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.

A Single Story

Bear with me, today, guys, because this is a bit of a deviation from my normal post topic.

There are days when I really wish the internet had never been invented.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet. It is my best friend. I stay up too late at night chatting with it about my day, it helps me with my homework, and when I don’t know what to do, it gives me helpful advice. The internet is an awesome friend.

The internet is also sometimes an asshole friend: when you complain about your boyfriend cheating on you, the internet asks what you did to make him cheat. When you are in the middle of a fun conversation, the internet makes a racist joke, and all of a sudden, you’re uncomfortable and not having fun anymore. But it’s just the way the internet is. You can’t change the internet. It’s the price of admission.

But the real thing that I regret about the internet is that with so much out there, I know how much I am failing to measure up to my own ideals.

I’m not necessarily talking about the Pinterest Effect, although that’s part of it (why can’t I hand-craft little marzipan trains for my son’s birthday?), but about the ideals of fairness and equality in the world — ideals I care deeply about and do not always manage to fulfill.

I know I have issues around race. It makes me kind of sick and unhappy to think about, so I spend a lot of time looking away from it, which is me disappointing myself with how I deal with disappointing myself. The best I can do there, I think sometimes, is to keep my issues inside my head, where the people to whom those issues are grossly unfair never have to deal with them. That, and try to teach my children to do better.

But I also have issues around feminism. In theory, you see, I am absolutely for feminism. Women are absolutely 100% equal to men. Women should get paid the same. Household tasks should be divided evenly, including the childcare tasks. Women should have the same opportunity to participate in jobs as men, and “women’s work” (the traditionally female jobs) should be valued by our society as much as the equivalent “male” jobs. Women shouldn’t have to be the emotional caretakers for their partners, and men shouldn’t have to pay for dates and buy gifts and “woo” in a way women don’t.

But in practice, I really do long to be taken care of that way. In practice, I want a man who is taller than me, and physically strong, who can make me feel delicate and protected in spite of my sturdy 5’8″ frame. I want a man who will open car doors, who will pick up the check. I want a man who will take charge, and make me feel things. I want a man who will do yardwork and his own home repairs. I want a man who will sometimes just wrap a fist in my hair and kiss me until I can’t breathe, who will take control of my body.

And yet I rebel against the notion that this is “what women want.” And every time I ask for it, with word or with action, every time I choose the man who makes me feel protected and secure, some part of me spits imprecations against my betrayal of the cause. How dare you rule out men less than 5’9″? How dare you pursue the “alpha male” type? How dare you look for your own pleasure and preference, at the expense of the cause?

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is a Nigerian writer and a feminist, and she talks about how important it is to tell a variety of stories. When your high school English class has you read a book by a Nigerian woman, and that is the only book you ever read by a woman from Africa, you leave feeling like you understand the perspective of African women. But you don’t. It’s the single story problem.

I am a single story. I am not all of the stories. And my story is still an important one, because it is my story, and because it is true. It is not All Truth, but it is a true story, one of billions, and no more or less valid or true than all of the others. Am I culturally brainwashed? You know, maybe I am. Maybe we all are, in some ways. Maybe my story is the Hollywood version of what my life was really meant to be.

But it’s the story I have. It’s the story I’m living. And it deserves a happy ending.

Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned

I cancelled my membership yesterday with the absurdly expensive dating service I’d prepaid for. I’d been holding onto it because I was trapped in a sunk-cost fallacy mindset: I paid way too much for it, now I need to wring everything I can out of it.

But the reality is that it’s been a sucky experience. Here’s how they work: you talk with them for 45 minutes and pay them a truly ridiculous amount of money (literally, 4-figure money here) for 6 months of membership. They then set you up on lunch dates with people who match your tastes.

Except the reality is: A) they don’t seem to have enough people to really care about your tastes, and B) no one actually does lunch dates.

I should never have signed up, but the woman I talked to was so good at it, I was giving credit card info before I really understood that I was doing it.

My first date was set up with someone I remember literally nothing about, who backed out very quickly saying he was going exclusive with someone. Cool, I’d wait for the next one. Weeks pass. I get another phone call, and we set up my date with Duncan for a few weeks down the road. I believe (although I may be misremembering on this) that Duncan and I had to reschedule once, but I didn’t really mind, because it was a lunch, and it’s easy for me to shift my schedule around lunchtime. I’ve written about how that went. I called afterwards to debrief with them, per their instructions.

The next step was an in-person meeting with the service, so I set something up for after work and went into their office. That appointment was August 28, and was apparently to assess who would be a better fit for me. I’m pretty sure that was bullshit. I’m fairly confident the entire process is set up to make it feel like you’re getting value for your money, when you are absolutely not.

