Saturday, December 29, 2012

Turning into a crotchety old lady

My sister told me this morning that I'm in danger of becoming one of those crabby, crotchety people on the Internet.

And it's true. But it's not my fault. I keep being provoked by men who don't follow my simple rules: If you are interested in someone, contact them and be nice to them. If you aren't interested, don't contact them. Is it too much to expect people to follow this logic on an Internet dating site??

Examples:

  • My Enemy: I received a message from a suitor who was amazed that we managed to be 0% match, 0% friends, 93% enemies. I read his profile and was amazed, too. He seemed smart and interesting and he writes for my all-time favorite publication, so I replied to his polite email with a nice email of my own. He wrote back a distinctly unfriendly one-liner; apparently we ARE enemies, after all. How did the Internet know?!
  • Ohio: A recent transplant from Ohio reached out. His email was boring, he mentioned wanting to be friends, and his age range ended a year below my age -- even though he's exactly the same age as me! I didn't reply. A few weeks later he tried again; this time I explained my qualms. He wrote back: "I think friendship is the basis for any romantic relationship. And I am sincere when I say that you look much younger than your age!" So you normally wouldn't want to date someone so old, but are willing to make an exception because I don't look old even though I am?? Thanks, but no thanks. (He eventually upped his age range by one year after I pointed this out to him. Why are you not willing to date someone a year or two older than you??)
  • Weird Mainer: A guy from my home state wrote to me explaining that he's not interested in dating because "we're probably related," but he thought he'd reach out anyway (his purpose was unclear -- "because we'll probably run into each other eventually." Um, I doubt it.). I'm pretty sure I'm related to three Mainers: my mom, my dad and my sister. If you don't want to date me, don't make up an excuse to explain why. 
  • Couchsurfer: Someone who's 'not looking for a relationship' wrote to say he doesn't think we're a match BUT he thinks I'd like Couchsurfing. Actually, if I wanted to find out about travel info, I'd belong to a travel info discussion board. And by the way, everyone in the world already knows about Couchsurfing, and thinks it's weird. Or at least I do. (A sleazy guy I know uses it to meet European women a decade or so younger than him and sleep with them.) And if you don't know about Couchsurfing and want to read all about its weirdness, check out the New Yorker article about it. 
I used to have a note at the end of my profile saying you should get in touch only if you wanted to date me, but I took it down a while back because I wondered if it was unnecessary and might feel negative to a potential suitor. It might be that it's time to reinstate this self-evident truth. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Tis the season for exes to come crawling out of the woodwork

It's that time of year when people take stock of their lives, feel lonely, get sentimental, and contact their long-lost loves. I've seen signs of it all over the place, from my roommate mentioning over breakfast that she'd written a boyfriend she's barely spoken to in two years to headlines in Love Letters like Should she reach out to an ex over the holidays? and Contacting a old love [sic].

Some people do it well, like l'Artista, who sent me a sweet note telling me he's been thinking about me a lot lately. These people express their emotions without letting themselves get carried away by them. Other people do it poorly, such as Leif Ericson, who sent me an impersonal, self-serving, AA-style apology note. Six months after the fact, it was utterly unnecessary, and left me feeling that any connection I ever felt to him was imagined. I didn't reply; or maybe I did. (Gmail is giving me mixed messages about whether or not the reply I crafted was ever sent. But it's the thought that counts, and I didn't *mean* to reply.)

I also got an unexpected message from a long-lost date who I never thought I'd hear from again. (I'm a little bit hesitant to link to old posts about him, because I didn't say anything very positive about him and I want to keep an open mind. But what the hell.) He asked me to give him a second chance. I felt ambivalent about it and wasn't sure how to respond, so I asked some friends what they thought I should do. You know when you get the same exact advice from two of your very best advice-givers that it is really quality advice, so I followed it and requested that he provide me with a reason why I should go out with him again. He replied,

Hi Heathen, In the spring what happened was that I started seeing another girl more seriously right around the time when we went out. I agree I screwed up and should have been more straightforward with you and told you what was going on. I regret and and I'm sorry I ruined your Friday night. 

I think you should give me another chance because I thought we had a really good first date, because I think you're very smart and interesting, because on our date I made you laugh (a lot, as I recall), because I think we have a lot in common, because I think you're cute, because I want to talk more about education policy and French things with you, and because I'd like to spend more time with you. That's more than one reason, but I think they're all good. Have I persuaded you?

Man-sprout

I was charmed by this (I like nothing more than a man who likes me!), plus I remembered that he introduced me to one of my favorite music videos of all time, so I agreed. Time will tell if I live to regret this decision -- unless the world ends tonight, of course.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Superheroes

My school asked us not to bring up the subject of the shootings in Connecticut with our students, but to talk to them about it if they bring it up. I don't agree that this is the right approach, but I want to respect their wishes. So rather than broach the topic myself I've been asking kids questions all week, such as "Is there anything you've been feeling scared about lately?" and "Is there anything you heard about in the news that you want to talk about?"

Kids' attention spans are short, so I've met with limited success -- most of their answers have been along the lines of, "Yes, I had a nightmare last night" or "I watched this really scary movie one time." Today, though, the two young friends I was eating with both answered negatively, but then one of them paused and added, "There was something... It happened a long time ago. There were these three guns, and a man took them. He shot his mom and then he went to a school and shot some kids." [Six days qualifies as 'a long time ago' for a first grader.]

"Yes, that was really scary, wasn't it?" I replied.

"You heard about that, too!?" he asked, incredulous.

We talked for a while about how scary it was, and how they worried that the man would come to their school or their younger siblings' schools. ("I just don't want anything to happen to my brothers. They're too little.") Then the conversation took a political turn:

"I saw President Obama talking about it," said J. "He was crying."

"Yes, he was," I answered. "I think he felt really, really sad and scared about it. He promised that he will make some new rules so that it will be harder for people to get dangerous guns like that."

"I love President Obama," said O. "I wish that he were a superhero, like Spiderman."

"He is like Spiderman," replied J. "He's so brave, just like Spiderman."

"I think President Obama is brave, too," I chimed in, abandoning any pretense of being nonpartisan. "Brave people are people who feel scared but make good decisions even when they are hard. Just like you both do when you are brave and try a bite of your tomatoes at lunch."

"Yes, we are usually brave," agreed O. "I don't feel like being brave today, though."

"You don't have to try your black beans if you don't want to," I reassured him, and then I showed them this photo, which made them love President Obama a little bit more (if that's possible).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dating, Italian-style

"Tell me about your most recent date," said my date last night, a blond, blue-eyed Mediterranean whose coloring, if not his sharp southern Italian esses, contrasts sharply with l'Artista's.

"D'accordo," I said, "although I have to warn you, it's not going to be a very interesting story. We met up for dinner last week after my sister's annual Christmas cookie-baking party. I brought along a few of the cookies we baked, so we had those for dessert. We talked a lot about New York since we both lived there for a long time. He was nice, but I wasn't feeling it."

I paused for a moment, then added, "How about you? Tell me about your most recent date."

"I haven't had any," he replied. "I hate dating, American-style. I know all the rules, and I hate them. But tell me, how come you didn't bring cookies on our date??"

"I'm sorry,"I told him, "I should have. But I do have a quiche in the car if you want some."

The date ended with us standing by my car, eating my half-frozen quiche, him pretending to enjoy it even though I had warned him it wasn't the most delicious thing I had ever made. And I thought, I sure do like Italians.

Lucio Battisti: one of many Italians I love.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Whiskey and friends, or the breakup cure

Theradate wrote me a very sweet email last week to tell me that, while he likes me a lot, he met someone else before he met me and feels that he needs to stop dating other people in order to give things a shot with her.

After just four dates, this news was hardly heartbreaking. It required a 12-hour recovery period, not even requiring a full day of recuperation. Theradate is a lovely person, and I hope we remain friends, as he said he wants to. I had fun with him, but was also frequently taken aback by his eccentricity, and I'm not sure that I'm meant to be with someone who is *quite* such an extrovert (an extrovert, yes, but this was really extreme). But one does get tired of having things not work out, whether it's because the suitor in question turns out to be issue-y and alcoholic-y à la Leif Ericson or is dating someone else à la Theradate or just doesn't feel like the right match à la a million other guys I've gone out with.

(In some ways, the "I met someone just before I met you" reason is particulary frustrating. It's not that you're incompatible or he's not that into you; it's just the timing. There's an implication that, if the timing of the first meetings had been reversed, you could be the one getting top priority.)

