ITNOWIT #6: Yellow Submarine on Sitarday

Operation ITNOWIT #6

  • farmer’s market and independent movie theater
  • Sitarday 5/26/12
  • 10:30am-2:30pm
  • chocolate croissant and freshly picked cherries
  • $3.00 (movie was $8.00 B paid. Sigh.)
  • Met B at market

Saturday I had my second second meeting, this time with B. Wednesday at dinner, he had asked if I had anything planned for the weekend. I answered that I was going to see a free Shakespeare in the park performance and returned the question. He said he was going to see the rerelease of Yellow Submarine. I told him I had never seen it, only clips, and that it looked very odd. It briefly crossed my mind that that may have been his attempt to ask me to the movie.

Indeed, when we were back safely messaging through OKC, on Thursday he wrote, “If you change your mind about the movie, let me know.” So yes, men can be just as shy and awkward as I am. Clearly, he didn’t want to risk outright, in-person rejection, or didn’t want to put me on the spot by simply asking, “Do you want to go to this movie with me?” I’m glad he didn’t ask directly, actually, because I was able to look up the time (noon), and decide it was safe for me to go. After I said I’d go, he didn’t write again for twenty-four hours! From 2pm Thursday to 2pm Friday, I worried that somehow I’d misread something and that I’d accidentally invited myself along. And then I reassured myself that, no, that was his way of asking me. Around and around I went, not sleeping well at all. Clearly, I’m extremely well-versed in anxiety.

Friday he (finally) wrote and asked if I would like him to pick me up (I’d made it clear that for our first meeting, I’d not be getting in a car with him.), if I’d like to meet at the farmer’s market for coffee and scones before the movie. As in, ‘I don’t have to know where you live, and you don’t have to ride with me if you don’t want to.’ He finished, “Of course tell me when and where and I’ll be there.” Gah, once he knew I wanted to go, he was mighty considerate and sweet.

On Saturday, I walked to the market, bought fruits and veggies, walked home and unpacked them, straightened up a bit, showered, dressed (Beatles t-shirt), and walked back to the market again. I do not enjoy walking. The night before, I’d noticed I was getting little red patches of dry skin on my face. (I don’t think I’ve ever really had eczema, but that’s probably what it is.) Great, I thought, I’m allergic to socializing with men. It’s exactly what I hoped my face would look like for my second second meeting.

We sat and ate (delicious!) chocolate croissants, and he’d brought cherries and blackberries with him that he’d picked. We talked about what it had been like attending such a large university as introverts, how neither of us really has any lasting friendships from our college years, and whether we had introverted friends or extroverted ones who forced us to socialize.

After about half an hour we walked to his car. I asked him about his driving record. He’s never been in an accident. He asked about mine. I don’t have a driver’s license. When he started the car, NPR was on the radio. He asked if I listened to it, and I said I don’t really listen to the radio. I know NPR has merit, but I generally find talk radio, and audiobooks for that matter, kind of exhausting. Constant sound, but not music. He left it on, and I wondered if he didn’t want to have to attempt conversation for the twenty minute drive to the theater. “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” was on. B had to explain to me that they tell three stories, and then you have to guess which one is true. The first story started out, “You know how it is when you meet someone on an online dating site, and you’re on your first or second date…” Not kidding. So I said, “Huh, this is awkward.” The story was that after they meet in person, a guy emails out a multiple choice survey to the women he’s met through an online dating site. It ended up being the true one.

We were barely on time to the theater and there was a long line. I don’t like lines because, once again, there’s nothing for me to hold onto and my calf muscles have to work really hard (every muscle is saying, “stand still, don’t fall. stand still, don’t fall). One of the guys from the ticket booth stepped out and asked if anyone was paying cash to hurry things along, so we were able to get out of line and go pay him. Of course this meant that B paid rather than us each getting our own. I really don’t know how to feel about the whole money thing. I don’t want it to feel like we’re dating, but maybe he thinks we are? How do you have that conversation?

