheets it is then.”

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A photo I sent to my mother from The Bay, while with fish. She looks cute in florals & camo.

He looked at pants, I looked at bracelets, and finally we found the bedding section and he picked his sheets. He asked me so many questions, what I thought about the fabric, which shade of beige or grey is best,  do I notice thread count, he doesn’t, etc. It’s conversation, and yet, it feels foreign to me, I don’t know why that is. As we waited in line for him to pay I remember looking up at him and thinking, “wow, he’s tall … and handsome”. In that moment he turned to me and said, “if you want to come by later and test them out, you’re welcome to.” Ok moment over I guess. 

I walked him to the door I knew he had somewhere to be in the afternoon, and I hugged him goodbye. He looked at me differently, I don’t know how to describe it. I just remember wondering “shit, were we supposed to kiss goodbye in the Bay? No probably not.”

I don’t see fish again, for two months after this Cafe & The Bay date, but as penpals do we stay in touch. In the next blog I’ll tell you about the most recent time I saw fish, and start to unpack the reflections I have of our “not dating, but seems close” and “maybe a month or two down the road” situation-ship. Until next time dear readers.

10. fish: folly & flagrancy.

Fish had bumped our dinner at an upscale cafe from Saturday to Sunday so that he could attend a housewarming party. The next morning, while I was sweating it out at the gym in my morning HIIT class, fish texted to let me know that, of course, the cafe isn’t open on Sundays; so we’re pooched. I told him it was ok that we were “back to being penpals” and began to discuss things like online shopping and the annual local beer festival. A week would pass and Fish inquired a few times about my plans for the fest, lamenting that he’d been before and it was “just overpriced beer and long lines”. I explained that I’d never been before and, despite my plans for a mostly sober October, I’d already bought tickets for two nights to attend with friends because #bucketlist. I told him which nights I had tickets, for multiple times – and yet, when the Thursday before came, he texted as though he was surprised I would be there at all:

Fish: I bit. Got tickets for Saturday.
Me: Are you? I’ll be with girlfriends but my bro squad and their gfs will be there too. So I’ll be around with whoever.
Fish: Ur heading?
Me: Yeah I told you that.
Fish: I knew you had Friday off.
Me: Lol well if you want me to pretend I don’t know you, I can do that.
Fish: Haha duck off. I dont know how the different venues work but we’ll play it by ear.

When Saturday rolled around I didn’t hear from fish though I knew he had a family brunch in the am and then was going to pre-drink (yes, pre-drink for a beer festival). As I arrived at the venue I saw that, three people ahead of me in the line, he was with his friends. I texted him once I got inside:

Me: Saw you.
Fish: U did? Where are you at? Table?
Me: By the front door.
Fish: Do you have a table?
Me: No. Friends do. Come find me at the photobooth.
Fish: I’m in beer line atm. Lol no.

He didn’t reply for an hour. And I thought the “lol no” was very rude.

Fish: Where is you?
Me: Side bar, near dance floor.

Twenty minutes went by. I had met up with my bro friends briefly, including LB and his new gf  (but that’s another story), and my other group of girl friends were winding down to go home. I was getting drunk as hell on Smirnoff Ice (yes, at a beer festival) and my gf Cheeks turns to me and said “You need to tell me who I’m passing you off to, or were taking you home.” (Bless her heart, for real.) I looked around at the bros but I considered my proximity to LB’s new gf was a skosh inappropriate, so I decided to give fish one last chance – I called him on the phone. Over loud music and a roaring crowd I was able to make out just this: “Hullo? Back bar. Stay on the phone.” I weaved through the venue, eventually spotting a group of people standing in a circle around a green plaid shirt. Bingo. Crouched near the floor, with a finger stuffed in one ear, holding his phone to the other was fish; I hung up and approached him, tapping him on the shoulder. A few of his friends stumbled over for drunk introductions – but cheeks interjected immediately, “Hi, fish, nice to meet you, heard great things, listen, we’re heading out now so you either need to take over watching her for me, or we’re taking her with us.” I only wish she had’ve said “Kapeesh” too. But she’s direct huh? That’s why I love her. Fish nodded along as she spoke and assured “I’ve got her. I’ll make sure she’s good.” She hugged me and we said our “Love yous” and she went on her way. I turned back to fish and I said “Drink?” and the two of us went off on our own, leaving his friends without a goodbye. He commented on how sweaty my face was – uh yea, I was dancing hammered – don’t be annoying, I thought. I bought him a beer and myself another Smirnoff, we drank them by a pillar near the dance floor talking and then kissing and laughing and talking some more. He asked if I minded if he had a cigarette and we went outside. As he lit it, I took it from his hand and began puffing away; he scolded me. We shared two before returning inside, where he said he wanted to grab one more beer before we left. I wanted to say goodbye to the bros and we agreed to meet at the front door in ten minutes.

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With one of the bros.

I ordered us an Uber – somehow (drunk reasons) asking to be picked up at our destination – and had to text the Uber to ask how to cancel the ride – and then got in a random cab parked outside of the venue and headed back to fish’s house. I don’t think I asked to stay over – I don’t think he asked me either – we just literally both meandered to his bedroom, got in the blankets, grabbed hands and fell asleep, I don’t think we even spoke. The next morning I remember being mostly naked, laying in bed, holding hands in the early hours of a Sunday morning. He said something that stuck with me:

“It’s a big deal that you stayed over for you, right? You’ve always said no before.”

I told him I stayed because I was in no shape to order another Uber. I hadn’t thought about it but he’s right, I’d always said no, and that “sleepovers were a different set of privileges” for me with guys – basically – I’d have to trust you, a lot. He asked what my plans were and I might as well just stuff my foot in my mouth now:

“Oh I have this coffee date at 2, out of town.”

Shit, even typing it makes my eyes roll. Yes, I’m that stupid, I don’t get typical hangovers; no pain, no puking, just fogginess. That’s literally the only excuse I can give. When I tell the story of that date, it’ll be a guy I call Porsche.

To say fish was taken aback is an understatement, and to say he was horrified would be an exaggeration; more surprised than hurt is my best estimation. “Why would you tell me that” he asked. I sputtered out an apology (sincere), and insisted I honestly didn’t think he would care (true) and that it was just coffee (accurate). But like I said, sprinkled in all these blogs, is all the proof we need of the reasons I just don’t understand what I’m doing until retrospect kicks me in the ass. I knew fish got razzed for the sheer number of Tinder dates he went on, and regardless of it’s veracity, I reconciled that with my behaviour; all’s fair in love and war after all.

That was the last time I slept with fish, both literally and figuratively.

In the next blog you’ll see how we do and don’t bounce back from this faux pas. Spoiler alert: from mid October all the way through to present day – I only see him once despite him asking me several times. And it involves, surprise, a coupon and a voucher at The Bay. Until next time dear readers.