So I was happy after receiving this news to run into my friend L'il JC at the gym, fresh from her own disappointment of meeting a guy who really liked her who, try as she might, she just couldn't force herself to like back. And then M. came and joined us, and we went and baked ourselves in the sauna and I told her my newest poop story from work (the number of poop stories I've amassed this year should probably be a blog post unto itself, and this latest one managed to outdo all prior ones). Then the three of us headed to M's house for burritos and whiskey, and when I thought about it it seemed amazing how many evenings we've spent at M's house drinking whiskey after things don't work out with someone -- whether it be a big breakup or a little disappointment, like this one. It's not planned, but it seems that that's where we wind up every time. And somehow it makes me feel better every single time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Life > Fiction

Most of the time in my dating life, things are pretty ho-hum. Nothing much to write home about, or to even think about the next day. But every so often something happens that reminds me of how crazy and silly life is, and how I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

Such an event happened last night. I headed down to Rhode Island after work, feeling woozy from a nasty cough and lack of sleep. Theradate was kind enough to tell me where to find his spare keys, so I let myself in and plunked myself down on the couch. I was too wiped to follow his directive to raid his fridge and snoop around; instead, I curled up with my New Yorker and read/dozed.

Even though I barely made it past the front door, I could see that Theradate's house is very nice. Very grown-up and light-filled and beautiful. But I wanted to wait for him to come home to see all the details. So, it wasn't until half an hour later or so that I got the full tour, including the second floor bedroom/balcony with spectacular windows. Near the bedroom is a funky little twisty passage shaped like a snail shell that you walk through to access the bathroom.

It took a moment for this to sink in. Then: "Sooooo... you don't have a bathroom door??!"

Theradate: "Nope! You just walk through there to get to the bathroom."

Those of you who have been reading my blog since my Leif Ericson fling last summer remember the trials and tribulations and many trips to Starbucks I had to take while dating him due to his lack of a bathroom door. Seriously, what are the chances that I date two men within six months that don't have bathroom doors?? Is this phenomenon more widespread than I realized? Or do I have an unhealthy penchant for men with boundary issues?

Thankfully, Theradate's downstairs bathroom has a nice, solid door with a lock on it. Such refreshingly normal, healthy boundaries.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How about we compromise and all vote Democrat?

I wasn't too worried about the election on Tuesday. Two men were responsible for my complacency: Nate Silver (who reassured me on November 2nd that "If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can't acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that you goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.") and my Italian ex-boyfriend, l'Artista. 

When I spoke with l'Artista on Hurricane Sandy Day, 8 days before the election, he said, "Of course Obama's going to win! Don't waste your time worrying about it. That would be crazy if he didn't." My eccentric college roommate used to tease me for thinking that l'Artista knows everything, and I guess part of me still trusts him irrationally. I'm glad to say that, in this case, I was right to. 

After listening to This American Life's "Red State/Blue State" episode, which argued that our country is becoming increasingly politically divided and that we don't listen to each other because we are so certain we are correct in our beliefs, I am determined to try to reach out and bridge some of those divides. Only, there's one problem: I am completely, irrevocably convinced that I am right and they are wrong. There may be some arguments they are making that I could at least listen to, but there's just no way I can understand, empathize with, or give any credibility to a party that opposes gay marriage, uses the environment as a punch line, disrespects women, and wishes minorities would stay a small percentage of the U.S. population or at least stop voting. 

It often feels like Red State America is far, far away, and I don't need to worry about it in my day-to-day life. In my state, not a single county went red, and in my school's election -- in which I voted twice -- it was a landslide for Obama. Granted, these are five and six year olds, but they sure were excited about Obama's victory. 

Sometimes those Red Staters are closer than they appear, though. On Wednesday, one of my co-workers mentioned to me in passing that she sympathized with a little girl in her class, a staunch Scott Brown supporter who wrote him in as her choice for President. I thought my smile and quick escape were enough to send the message that I was not on the same page, but apparently not. Later in the day, as she dismantled her election display, she brought me a gift: a photo of Mitt Romney. "So sad!" she said, smiling, as she handed it to me. 

In my effort to reach out to Red State America, I have not ripped up the photo and thrown it in the trash. Instead, it sits upside-down beneath a giant mound of papers while I ponder what the heck to do with it. 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Action in the bullpen

My friend complained to me this weekend that, while she learned a lot about my feelings toward the food at Oleana from my last blog post, she learned nothing about my feelings for Theradate. I'm a bit mystified by his eccentricity -- he's the most gregarious person I've ever dated, he threatened to wear a pink tutu to Oleana, and he told me that a day when he eats only three pints of ice cream is a light day for him -- but I also like him. So much so that I invited him to my 1/3 of a century birthday party last night (he couldn't come).

But I'm busy, and then he's busy, and then I'm busy, and then he's going away for five days, so I'm not going to see him again for two weeks. I'm notoriously bad at keeping action in my bullpen, but this lull between dates is a reminder that, even though Theradate texts me every day and sent me an essay he wrote (then asked for some of my writing in return even though I told him I don't write -- he sure called that bluff!) and added me as a friend on Facebook and it kinda feels like we know each other, we don't. So there's really no earthly reason why I should sit and twiddle my thumbs and send goofy texts to Theradate for the next two weeks when I've got eligible men waiting around for me to contact them on OkCupid.

So I'll be keeping busy, going on dates and volunteering for political candidates and obsessively checking the 538 blog, and before I know it Theradate will be back. And then maybe we'll go see a documentary about climate change, if he can handle it. (He gets very upset about climate change. But he thinks he might be able to handle it if I hold his hand and lie to him that everything will be okay.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eating well

When I told my sister that my Theradate was taking me to Oleana, she rapidly fired a series of questions at me:

"How did you get him to agree to take you there?!"

"Does he know how expensive it is?"

and lastly,

"Is he paying?"

Despite my sister's assumptions about my conniving personality, it was actually entirely his idea. And he turned down my repeated offers to help out with the bill.

I came away with a *very* full belly (the waitress actually warned us we had ordered too much food), as well as a number of mini take-away containers filled with deliciousness. It will be a strange moment tomorrow when I invite my two young friends who I have a lunch date with every Wednesday into my room with their school lunches consisting of hot dogs and baked beans, then whip out my leftovers. "I have mussels with deep-fried hot peppers," I'll say, and give them a small bite to taste, if they're adventurous enough. "Oh, and this? It's a small bird with crunchy bones, called a quail. It's accompanied by toasted pistachios and dried barberries."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Theradating

Though my friend Li'l JC has quite extensive experience in this arena, I had somehow never gone on a date with a therapist -- until last night. Despite hearing her stories, I was not totally prepared for the experience, and was surprised to find myself fielding questions like, "What's your mother's maiden name?" and "It sounds like you had a real connection with your first boyfriend. Would you ever think about trying to make things work with him again?" And in case it isn't obvious from the latter question, I spilled my whole. entire. life. story. on Date 1. What are we going to talk about on Date 2??

It's a little bit like going on a date with my mom, but with Tom Waits hair. (My mom's a therapist, too. And she likes to ask questions. Lots of questions.)


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Commissions, commissions

I've been getting lots of commissions lately for my budding craft business.

It's great to get orders, and I'm really flattered when people like my stuff. There have even been a few holiday orders already! But I'm also super, crazy, running-around-like-a-chicken-without-a-head busy these days, and sometimes the orders can feel like one more thing to do.

One order in particular has become something of a thorn in my side. A woman wrote to me on Etsy over the summer: "I love your plant pots! I've been wanting something new for my hoya, Allie. She's getting a little cramped in her current abode, which is 6 inches in diameter by 4 inches tall. Any chance you could come up with something a bit bigger than that?"

I wrote back to say that I could, but it would take some time. Last week, she emailed again to let me know that Allie's roots would really like some more space, and how's her new pot coming? By that point, I had finished attempt #3, which was also my third failure. It's not a hard shape to make, but something about the size requirements of it were throwing me off.

I let her know that it would still be a while, and she told me she would tell Allie to be patient for a few more weeks.

Allie needed me, so even though I wanted to, I couldn't give up. Finally, I sat down at my wheel tonight and gave myself a pep talk. "Heathen, you can do this. It is ridiculous to get your wheel dirty and only throw one pot, but you are going to do it anyway because you will feel so relieved when you are done. Take your time, breathe deeply and remember that you are not allowed up from this wheel until this goddamn plant pot is done."

Twenty minutes later, it was done. Relief is on its way, Allie! (For both of us.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Exotic, familiar

I ran into Leif Ericson on Saturday. It was inevitable but traumatic, and I'm so glad that my friend M. was with me when it happened. He looked the same but even skinnier, still like a cross between the David statue and Gumby but a bit more on the Gumby side on that particular day, and still beautiful. He came over and talked to me graciously and pretended not to notice that I initially tried to hide behind my hat and sunglasses to avoid him. It made me really sad to see him, and I thought about him a lot all weekend.

Seeing him reminded me of how much I liked his exoticness. I've always had a thing for exotic men, ever since I was five and fell for the son of my soccer captain, who had olive skin and sleepy dark eyes that were constantly half-closed. (These days, we're Facebook friends and it appears that he works in the porn industry.)  I loved how Leif looked so exotic, almost like he wasn't really human, like a character from the film Avatar. I loved how his parents were from two different continents, neither of them North America. I loved how his house didn't follow any of the normal rules of a house, like having rooms and ceilings and doors.