Once we were inside, it was time to pick seats. It was the kind of large theater with stairs up to the higher rows. I would have liked to just sit on the ground level, but it would have been pretty close to the screen. “There aren’t any railings,” I said, “so I’m going to have to hold your arm, okay?” He held out his arm, I took it, and he walked me up to the two nearest aisle seats. We made it. I sat. And now I’ve actually made physical contact. Crap, this is excruciating. Will I ever be comfortable? Can I be? The question runs on a loop in my brain.

The movie was awesome! It was such fun to be in a theater full of Beatles fans, fans who applauded when the title came up, fans who brought their children. The dialogue was often full of wit, and I loved the big musical numbers “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and “All You Need is Love.” I said,”I’ll need your arm again,” on the way down the stairs and I managed not to fall on my face. Good.

We talked Beatles and the 1960s all the way home (would I like to time travel?) and I directed him to my house. I asked if he’d like to come in, or if he’d had enough of being around people for the day. (I think drawing attention to our introvertedness to account for awkwardness will be a common theme.)

What? Me? Inviting two different men inside on two consecutive days? There’s no way I would have done it if it weren’t the middle of the afternoon. So B came in and we flipped through my binder of CDs. I think it’s a pretty safe guess that our tastes only overlap with the Beatles.

I asked him something along the lines of what he does for fun or how he spends his time. In the course of answering that question (he spends a lot of time working on a website for a non-profit) he revealed, very matter of factly, something huge about his family and, potentially, himself. Something that’s always there but is also unknown. I won’t detail it here, but, holy shit. I think I said something really appropriate and eloquent like, “Wow. Heavy.” I mean, we chatted about it. This inescapable thing in his life. And then we moved on, looking at a local events calendar that he pulled out of his pocket. Soon, he asked if I wanted the rest of the cherries that were in his car and I said sure. He went and got them and brought them to me, saying more than once, “So we’ll do something next week?” I answered that we would, and he left.

As always, I don’t know what to think, even setting aside the enormity of this new information. I enjoy spending time with him. And I want that to be enough right now, without all those other questions (but do I like him?) crowding in.

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ITNOWIT #5: Tea for Two Take Two

Operation ITNOWIT #5

  • Independent  tea café downtown
  • Friday 5/25/12
  • 11am-2pm
  • strawberry green tea and black bean soup
  • $8.00 with tip, but I did not pay and will treat next time
  • Met D there

Today I had a second meeting with D. He’s going out of town for a week and asked for book recommendations for the plane. I recommended several YA novels featuring male protagonists. He’s never heard of Paul Zindel! What, no The Pigman? Shocking! I had mentioned that he was welcome to come look at my YA collection sometime, and then I wondered if it was too soon to be inviting him over. Anyway, I told him I would lend him a Zindel (Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!), and he suggested we meet at the tea place I’d mentioned at our first meeting. (He had never been and loves tea.)

This was my first second meeting, and I was curious about a second impression. He was again leaning toward the philosophical. We talked books and writing and lifestyles. I’m way too addicted to Netflix and all the time I could spend reading is sucked up by watching whole tv series. Self-imposed discipline does not work for me.

He tends to prod, which makes me, in turn, tend to dig in. I mentioned how much I admire people who are experts. In anything. People who are able to lecture confidently on a topic they are passionate about. I feel passion about a lot of things, but I’m not truly an expert in anything, and I don’t see myself ever really reaching that level (though I allow it’s possible). He jumped on that immediately–but you could become an expert, you could lead discussions… As if by admitting I admire that but don’t see myself doing it that it’s a weakness or an admission of defeat on my part. I didn’t say it to beg for a vote of confidence. I simply meant that true expertise is rare and admirable.

We didn’t get a split bill. He didn’t have cash and paid with his card, and I didn’t have the correct denominations of bills to give him for my half. I feel pretty strongly that I should pay my way so there’s no date vibe, but he said I’d just get it next time. He ended up walking with me back to my house. It was a lovely day, blessedly cool for the end of May, and I was okay with this turn of events.

He came in and looked at my YA bookshelf after all. D sat on the floor and I sat on the couch and we chatted more. It was fine and not uncomfortable. One good thing about the beginning of knowing someone from scratch is that everything is new so there’s always more to tell. Today I found out that he has one older and one younger sister. He found out that I line dry my clothes and don’t have a car. =)

Verdict? Right now, I don’t feel anything romantic for him at all, and I don’t have any inkling that I will. It’s possible that we’ll be good friends who continue to get together for lunch and talk books. I like that idea just fine.

