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. 


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.