But there's something to be said for the familiar, too. And that's where the Young Hottie lands: squarely in familiar terrain. There's especially something to be said for familiar when Familiar likes you and wants to see you two nights in a row and stops by to bring bubble wrap, because even though you didn't tell him you needed it, he figured it out when you told him about the huge pottery order you received. And when Familiar doesn't have weird relationship issues (at least that you know about so far).

I don't have butterflies yet, but I do have a solid, warm feeling when I think about Young Hottie. So, I think he may be in need of a new blog name, something less objectifying. Suggestions?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A walk in the park

I was only half-listening as my sister and my friend M. made plans to meet for breakfast last weekend, but gradually some of the details started to sink in.

"Ok, so we'll meet at the bakery and grab breakfast. What time?"

"Dunno... How about 10?"

At that point I had to interject.

"Guys," I interrupted, "sorry, but I'm going to have to put the kibosh on this. I have a date at the bakery at 10. So you're going to have to find another spot to eat breakfast."

"Oh shoot. But that's the only place that serves gluten-free goodies," protested M., who is in the midst of an elimination diet.

"What if we meet there at 9?" suggested my sister.

"Yes, and then we can decide whether or not to leave by 10, or hang around a bit and take a look at the Young Hottie," replied M.

So I was relieved when I arrived at the bakery a few minutes after 10, did a scan of the room, and saw no sign of my friends. Young Hottie and I grabbed a couple of baked goods and headed into the park. At the first intersection, he suggested we walk down an obscure path I had never noticed before.

Not ten minutes later, I heard a snort coming from down the path from us, and when I looked up who should I see sauntering toward me but my sister and M, giggling and averting their eyes from me. I followed suit, and thankfully my date was too busy chatting to notice anything amiss.

Sigh. The hazards of dating local.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Nipping it in the flower

Slinky and I went shopping this weekend. 

I tried on a pair of mid-rise jeans, and was horrified by the result: I called her into my dressing room and lifted my shirt up to share my shame. "Look! Not only does my muffin top stick out, but it's also starting to spill over. And the worst part is, it's lopsided!"

"Tell me about it," she said sympathetically. "Maybe this is what 30-something looks like. It could keep getting worse from here on out."

"In that case, we need to nip this in the bud!" I said. 

"Do you really think "the bud" is the way to describe where we're at?"

"You're right," I amended, "We need to nip this in the fully blooming flower!"

We made a plan of action: Exercise most days. Portion control. Eliminate foods like bacon, beer and ice cream; cut down on egg yolks and bread. 

Later, we planned our evening, debating whether we should follow through on our plan to make salted caramels from scratch. "We don't have a candy thermometer, so it could be tricky. Maybe we could hold off on the caramels and make blueberry scones instead. I'd just need to pick up some heavy cream," Slinky suggested.

"I've got some really great beer I can bring over," I contributed. 

Considering how long it took us to realize the disconnect between these two conversations, I'd say we've got a steep learning curve ahead of us. 

In any case, I did manage to slither my way into, and then purchase, a pair of (low-rise) size 24 jeans with some very funky seams, which I wore on Date #2 with the young hottie. And I looked good, if I do say so myself. 

Post-date, I'm sitting on the couch with my top button undone.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kick me if I start acting crazy

A couple of weeks ago, Leif Ericson disappeared from my gchat list.

"He blocked me," I informed my friends. "Can you believe it? And I thought he meant it when he said he'd like to get coffee at some point. Clearly, he hates me and wishes he'd never met me. I mean, he could have just hidden me. But no, he had to go all the way and block me."

"Ouch," they agreed. "That's really hurtful."

or,

"Maybe it's for the best. After all, you'll stop thinking about him this way."

For a few days, I stared obsessively at the names on my gchat list every time I signed in. Finally, about two weeks later, Leif reappeared one day.

Last week, I joined Community Boating.

"Have you run into Leif yet?" my friends asked.

"Not yet," I said. "I check whether he's online before I leave. I figure if he's online, he can't be boating."

"But how can you tell if he's online if he blocked you?"

"Oh, uh. It turns out he didn't block me. I was just being crazy. I'm planning to stop being crazy now, though."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Manland

My friend M. and I decided that we need to do more things to meet men in real life. To that end, I joined Community Boating today, because men like boats; M. is going to take flamework classes at a glass studio, since men also like fire.

We made a mental list of other things we could do as we drove to Craft and Cocktail night in Somerville. (In case you're wondering, there weren't a lot of single guys at Craft and Cocktail night, for some reason.)

"Most importantly, we need to spend more time over on this side of the river," said M. I agreed. We decided that we need to go out to more bars, cafes and restaurants over in Manland, a.k.a. Cambridge and Somerville.

Conveniently, just the day before this conversation took place, my college roommate put down an offer and it was accepted on a house in the heart of Cambridge. I'm excited to have her and her family close by -- and to have a pied-a-terre over in Manland.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August on the Internet

Things have been slow on the Internet lately (hence the lack of blog posts). Actually, a better word to describe how things have been is "depressing." I've been getting a bunch of messages that I'm tempted to respond to only because I think I could get a good blog post out of it, but I don't because it's not worth the pain. A few examples:

I am an experience Dom in Boston. I'd love to get coffee or hit a Patriots game :) I play bass guitar and do stand up comedy. What's your messenger? 

Master Frank

So many questions. Is it typical for an experienced Dom to suggest coffee or a football game for a first date? Is his stand-up comedy about being a Dominator? Is Dominator even the right word? And does he really think an elementary school teacher is the person who'd be likely to take him up on this offer??

Then there was this one:

Hi, 
Wow!! Your Bio made me smile all the way through. Your more than what any man could ever hope for all wrapped in one!!! I enjoyed reading about how you enjoy life. It sounds like you love life's little pleasures, and you express it very well. I didn't get the memo regarding women like you exist. I have heard story's about a perfectly well rounded women. Then again I heard stories of Bigfoot. There's only a grainy picture for proof. ahahhahahahhhahha
You sound like an amazing lady. 
Good luck on your search. 

I hope your having a great day. 

This from a dead ringer for Fabio. Any bets as to how many women he sent this message to?

Then there was the pithy classic:

Dude. You're hot

to which I was tempted to respond: Dude. You sound dumb

In addition to these charming missives, I've been going on a few dates. Most of the dates are the type where I am sure 15-30 seconds in that this guy is not for me, and he probably reaches the same conclusion shortly thereafter, possibly because I'm not at my most charming because I am turned off on many levels. We go through the motions, both wishing we could cut things short but feeling like that would be too rude. Often as we're talking my mind drifts to Leif Ericson, and I think how much more I liked him than the guy in front of me, then berate myself for still thinking about him. At the end, we awkwardly say goodbye with no mention of a second date.

I did have one date recently that was different. I received his message while I was on vacation with my family in Maine, and immediately called my sister over to say, "Can you believe this guy emailed me??" Not only is he four years younger than me, but he also looks like he just stepped off the pages of a JCrew catalogue. Pearly white teeth, pale blue eyes, rugged jaw. And he's tall and fit, and to top it all off he's also a really good guy who loves to compost, go on long bike adventures, cook dinner with his parents, go hiking, and he used to be a schoolteacher! I would think that a guy like that would have large-chested, leggy 25-year-olds chasing him down the streets of Boston.

So I was not thinking about Leif during my date with the young hottie. Instead, I was thinking, "I cannot believe I am out on a date with his young hottie. And he's actually nice and funny, too." I didn't come away from it feeling super excited or like it would be easy to imagine his as my boyfriend, but I did have a good time with him.

There was no mention of a second date, and I haven't heard from him since. But my motto for the day, courtesy of a text message I received from my new roommate, is "Be bold." So I am going to go ahead and email him. I'll be shocked if he wants to go out with me again, but what the hell, I've got nothing to lose.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eligible bachelors

I have a lot of close female friends, but there is a dearth of Y chromosomes in our circle. Usually our get-togethers involve four or five girls plus the Sensitive Bostonian, my brother-in-law. For his sake, we try not to talk about our periods or use the word "vagina" too often, but occasionally it slips out and he puts up with it good-naturedly. There are a few other males who sometimes show up, but more often than not it is just us girls.

When a new guy arrives in our circle, it is kind of like the beginning of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering the neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters." (Just like that, but minus the part about the fortune and the daughters.) We are all wondering who he is going to pair up with, and we generously encourage each other to date him. It has happened a few times that several of us has gone out with the same guy; so far, this has led only to lots of giggling, no hurt feelings or broken hearts.

First, there was Bagelbutter. He broke my friend Li'l JC's heart, then proceeded to ask ALL HER FRIENDS out on dates -- including me, kinda. (I went on a non-date with him.) Poor dating etiquette, I say.

Next came the Gay Music Man, a guy from the Internet who we all happened to date. My belief is that he wasn't interested in any of us because he is actually interested in men. Otherwise, I can think of no possible explanation why he would reject me and all my friends.

After that came Bagelbutter's nice friend. He went to college with my sister, and three of my friends went on dates with him. None reported feeling any spark, unfortunately. (But then we found out he doesn't want children, so maybe it's for the best.) We would like to continue to hang out with him as friends, though.

