Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Fantasy Allison

Allison is, in a word, wonderful. For the last week she and I have been texting. The day after I met her she woke me with a text, Good Morning! Every day since then she texts me throughout the day. I enjoy our brief conversations. Though limited by characters and the lack of a true QWERTY pad, I do my best to let on that I'm interested. However, I do my best to leave out the desperation. Sunday night she asked if I'd like to go out with her. Absolutely, I sent. A week, and we'd have a date.

I started making plans for Sunday right away. When she learned that I had worked in intelligence before, she mentioned how much she wanted to visit the International Spy Museum. I purchased two tickets for the museum, as well as the silly little adventure they run. That had to be at least a little fun, and if it was cheesy I could play it off and enjoy it on a cheesy level. When she asked me what I was thinking for the day, I hinted, Top Secret. I don't want to be cryptic, but I expect you to love it.

For an entire week Allison and I chatted throughout most of the day. The more I talked to her, the more I liked her. Finally, here was a girl who challenged me. Here was a girl that not only kept up, but also surpassed me. Being a nerd, I take great pride in my own intellect. I might not be a large butch guy, I might not ever win an arm wrestling competition, but damnit, I was smart at least. That being said, none of the girls I've dated in the past were particularly bright. Honestly, they were never smart enough, and sooner or later we'd run out of things to talk about. Allison was different from all the girls before. Maybe she was special.

I kept an eye on the worsening weather. A large blizzard of record size was to hit the area around Friday, and if it didn't clear by Saturday our plans would be ruined. Luckily, after the predicted snowfall of about 2 feet, the sun was out and shining the next day! Tomorrow, I thought, tomorrow is the day. If I wanted to see Allison again after tomorrow, the date would have to be sublime.

Early Sunday morning I woke and put on layers of clothing. Half yawning, drudged to my car with a shovel and a brush. An hour later and my car was clear enough to leave the street. I walked back into the house, and as soon as I showered my phone chirped. I think I caught a cold, it read. I have a fever. I texted Allison back, asking how she felt. She felt awful, it seemed. We wouldn't be able to go out today.

I spent a few more minutes making sure that she was ok, that someone was taking care of her. I offered to come down and bring soup. She asked for a raincheck on our date, sometime before Christmas. Of course, I said. Just get better.

As I shut my phone my sinking heart suddenly was caught in my throat. That seems to be the luck in my dating. I mulled over the conversations we've had. She usually wrote me first. She's the one who suggested our Sunday date. She didn't seem to be the type of person to make up excuses, plus she asked for a raincheck and offered a day as well. Maybe she really did like me, she just actually got sick with very bad timing.

I sat back, and thought about what was happening. Did I expect for her to fall in love with me? I realized that I had turned Allison into a fantasy person. I had turned this into a silly movie in my head. I was to woo the beautiful woman and things would be perfect. I remembered a tattoo I had permanently inked into my skin. I had gotten it before being stationed overseas. It was a gift to my then very serious girlfriend. Melinda, it said. My first love. My first heartbreak. Now, when I looked in the mirror its meaning changed completely. Mistake, it whispers to me. Falling in love too quickly, too blindly was a mistake. Not again.

Dating isn't perfect. It's not like the movies. Setbacks happen, and sometimes they never get fixed. Some couple will never be, no matter how perfect they seem, or how hard you cheer. I decided to take it easy. I may not be Hugh Grant, but I still have something to offer. I'm still a desirable person, I decided. If things happen, I'd be happy to enjoy them, but I won't stress over every misstep.

So, I'll continue to talk to Allison. I'll keep chatting with Erin. I'm going to keep looking and meeting people. If nothing ever happens, so be it. If I'm alone for a year, two years, what's the rush? There's someone out there that's going to be perfect for me, and she'll be beautiful and intelligent and witty and amazing. And she'll think the same of me.

If Allison wants to go on a date again, though, I won't say no.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Sometimes, the stars line up, and the world seems to ring in perfect harmony. The universe aligned yesterday, and I met a girl. She was an artist, painting in deep hues of red and yellow. My heart was her canvas.

"Come on out, Chrispy. It'll be a good time."

That was all the reason I needed. After the big first date with Erin I was excited. The day had gone swimmingly, and I was home with enough time to spare. I could stay home the rest of the evening, catching up on my cleaning, checking out what Anthony Bourdain was eating. Or, I could do what other young people do on a Saturday night and find a place with cheap booze and loud music.

I jumped in my car.

At 9 PM I arrived at Sam's apartment. Sam was a good friend of mine from a few years back. He was a talented photographer. Due to my recent research into fashion and clothing as well as our grand shopping trip, he was also a snazzy dresser. We headed out to his friend's party into the brisk chill night. Like me, Sam was prior military. Like me, he loved cartoons from Japan and video games. He was also single, but I didn't get the feeling that he was looking as hard as I was. Sam seemed like a consummate bachelor. Tall, thick and handsome, Sam looked every part the military man that I did not. However, I think it was our differences that made our friendship so enjoyable.

