Signing Off….

So, we’re at the halfway point of this experiment now, and I… am kind of just done?

I may come back in a while, if my current thing falls apart, but I’ve met a guy, and it’s… sort of amazing and wonderful right now. He breaks pretty much all of my rules for this experiment, and I’m sort of okay with that.

Per my rules, I’m not going to talk about him (except yes: I already did, in one of the many ways he breaks my rules).

But the reality right now is… I don’t want to take time away from him to spend looking for more bad dates. I don’t want to keep casting around for possibilities. I want to share lunches with him, and attend parties with him and his friends (another personal rule violation!). I want to cuddle in his living room and make snarky jokes about movies with him.

I was over at his place last night, in the two and a half hour Wednesday stretch between work ending and my ex bringing the kids back home to me, and I just never wanted to leave. Everything about it felt right, and good, and wonderful. Why on earth would I give up any time I can settle in and enjoy that to try to make awkward smalltalk over wine?

It’s early days still — we’ve only been involved in this Thing for just over two weeks. Both of us are doing that thing where we talk about the holidays or spring breaks or the summer and have to self-edit — well, of course we can’t make plans. We can’t expect… but we both want to. I just kind of want to crawl into him and curl up to hibernate for the winter, warm and affectionate and contented.

So this may be my last post for a bit. It’s been a fun ride, and thank you all for coming along!

Dating Etiquette 101

Protip: if you have a date with a woman, and you want a follow-up date, maybe don’t wait until three weeks after the date without contacting her at all, then send 1-sentence “want to go out again this weekend?” mail.

I need to craft a polite “no thank you” email…

Go Boise State!

So, what did Eliza do tonight?

Eliza went to a BAR.

A sports bar.

And do you know what Eliza learned? If you are me, and you go to a sports bar and strikes up a conversation about the football game, men just kind of… circle you.

It was so. Fucking. Weird.

And awesome. But weird, too.

So, I went to this bar. I mostly went because they were supposed to have karaoke, but I did not end up doing any karaoke. Instead, I asked the guy two seats down if he had a favorite in the Boise State/Fresno State game, and we ended up talking about yesterday’s Patriots game.

I am good at talking about football.

Within around three minutes, the guy on the other side of me had put away his phone and joined the conversation. Then someone came across the bar to take the empty seat between me and the first gentleman. When phone-guy left, a pair of guys from across the room came and took his place.

And we talked sports. We talked places to live and travel. There was one guy who was clearly in full-on flirt mode, and I was 100% ready to join him in that game, so we got fun and touchy-flirty. He showed me photos on his phone from the Bills/Patriots game last weekend, and I leaned into his shoulder to look. I bumped elbows with him. When he told me the only two football jerseys he owned were Jets and Steelers, and I told him I didn’t even know why I was talking to him, I play-slapped his hand.

He was clearly into it. I was into it. It was fun.

Before he left, he asked if I’d like to watch a game with him sometime, and I politely declined. I did have fun, but it felt like play-acting, like I’d narrowed myself down to such a small part of myself that I wasn’t really me anymore. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but I didn’t get the sense this guy would really be interested in me as a whole person, and honestly… me as a whole person wouldn’t be very into him, either. He doesn’t fit my life.

So I said no. But I did have fun, and it was an interesting icebreaker into the wide world of bars.

Objects of Desire

Today’s post breaks my own rules, because it’s about something that is not over, so I’m going to rely on my low readership numbers to protect me from the subject (or anyone else who might know him) reading this.

One of my plans, when I started this adventure — which I am almost halfway through now, you guys! — I had some very strict ideas of how it was going to work. I wasn’t going to “network” for dates. I wasn’t going look for people through my social circles. I wasn’t going to let my friends set me up with their brothers, or single guy friends. The biggest reason for this was that I wanted to keep complications low. If I was dating my friend’s cousin, and things didn’t work out, would I be disappointing her, as well as him? Will I be trying too hard to make a thing work to avoid awkwardness? It’s a lot easier when I can say, “Hey, this isn’t working out, and since we were total strangers before, I’ll go back to never seeing you again! Bye!”

At the end of this 6-month exercise, I’ll see how I feel about relaxing that rule, but for right now, I like the safety and anonymity.

This is why most of my dates have been through services, through online stuff, through programs designed to pair up strangers. It’s a deliberate choice.

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a local Meetup group for geeky singles in my area.

And I knew someone there.