These days, JC got a new roommate -- and he's a man! Everyone has been enjoying her Tales of Living with a Guy. (They're strange, funny creatures.) He caused quite a stir when he looked at my OkCupid profile a few weeks ago -- suddenly there was a flurry of texts being sent hither and thither. Poor guy, he just thought he was browsing through profiles!

JC and I split a farm share, and tomorrow is Veggie Day. Since JC is out of town, I emailed the male roommate -- *not* through OkCupid -- to ask if he wanted me to bring by veggies. He wrote back: "Sure, and we could cook some of them, too!"

I'm not one to decline a dinner invitation, so I accepted. This afternoon, I got a text from my sister, who is on vacation in Vermont with Li'l JC and a few other friends: "Vermont is all abuzz with news of your date with JC's roommate!"

I'm sure his ears are burning.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Packing up, moving on

This weekend, my friend M went off to work a craft fair out on the Cape. She crashed at the house of a friend of Leif's who she met a few weeks ago when we were both there for the weekend; at the time, he generously offered her his spare bedroom when she mentioned she'd be coming back. He also said she'd be welcome to bring a friend, so she told me I could tag along.

I was tempted. So much so that I seriously considered it, despite how impractical the timing is -- I'm in the midst of packing up my apartment and moving. I might have gone for it, too, except that I wasn't sure a) how Leif would feel about it (I texted him to say I was thinking of going, and by the time he got back to me to say he felt fine about it it was too late) and b) what my real motives were in wanting so much to go. Not that I was wanting to be all stalker-y and try to get to Leif through his friend, but I've been enjoying how carefree and fun this summer has been, thanks in large part to Leif, and I wanted to extend that/recreate it a little bit.

Leif is good people, and I might like to be friends with him eventually. I would definitely like to be friends with his friend on the Cape, provided it didn't feel to Leif like I'm stepping on his toes. But I've learned that the only way to have a healthy friendship with an ex (if such a thing is possible at all) is for it to happen when you don't care so much anymore. The intensity of my feeling of wanting to go to the Cape was a red flag for me, letting me know that I'm not ready to have that kind of contact -- even though it's not even Leif himself, just his friend.

Back when Dreamy and I broke up, he felt the same intense desire to be friends with me. He told me, "All I want is to be good friends, the way you are with l'Artista" -- one of the most ironic statements I've ever heard. It's true that l'Artista and I talk, and that we care about each other. But we had little communication for a solid three years after our breakup. And it would be a stretch to describe our friendship as platonic -- when we talk, he invariably slips up and calls me "amore"; when I was in Italy last summer, I became irrationally upset when he refused to invite me as his guest to a wedding he was attending. He described seeing me again, after six years, as being like a bomb exploding -- not exactly the foundation for a healthy, comfortable friendship.

L'Artista and I want to be in each others' lives despite this tension, because we care about each other and are an important part of each others' history. Since that's far from the case with Leif, I doubt we'll actually become friends or stay in touch. Nonetheless, it comforts me to think that it could happen when I have to stay home on a rainy Saturday night filling boxes rather than watching the stars and eating fresh fish on the Cape.

Sometimes even when you know you're in the cocoon of denial it can be a huge comfort. And on that note, it's time for me to face reality and get back to my packing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sorry, my bird sent that email

Persil, my charming little lovebird, has only one bad habit. Well, some might say that his tendency to chew on important papers, poop on me and everything around, and his predilection for humping people's hands are also annoyances to be dealt with, but I'm fine with living with those aspects of his personality. However, when he hops on my computer and sends an email, that really gets my goat.  


Never has it been more embarrassing than when I'm in the midst of writing a goodbye email to Leif Ericson. Leif sent a kind note, reiterating that he's not in a place to commit to anyone right now. After reflecting on things over the weekend, I was happy to say goodbye with affection and finality; Leif is a good guy, but he may need years of therapy before he's ready to be a good partner to someone. And he hasn't even started therapy yet, so it'll be a while! 


I like to spend a long time on such emails, craft them carefully, do some soul-searching to determine if there's any anger I'd like to express, and go back to read them again and again before hitting "send." Unfortunately, Fate had other plans for me in this instance. Just minutes after I had begun work on my reply, Persil did his little hop on my keyboard. Rather than my carefully constructed epistle, I was forced to content myself with the following message: 


Dear Leif, 


I completely agree and am glad we've reached the same conclusion. I was thinking over the weekend that I'd prefer not to call it "putting things on hold" when that's not really what it is. While I like you and have enjoyed spending time with you, I don't feel that you're in a place to be a good partner to someone right now. 

I've been well aware of your complex emotional state, so you have nothing to feel bad about. Thanks for all the beautiful sailing trips, my first trip across the Longfellow Bridge, the fireworks on the 4th, 

That's when the little hippity-hop led to the message, "Your email has been sent." I shouted "noooooo!" and waved my arms futilely at the computer screen, then shook my fist menacingly at Persil. 

A few minutes later I followed up with:

Uhh, sorry about that. My bird has a bad habit of hopping on my keyboard and hitting "send" before I'm quite ready. Anyway, I think I was mostly done. You get the gist. Feel free to get in touch if you ever feel like getting a coffee and catching up. 

Heathen

Leif's comment in reply: "That's a very tech-savvy bird you have." 

I've finally done something I should have done long ago and enabled "undo send" in my gmail settings, so that should take care of the problem. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Auf wiedersehen

One day recently, I biked over to Leif Ericson's house. I got a bit lost as I neared his address, trying to find my way among the steep, narrow, one-way streets. Eventually I got out my phone for navigation purposes, and when I did, I saw that I had a message from him: "I'm at the laundromat waiting for laundry to dry." Just as I read his message, I glanced up and spotted a laundromat in front of me, with the top of Leif's bright blond head visible through the window.

Things have just worked themselves out with Leif. It feels easy, effortless, stress-free. He's always available to me, whether I need a photo of his stinky plant, as I did the other day while teaching about the rainforest, or a massage and gin and tonic after a long day.

The end, when it came this morning, unfolded with equal naturalness and ease. He said again that he's not ready for a relationship, this time a bit more definitively than he's said it before. I said that in that case I don't think we should continue to see each other. We agreed to be in touch in a few weeks, when he returns from a trip he's taking. We both said how much we like each other and how sad we feel. And then I left, feeling regretful but not heartbroken.

I miss Leif a lot already. I think I'll miss him for a while. He's a decent, kind person and someone I truly consider to be a friend. And I'm very glad I didn't let myself get more invested.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Boys do cry

Leif Ericson told me a story last night. It was about a conversation he overheard on the subway between a teenage father on drugs and a woman giving the father advice. The story ended with Leif donning his aviator sunglasses to hide the fact that his eyes were filling with tears.

My first thought was, that's nice that Leif wanted to share this anecdote with me that he found touching. My second, more cynical thought was, he wants me to know that he's the kind of guy who cries.

Probably there is some truth to both thoughts. I certainly pick and choose which moments of my life I talk to him about; I want to share moments that reflect well on me, not so much stories that highlight my weaknesses. I do want him to know about my recent hike in the White Mountains, but not about the day when I woke up sick from drinking 2 1/2 beers and couldn't do anything but sit on my couch all day.

These days, it seems to be a trend that men are not only crying more, but they are talking about it more. Leif may have used his aviators to cover his tears in public, but was eager to tell me about them as soon as he got home. Dreamy admitted on his OkCupid profile that Ira Glass makes him cry on a regular basis. He once told me that as a kid, he used to pretend to have allergies to hide the fact that he cried constantly in music lessons because he thought the music was so beautiful. Monkeyboy told me that he once burst into tears while driving when a song came on the radio that reminded him of his childhood.

We've come a long way from the days when Ed Muskie's political career ended because of public tears. These days, Terry Gross reduces male interviewees to tears on a weekly basis. (The most recent example I heard was Louis CK.)

I think we still have a ways to go in terms of helping boys grow up into men who are in touch with their feelings. First and foremost, the admonishment "Be a big boy!" needs to be abolished forever. The shirt I saw recently that proclaims "Tough like Daddy" should be adjusted to "Tough like Mommy" or maybe "Sensitive like Daddy." Still, I suppose it can only be a positive thing that modern men are comfortable with their tears. Keep the waterworks flowing, boys!

Monday, July 16, 2012

If only I had superhero powers...

My friend Surfer Girl claims to have the amazing ability to instajudge a person's character. I wish I had that superhero-like quality; it would have saved me a lot of heartache over the years. If only there were a laser, similar to the infrared thermometer Leif Ericson purchased recently, that you could aim at a person's forehead and get a reading from: "A good egg," "The Antichrist in disguise," or maybe "Meh -- nice enough but boring as hell."

Even though I've always been skeptical of SG's claim, I was curious to hear her take on Leif Ericson after meeting him yesterday. He arrived at the tail end of my craft fair, and was confronted with three of my good friends. This was an intimidating scenario, and the intimidation was probably compounded by the fact that I had asked him a couple of days before why he had been so quiet when he met my friend M last weekend. (The answer: a wacky brownie had taken its toll.)

