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“Honey, you’ve got to stop dating these dickweeds!”

September 30, 2009

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This morning, I pulled out the folder containing all the writing I accomplished during my summer retreat to an writer’s residence. It was the first time I’d dipped into this stash, having decided to let it distill before giving it a critical review. I dug through brief notes, one-liners, things scrawled as a reminder to go back and write a longer piece later on, complete stories, unedited junk, and scraps of paper bearing little notes so cryptic I’ll never remember what I was trying to tell myself. I was looking for a character sketch about a little girl called Priss. I remember being unsure where she’d fit in the story I was then tackling, but felt sure she belonged somewhere, maybe in a piece all her own.

I found Priss, and on the back of her profile, I also found a list. Eight numbered paragraphs, summarising my dates with D. up to that point. We’d been seeing each other a few weeks, the process of getting to know each other complicated by first his week-long trip to the east coast then my island get-away. We’d kept in touch by phone, text message, and a few stolen visits, my self-made promise to step out of “real life” and focus on nothing but my writing broken by Day Three.

When the summer ended, D. also ended whatever was going on between us, and initially I was devastated, moving on to confused why he let things go on so long, if his heart, as he claims, was never in it. Then, I was sad, then really fucking angry and insulted, then resigned, then confused again, this time about why it bothered me so much. I told myself I hadn’t seen it coming, that things had been nothing but awesome and clearly the guy was insane if he didn’t appreciate this awesomeness, too.

Which brings me to the list I discovered this morning, scribbled in mid-July and forgotten until now. Evidence that my gut was speaking loud and clear, and evidence that (like so many times before) I told my instincts to shut the hell up and let me live my life. Evidence that next time, I need to give myself a good, sound shake till I pay attention. Evidence that, when she sat me down over a latté and box of tissues, folded her hands and said, “Honey, promise me you’re going to stop dating these dickweeds!” my boss P. was absolutely right. I’m not sure this most recent man was a dickweed. I mean, he was a pretty nice guy, but a rotten match for me in particular, and as my July list predicted, this shouldn’t have seemed like a newsflash come September.

“The Slightly Sketchy Trajectory of Our Handful of Dates”:

1. Do all the mornings sitting kind of next to each other at the coffee shop count? Not the ones before we started talking to each other, but the ones after we met? What were those? Is it weird that you knew my daily routine long before I knew your name?

2. The morning you called and invited me to meet for coffee on purpose instead of just maybe running into each other by chance. Then, when I arrived, you had to take several phone calls and instead of getting to know you, I pulled out my notebook and pen and did some editing, a bit of work while you darted outside to take call after call. I text-messaged a girlfriend who wanted advice for the lovelorn, and meanwhile, felt I might need some myself.

3. Dinner. An actual date with a concrete plan, which came together fairly well. But, you called three times to shift the meeting time back and back and back, then complained that usually, the restaurant we chose served much better food, and seemed preoccupied that the evening had not quite turned out perfect. This was definitely a date, definitely an awkward one. The one where I realised how hard someone had worked to fix us up, and that there was something about that process you were leaving out of the story.

4. Meeting for a late-night drink, the evening before you took a trip that would bleed into my own departure for the island. Your day ran out of hand, two extreme personal obligations forcing you to request we meet not at 6 or 7, and not at 8 or 9, but eventually, at a quarter to eleven. We were both wiped from our respective days, but made the effort to meet, a bit like sealing the deal. You cycled home with me, a rather sweet escort, and we chatted out front of my house for even longer than we’d sat at the bar. Things were still awkward, and it felt like you had your arms crossed, metaphorically, but then you leaned against me, kissing me while we sat on my neighbour’s silver car. Then, one of my friends passed us on the opposite side of the street and cat-called, whistling and shouting my name. When we laughed, it felt like we’d relaxed together for the very first time.

5. Long pause. Text messages. Strained long-distance phone calls. Both of us out of town. Do conversations without faces still count as dates? They should, I think, since the phone is a hundred times harder than looking someone in the eye and sharing your heart.

6. A rushed dinner at my house–I should have been on the island that night, but snuck home–fresh lobster, a ferry schedule, a whole bottle of wine. Divine.

7. A rushed dinner at the beach, waves and cool air, bikes and another ferry schedule to navigate. Much less wine. Much less relaxed. Kissing comes off like one of those romantic comedies where someone is forever jabbing their date with an elbow instead of smoothly extending an arm around her shoulder, or moving in to kiss but instead bumping teeth. I know that I am laidback and lovely–which sounds rudely self-assured, but I won’t lie. You are the one doing all the jabbing and bumping, the one who can’t settle down and be smooth.

8. Another long pause. Awkward bits. Weird bits. Both of us distracted–you, by hundreds of flickers and calls and dramas and things that flash and demand your attention, things that, since I don’t know you that well, I cannot anticipate or define or imagine; and me, distracted by the suspicion that you do not have room for someone new to fit into your life.

Here, the list ended, since it summed up all our dates, to date. But, the tense, anxious, arms-crossed tone bled through the rest of the summer. Another island date, which was actually sweet and lovely, lit by smiles and a full moon. A series of “safe invitations”, by which I mean things I suspect he felt secure inviting me to do, knowing I would have to decline. Suggesting I join in a cottage weekend, “but oh darn, that’s when your friend is getting married”. Telling me he wanted me to spend the night, “but, damn it, there’s a house guest upstairs.” Suggesting not once but five times that we pitch a tent on my balcony and sleep outdoors with the crickets and stars during the summer’s lone heatwave, “but, shit, this week is super-bad for me, because all my mornings start early and I can’t afford to stay up late.”

Weeknight get-togethers into which work seeped and oozed, drink dates cancelled last-minute because a prior engagement ran later than expected. Loads of bricks that needed to be moved, then moved again, eating up the afternoon and making croquet impossible since now it was nearly dark. Calls and texts that rattled the cellphone in his pocket, ceaselessly, no matter the day, the place, the hour. People who dropped by to chat, sat in on coffee dates, lingered and diverted conversations to topics in which I could not participate. Urgent matters that swallowed weekends, and sudden meetings that canned dinners.

Which is not to say the summer was pure heck; rather, it was consistently fraught. My friend A. calls me the great rationaliser, points out how easily I can talk myself into thinking a man is good for my life, and how tough it is to get me to think through a personal, independent plan without getting bogged down in the impossibleness of it all. How eager I am to explain why a guy is the sweetest, brightest thing going on in my life. But, when asked to list the reasons why returning to school would be good, sit there with a frown on my face and can’t come up with a single good thing to say, focusing instead on the infinite obstacles and potential problems that are sure to avalanche me and hold me back.

So true. So silly. So time to shift all that! No more dating dickweeds, indeed. And no more arguing myself into, or out of, things with skewed lists.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2009 6:47 am

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  2. October 8, 2009 11:20 pm

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

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