He works with me — not in the same group, but in the same building. Several months ago, we were in a training class together. After the class, we connected on LinkedIn. And… well, and I mostly forgot him.

But he didn’t mostly forget me. When he saw me respond to the Meetup event, he recognized me. He said hi when we passed in the hall. He even spotted my OKCupid profile and sent a message there about how we keep bumping into each other.

On Tuesday, we were the only two there for the first little while, so we talked a lot. I enjoyed talking to him a lot: he’s an intelligent, enthusiastic guy with a lot of shared hobbies with me. As part of the conversation, though, he made a few comments which show that he has been far more aware of me than I’ve been of him. He knows where my office is — not surprising, since he’s not far away from it, but I certainly didn’t know where his was. He’s seen me in the halls, but never said anything, because I always look very purposeful when I walk. He was considering, before the meetup, asking if I wanted to meet for dinner first.

I have this intellectual sense that I should be flattered, and I think I am, but I’m also a bit suspicious, in way that have everything to do with my own emotional damage and nothing to do with him. I have absolutely done this with guys before — guys I noticed, guys who stood out. Guys I had lightweight work crushes on — the kind that makes you a little more enthusiastic about going into the office, and makes you remember to tuck your shirt in and not choose food that sticks in your teeth for lunch. I don’t think those are at all creepy. And in fact, I have this level of awareness of some people I’m not attracted to at all. People who I just noticed for some reason and couldn’t stop noticing: “Oh, that’s where he sits!” or “Aha! He’s going into the Fleebleburton meeting. Now I know a project he’s on.”

But I cannot put that concept into a space where I’m the object of attention or notice. And so I’m looking for ulterior motives, and feeling vaguely edgy, in ways that I don’t think are at all fair. I’m used to thinking that if I don’t initiate, if I don’t push myself out there, I won’t be noticed, and history backs me up fairly well. Every boyfriend I had in high school and college, I made the first move on, and I asked out for the first date. Every online dating conversation that’s led to a meet, I started. I am just not the kind of woman that men look at and say, “Hey. I want to ask her out.” But this is a guy who met me, who noticed me, who continued to be aware of me, and when he found out I was interested in dating, sent out a signal flag to me.

This is the way dating is supposed to happen, right? Why does it seem so strange?

OKCupid Stalking

When he sends a message on OKCupid, I flip over to his profile.

I start with the standard look: I weigh likes and dislikes. I geek out over the more unusual references with which I can connect (OMG, he likes James Keelaghan! Caroline Stevermer! Caroline Stevermer is awesome!). I make sure he knows how to spell. I check some of the key demographics: does he have kids? Does he smoke? What does he have down for politics? Religion?

Maybe I send a message back.

And then the waiting begins. While I wait, I start playing the obsessive stalker.

OKCupid is AWFUL for this. For those of you who’ve never tried OKCupid, it has these sets of questions. There are hundreds or thousands of them. I don’t actually know how many, because I have never gotten close to answering them all. They run an interesting range of topics:

Which of the following best describes Science, in your opinion?

  • A belief system, no better or worse than Religion.
  • A method one can follow to make predictions.
  • A post-hoc explanation of God’s miracles.
  • Hello? Like totally boring, dude.

Could you date someone who already has children from a previous relationship?

  • Yes
  • No

Who do you think was smartest on this list?

  • Einstein
  • Shakespeare
  • Mozart
  • Jesus

Do you own any dice with more than six sides?

  • Yes
  • No

Would you consider roleplaying out a rape fantasy with partner who asked you to?

  • Yes.
  • No.

If some men are doctors and some doctors are tall, does it follow that some men are tall?

  • Yes
  • No

Or one of my absolute favorites:

“Your a bitch!” What bothers you more about the above sentence?

  • The profanity
  • The grammar
  • They both bother me equally
  • Neither one bothers me

You answer (or don’t answer) these questions, and then you put down what acceptable answers are for your partner. You can say, “Any answer is fine,” but if you choose to say some answers aren’t okay, you can add how much you care about them: a little, somewhat, or very.

OKCupid then calculates a match percentage and an enemy percentage. Without really thinking about it, I tend to group match percentages into 3 categories: 85+, 50-84, and below 50. The enemy percentage is the interesting one, though. If your enemy percentage is high, there are some compatibility issues: either you or they have said no to some of the others’ answers.