Leif was friendly, affectionate toward me, and generous toward my friends, buying everyone a cold drink even after they declined his offer. He helped me pack up my wares and offered to buy everything at double the price when I told him I was disappointed by my sales.

Nonetheless, my overprotective friends expressed some doubts. "I wonder what he's going to be doing while he's on vacation in Asia in August," said one skeptically, hinting with her tone that there could easily be inappropriate behavior planned during his Asian jaunt. (The answer: he'll be spending every waking moment with his mom. They're even sharing a tent.) "I'm not sure if he's genuine," said someone else. And from Surfer Girl: "I couldn't get a read on if he's a really kind person. And if he's the right match for you."

She hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what I've been trying to get a read on, too. And unfortunately, since I don't have an infrared personality gauge, the only way I know to get a read on those questions is by spending lots of time with him, observing how he behaves in different situations, and thinking about it. Here are a few of my observations:

  • He is incapable of passing a piece of trash in the street without picking it up. A stroll down a city street or through a park usually ends with both our arms full of empty beer bottles and soda cans. We almost tumbled into the river the other day going after a few pieces of plastic that we spotted from afar. I can't think of anyone else who I'd think to describe as "a good citizen," but Leif undoubtedly is one. 
  • He's generous. When I mentioned that my cousin-cousin (the term my sister and I invented for the cousin of our cousins) who is in town from Paris is interested in going for a sail, he immediately offered to take us. 
  • He wants to include me in his life. He has introduced me to lots of his friends, who I like a lot. 
  • He wants to make an effort with my friends, too. 
  • He likes me. He texts me or emails me every day and is always affectionate toward me, whether we're alone, with his friends, or with mine. (Remember when him not being in touch enough was an issue?? Not anymore.)
  • He wants to be helpful to me. He gave me plants for the hanging planters I've been making recently and offered to come to camp to talk to my students about electricity. 
  • He's smart and has a wide variety of interests, from horticulture to sailing to animals. 
  • I feel really comfortable with him. I slept like a rock until 10:30 in the morning the other day at his house. 
It's been a month and a half now and ten dates, more than I've had with anyone since Dreamy. I'm still far from feeling sure about him. Sometimes the process of getting to know him can be stressful, because the reality is I don't know how it will turn out. But all I can do is keep spending time with him until I do feel sure, one way or the other. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Leif to the rescue

The last two weeks have been dedicated to studying electricity at the summer camp where I'm teaching science. Turns out I'm not the world's most talented electrician. Here are a few of the experiments we've tried:

•Acid circuit with limes - failed
•Circuit with a potato - failed
•Circuit with salt water - failed
•Car that runs on salt water from a kit - failed

And that's not even a complete list. You get the picture. If there's one thing the kids have learned, it's that their teacher is a failure. I even managed to screw up the project that came from a kit.

Yesterday was the day we were going to hook up the big, final project: a bike generator. The kids were excited; despite the many failures, they still had some faith in me. But before they even arrived, I managed to blow the fuse on the multimeter, the doohickey that reads how much electricity is being emitted.

That meant there was no way to figure out what was going wrong when we hooked up the plug, plugged in a light, pedaled, and -- surprise, surprise -- nothing happened. So, I texted Leif Ericson to ask him what I should do. Because, ya know, he's a man. And men know about electricity.

Without a multimeter, he was fresh out of ideas for me. But later on he emailed me: "I hope your day went well despite the technical difficulties. I wish I could have shown up with a hard hat, a multimeter and a cable to help you."

Who knew that Leif doubles as a combination electrician/fairy godmother! *swoon*

P.S. We did finally manage to light a teeny-tiny lightbulb. So it wasn't a complete wash.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sea, sun and deadlines

I had several long talks last week with my friend M in which we discussed what I should do about Leif Ericson. Leif and I have been spending a lot of time together, and things are feeling pretty couple-y. But, we're not a couple, and the flags are still there. I had to decide: should I back off and slow things down a bit, or go for it? While I do believe in some level of caution, I have also observed that my friends who behave very cautiously end up seeming to waste more time on dead-end relationships. In other words, sometimes by behaving less cautiously, you figure out the issues sooner and get the inevitable breakup over with.

With M's help, I decided not to go the cautious route. I packed my bags and headed off to meet Leif and a couple of his friends for a fun weekend on the Cape that involved lots of delicious drinks, sunset kayaks, fresh fish cooked on the grill, naps curled up together on the hammock, as well as some less romantic but still fun activities, such as people watching during Bears Weekend in P-town.

However, I am not completely throwing caution to the wind, as is evidenced by a couple of upcoming dates on my calendar. One is "Stop putting up with Leif day," to be observed a month from now. Another name I considered for it is "Shit or get off the pot day"; it is the day when Leif needs to decide if he wants to be my boyfriend or not (provided I am ready to make that decision by that point, which frankly I don't right at this time). Later, in early October, I have "Decide about Leif day" -- assuming he gets past the first hurdle, of course. This day is based on my friend Kansas' theory that you should give men four months to prove themselves. If you don't feel certain about them by the end of four months, move on. Early October is the four month anniversary of our first kiss; my new rule is to put that date on my calendar as soon as I kiss a guy I like.

I had an amazing weekend on the Cape. It was unforgettable. I didn't come away from it feeling weak in the knees about Leif, or certain that we're meant for each other. I did come away from it feeling that I know him better and have a better sense of how compatible we are, as well as still having a lot of questions about our compatibility.

I enjoyed spending time with Leif's friends, too. Last night, we hatched a plot to make dinner together the next time they're in Boston. One of his friends has gone squidding a bunch, and has quite a supply in his freezer. I suggested we use the ink in my pasta dough, and create squid ink ravioli with lobster stuffing. While Leif was using the bathroom, I had to resist the urge to whisper, "Psss -- give me a call and let's do that dinner, even if things don't work out with Leif!"

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Feed me

One issue that comes up a lot while dating is eating. I was impressed when a potential date suggested, a few months back, that we meet up for a Restaurant Week dinner. I thought it was a nice gesture, that it showed he was excited to go out with me, and I didn't think far enough ahead to consider what would happen when the check arrived. So it came as an unpleasant shock when the bill came and I realized that I was stuck between a rock and a hard place: I didn't really want him to pay for my $50 dinner, given that I had no intention of ever seeing him again, but I certainly didn't want to pay for it either, $50 being an entire week's budget of fun on my Austerity Budget. In the end, we split the bill, parted ways, and never spoke again.

On the other hand, some dates go too far in the other direction. Doctor O, who I went on five dates with last winter, had a bad record in that regard; he suggested a dinner spot for our first date, but when I arrived, stomach grumbling, he ordered only drinks. The trend continued through our subsequent four dates, until, just before we were due to meet for a tapas dinner, he dumped me. At one point while we were dating Slinky reflected that she wasn't sure if I really liked him or if I was just light-headed due to hunger. I guess I'll never know.

So far, Leif has struck a happy medium. Our dates have all been inexpensive, but I've never left a date with an empty stomach. On date 2, he grilled oysters for me. In the middle of date 3, he stopped by the grocery store to buy goat cheese so that we wouldn't be drinking champagne on an empty stomach; late that night, we made avocado and tuna salad. When I suggested we meet at the cemetery for a walk on date 4, he promised to bring along a few victuals, and arrived with a backpack full of goodies plus a picnic blanket. Now, as I prepare for our patriotic date 7, I received the following text from him: "Happy 4th. I will feed you tonight unless you have other plans. See you soon."


I have a friend who says of the men she goes out with that, prior to the first date, they aren't real people in her mind; it's only after date 2 that they begin to seem like little embryos. At date 7, Leif is starting to be semi-formed. He's past the stage of looking like a tadpole, with four real limbs and a head and torso, but he's still far from being a fully formed human. He certainly is a promising little fetus, though.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't think about elephants

Leif's got pasta skillz
Leif Ericson continues to be charming and kind, and he helped me make an amazing batch of beet ravioli with my new pasta maker two days ago. He also continues to be flaggy. I resolved not to think about him much or be in contact with him to try to minimize my attachment to him. This is difficult, because I have an attachment disorder (probably because I breastfed for a long time as a baby) that makes me attach too easily.

An hour or so after I made this resolution, I got a text message from Leif asking how I slept last night and if I had heard about the Supreme Court decision yet.

Two hours after that, I saw the news on Facebook that the Coen Brothers are making a sequel to the Big Lebowski -- Leif's favorite film. Real or hoax? I'm still not sure. Obviously, I had to pass on the news.

After receiving his excited reply, I went on OkCupid to try to find some new men to go out with. Guess who came up as one of my first suggested matches??

Grrrr.

Well, maybe leaving the country will help. Peace out, folks, I'm heading to Canada. (For the weekend.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flaggy

Leif Ericson is very sweet and very cute, but he's also a little bit flaggy. As in, yellow flaggy (no reds so far). He has three yellow flags; the most prominent one is that he's terrible at getting in touch after dates. After Date 3, I had to wait four long days before he contacted me to schedule Date 4. By the time he got in touch, he was lucky my weekend still had a little bit of time in it for him.

