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.

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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.

3. fish: bourbon & a blanket.

In the many months we’ve been doing whatever we do, I’ve learned to ignore almost everything fish says except for the last thought during conversations. Why? Because that is where intent and reality lives for him. So I knew not to get my hopes up after offering up my Wednesday night to finally meet him. “I gotta run around a bit but perhaps. Weekend would be better.” He texted. I told him my weekend was tricky since my entire Saturday was booked early til late. I knew he had to be up for his flight at 3am Monday so Sunday also seemed off the table. But this time, fish was a little more persistent. After telling me he had just stuffed “three wieners down the gullet” and sent me a photo of his BBQ, he asked what I had for dinner then doubled back to the weekend with more specificity, “Ur busy friday too?” I told him I wasn’t. “Well well well” he replied. He offered up his entire weekend for me to choose from including Sunday. For the first time we actually had options and thus the first date was born:

Me: Am I keeping Friday or Sunday free? Or penpal?
Fish: Friday night or Sunday morn/aft or anytime Saturday haha
Me: Friday?
Fish: Friday
Me: Weird! Meeting the fish IRL. What do we want to do?
Fish: I’d like to get food.
Me: What kind of food?
Fish: Anything for me. Going to places I haven’t been is neat. Where you wanna go?
Me: Oh I haven’t been to (the new spot downtown for southern fare).
Fish: Neither.
Me: I’ve heard good things.

24 hours later fish texted me to tell me about his volleyball game and asked if we were still on for tomorrow. It dawned on me in this moment, that even after what felt like a lifetime of texting, guys still fear that a girl won’t show up (dudes, I’m so sorry that happens.) I confirmed we were on with a “Yep!” and the next day asked for specifics “Whats the plan penpal? Timeframe? Meet there or pick me up? Call it off and text for a few more months?” He told me he’d “be ready by 7 if that’s cool”. He then let me know he only lived 5kms from the restaurant and suggested I could stop by his place for a drink before or offered to pick me up. I told him a pre-drink was good (because nerves, duh).

At 6:30, after nailing the perfect wing of my eyeliner he texted to let me know I could come anytime, and gave me his address. Fish lives in new suburban subdivision that is pretty dense with condominiums and town-homes. “Once you find the visitor parking just call if you need help.” he said, and I did, so I called him after parking and his voice was … well … I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it’s SO weird hearing someones voice for the first time, I’d barely heard a snippit of his voice on social media, so talking on the phone I found it was gentler and slower than I thought it would be. And the almost southern drawl I told you about – by golly gee he has it.

I had bought a 6-pack of his favourite beer meant as a friendly gesture since he’d told me his fridge was barren before his trip and in my little backpack purse I’d tossed two tallboy Radlers, just in case of adventures.  I got out of my car, beer in hand, and as we spoke on the phone I looked up the street to see him strolling towards me. I can’t remember how we hung up but I remember us sharing a bashful grin before genuinely sharing the loveliest hug. It just felt natural and emotionally safe, I think, for both of us. It was clear we were both nervous, him more-so than me, but it was also clear we knew we were in good hands with one another. I handed him the six pack and told him it was to tide him over until his trip, he thanked me looking positively giddy and started telling me about the cocktails he’d mixed up for us: pineapple juice and rum with cherries.

We got to his door, went inside and I found myself in an open-concept decidedly-bachelor condo townhouse: dark woods, marble counters, black leather seating, fireplace a beer fridge smack dab in the middle of the room, and Canadian-themed artwork on the walls. He sat on the couch while I set my bag on his table, and he told me our cocktails were in the fridge. In my head I thought this was weird, but ok, I’ll go with it. I opened the fridge door and on the top glass shelf sat two glasses, one with a paper heart stuck to it with my name written inside. I don’t know if I blushed or not but I grabbed the glasses and joined him on the couch shaking my head in disbelief. “Oh my god. As if you did this. I’m keeping it forever. That’s so sweet.” He apologized that his handwriting wasn’t the nicest and I clucked my tongue at him. We drank our drinks and chatted about how his packing for the trip was going and it honestly was so easy for me. We both text the same way we talk so it felt like we’d done this before. I think us knowing each others families just made it easy. I’m sorry to say in our rush to get to dinner (we were both starving) I completely forgot to keep my paper heart, but it remains one of the sweetest first date gestures I’ve ever experienced.