ITNOWIT #4: So I’ve met three guys. Now what?

Operation ITNOWIT #4

  • Independent Thai restaurant downtown
  • Wednesday 5/23/12
  • 6pm-8pm
  • Vegetarian green curry
  • $12.00 (with tip)
  • Met B there

I’m back from dinner with OKC candidate #3, B. First, I accidentally turned this into something more date-like than I intended. B had messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to the first night of a film festival tonight at 8:30 and amended that we could meet at the neighboring cafe prior in case I didn’t want to go into a dark theater with a stranger. I answered that I would like to accept the cafe and decline the film festival. I didn’t really feel like sitting through a bunch of short films by film students (in a dark theater with a stranger). Further, I didn’t want to walk home in the dark and I wasn’t going to take a ride from him, should he offer. In a later message, I asked if he wanted to meet earlier and get food instead of just tea/coffee from the cafe. (I knew I’d be hungry. I suppose I could have eaten at home and then met him for beverages.) Of course he said yes and told me to pick a place.

I chose the Thai place simply because it wasn’t far to walk there from my house. Then I realized I’d turned a casual coffee meeting into something not unlike a dinner date. He’d gotten a bit flirty in the messages, asking if I had any nicknames, suggesting Lady My Name, and I was trying to keep things strictly friendly. So I worried a bit all day, and wondered why in the world I’m continuing to set myself up with unknown men. This is so so so not me. In fact, I haven’t looked at any new profiles, even relatively good matches who have looked at mine. It feels like almost too much to keep track of the handful I’m messaging with now. I don’t know how many more times I want to do this.

And yet, once again, everything went perfectly fine. B got there right before I did, and I walked up to him and shook hands. And yeah, it was a tad awkward keeping the conversation going at times, but we always had OKC messages to fall back on. We talked a lot about movies. He has a degree in history (so do I, along with English, but I studied an entirely different area/time period than B did) and a master’s in library science. He’s trying to get a job as a librarian. That right there is pretty likeable.

When we finished our meal, he asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I said something about not really wanting to walk, but more sitting would be good. He gave me an out (“You can tell me if you want to walk in the opposite direction”), and I assured him that if I’d wanted to go home, I would go home.

So we walked toward other cafes and ended up stopping in a music/movie store that was going out of business. That gave us more movies and music to talk about, and I found a movie I’d been looking for for a while, so I was happy. Our tastes don’t overlap much, but really, I don’t expect any guy I meet to listen to Simon & Garfunkel, Rachmaninov, and love The Cutting Edge. (If you find one, send him my way because he might be my new best friend.)

After I bought my movie we left the store and parted on the sidewalk (with nothing around for me to hold onto). We both said it was good to meet each other and made vague noises about maybe seeing something together sometime. I didn’t make any attempt at a handshake or hug and neither did he. He’s six feet tall, which means he’s got ten inches on me. (T and D were much more reasonable heights!) Not that if he were shorter I would have hugged him, just that that felt like another barrier.

I’m just not sure how any of this is supposed to go. I’ve now spent time one on one with three different men. They were all polite, articulate enough, and seemed perfectly nice. On the “get away from me” to “I think I’m in love with you” continuum of social interaction, I’ve tried to convey “I feel friendly toward you and would be open to meeting again.”

I haven’t really communicated with T since he messaged me about his car not starting on Sunday. I did enjoy meeting him the one time. We had a lot in common and he finished my sentences (when I was trying to articulate something and would kind of trail off, he jumped in and was right). But then I left for more than a week, and maybe he’s just not interested in trying to keep things going. I’m sure if I asked T out directly, he would say yes because he would think I was interested. (I am interested…in getting to know him better.) And maybe he’s leaving it up to me because I’ve seemed disinterested. Who knows.

D and I are continuing to message each other. He’s asked for book recommendations, and I’ve mentioned a few titles he could borrow. Then I told him he’s welcome to come and look at my collection. (We both still enjoy young adult literature, and I have a bit from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.) We’ve only met once and now I’m inviting him over. Might be a bit soon for that. We’ll see.