As an interesting note, most of my enemy issues with men have to do with either:

  1. Their objection to my “extremely important” answer to the question: How important is religion/God in your life?
  2. My objection to their “no” answer to the question: Could you date someone who already has children from a previous relationship?

So, when I start to stalk someone on OKCupid, I flip over to their questions page and start looking for our matches and issues. If you haven’t answered a question, you can’t see someone else’s answer, so sometimes I find myself staring at someone’s question sheet. They answered the question “Do you consider yourself dominant or submissive in bed?” Do I care enough about their answer to put my own answer publically out there? Usually, my answer is no.

Sometimes, the answers make me laugh. It always cracks me up when someone has said getting the right answer to a logic problem is a deal-breaker because they figured out the wrong answer. STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to…

Mostly, though, it’s about getting a larger picture: it’s about seeing more of a person. I worry that it makes me overthink: it’s so easy to disqualify people based on arbitrary rules before you’ve met them and seen how they light up while they talk about genetic algorithms, before you’ve cracked up at their dry humor, before you’ve gone deep into a talk about the worldwide response to the Ebola crisis and been impressed by the breadth and range of their insight. They checked off the wrong box! No date.

But the questions are there, and since they’re there, I can’t seem to stop looking at them. I stalk people quietly, feeling vaguely obsessive, like a voyeur. The questions are there to be looked at, but I really don’t want to know so much, so soon. What happened to the process of exploration?

Joshua Postmortem – Part 2

Continued from

Joshua works in the city, an hour from where I work. Getting together for lunches or a quick drink was not on the table. After work, any get-together was going to involve a few hours of driving. Since the weekend after we met I had the kids the whole weekend, we made plans for two weeks out: Friday evening, I’d drive up after work, and I didn’t have to be home at all, so I could stay as late as I wanted.

That two week period was a lot of fun for me. In a flash, I’d remember the feeling of his mouth on my neck, the way it felt when he tangled his hand in my hair. I’d be at work, and all of a sudden, it would be like I could feel his fingers on my thigh, and I’d need to stop and catch my breath. I was drifting in and out of an arousal state at snippets of memory, and I milked it for all it was worth.

If I was walking, and a memory hit, I’d close my eyes and just live in that memory. I’d let it move from memory to imagination, and let the sensation go. I’d see how long I could sustain the rush.

Joshua and I were trading a lot of text messages, and we got fairly explicit about hopes and tastes and expectations. I brought up some of the erotic imaginings I was having, and he was on-board. We would tease each other, planting suggestions, playing with words and images.

I went out shopping. I bought fancy underwear. I bought a nice shirt. We made plans to meet at his place, go out for dinner, and then stay in for a while.

The second week was even better than the first. I was listening to the archives of the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast, and she had a guest on one episode who was talking about anticipation: the ice cream, he explained, always tastes best on the drive to the ice cream store. Well, I was driving to the ice cream store, and that was the greatest ice cream in the world.

On Friday, I sat in traffic for ninety minutes, then we went to a little restaurant inside a movie theater, which was awesome and fun and funny. It was good food and a fun conversation, with everything ramped up by the fact that we knew we had no plans after it other than learning each other a bit more.

I am not going to go into detail about the evening, other than to say it was fun. By the end of the night, we were contentedly snuggling on his couch watching John Oliver. At around midnight, I left to head home.

That was a little over two weeks ago now, and was the last time I saw him.

I really like Joshua. I do. I want to do things like meet him for lunch, see him after work for a quick drink and some conversation before I head home. But the reality is that he lives and works a functional hour and a half from me any time except weekends, and I simply don’t have enough weekends that I can get away to let us build anything real.

So last weekend, he was sick and had to cancel, which was fine and understandable. But this weekend, I have things going on, so I can’t see him. We were 5 weeks into this… whatever it is, and we’d managed to meet up for 2 of the 5 weekends. He has a busy work schedule, I have a busy life with the kids, and the distance is larger than it feels on a map. We were never going to grow anything real like that, and the thrill of anticipation was already shifting to a grinding sort of, “Okay, well, I guess I’m going to have to wrestle with the Friday traffic again: this blows” attitude.

None of these were good signs, and so I reached out to him. I felt a little bad about doing it by text message, but with the exception of one phone call and our three dates, that’s the only way we’d ever communicated.

