Dating Story: The Networker

The Winter Blues are a real thing in my life. It is palpable how sad I can get. One year I decided it was a great idea to start a challenge to myself to break some dating habits. I decided I was going to go on 50 First Dates and write about my experiences.

I didn’t have any finite plans about what I wanted to do with this project, maybe I would turn it into a play or a book. But I really wanted to do it, so I started an online profile one January and got to work setting up dates.

In case you are wondering about the project, nothing has come of it yet. I ended up having a mild depression that winter after going on these dates that were going no where and having the same conversation over and over again- from what to do you to what are your hobbies to I’m just not feeling it. The other question I get about the project is what if I had met someone. I did not restrict myself to only going on one date with each guy. If I wanted to keep seeing him I would. The whole point was to get out of a rut and if I got out of a rut before 50 First Dates, then great.

Anyway, back to the Networker. We messaged online in the normal fashion. Nothing in particular stood out other than he was bald and was hysterical. He even made a joke about being bald forced him to develop this great sense of humor (makes sense to me). He quit his corporate job and now freelanced and finally started to turn a profit in his business. (Hence the nickname. He knew everyone in town because he had to hustle for his work)

I wouldn’t say I am attracted or turned off by bald men, I would say I am curious. I like to think I am open to it, but most of the time in person I am not really attracted. I had not figured this out yet about myself.

So we agree to go out for a glass of wine. It was February. 2010. If you were on the East Coast, you will recall that was the winter of Snowmageddon. It started sometime around midnight the night of our first date.

We knew the weather report and decided to risk it. We were just meeting for one drink after all.

The Networker was hilarious, and I really enjoyed that about him. He was pleasant to be around. So one glass of wine turned into two. I couldn’t make up my mind if I was interested in him, but I was having fun and wanted to figure it out.

I do not know why I wanted to figure it out THAT NIGHT. I do not know why I didn’t think “I am intrigued. But I will wait and figure it out another night when they are not predicting a huge snowstorm.”

But no. I didn’t think that. Instead, I suggested we go to my favorite dive bar a few doors down, play the jukebox and maybe some pool and keep hanging out. So we do. We run into a few acquaintances of mine and we hang out as a group. Lots of laughs ensue and plenty more drinks.

I cannot make up my mind about this guy, but it was probably not a good sign that I was making eyes at another guy across the bar. He was just drop dead gorgeous. I couldn’t help myself (but I know I should have).

The Networker and I decide to call it a night and parted ways with a hug and plans to meet up again for dinner the following weekend. My night did not end there, I went back to flirt some more like the idiot that had one drink too many tends to do.

But that story will be for another day.

Long story short, my car got buried in the snow. A few days later the Networker picked me up at my apartment and helped me shovel out. I was incredibly grateful but still not sure I was attracted.

The Networker and I met up for dinner. Again, the conversation was great. But I was pretty certain I was falling on the side of the fence of “Not Attracted.” He walked me to my car and finally went in for a kiss. And let me just say politely that it firmly planted me in the “Not Attracted” camp.

So I told him I wasn’t feeling it and would like to be friends. He balked at this, the way we all do when our pride is wounded, and we parted ways. I still am not sure what the right way is to end a relationship like that. I thought honesty and directness was best, but that still stings.

Who knew that he literally KNOWS EVERYONE in my city. So even now 5 years later we are consistently running into each other at events and parties thrown by mutual friends. I was really glad that the first time I saw him after that awkward ending was at the Farmer’s Market and he was with a girl, I had hoped a date.

Luckily there are no hard feelings between us and we can have a great time if we happen to both be at the same concert together, oftentimes alone because we are both confident enough to go to things alone. (which I suppose means it’s a shame I’m not romantically attracted! We have so much in common!)

I’m glad we’ve been able to be friends, despite the awkward ending.

 

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Men And Vulnerability

I am a really big fan of the TV show Parenthood on NBC. Parenthood follows the lives of the Braverman family. Its patriarch Zeke had a heart attack this season, and it has been pivotal for everyone. In a recent physical therapy session, his son Crosby stepped in to watch part of the session.

Zeke was walking on a treadmill and his therapist decided to challenge him by increasing the elevation. Then, Zeke slips and nearly falls off his treadmill. Zeke has an internal freakout and quickly gets out of the room before his dad can see.

He is flustered and uncomfortable. He isn’t quite sure how to handle watching his father slip and fall. This is his life long hero. He even tells us the audience after the session when Crosby recalls a story where Zeke scared off a bear from their campsite in Yosemite. This man is a real man, he recalls.

And yet right now Zeke is fragile, recovering from major surgery, and facing death. Even real men have weaknesses.

This moment made me think of something I had heard in a Brene Brown lecture. It was titled Men, Women and Worthiness. Brene Brown is a revolutionary researcher with two of the most popular TED talks of all time.  (watch for yourself here and here)

She studied how women deal with shame and vulnerability. She tells a story about a lecture at a book signing and a family approached her. She was worried that the man approaching her was going to let her have it and accuse her of being wrong. Instead, he told her that she should really study men because his family would rather see him die instead of watching him fall off his high horse.