It isn’t easy. We each have our separate lives, and if we want a relationship to form, we have to work at it. We have to make an effort to get to know each other. And it’s easy to think, yeah, having coffee was nice and maybe I should send a message, but I’m tired right now…

Thank you, whoever you are

This blog has now surpassed 100 views, from six countries. The Internet is an amazing thing. And even if there’s only a handful of you reading this, I want to thank you for sharing my journey. I know how much comfort I get from, and kinship I feel for, other bloggers out there, and I hope I provide the same.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting OKC candidate #3, B, for dinner. Here’s hoping for a pleasant evening.

ITNOWIT #3: Tea for Two

Operation ITNOWIT #3

  • Independent café downtown
  • Saturday 5/19/12
  • 11am-1pm
  • Iced tea
  • $2.00
  • Served in real glass
  • Met D there

And here I thought I wouldn’t have anything to report for last week. While I was out of town, I still messaged back and forth with the two other interesting guys from OKC. One of them, D, rather than writing out a long response asked, “Would you like to get coffee sometime?” I would be getting back into town Friday, so we made plans for Saturday morning.

This time I was nervous. We’d written back and forth enough that I wanted to like him when I met him. I read through his profile the night before so I wouldn’t mix anything up and studied his pictures so I’d recognize him. When I walked up right at 11am, he was sitting outside reading the paper.

We shook hands. He had a decidedly not-firm handshake. We went in to order drinks and chatted awkwardly. Since we already knew that we are both very introverted, this was to be expected. Back outside, as I sat down I said, “Okay, we’re both introverts, so one of us has to say something.” His answer was something like, “Don’t worry, I’ve been thinking about/planning what we could talk about.” I thought that was a bit adorable to admit. We picked up where our messaging had left off and things went fine. He’s a bit more outwardly philosophical than I am, so he often took the conversation to the “meaning of things” level. For example, he told me that someone plays pranks at work. I would have left that topic at, “Wow, I wouldn’t handle that well. I tend to think pranks are mean rather than funny” and moved on. But he really wanted to explore the value of pranks in a work relationship… He was also very self-conscious of the possibility that he was rambling, and I admit that sometimes I thought he was. But I’m not immune to rambling myself.

So what did I think? Once again, I don’t know. Nice guy. Not bad looking. We had things to talk about. I kept looking at him and wondering, do I find him attractive? Can I imagine us becoming really comfortable friends? Can I see us as more than friends? I felt so objective about the meeting that I wonder if I’m inhibiting or suppressing an emotional response. Or is it simply that D seemed nice enough but there just wasn’t a strong response one way or the other? No immediate spark. And shouldn’t I be glad there isn’t an immediate spark if I want to be friends first? I think part of me wants to just know, no, there’s nothing there, or, yes, I’m attracted.

Now for the awkward ending. Last time, with T, I hugged him even though my CP makes that a potentially embarrassing thing to do (it’s entirely possible that I will lose my balance). Then I thought I shouldn’t have set that precedent. First because it might have sent mixed signals to T, and second because I’m not actually comfortable hugging and don’t want it to be expected. This time, when D and I stood up to go, my hand went automatically to the umbrella’s pole next to our table. Whenever I’m standing, I prefer to be resting my hand on something. So I stood there, holding onto the umbrella and chose not let go to hug or shake hands or anything. I just wasn’t feeling steady. I wonder what D thought, what he expected. I certainly felt awkward about it. It’s just going to have to be a conversation I have: “Look, I have almost no sense of balance. I need to hold onto things so I don’t fall. Physical interaction is just going to be weird.” But it’s not exactly a conversation to have two hours after meeting someone. So I smiled and reiterated that we should get together again soon and walked away. Then I realized we’re supposed to clear our own dishes and wondered if D stayed after to take ours inside. Oops.

 

The following day, Sunday, I was going to a concert by the local university symphony orchestra. It was a “family concert,” with three short pieces, including “Peter and the Wolf.” I’m a fan of Prokofiev and had never heard that piece live. I had messaged T and invited him, since he’d wanted to get together again but I had been out of town. Turns out he was going to the concert already (because he got credit for it in one of his classes). I responded, “Great, I’ll see you there. It’s open seating, so we can sit together.” Sunday morning, I followed up, letting him know what time I’d get there, ending with “See you later!”

