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.


#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.