So, I decided to initiate a Diff Con about it with him on Date 4. I tried to address the root of the problem: I mentioned that he doesn't get in touch very much, and told him I'm confused about how interested in me he is. I got some valuable information from the conversation. But afterward, I worried that I hadn't been very clear in expressing that I'd like him to be in touch more. Then again, do I really want him to be in touch more? Having little contact with him between dates is a reminder that we don't know each other well and is helping me not get too invested. I like how cautious he is -- after dating lots of non-cautious guys who turned out to be duds, caution is a characteristic I value a lot -- and I want to be cautious, too.

Two days after Date 4 ended, I got an email. The title of the email: "It is Tuesday."

I guess he got the message after all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Subconscious commitment

I told Leif Ericson that I don't quite know what to make of him. (His response: "That makes sense, since you don't know me that well. But feel free to ask anything." Hmm, touché, Leif.) Case in point:

Following date #4, Leif reported that he spent all night last night dreaming about me. Some of the dreams were good, some were bad, but he could only remember one enough to tell me about it: Someone had died, a distant aunt or uncle (unclear if it was his or mine). We were headed to the funeral. He felt stressed and took a Xanax, and I got upset with him. In an attempt to placate me, he went out and bought me a sticky bun and coffee.

It seems that Leif's subconscious has skipped the courting and honeymoon phases and gone straight to the nagging wife/henpecked husband phase. I'm not sure if I should be offended that I'm nagging him in his dreams or take it as a positive sign that he knows that the way to placate me is with a sticky bun.

"How about me? What did I do in your dreams?" he queried.

"You weren't in my dreams," I said, feeling vaguely guilty.

I guess my subconscious isn't as ready to commit as his.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to date a guy with no doors in his apartment

Uhhh, well, I really don't know how. But it looks like I'm going to have to figure it out, because it's probably not realistic for me to go pee at Starbucks every single time, like I did today.

Ideas, anyone??

My mom always taught me that if you say one negative thing you should counter it with at least two positives. So: He keeps a little pot of honey next to his bed for midnight snacks, like a bear. His house is full of plants and feels like a rainforest (so full that a few came home with me). Drinking prosecco on his roof is magical.

The no-door-on-the-bathroom thing is a real doozy, but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Death Phase

A few years ago, my mom's parents died within a few months of each other, and my mom went through a Death Phase. She thought about death all the time, and was prone to saying things like, "There's no point in buying that, since it'll just become clutter for you to take care of one day." My friend Miami Nice came to visit during the Death Phase, and started telling my mom about this book she had read called Stiff, about dead bodies. "I would loooooove to read that," said my mom, eyes wide, as I made "cut!" gestures to Miami while Mom wasn't looking. Once, my parents texted while I was out celebrating a friend's birthday, and I didn't reply. The next morning, I took a shower, and by the time I got out of the shower not only did I have multiple voicemails of increasing desperation from my parents, but I also had messages from several friends. My mom had convinced everyone -- even the friends who I had been out with the night before -- that something terrible had befallen me. Nope, just taking a shower!

My landlord's mother had a heart attack recently and is now in rehab, and he seems to be going through a Death Phase of his own as a result. I told him I am moving out. He said he doesn't want me to, and he won't raise the rent if I'll stay. But then, he said he thinks I'm doing the right thing. "You're not getting any younger," he reminded me. "Oops, did I just say that out loud?"

He gave me the following advice: Never go out for dinner. No drinks out. Save up like crazy, because I'm going to need $3 million to get me through my last years. I can do it, as long as I live like "a cheap bastard" (his words). "You never know, you might find yourself old and with no one to take care of you. I might, too," he said, just before he walked out.

Quite the reality check. And I thought cheap rent meant I could go off austerity measures.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Action in the bullpen

I've been crazy busy lately. I'm thinking about moving and starting to plan for it. I have two interviews on Monday. I'm working on creating a curriculum for my summer job, which starts the day after school ends. And, like I've said before, I've been dating a LOT the last few weeks -- I had triple headers (three days of consecutive dates) the past three weekends. During the third-to-last one, just before I met up with Leif, I found myself smiling and nodding at my smart, interesting date and thinking, "Please stop asking me questions. I'm too tired to answer them." Not good, since a boyfriend who doesn't ask questions is the last thing I want.

I've gotten so busy that I've stopped putting any effort into dating. But somehow I need to find the time to do so, because what with my diminished effort recently, I find myself with no dates lined up. The 27-year-old who bought me dinner last week seems to have gotten the message that I'm not interested. The handsome Indian doctor wasn't interested in me. And then there are a few people who have contacted me who I never bothered to reply to, which means no action in the bullpen to distract me from Leif Ericson. I need distraction, because even though it's only been two dates, I have been thinking about him a lot ever since we went out last weekend. I'm trying not to get attached, but it's hard when I've met his people, gone sailing with him, and spent so long smooching on the street that we needed to find something for me to stand on so my toes didn't get tired (he's very tall). In between running around trying to get stuff done, I find myself daydreaming about him or signing into OkCupid just to see his tiny little photo next to his old messages to me.

So, I'm forcing Leif out of my head, burying myself in my work, and accepting a date from a non-Internet man who asked me out yesterday. And if you see my gazing off into space with a silly grin on my face, please kick me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Searching for the trifecta

Ever since my landlord's revelation late last week that he's raising my rent, I'm officially now searching for the trifecta: a job, a boyfriend and an apartment.

The good news is I'm making headway in at least some of those areas. Back in New York, my Wise Woman noted that I frequently used the word "charming" to describe my boyfriends. (In that astonishing/helpful/sometimes annoying way that my Wise Woman had, she remembered my descriptions years later and would repeat them back to me verbatim.) I still like a charming man; who doesn't? I certainly wouldn't want to date someone who is NOT personable, outgoing and funny.

But lately, I've noticed that the word that I use most often to describe men I like is no longer "charming." A new word has come along: "gentle." And while there are lots of other words I could use to describe Leif Ericson -- funny, intelligent, and interesting come to mind -- I really like his gentleness. We went for a pretty sail on the Charles today, and he was patient and kind while giving me sailing lessons. I also appreciate that he's willing to break the rules and invite me to meet a whole slew of his friends at a barbeque on Date #2.

I found a pearl in my oyster at the barbeque, so I think I may be in for some good luck! Cross your fingers for me that the trifecta will come along, sooner or later.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dog days

I've been going on lots of dates. Yesterday, I managed to squeeze in two in the same day -- in two different states, no less.

The second date was with a dog, Petunia. There was also a man with the dog: Leif Ericson. Petunia and Leif were both great dates. Leif was tall, handsome, gentle, and very smart. Petunia was sweet, interactive, interested in me, and not afraid to get cuddly on a first date. (To clarify, Leif doesn't actually own Petunia. He was taking care of her for a friend who is away.)

The date started out on the Esplanade, a gorgeous park I spend far too little time visiting. I had told Leif that it would have to be a short date, so after an hour or so there, he asked if I could get a drink or if I had to head home. Suddenly, my schedule seemed much more open than I had previously thought, and I told him I was in no rush whatsoever to get home.

So, the three of us moseyed over to the Liberty Hotel for a beer. (Watching the sunset on the Esplanade + beers at the Liberty Hotel = fantastic date, if anyone is looking for ideas.) After we had been there for a while, Leif got up to go to the restroom. Suddenly, some Italian tourists noticed Petunia. "Ciao!" they shrieked, running over, and proceeded to basically French kiss the overwhelmed pup. (As a non-dog person, this behavior is totally alien to me, but I know most dog lovers indulge in it all the time.) "Dammi un bacio sulla bocca, amore mio!" they chorused, "Give me a kiss on the mouth, my love!" Wow, Italians sure don't hold back. When I asked them where they were from, they pretended briefly to be interested in the fact that I speak Italian, but it was clear I was merely a distraction from their true interest.

After a few minutes of this, Petunia became so overwhelmed that she jumped up onto my chair and curled into a semicircle around my body, trying futilely to hide behind my back. When my date returned he found us like that, me with my arms around her to try to comfort her, the Italians still hanging around hoping to get her to come out and give them more French kisses and expressing their undying love for her.

All of this left me feeling a little hollow. I've been feeling awfully popular, what with all the dates, but clearly my popularity pales in comparison to Petunia's. Maybe I need to rent a dog for dates to increase my popularity.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Closure, or lack thereof

Closure has been a frequent topic lately (see here, here and here) on the Love Letters blog. There are, it seems, an endless supply of letter-writers going through confusing breakups -- usually after a short, whirlwind romance -- and trying to understand why he bailed (usually it seems to be a man). Meredith gives the same advice again and again: Closure doesn't exist. Just move on. At one point, she instructed a letter-writer to imagine her ex saying this to her:

"I'm sorry. I don't know why I bailed but I did. I was all excited about our relationship and then things got … normal. And scary. And I couldn't say for sure that I wanted to stick around and get closer to you. I know that's lame, but that's where I am. At the end of the day, losing you was less scary than keeping you around. That sounds awful, but it's the truth. And that stuff I said about trust? It was just something to say. I trust you. I just can't sustain what I started."