We walked up to our destination and I could instantly tell by looking what sort of night we had in store. A girl looked up on unsteady legs, perched at the edge of a clump of bushes in the lawn, "Hey Sam!" She was falling all over herself. We walked through the doors, into the dim blaring room. This, I thought, was a fucking party.

The one room I could see was devoid of furniture. In the place of what might have been a couch, or a television, or even a coffee table of some sort was a pile of dancing boys and girls. A little younger than me, I judged from their clothes and haircuts. Maybe they were just trendier and more hipster than I was prepared for. There was a keg in the corner as well as a suspicious plastic tub filled with a red liquid labeled only as "Juice." I knew I would be avoiding that.

Sam and I walked into the room, and instantly I was in party mode. Now, seriously, I am a shy person. It's rare for me to be able to handle an entire room of strangers, but I felt like I could take on a viking horde that night. I had Erin's kiss to thank for that. I jumped right into my "fake it til you make it."

My technique is simple. If I'm with friends, I have them introduce me to people they know. The night was a perfect oppurtunity for it since Sam knew almost everyone there. He'd say his hellos, and I'd introduce myself. I'd do my best to remember their names. It doesn't matter that I suck at names, or that I would probably completely forget their names in the course of the night, I still did my best. Often, I would repeat it over and over in conversation. "Is that right, Drew? Tell me more, Drew."

Once I had the name, I could work on building a conversation. This part worried me. Well, worried me more than talking to total strangers. I still found it hard to keep a conversation going, and I'm deathly frightened of lulls and silence. What I've learned to do is to let the other person talk. People love talking about themselves, so I tried my best to steer the conversation to a safe personal subject.

Now, after a couple of minutes, I could politely excuse myself from the conversation and find someone else to introduce myself to. I would learn their names, chat with them, and move on again. I try and get as many names and as much face time as I can. There's a reason for this jumping around, though. As people walk around, I can spot someone I had met previously and pull them into an already existing conversation. "Hey, Drew, come over here. Have you met Sasha?" Now instead of two, I would be talking to three, and I'd suddenly have plenty of opportunities to say something interesting. If I don't have anything, the conversation will go on regardless.

The beauty is that everyone sees me making friends and chatting it up.

At least, that's what I hope happens. Luckily for me, that night everything was working fine. I was chatting it up, memorizing names, getting to know people. I would go from one conversation to another without blinking. "You know Sam?" I'd ask complete strangers, "My name is Chris. I'm his image consultant." For a good while I went like this, meeting all sorts of new people. I completely forgot my awkwardness. I was dealing with my anxiety. I was having fun.

Then, a girl and I crossed paths. Even in the din and hustle of the party I could tell she was a beauty. I prepared my winningest smile and introduced myself. I shook her hand. Allison. I told her my silly icebreaker about Sam's image and my consulting. (He was even kind enough to stop by and confirm, then promptly leave.) She laughed at my jokes, and I smiled at her stories.

I realized that I wasn't running out of conversation. I naturally held it up, eager to hear what she had to say next. I was at such ease with her. It was perfectly natural for us to be standing amidst the raging party. We were an eye in the storm. I didn't need to suddenly leave. I never ran out of things to say. I felt like I was talking to a friend I hadn't seen in years.

I don't know how long I stood there talking to her before Sam interrupted. "We're ditching this party," he shook me out of my reverie, "we're going to a bar where there's some alcohol." Shit, I thought. Here I was having a fantastic time. As I was trying to quickly figure out how to get her number to call later she asked, "Can I come along?"

Fuck yes.

Sam, Allison, and I, as well as three of his other friends walked four blocks to a local bar. We sat at a table in the corner, and started ordering drinks. "Let me get your number in my cell," she asked me as our glasses arrive. I told her and glanced down as my phone chirped. Hey hey spy, she had texted me. "There," she smiled, "You are saved."

As much as I try to remember what else we talked about, I couldn't tell you. I remember her eyes. I remember her laughter. I remember my friends getting up to smoke, and leaving the two of us alone at the table, completely absorbed in our conversation. There was Allison, there was me, and there was nothing else in the world except for that dark wooden table and our two drinks.

What struck me the most about Allison was her own geekiness. Not in the same way as mine. She didn't seem to have fantasy books, sci-fi, comics, or video games. Instead, she was geeky about art. She was nerding about horseback riding. She knew of traveling and the world. She was enthusiastic about a myriad of interests, and her passion was inspiring. She was, in a word, interesting.