We went to the restaurant downtown and went inside. It was dimly lit with candlelight on each table; it’s trendy and hipster and all walks of life are there – the vibe of the place is just chill. The restaurant is known for crazy cocktails and they didn’t disappoint. Fish, a smoker, ordered a stiff bourbon infused with coffee vermouth and tobacco bitters and I ordered a mule made with brandy, vermouth and a flaming lime with vodka. Mine was refreshingly enjoyable; fish, however, seemed out of his depth with his gnarly bourbon, stifling a wince through every sip. I ordered a caesar salad for dinner and he asked for the chicken and waffles with a habanero cane syrup. Again, he’d overdone it. A bite of the spicy syrup, sniffle, sip his drink, throat clears; he almost looked like he was in pain. The tab would have been pretty pricey but he insisted on paying which is always a gentlemanly thing to do. The conversation throughout had flowed pretty well. There were a few times I could tell he didn’t know what to say so I gave him the crutch and steered us towards work, trips, and work-trips which opened him up. When it was time to go he flicked my backpack and said it was cute and asked if I minded if he had a cigarette. I told him I didn’t and we leaned on the trunk of his car and I pointed out some other restaurants downtown. Suddenly it started to pour rain – we dove into the car and it was coming down so hard that even the high speed wipers couldn’t keep up. We went back to his house and he offered me his coat.

fish4

At some point we’d agreed to go back to his house to watch a movie. So when we got inside we popped a Radler and beer and sat on his couch. He turned on the fireplace and looked at me sheepishly as he sat down and said “Don’t laugh, but I like to have a blanket when I watch shows, it’s just a comfort thing, my whole family does it.” And he offered me half – though we weren’t sitting too close. Then he did something bizarre. He tucked his feet up under the blanket and onto the couch, trying to interlock our legs. I’m still sort of weird about the “comfort/bonding” side of intimacy, I remember thinking why omg stop! He showed me an Apple Note where he keeps a list of things he wants to watch (yes, you read that) and we settled on a super hero movie. Luckily the movie was totally ridiculous so we were able to enjoy it and keep chatting throughout. After the movie ended I thanked him for dinner and said I better get going for my early morning; he hadn’t made any real moves all night so I wasn’t sure what to think. He said ok and smiled and the next thing I knew he had pounced on me on the couch and we just started making out. After a while I thought to myself, wow, he’s a great kisser, and immediately laughed when the followup thought to that was “I’ll have to tell my mother”. He called me a “cute little thing” and asked what was funny and I told him. After a while we chilled out and said our goodbyes.

When I got home I sent him a text “omg penpal we met.” He replied back “hiphip!”

5. eight: destiny’s patio drinks.

The day before my birthday, a Friday, I had fallen asleep around 3am, after a freezing cold 2am doobie cruise with a guy named eight who I had been texting all summer. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed by 7am – I’m that kind of monster. Throughout the day eight texted asking questions about what I was shopping for and making jokes about the little photos of things I was buying. I find a cute American Eagle top with little ties that sit on top of your shoulders. American Eagle was the quintessential status symbol in our high school and it reminds me of 2002. Clothing brands were the types of things eight’s clique would absolutely judge your worth/value based on – they weren’t the nicest people from what I remember. Talking to a him now, felt like more equal footing than back then; as single adults, finding commonalities, who met on the same app. At about 3:30pm he asks where I am now and I realize it’s about that time so I reply with my location and then tap in a “Drinks?” Super casual, so cool, I know. I get in my car and hop on the highway to head home.

As I drive, his reply lights up on my dash: “Right meow?” I absolutely LOVE when you’ve been texting someone long enough that they mirror your speech patterns. Ten minutes pass, I can’t reply while driving and another message comes through “Or when were you thinking?” He was eager, right? I didn’t imagine that? I don’t know now.

“Sorry just got home, I need to get gas, then yes, right meow works.” He tells me he needs to drop some things off at home and asks where I want to go. I reply, “indecisive.” He suggests the patio at a pub, actually, the pub: the one he frequents with his team and texts me from, a lot. “Yep.” I say, cool as a cucumber. He tells me he’s leaving his place, to walk over, he’ll be there in 10 minutes. There is no time for extra primping, but I’m past that point in my life, he gets what he gets. “Balls. Ok – I’m driving over” I text as I jump back in my car. He asks why I said balls and I clarify “I hadn’t left yet, I’m on my way.” He tells me not to worry about it and to take my time. As I pull in he texts that he’s just sat down.  I park my car in the extremely small uptown parking lot and head through the front door, I make my way to the back of the bar where the patio entrance is. He says my name – I realize I’ve been standing next to him this whole time scanning around looking for him.