It was very odd to me that I was seeing two different men two days in a row. Pretty much the opposite of my pre-OKC life. Anyway, I arrived half an hour before the start and waited for T in the lobby. At ten minutes to start, I called him. It went to voicemail and his mailbox was full so I couldn’t leave a message. At five minutes to start I finally went in and sat down and silenced my phone. It turns out that a minute later he had texted me “Hello?” as if he were answering his phone by texting. I’d already told him I don’t text. I enjoyed the concert and went home. I messaged T via OKC, “If I don’t answer texts and you don’t answer calls, we’re obviously going to have some problems! Were you at the concert? What did you think?” He messaged me back saying that he hadn’t gone because his car wouldn’t start.

Now, I’d made it clear to T that I was going to the concert either way because I didn’t want him to feel like he had to go. But when I found out he was also going, I made it clear that I was looking forward to seeing him and sitting with him. In my mind, that means T should have let me know he wasn’t going to make it. I’ve had several experiences where I thought a plan was set, but it wasn’t clear to the other people involved. I’ve tried to learn from this and be extremely specific about time, place, etc. This time though, I was deliberately casual about it. I did not state: I will meet you in the lobby at 2:30. I said, I’ll get there about 2:30. So I can see how from our messaging that T would not interpret this as an official plan. I’m not mad, just a bit frustrated. And doubt has crept in. Worst case scenario—car troubles was an excuse not to go; maybe he had a better offer. Best case scenario—an honest miscommunication.

Ah, the joys of social interaction.

 

On the upside, OKC candidate #3, B, has promised to ask me out when he’s feeling better. He had planned to ask me to coffee on Saturday, but had gotten sick. How crazy would that have been? Two coffee dates in one day. I’m kind of shaking my head at the whole thing and wondering where it’ll all end up.

 

Thirteen

I’m out of town visiting with family this week, so there won’t be an installment of In the Name of Womanhood, It’s Time (ITNOWIT). Instead, I’m going to write about being thirteen.

I have been kissed. I had a boyfriend when I was thirteen and we kissed quite a lot. We met at a summer camp for kids with disabilities when I was ten and he was twelve. Each year, we returned to camp and continued our weeklong romance. Inevitably, we would break up by the end of the week. During the school year, we wrote letters and occasionally had long distance phone calls and would inevitably reconcile. J had cerebral palsy, too, and that was all it took for us to feel meant for each other. All the camp counselors teased us about getting married when we were older. When I say we kissed quite a lot, it was only during that week at camp when I was thirteen. The camp was held at CSU, Chico, and kids from all over the state came. We got to stay in the campus dorm rooms. During free time, we would go to J’s room, sit on his bed, and hold hands and talk. His bed was on the same wall as the door, in a recessed space, so if someone passed by and looked in they could not see us. Counselors would poke their heads in at regular intervals and check on us, once covering us in silly string.

I’m the kind of person who likes to know what’s going to happen, who likes to feel prepared. So J and I would discuss the kisses in detail before they occurred. Sitting on the edge of the bed, we talked about the duration, sitting up or lying down, tongue or no tongue. Tongue-free kisses were deemed “fish kisses.” It was all very innocent and far from steamy. Essentially, we were trying the whole thing out. During our lying down kisses, our legs remained off the side of the bed, and when it was over, we sat up and discussed the next go round. I wasn’t sure that I liked it. Definitely fish kisses were the way to go, as tongue kisses were too wet.

There was no reason to believe my romantic experiences wouldn’t continue apace. I never felt unlovable or unworthy—it seemed a matter of course that I would again experience mutual attraction and fall in love and marry. Indeed, I remained in contact with J until I was sixteen. He enrolled in college in my hometown. I remember being picked up from high school by my eighteen-year-old sometime-boyfriend and feeling very grown up. But one week of camp-time romance a year as children did not hold up when we lived in the same town. Aside from our disability, we really had little in common, and I think we saw each other only once or twice before he decided college was not for him and moved back home. J is the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.