“So, I’ve been kind of wrestling with this for a few days, but I think it’s probably best if we just let this thing go with us. I like you, and I’ve had fun, but the logistics of getting together are becoming more stressful than I’m really up for dealing with right now. “

He replied, a few hours later, with: “Okay… I get it. I’m sorry. I like you and had fun, too…”

I genuinely do wish him all the best. He’s a good guy, and deserves a great woman who can find him a better place in her life than I could.

Joshua Portmortem – Part 1

So, I called things over with Joshua today.

This kind of hurts, in a way that’s hard for me, but I’m fairly confident that it’s the right call.

This is going to be a long story, with an in-detail postmortem. I’ll split it into a few posts.

Joshua and I met on OKCupid. His profile made me laugh, and I sent him a message. We traded talk about books, roleplaying, the online dating experience. We had a fun, teasing banter that I really liked. I asked if he wanted to meet up, and we made a bowling-and-pool date for that Friday.

Friday was a blast. I had to drive into the city to get to our planned destination, which meant a normally 30-minute drive was more like an hour and a half (Friday evening traffic). Once I got there, though, it was great. We were vibing on little physical touches. I liked the way it felt to have his hand on my arm, my arm on his. We joked about our total ineptitude at bowling. He didn’t object when I paid.

We moved on from bowling to pool. The pool was even more fun, because he was actually good at pool, and I was not bad at it. I liked that he never let me win – he beat me every round and bowling and every game of pool.

It was while we were playing pool that he kissed me for the first time. I was not at all sure how I felt about this. I liked that he wanted to kiss me. I was feeling hesitant and nervous, though. I didn’t know what to do. He brought tongue into it very quickly, and I was feeling pushed faster than I really wanted to go. It was also very obvious in the kiss that he was a smoker, which I am really not, and am kind of turned off by.

He read my hesitancy and backed off, and I managed a fairly weak smile. We went back to pool. I made a point to do a few rounds of physical touch – backing into him until the back of my shoulder was against his chest, patting him on the arm as I wished him good luck after setting up a bad shot.

We tried another kiss in a little while. It went a bit better. I initiated this one, and he didn’t go as deep. I was still much more thinking about the experience than I was living it, and was awkward and uncertain. When I pulled back, he just smiled down into my eyes for a moment, like he was absolutely charmed in spite of my ineptitude. That was nice.

I asked if we wanted to play another game of pool (we were up to five or six by then) or to call it a night. He suggested we call the pool but find something else. I was up for that. He asked if it was too early to suggest heading back to his place; I said “Yes,” and he said, “Okay!” then suggested a local bar. We drove over separately. We talked there about a lot of things – our jobs, our romantic histories, books, movies, religion. We talked for a long time, and at around midnight, I regretfully said I needed to leave – I had to be up early the next morning. We paid our tab and left.

In the parking lot, we kissed again. And we went deep. And this time, I wasn’t having any problems at all with awkwardness. This time, I kind of wanted to fall into him and set up camp. I tried to catch my breath; I struggled with it. We definitely wanted to see each other again. I went home.

We traded a few text messages the next day, around my adventures in moving. That Saturday was the day of the Big Ball. I spent the day moving furniture into storage, and then got dressed up and went to the ball. The next day was Sunday, and I went to church, then messaged Joshua. “Hi,” I said. “What are you up to today?” Not a lot, was his answer. “Do you want to see me?” I asked. Absolutely.

We went to the zoo. It was fun. We had a cool playful vibe, talking about the animals there. He was amazing at spotting them, so I got to see a lot more of them than I usually catch on my own or with the kids. He interacted with a few kids in a way that seemed like he was cutely saying, “Hey, I’m good with kids! You have kids! This can work!”

We didn’t really want to leave after the zoo, so we carpooled over to a nearby hiking spot, and wandered in the woods for an hour or so. We talked childhoods in the woods; we made out on a rock. I had to stop him because I was seriously worried we were going to forget we were out in public and wind up getting arrested for indecent exposure.

After the hike, we went to a local bar, shared some appetizers, and had some drinks. We talked more. I liked talking with him. He was a bit of a dork, but so am I, and we vibed well together. He made me laugh, and I liked laughing.

We drove back to my car together, and made out some more. It was… really, really intense. Incredibly intense. He managed to hit all of the buttons I most love, and I desperately, desperately wanted more. I had to get home by 5 in order to meet the kids when their dad returned them, but I wanted to stay there forever.

“Drive safely,” he told me, with a little bit of a gleam in his eyes.

I laughed, out of breath. “After that?”

“Yes,” he said. “Be safe.”

And I drove home.