The next date they set up for me cancelled. Twice. Each time after I set up a 6:30 PM evening date, because that’s all he could make. I really don’t want 6:30 midweek dates, because it means I’m not seeing my kids, and makes me feel like a crappy parent, but hey, I’d paid the money, I should get my money’s worth out of it, right? Two cancellations. I said I wasn’t interested in trying again. They put me back in the pool.

They called with another guy, gave me his basic info, asked what evenings were good for me. No evenings! Evenings are bad for me. Weekend evenings, I want to spend doing things I like with people I’ve at least exchanged 2-3 words with, and weekday evenings, I want to not spend an hour wrestling with traffic to go make awkward conversation with someone. But I pick the least bad day, because hey: I should get my money’s worth, right?

Apparently, that guy didn’t work out, because my next phone call was for someone else, someone who lives an hour away from me with no traffic, both living and working in the heart of the city. They suggest a compromise city, I come up with my least bad day, and they ask about times. “Earlier?” I suggest. “Hm,” they say. “Maybe 7?” Fine, whatever. I’m frustrated. I don’t want to do this, but sure, I’ll fight rush hour traffic to go into Arlington and meet this guy who lives too far away from me. Maybe he’ll cancel, too, and I won’t have to worry about it.

This is the point where I realized I was being a monumental idiot. In 2.5 months, I’ve spent literally hours on the phone with these people, rearranged my schedule multiple times, built up multiple cycles of excitement and nervousness for exactly one crappy date.

So I sent them an email: On second thought, I’m going to pull out of this, and ask you to take me out of the matchmaker pool. This is becoming a very frustrating and unpleasant experience for me, with arranging childcare for days when people end up cancelling on me, and setting things up with people who are realistically living too far away from me to make things a real possibility. This service is obviously just not a good fit for me, and I’m going to stop pouring time and energy down the same well as the money I wasted on it.

Today, they called to try to talk me out of it, using the most patronizing language imaginable: “There’s no reason to stop dating because one guy cancelled on you!” “I hate to see you giving up like this!” “If these guys aren’t right, we’ll help you refine!” I tried, in return, to explain that they are not actually the only way in the world to date, and that I am stopping using them because they are actively getting in the way of me doing dating activities that might actually, you know, work. They kept trying to put me back in the dating pool. I said no. Finally, I just said, “Look, I’m done,” and hung up.

I’m pretty sure they’re still planning to call next week to try and get me to change my mind.

#3 – Kyle

So, last Friday night I went out with Kyle. Alert readers may recognize that they’ve heard that name before: Kyle was one of the guys I felt like I clicked with at the speed dating event. A few days after I wrote about The Aftermath, I got a note that he’d put me down on his second date list, and I sent him an email. We did some hurried planning, since my kid-schedule meant either that weekend or waiting 2-3 weeks. We were both free on Friday, though, so he suggested he come by and pick me up, and we’d head out to dinner. He wanted to “take [me] out for an evening of fine food and perhaps a little wine,” which sounded… well, kind of adorable, honestly.

He suggested a few restaurants in a neighboring town, I said I knew nothing about any of them, but they all looked really good. When he tried to get reservations, only one of them had a reasonably early option, so we planned on this local Italian place. He’d be there to pick me up at 6:30, and we would dine at 7.

On Thursday night, I started looking for an outfit and realized everything I had was disastrously bad. I wanted to wear a dress, but my dresses were either too workaday, too summery, too fancy, or not fitting anymore. Friday, I went out to the mall over lunch. There were no dresses at all in my size that didn’t look like shapeless sacks. In one store, they didn’t have my size at all — everything stopped one size down from me. Feeling desperate, I grabbed a number of dresses in the smaller size and hoped one was vanity sized. This is when I discovered I’m apparently a size smaller than I used to be, because they all FIT. With shape! I had breasts, a waist, and hips! You couldn’t see my bra! It was a bit awe-inspiring. I bought two of them and headed back to the office. Someday, I will post some date outfit pictures, so everyone can see the glory that is me.

I left work a little early and went home to get a good bath. I shaved my legs, shaved my armpits, rubbed down with shower gel, exfoliated. I sent the kids off to their dad’s house. I tried to get my crazy hair looking a little less crazy without resorting to either headbands or barettes, either of which was a little too schoolgirl to match the look of the dress. I chose jewelry — a necklace and earring set of sparkling silver and crystal starbursts. I applied lipstick and eyeshadow — as much makeup as I ever wear. I considered and rejected perfume. I selected my shoes — little ankle boots with moderate, thin heels.