Here is my point. I was comfortable with J, physically and emotionally. I was comfortable enough (and young enough) to say, “Wait, is this going to be with tongue?” At camp, we interlaced our fingers and I laid my head on his shoulder, or he on mine. It felt so good to hold hands and talk, the length of our bodies touching. It was age appropriate, and I was certain that all the rest would follow, someday, when I was ready.

Now I wonder, how can the rest possibly follow? It’s half my lifetime later, and I have to start back at the beginning. Is it even possible for me to feel comfortable with a man? Sitting side by side with our bodies touching, holding hands, wrapping my arms around his neck and being held close? And for all of it to feel natural and good? The possibility feels so remote that I barely even bother to envision anything beyond those most basic affectionate interactions. Two issues collide and intertwine: the physical and the emotional. Almost all of my time alone with J was spent sitting down. In my last entry, I mentioned my lack of balance and my uncertainty about hugging friends hello or goodbye. Physical uncertainty makes for social-emotional awkwardness. Enough public falls and near-falls have contributed to my very cautious way of moving in the world. I know that I often project an aloofness or maybe even boredom through my lack of interaction when I’m around others. I don’t join in. I hang back, hand on a table to keep myself steady, or I plant myself in a chair and don’t move, only speaking to those who approach.

I used to think it was only a physical issue. Now, as an adult, I realize that I’ve never really been in love, and I question my ability to trust it and give in to it, should the opportunity arise. The longer I’m single, the more emotionally distant I feel from the possibility of finding a partner. I’m a total romantic when it comes to movies and books, but in real life, I find I’m becoming a bit of a cynic. I hear people talk about marrying their best friend and can’t fathom being best friends with a man. It’s silly to feel like it’s too late for me, that romantic love and I just aren’t meant for each other. Essentially, it’s fear. I’m scared of being in love. I’m scared that if it happens, it won’t ever be that comfortable, confident love of loving my best friend. Will I let this fear keep me from falling in love at all? And why do I worry about these questions when they’re so far from my reality?

ITNOWIT #2: Okay, Cupid?

Operation ITNOWIT #2

  • Peet’s
  • Tuesday 5/8/12
  • 3:00-4:00pm
  • Iced tea
  •  $2.00
  • Brought own cup
  • Met T there (thereby surpassing eye contact goal)

Simultaneously with starting this blog, I decided to join OKCupid. All right, that’s not really true. A friend nudged me to check it out, so I did. And I discovered that in order to explore the site, you have to sign up. Maybe I really am summoning plot points from the universe, or maybe the blog and OKCupid coincided simply because I really do want to try to take fate into my own hands. Either way, I must say it’s been both interesting and entertaining. Time is working in my favor. Over the years, online dating has become more normalized and acceptable and therefore, lots of all kinds of people are giving it a try. And I find that I’m very different at 31 than I was at 21 or 25. I’m obsessing less over it (don’t get me wrong–it’s totally addictive), and it’s more an experiment than an “I must find my soulmate!” situation.

The beauty is, all these guys can get to know a bit about me and see what I look like without my having to leave my house, make eye contact, or form coherent sentences. Excellent. And men have been sending me messages. And I’ve been replying to some of them. I even initiated contact with a fellow English major-introvert, and we’ve been having a pleasant conversation. The other good thing is that I’m limiting this to locals only. No long distance communication for me. I’ve learned how quickly and easily that can become something it isn’t.

Anyway, this guy T contacted me, and we messaged back and forth some. I could tell he must have gotten a notification on his phone whenever a got a message because he would respond right away, usually a single, mostly un-capitalized line. Like texting. I hate texts. His texts, along with his profile and pictures, weren’t all that great. Neither were they horrible. I know that people can be, for better or worse, completely different than the impression they give online, so I was willing to give him a chance. That’s when a Machiavellian thought came into my head: I should meet this guy. This guy that I have mixed feelings about, that I’m not all aflutter over, because maybe then I’ll be less awkward about it all. I would essentially be using him as practice. But that’s what I need, right? To just get out there and give it a try—just give it a try with someone. So I suggested we meet, to see if there was any friend potential. (I didn’t want him to think I had a major crush or mislead him.) And I picked the date and place and time. Fate, meet my hands.