Good advice, as always. 

Like Meredith, I know that closure doesn't exist. Or, at least, it's not something you can get from the other person -- you have to find it within yourself. But also like Meredith, I'm not always good at following my own advice. (She admitted this when I went to hear her read from her newly-released first fiction book, which I'm now reading.) It's one thing to know it in theory, but quite a different thing to resist the urge to seek an explanation when you've been through a difficult, confusing breakup. 

My own strategy, adopted from my friend Snood in Seattle, is somewhat more succinct. I just tell myself -- and others, if they ask -- "He died." She came up with it last winter when friends asked me about someone who had just broken things off, and I thought it was the perfect response. His death was sad, and sudden, and tragic. But it's over. He's gone. Now it's time to mourn his loss and move on. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kiddie tales

I told my 6th graders today that Maurice Sendak died.

"Who's that?" they asked.

When I told them, one of them shrieked. "I love that man! He made me childhood dreams come true."


I love how she used that clichéd phrase in a different, insightful way. It's been too long since I was a kid for me to remember well, but I think I felt the same way.

*******

On a recent afternoon in my knitting club, the following conversation occurred:

2nd grade girl #1: Do you have kids?

Me: No.

2nd grade girl #1: Do you have a husband?

Me: No.

2nd grade girl #1: That's sad.

Me: Errrr.....

2nd grade girl #2: No, it's not! It's not sad at all. She gets to spend time with kids all the time. Every day! If she didn't it would be sad.

Phew! For a second there I thought my life was depressing.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Questionable and more questionable

I have a second date coming up with my educational policy-loving, ageist Man-sprout. I have to admit I'm excited, despite some questionable behaviors he's exhibited.

Partly I'm excited because he's easy on the eyes, but mostly I'm excited because the date is awesome: We're going to a beach party at the Museum of Fine Arts. The concept reminds me of Paris Plages, the fake beach set up every year on the banks of the Seine so that Parisians can have beach vacations without stepping foot outside the 5th arrondissement. The event invitation has instructions to "wear our beachy best."

Not being totally sure what that means, given that it's going to be an early May New England day in the low 60s, I asked my Man-sprout about attire. He replied that he will dress as Brian Wilson and I should dress as a blonde Katy Perry. I replied, "Good idea. Now I have three days to figure out what Katy Perry would wear to a beach party at the MFA."

In response, he sent me this:



WHOA. I think I've watched it ten times, and I still feel overwhelmed by it. I mean, is is a music video, or is it porn?! She's naked and has whipped cream spewing out of her breasts!

So, is my Man-sprout saying I should wear a purple wig and a pink cloud to the MFA?!

I do love Snoop Dogg's cupcake-adorned suit, though.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

True love at the mall

I fell in love last month. Here is the object of my affection:


Beautiful, right? The minute I put it on I knew we were meant for each other. We belong together like shoes and socks. Like bourbon and bitters.

Unfortunately, the price tag was $80, which while quite reasonable for a silk dress is nearly two weeks of what I am allowed to spend recreationally according to my 50/50/50 Herman Caine-inspired austerity budget.

Reluctantly, I moved on, keeping only the photo to remember it by. Then last week, I was taking a bath when my phone started ringing. It rang and rang. I thought a big emergency was happening. It turned out that I was right: Slinky was calling to say that the dress was on sale for 50% off.

Soooo... now I am deciding whether or not to go ahead and spend all of my recreational budget for the week on the dress, or not. Technically, it's a pretty foolhardy purchase. My closet is CHOCK FULL of fancy dresses that I very rarely have the occasion to wear, including four lovely bridesmaid dresses, not to mention all the gorgeous hand-me-down dresses that my friend D has given me over the years.

But. Have I mentioned how much I love this dress? And my school is having a big party this weekend. A famous comedian might be there. (Think Jay Leno, but way cooler.) And who knows, maybe there'll be some cute divorced dads there for me to flirt with. So I should totally get it, right??

After all, men come and go, but dresses stay with you forever.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Over the hill

I went out with a guy last week who is a couple of years younger than me. A little ways into the conversation, I found out that he went to the same college as a few of my friends.

I threw some names his way. "Ms. B? Miami Nice? Ring any bells?"

"When did they graduate?"

I told him.

"No, they're too old. I might recognize them, but they were seniors when I was a freshman," he said.

"There is someone else I know, but she's really young," I said. "We're going to be in a canoe race together this weekend. But there's no way you'd know her." I told him her name. She's my childhood friend's younger sister.

"Yeah, we graduated together," he replied. Then he made a few jokes about the fact that I was born in the 1970s. Including one about the Civil Rights movement. It went something like this: "The Civil Rights movement happened not that long ago. It was just two decades before I was born. I guess it was in the decade before you were born." Snicker, snicker.

Quite the charmer. Still, I might go out with him again. After all, those of us who were born in the 70s can't be too picky. We're pretty old.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking our time to the finish line

I was in my first-ever race today. It was a canoe relay race. I roped a few people into doing it with me, including my sister.

As we waited for our canoe to come in from the first leg, we watched other teams' transitions. They were trying to go as fast as they could, rushing in and out of boats and getting wet in the process. "No need to hurry like that," we reminded each other. "We don't want to risk getting our feet wet. We'll just take our time."

"And also, no apologizing," I told my sister, reminding her of an article she read a while back that said women apologize too much. "If we screw up, we screw up. No need to be all apologetic about it. If we apologize by mistake, we have to follow it by saying 'I rock!'" (This is a technique a school is using to help girls feel less apologetic.)

"Let's not go crazy at the beginning," my sister added. "We have to go five miles. We should save our strength and take it nice and slow."

We followed all of our own advice. During our hour-plus canoe, we passed one boat. They had veered off course and got stuck in the bushes on the side of the river. A few minutes later, they passed us.

At the end of our leg, there was a bridge filled with people. I was getting tired, so I was glad there would be someone to cheer for us. But as we got closer, they kept quiet. "Hey, you guys are supposed to be cheering," I told them. They complied.

"We're going to run into the bridge," my sister said from behind me. "You're talking to them instead of following my instructions."

"Sorry," I replied. "I rock!"

I think my family is not very competitive.  Maybe we should stick to recreational paddling.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Growing a crop of men


Online dating is a lot like gardening. You start by planting your seedlings by writing messages to several men or responding to messages you've received. Some of them sprout, others never do, still others sprout a teeny-tiny little stem but then wither and flop over (this happens if you get a lame message in reply to your witty epistle, or if they suddenly stop replying). You correspond for a while with the ones that sprouted, and write off the others with a shrug. Eventually, the corresponding leads to some dates. Suddenly, you realize that a bunch of your seedlings are about to become real plants, and you need to stop planting more seeds or your garden will become overcrowded. So, you take a break and concentrate on fertilizing your existing plantlets rather than growing new ones. You meet the little plants; some of them seem promising and worthy of second and third dates, others you can tell are the kinds of plants that are just never going to produce, and you stop watering them. Sometimes you get really excited about a plant and think that someday, down the road, it just might give you a bunch of beautiful, juicy heirloom tomatoes. Others are kinda spindly, but you want to give them a chance, too. You keep hoping one of them will really take off, but often, you end up being back at square one, with an empty garden ready to be planted again.

Right now, in both my vegetable garden and my man garden, I am in the phase where I have a bunch of little seeds planted and am giving them all the love and nurturing and fertilizer I can in the hopes that my tiny little sprouts will grow big and strong one day. I got a hopeful sign from one of my seedlings yesterday, in the form of a message that contained the following: "I'm interested in educational policy, so I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on the state of education. Have you read anything by Diane Ravitch?"

This little sprout really knows how to make a teacher swoon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eeeewwwwww

As I mentioned in my last post, I was privy to some overly artsy, dramatic photos after the Hipster librarian added me as a friend on Facebook (even though I didn't accept; they're public). Many of the photographs have his ex girlfriend in them: black and white shots of her looking pensive and American Apparel-y, arm-length photos of the two of them cuddling, shots of old buildings in Eastern Europe with the side of her face or a few wisps of her hair in them, etc. Last night, at my friend M's house, someone asked about our breakup, and I ended up showing the photos while reading the captions in a sonorous, melodramatic voice. Examples: "Into the new empty," "We lived here very much," "Pale saint," "Schwester with other people's kinder," "Gabriel with the solace of jasmine."

"She looks reaaaaallly young," everyone commented.

Indeed she did. When I got home, the photos were still open on my computer, and I clicked on her name to see if I could find out anything else about her. And I did find something: She's graduating from COLLEGE in 2013. Meaning that, when the photos were taken in 2009, she was still in high school or had maybe just graduated. It was hard to believe at first, so I Googled around a little bit and confirmed the facts. The Hipster Librarian, by the way, is 40.