For an hour, maybe a hundred, we talked about everything. I missed missed offers for rounds. I missed shots. I missed final call. When "No really, this is final call," came around we were still talking. Our friends returned from their fourth or fifth cigarette and we finally noticed. We all left the bar and walked to a metro station. Instead of letting her take the underground, I offered to drive her home. On the walk to my car we continued to talk. In my car, as my GPS spat directions at me, we talked some more. Finally, completely too soon, I arrived at her apartment and dropped her off. She wouldn't let me walk her to the door. "It's too cold. Stay warm," she told me. I hugged her, and told her we should meet again.

Four blocks away my cell phone chirped. You were wonderful. Goodnight, Chris.

I felt wonderful.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My First Date

I took Erin out on a date. It was my first real date in three or four years.

Honestly, I was afraid that I wouldn't know how. I didn't even go through a courtship with Caitlin. We just saw each other, and one day we decided to become exclusive. There were never any flowers and chocolate, really, just days of growing into one another, until we were more comfortable with each other than with ourselves.

Real dates aren't as easy. I was a nervous wreck as I pulled up to Erin's door. We had decided to meet for brunch. I had a cute crepe place in mind, and I presented the idea the week before. I didn't really know what to expect. I had been talking to Erin for a couple of weeks by now. I knew that she seemed very sweet. She went to bed by 9PM every night to get in a full 8 hours of sleep. She liked to cook, but didn't have anyone to cook for. Erin had a BA but didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life. She seemed life a nice, average, sweet girl, and I felt like I needed something like that to get me back on my feet.

When Erin walked out the door, she was exactly as I had expected from talking to her and seeing her pictures. That was a relief. The worst thing I could imagine would have been if she was much bigger than her photos suggested. I know that is shallow, and I feel bad for thinking it, but it's just something that I would not be attracted to. Luckily, Erin, in a word, cute. My sized. Her smile would quickly flash and slowly dissolve any of my trepidation.

We had a date. After our crepes, she decided to go to the aquarium. After we were done looking at fishes she bought me some biscotti and a cannoli. I broguht her back home, where she mentioned that it was too cold to walk to the supermarket. I stepped up and offered to take her. We returned to her apartment with groceries, and as I was leaving she gave me a kiss.

I walked back to my car a bit stunned. I don't know what I did, but I did it right.

Honestly, I had a good time with Erin. She was very nice, but I'm not sure if she's the person for me. I plan to see her a couple more times before I decide anything, though. There's nothing wrong with simply enjoying the company of a good person.

By the time I got home, I ran through the day's events through my head several time. I felt awesome, I was officially over the hump, and on my way. Suddenly, I remembered my friend Sam's offer to go to a party later that night. I still had plenty of time, so I called him up. "I'm coming out to DC to party with you," I told him. I was going to ride the wave, take advantage of my positive day, and go tear it up.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Maybe internet dating isn't so bad.

I've begun to chat with a girl from an internet dating website. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on it?

When I think of the time and effort I put into my profile, though, it upsets me a little that she messaged me out of the blue, but then I realize that I'm talking to a new person who isn't a scam bot, is around my age, and wishes to go out on a date. Nice!

Her name is Erin, and she's from Pittsburgh. As a newcomer to the East Coast, I don't really know much about Pittsburgh, except that it's north and very cold. She's in Baltimore teaching and dislikes her job. Hopefully, she says, she'll return to school and get a masters in sociology.

While we chatted, I tried to stick to a few simple rules. 1) Do not ask anything personal. I get very interested in the people I meet, and sometimes I might broach a little too hard. I didn't want to come off as creepy right off the bat, so I pretended to be a little aloof. 2) Do not mention sex. Seriously, this is super important. It takes all my energy not to start joking about body parts and intercourse, but I realized that's not pleasant from a stranger. I had to stop myself more than once from replying with a quick "That's what she said." No! That's not what she said! She said goodbye, before I could even make that joke about the two nuns!

This brings me to my last and most important rule of online chatting. 3) Be normal. I was constantly tempted to give her way too much crazy information about myself. I wanted to tell her about my difficult break-up, just a month ago. I wanted to let her know how crappy I was feeling, how low my self esteem was. I wanted to tell her that I still thought of my ex, and that I couldn't imagine that any girl was going to be half as beautiful as Caitlin was. But I left those topics alone.

It's difficult, talking to new people. Especially people you might be interested in. I have to pretend to be some sanitary version of myself. I have to scrub down my personality and history to just the aspects that I want to impress. In this way, I think that dating is a dance of half people. We hide ourselves until the last possible moment, when it's too late for them to dance away and reject us.

We'll see, Erin. I'm going to continue to talk to her, and maybe we'll hit it off. I hope this goes in good directions. It's at least a first step.