He’s wearing a t-shirt, athletic shorts and sneakers. I like his ball-cap, beard, but most of all, how dark brown his eyes are. I can see him a lot better now that we’re not in a car at 2am. He’s cute. He keeps adjusting his ballcap, revealing what he calls a fivehead, aka a receded hairline. He’s leaning heavily onto the tabletop towards me, someone takes our drink order immediately, for him a Guinness and a cider for me.     

A waitress is scolding a party-of-10 that are trying to get three tables beside us. “You didn’t call for a reservation?” she asks, and a long awkward scolding starts to unfold between the young waitress and the matriarch of the group. I work in advertising, so a large part of my life is  about studying and perfecting the consumer experience. Don’t scold them. It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon at the end of the summer and there’s more than enough tables. Eight looks over at me and I open my eyes a little wider to express my disapproval “Hard to get a table in here huh?” in a whisper with a smirk. He didn’t even miss a beat, he says to the waitress “If it’s the tables you’re worried about we can move to the bar, it’s no problem.” I nod in approval. The husband and another man from the group come over to our table, while the women discuss reservation rules of the restaurant ad nauseum. The four of us strike up a conversation: they have extended family in town, trying to give them a proper city tour. I ask if they’ve gone to the uptown park yet, suburbanites forget that its there. The husband shakes his head, the younger man wants to know more. I tell them there’s alpacas and peacocks but that the real draw is the people watching, little festivals and huge games of pickup Frisbee. The waitress relents to our left, pushing the tables together, our chatters take their seats. I glance over at eight for the first time in a while and he’s staring, with the off-kilter smile I first swiped on; the sun feels warm. I like meeting new people – I like having little conversations with strangers – its happening semi-frequently on my dates lately – some guys jump right in, others sit back and watch me do my thing. I like that the other people I end up talking to don’t realize I’m on a first date – can you imagine if they did?

One thing was blatantly obvious, he was absolutely a regular in this pub. All the staff knew him. People dining nearby knew him. And as we drank, I caught a few quizzical sideways glances. I felt a little on display.

We talked about his solo Euro-trip the previous summer. He went to every beach he could find. I tell him I prefer swimming off docks, I like to dive in head first. I meant it literally and figuratively but he missed the point entirely. “You’d hate my cottage then” he says. He spent quite a while talking about how he hated swimming.

Eight’s disappointment in the minutiae of our differences shone through in a lot of our conversations. He says things with such finality it feels defeatist. He’s always so focused on how things don’t align, it’s those high standards I guess. One of the things I always say when I’m talking about my dating issues, I will squint at mens’ red flags until they look like a strawberry, or something cute. But Eight’s penchant to brood is a red flag I never did squint at, I knew how red the flag was and I let it wave, slapping me in the face every single time.

We talked about the people we know in common from high school, and there’s a lot of cross-over from my group of guy friends and his – I tell him a few bar night anecdotes and we uncover that both of our moms were the “drunk taxis” for our respective friend groups. My mind wanders back to the cliques and American Eagle. Would he have even given me the time of day back then? We were hanging out with the exact same people, on different nights, all throughout high school. But I know the answer is no, he wouldn’t have, they absolutely thought they were better than my friends and I.

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At some point the party beside us finishes their meal, and the husband and wife came over. The wife thanked eight for offering up our table to them and the husband tells me they were going to take up my suggestion of heading to the park for a quick walk along the boardwalk. They asked where we’d suggest dinner for their group the next day. I’m pretty sure they think we’re a couple, ha.  I tell them about a newer spot further downtown, “the drinks are pricier, but you will not have had anything like it in your life”. The truth is, I’m telling them to go to the spot where fish and I had our first date: its delicious southern fare, with eclectic live entertainment, with $40 cocktails that will knock. your. socks. off.

We finish our second drinks, he asks for the tab on one bill, which I offer to pay, and he says the obligatory first date: “you can get them next time.” When we get to my car I said “this is me” and he jumps forward and hugs me – it’s abrupt and sort of weird and he leaves without much else said.

The advice and rules for after-date-texting vary from site to site, but in general: blah blah blah, feminine energy, let men text you first. If they say they had fun it’s an ok sign, if they say they had fun and that they want to do it again, better. How long it takes for them to text you also apparently matters, the sooner the better. Two hours after the date eight texted me to let me know he “had fun chilling with me today”. Two hours, good. Chilling, not great. No suggestion of future date – uh oh. I text back “Ditto. I’m less weird when I’m not totally baked.” And he quips a “If you say so. ;)”

When I wake up the next morning I had two texts from eight that he had sent just after midnight. “How’s your night going?” and “Happy Birthday!” I’m always so interested to see who does the midnight birthday texts. I love those people. I’m one of those people. And evidently, eight is one of those people too.