Then I settled in to wait. It was around 5:30 by now. I read. I fidgeted. I posted on forums. I read. I paced. I waited. I fidgeted.

Kyle arrived almost exactly on the dot of 6:30, which is something of a miraculous feat given rush hour traffic in my neighborhood. I went out to meet him when I saw his car pull up, and gave him a hug, which seemed to startle him. He looked good — had clearly upped the clothing a step in a sweater vest combo that suited him well. We got into the car and tried to figure out where we were heading. I thought I knew the place we were going to, so I navigated. We talked inconsequentials about the week as we drove.

By the time we were at the restaurant, I knew a little more about his job, his family, his college path. While we were at the restaurant, we talked in detail about a lot of things: politics, religion, books, movies, art, science, exercise, stress relief, food… we went off down a few dozen little tangents. We shared a calamari appetizer, and ordered two desserts to share — a chocolate mousse cake which was by far the best part of the night and a lemon sorbet. I am not exaggerating about the mousse cake. I had to plan each bite because I could not keep the thread of a conversation while eating it. Each time, I would close my eyes and be swept away by the flavor. If I had the secret of that cake, I would not need a love life. I would just live in the glory of the cake forever. And die of malnutrition, because I would never eat anything else.

However, it probably doesn’t bode well for the relationship that the cake was such a distraction on the date, hmm?

At any rate, we were there for a long time: our reservation was at 7, and we didn’t leave until after 10. He really enjoyed the date, he said. I did, too! I liked Kyle, but it was an inoffensive liking. He was a nice tuna fish sandwich. I was kind of looking for a chocolate mousse cake. He wanted to do this again. I’d already been debating: how do I feel about a second date? I wasn’t sure. I’d had fun, but there just wasn’t chemistry, and more problematic… I really felt like I’d been carrying the conversational load.

He just didn’t seem passionate about anything! He didn’t seem driven, or intensely interested in life. When we talked about cooking, I’d explained how I used it as stress relief, describing the feeling of mastering a difficult recipe. I talked about how having something I could produce with my own hands, a thing I could see and assess on its own terms, and know I had succeeded, is important to me in a world where expectations and goals are sometimes murky and undefined. I joked that usually, when people bring baked goods into the office, it’s a good sign. With me, my coworkers may need to take cover, because it usually means the stress is rocketing up.

I asked Kyle what he did for stress relief. Well, he exercised. What kind of exercise, I asked. Well, it depends. Cycling, or tennis, or squash. Whatever’s there. Ha, I said. It sounds like squash would be some fantastically cathartic stress relief. Sometimes, yes, he agreed.

Um, I said. People keep recommending things like running to be as stress relief. But I hate it. I find it boring, and miserable. Oh, he didn’t like running, either. We talked about high-impact and low-impact exercise, and interest levels. We both liked casual hiking. Maybe an option for another date? I thought. I wanted to give it a second try, see if away from a restaurant he’d open up a little more.

I was just not… feeling him there, as a person. He was nice! He seemed to genuinely like me, and I liked that. I could feel myself opening up under his smile and his approval, but he was just a generic guy-shaped object across the table. A few times, I’d lean in, putting my hands across the midpoint of the table, to see if he’d try to touch them. No dice.

When we walked out to the car, agreeing that we would like to see each other again, he kissed me. I was more or less okay with this: he gave me time to pull away if I wanted, and I didn’t. But there was just… nothing there. Incidentally, guys? A tip, because my last two kisses have done this. If you’re kissing a woman on a first date, it’s really not essential to start bringing tongue into it in the first three seconds. If she’s into it, I promise, you’ll get there. If she’s lukewarm, going too fast is a turnoff. Take your time! A kiss is a story. It needs to build.

I returned the kiss, a little bit dutifully. I put an arm around his shoulders. We kissed for a minute or so. Then I pulled back. “This was a nice night,” I said. “Thank you.”

He drove me home. We kissed again, more briefly in the car. “We should do this again,” he said again. “Absolutely,” I said. Then I went inside.

Now, if I’d really felt it, I could have reached out to him. But I didn’t. I got the feeling he was more into me than I was into him, and if his level of interest was not high enough to reach out at all in five days, this is just not going to happen. At this point, if he does reach out, I’ll politely turn him down. He’s a nice guy, and I hope he meets a nice girl, but I really need someone who’s going to slam up against me more, conversationally. I need the push-pull. I need the passion. Feel something strongly! It almost doesn’t matter what it is, but I need to see that there’s something that makes you come alive.