Well. Now it makes sense that he contacted me, given that I wrote in my OkCupid profile that I'm often mistaken for a 16-year-old. Time to edit my profile, methinks.

And speaking of editing, perhaps I should change HL's blog name to "Humbert Humbert"?!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bad dates

When people ask about my bad dating experiences, I often wish I had better stories. I never went out with a sweaty, burpy guy, like my sister, or with a man who casually mentioned that he was planning to dabble in prostitution later that afternoon, like my friend M. My worst date was years ago, when I went out with a guy I met at a party in Williamsburg. He was from Maine, and an old friend of someone I met once or twice who seems like a decent person and is a bit of a celebrity in the progressive political world, plus I had beer goggles, so I thought he seemed great.

When we met a week later, though, I quickly realized my mistake. By the time we were ready to head out of my apartment for a walk, I was so horrified by the thought of spending an evening with him that I briefly contemplated putting his jacket in the hallway and locking my apartment door when he went to the bathroom (the bathroom was off a common hallway, tenement-style). As we walked next to the Gowanus Canal, he told me that he liked to hang out by the East River on Staten Island and throw tennis balls into the water. For fun.

He had just enough money in his bank account, he told me, to pay for movie tickets for both of us. But then he got hungry, so we had to stop at a store so he could buy chips. Then he only had enough money for one movie ticket, so I got my own. It was a long, painful evening.

I had a similar experience last week during my third and final date with the Hipster Librarian. He suggested a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a fine suggestion that showed sensitivity to my interests. However, once there a side to his personality came out that I had glimpsed once or twice before: He is an insufferable know-it-all, and he takes himself way too seriously. For instance, in front of a Sargent sketch: "Isn't it fascinating how the style is so different from his other works! I would hardly know it as a Sargent. It's positively Chavannes-esque." When we arrived at Rembrandt's self-portrait: "Ah, Rembrandt. Only 23 years old. At that age, he still may have had delusions of himself as a good-looking man, but not for much longer." I kid you not. Again, I had the urge to race out of the museum without looking back.

The next day, he added me as a friend on Facebook, and I looked through his photos and saw lots of artsy shots of himself looking pensive. And I knew I had to move on. So I sent him the Breakup Email and bid him adieu.

I think he'd appreciate the fact that I bid him adieu rather than just saying bye.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heathenisha

I have an alter ego on the Internet. Her name is Heathenisha.

Back when I was dating Dreamy, I still needed to maintain a presence on OkCupid to keep up with my friends' dates, check out profiles of guys they were going out with, recommend people for them in moments when they were feeling frustrated, etc. So, I created Heathenisha, a totally blank profile with my age, relationship status, astrological sign, etc. (Her name's not really Heathenisha. That's right, my fake profile has a fake blog name.)

Over time, I shared Heathenisha's username and password with friends. It started with Slinky, who by the time I was back on OkC was off, so I needed her to check out my dates. Next came Surfer Girl; we'd look up guys on our iPhones whose profiles we'd already looked at so many times we didn't want to seem like stalkers. Eventually, I gave her info to my entire dating support group.

Shortly thereafter, Heathenisha's personality started to take shape. Men are attracted to women who like red, and boy, does Heathenisha like red. She loves Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, as well as Little Red Riding Hood and Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir. She wears a lot of rubies, and usually steers clear of pink but is considering moving in that direction. She's a cat lady, and until the staff robots at OkC flagged and removed it, there was a lovely photo of a cat as her profile pic. She's tall and full-figured. Sorry, men whose favorite color is blue: she's not interested.

As to the men who are interested in Heathenisha, there are a surprising number. (My co-worker C complains that Heathenisha gets more messages than she does.) One came from a promising suitor living in England whose username was bored_hubby (sexy!). Another recent epistle started out, "You haven't been contacted in over a week!? I find that hard to believe. RED!" As I was writing this blog post, another one came in: "I've always wanted to date a 7'5" woman who keeps halal... it's been so hard to find her!" Who knew.

Over the past week, as I've been on hidatus, I've logged on to Heathenisha's profile a couple of times to search for matches for when I go off hidatus. Let me tell you, if you ever want to feel pessimistic about dating, use Heathenisha to look for matches. It's bleak who OkC thinks she should go out with. Unattractive, overweight sports fans who drink beer on their Friday nights, are unemployed and live in the 'burbs. OkC really doesn't seem to have a high opinion of Heathenisha's potential to attract men.

Apparently, no one's told the staff robots at OkCupid that all men really want is a woman who loves the color red.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ex boyfriend amnesty

Under the influence of my friend Surfer Girl, whose expressiveness I admire, I declared ex boyfriend amnesty last week (for all exes except La Moustache, who is unpardonable). I added Dreamy back in as a friend on Facebook, thereby rendering him very happy, and agreed to see him for lunch this weekend. I accepted Le Canadien as a friend after 6 months or so in my Facebook purgatory because sure, he was a jerk -- he left halfway through a date, never called and turned out to have a girlfriend -- but at least he was obvious about being a jerk, and in the end I may have used him as much as he used me. I called up l'Artista and listened to him talk and talk without really saying anything, and thought about how good he is at listening to me and understanding me so naturally and how very much I love him, as though he were part of my family, and how utterly unsuitable he is as a mate. And when my end-of-college crush popped up on Facebook the other day -- the one who I invited to visit me in New York, telling him I had plenty of space for guests, and who then offered to two (female) friends of his that they could crash with me -- I added him as a friend. Nice how Facebook allows us to reach out without involving any actual communication.

Surfer Girl is outgoing and emotive and has no filters whatsoever, and I admire her ability to reflect on what's happened to her, be open and tell people what she thinks of them, and then move on. (She's also one of three -- 3!!! -- of my close friends who have recently fallen in love; I'm SO happy for all of them, and also wish they could've spaced it out a bit.) Being forgiving doesn't come particularly easy to me, and I'd like to be more so. I'm also still feeling bad about Monkeyboy, and beginning to realize that perhaps I need to be a bit more forgiving toward myself about him. I've been berating myself for feeling bad and wondering why it's taken so long (way longer than it took to feel better after the end of my year-long relationship with Dreamy), but maybe giving myself some space to feel bad is what I need. I re-joined OkCupid before Monkeyboy had finished his drive home after breaking up with me, and forced myself to immediately start dating. The boys I've been going out with are cute and smart, and seem to like me and want to kiss me. And all I can think about is how very much I don't want to kiss them and how much more I liked Monkeyboy.

So I'm going on hidatus -- my first. I'm taking a couple of weeks off of Internet dating, and seeing how I feel. I'm not sure what will happen with the crop of cute boys I've been working on cultivating; I may continue to go out with them, just to make absolutely sure I'm not interested, although I'm not excited about the prospect of having to kiss them more just to be certain I don't enjoy it. What I'm focusing most on the at the moment is being kind and forgiving toward myself. And what the hell, a little bit toward my ex boyfriends, too.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ghetto

"Oh really," said my Thursday-night date after I mentioned what neighborhood I live in, "It seems like some parts of Roxbury are nice, and some parts are really ghetto."

I've been thinking a lot about his offhand comment ever since. I've told it to a few friends, and gotten mixed reactions: "I've heard a lot worse on first dates," "I'd say that's a dealbreaker for sure," "He wasn't thinking," and "He just meant it's a bit rundown in parts."

I know he wasn't really thinking about what he was saying, but I do think it's a dealbreaker for me (one of a number of dealbreakers: the fact that conversation didn't flow, I wasn't attracted to him, etc). I want to date someone who is thoughtful about the way they use language, and who is aware that in discussions of city neighborhoods many factors of race and economic status come into play. Someone who knows that the word "ghetto" comes from the separation of a group of people (Jews) in Venice, and that its use could be taken as an implication that it is a place where poor black people live, with the understanding that it would not be desirable to live in such a place.

Over the years, I have had to think a lot about the way I talk about the places I've lived and taught, because so many people have thoughtless reactions like my date's. I have emphasized how much I loved my students in Bed-Stuy, even while admitting how difficult it was to teach them. That I hated the cookie-cutter uniformity of the families in the wealthy suburb of Boston I taught in last year, while loving them each individually. How I admired the strong neighborhood community in the Brooklyn neighborhood I lived in with La Moustache, but felt uncomfortable with the fact that they prayed at community garden meetings. And, finally, how great it is to live where I do now, surrounded by all kinds of people: old, young, rich, poor, families, singles, black, white, straight, gay. All of them overwhelmingly kind and neighborly.

I was startled when a form of the same word came up on Friday during my date with an adorable Hipster Librarian. "It became ghettoized," he said, referring perhaps to the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was born or to some part of Germany he's been interested in exploring, I forget which. In any case, he knew exactly what it meant and he was using it precisely, with a full and complete understanding of the word and its history.

That, and the fact that when he went to the bathroom he left me reading material -- a treatise by an 18th century Irish philosopher -- left me utterly charmed. (And I have to admit, also the fact that I haven't dated someone so cute in years.) Go Hipster Librarian!