When I got there, he was already there because he’d gotten out of class early. (He’d messaged me his number, but I’d withheld mine, so he couldn’t call.) First impression? Much nicer-looking than his pictures. His hair was messier, he was wearing glasses, and he was smiling. Hint for posting profile pictures, guys? Choose pictures that actually look like you. The best you, sure, but still you. And smile!

We got our drinks and sat outside, and we talked. There were a few longish pauses that were only a tiny bit awkward (and I don’t think he thought they were). He’d had time to observe the way I walk, and although we didn’t talk specifically about my CP, he asked whether I could ride a bike and if I played sports (probably an adapted one, but I don’t want to, and no). We talked about our town and how we both came to live in it, work and school and music and the upcoming Olympics. And it was good. He didn’t say or do anything that made me recoil, and I don’t think I did or said anything that made him recoil, either. I’d planned it so that I had a legitimate reason to wrap things up after an hour. I said, “It was really nice to meet you—we should totally do this again sometime!” (And yes, I do believe I actually said ‘totally.’) Then I wondered if that sounded too enthusiastic.

I don’t remember if we shook hands upon meeting or skipped it. I’m always terrible with saying goodbye to people because if we’re friendly, a hug is often expected. I have an almost non-existent sense of balance, so hugging generally throws me off. When the hugger lets go, I usually feel like I need to grab ahold again to steady myself. I’ve learned to give one-armed hugs, with the free hand holding onto something. In this case we were on the sidewalk, and there was nothing to hold onto. I had that uncomfortable moment of assessing, Are we doing a handshake or a hug? If we hug, how am I going to handle it? I think he was hesitating and leaving it up to me, and I hugged him quickly and let go without falling over. Whew. Awkward. Stressful. He said, “You have my number. Use it if you want to.” And I laughed, said okay, and that was it.

What’s weird is that I’m also messaging back and forth with two other people, whose pictures and profiles I like more. But T really did prove that I can’t judge someone by a picture and profile and single lines of text-y messaging. Perhaps if I ever meet the other two in person, we won’t get along as well.

Leaving our meeting, I felt happy, surprised at how well it went: Hey, he’s nice! It was good! I’m looking forward to doing it again! And by the time I’d gotten home from work that night, all of these doubts and concerns had crept in, and I was back to being in my house with my laptop, the not-great profile pictures, and the single line, text-y messages. And I felt like I already wanted a break from it.

That night he messages, “what are you looking for? friends? more than friends?” I answer (with a bit of a sinking feeling), reiterating what my profile states (“just friends” and “activity partners”). He says he’s looking for friends too, although his profile lists everything (except “casual sex”). We talk about when to meet up again, and I let him know I’m out of town this weekend and all next week, so maybe in a week and a half. T asks me if I’m free during the week, which would have meant within the next three days, and I say I’m not.

I don’t want to start seeing him all the time and give him the wrong idea. Because I don’t want him to be all into me if I’m not going to feel the same way. Or maybe it’s not going to be like that at all, and he really does just want to be friends first, too. Except that he texted me about an hour after I messaged him my number. That does not signal friends—that signals interested. And I don’t know if I’m interested.

It’s impossible to just be friends first, isn’t it? Certainly at this age, there’s an automatic partner-potential vibe. Of course, it doesn’t help that the whole thing began on OKCupid, whether or not I put “just friends.” I wouldn’t specify single men between 25 and 35 if I really just wanted to be friends, now would I? I wish I could meet someone in a situation where there isn’t any pressure or expectation for romance and actually make a great friend. If there is expectation (for instance, meeting via an online dating site), and one side has feelings that the other side can’t reciprocate, then it’s sad and hard on both parties. It’s all so complicated and uncertain. And scary. It’s so much easier not to be a part of any of it.

It seems as though (in fiction at least) one side always falls before the other. It’s hard to say, “I don’t know yet,” when the other person does know, and hopes for a particular answer. Do I want to be the one who falls first? Or the one unsure? Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible that anyone falls in love with someone who actually falls in love right back.