That line stuck with me so much I memorized it. Men feel a completely different kind of shame and vulnerability compared to women, and in some ways it is worse. Women can show their vulnerability, when we feel awful we can let people know. Men can’t. It is never acceptable in our society for a man to be vulnerable. We have given them this identity as strong and silent, anything less is weak. And that’s a bad thing. Apparently?

When I was having my recent break up conversation, I wept openly when I felt like it. I saw the guy visibly choking back tears. I told him it was ok, he could be sad and feel however he wanted to feel. We knew everything about each other anyway, so there is no need to hold back.

I still think he held back. I think it is just ingrained in men to not show emotion.

I don’t know what the bigger solution to this is other than we women need to get a little bit stronger and make a little more space for men to feel. We have to make it safe. They won’t do it otherwise.

I think about making space in a very visual way. I think about stretching out my arms and wrapping them around a barrel and then stepping away from the barrel but the space is still there. That’s how I picture making safe space.

I imagine being strong enough to hold that no matter what. I think people need that sometimes. Hell, I think people need that all the time. Sadly I can’t be strong enough to do that for everyone.

But in my own way, that’s what I am hoping to do here. Make a safe space where you can just let it all out. We all feel. It’s ok. Just be honest and true to yourself.

That’s what I ask of the people in my life. Sometimes it is really hard to hold that space for them. When I really love a person, I am happy to do it though because I know how good it feels to have a safe space. And I think it is a gift that we give each other. I have a few people that I call on to do that and I am so thankful for them.

I think it is easier for two women to do that for each other because it’s this feeling of I cry, you cry, we all cry! It’s all even. It’s harder for men. Maybe they don’t cry. Maybe even in a safe space they don’t feel ready for that. It’s not tit for tat. But I don’t think that means we stop holding space. I think it’s going to take a lot of time to show men that it is ok. And it is going to take a lot of work for women to be ok with it.

I think we would all be a lot better off if we let men be more vulnerable.

Who’s An Awkward Turtle? This Gal.

Sometimes I am incredibly awkward. I think the movie moment I can best relate to (and will most often quote under my breath) is from Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Gray is trying to explain why she was allowed to the secret dirty dance party with all the camp employees. And in a moment of complete flustration (that’s a made up word for being flustered and frustrated, you’re welcome, you can start using that freely, just give me credit please?) she declares “I carried a watermelon.” And then kicks herself and mutters to herself “I carried a watermelon?”

Yup. That’s me.

I saw my ex for the first time in months over the weekend, we were at a party for the theater company that actually reintroduced us to each other this last summer.

I was prepared for this. This is my turf, I know everyone invited because I have worked for this company for over six years. They’re my people, it’s my comfort zone. Hell, I even wrote a blog about handling this very situation and how to do it gracefully!

So I mingled for a long time and waited until I needed to leave. I had an exit strategy. My normal wing woman had bailed due to sickness, so I wanted to make sure I had an out that I could control. I had to be on the road.

I approached him and gave him a big hug. I was calm and collected until I noticed how awful he looked.

My first reaction was honestly “Mwahahaha he looks like shit! Awesome!”

I’m only human.

My second reaction was complete concern. “Why does he look like shit? He shouldn’t look like shit. I had heard he was doing great. What happened?”

And that was the only thing I could think about for the next four minutes.

So instead if asking him directly what was wrong, I made the most awkward small talk a person could ever imagine. “How’s work? How were your holidays? How is your family?”

They sound like questions of concern, but these are actually loaded questions, and I unconsciously was trying to get to the bottom of why he looked so bad.

I ended up texting him an hour later once I was on the road and jamming to my mix and feeling good to be driving to see my best friend. We both admitted we felt awkward.

I thought about this a little bit as I drove. I realized that I could ask my best friend for advice about how to deal with an ex, because she has some experience that would make your head spin. And she still holds it all together somehow.

But what I decided was most important was how I felt, what I needed and what I felt was right for the relationship I was honoring with my ex. We communicated extremely well, and I do miss him as a friend. So it felt right to ask him, and to admit to how I was honestly feeling.

I knew in my gut what was right and getting advice from my best friend wouldn’t change that. More often than not, the answer we are looking for is already inside. We are probably just asking for someone’s advice to validate what we already know.

I have to remind myself often- you don’t need any validation or permission. You are wise enough to know what is right for the situation and what isn’t.

And if you’re really that uncertain about what to do, the answer is usually wait until you know for sure. A.k.a tell yourself no, for now.

The other lesson I learned, thanks to my best gal pal and because of something else I am working through, is that I need to stop judging myself.

It’s like Popeyes said “I y’am what I y’am, and that’s all that I y’am.”

I may be misquoting that, but in always used to giggle because his weird speech impediment made it sound like he was saying “yam.”

So, message is to stop judging myself. I need to trust myself and not judge what I do. I am doing the best that I can. That’s all I can ask of myself. And my best is just that.

And then let it be.

trust my gut and stop judging myself. Two pretty great lessons to start the new year, don’t you think?