Recently, a friend of mine was freaking out about a first date that she was planning.
"Where should we go? Should I text her? Where should I suggest we go? Should I offer to pick her up?" Everything was familiar about the way my friend was freaking out, and in her freak out, I remembered how crazy-making first dates can be.
I sometimes wish I could get back the energy I poured into first dates. I spent hours talking to different friends about the date: my outfit, the location of the date, how many times my potential mate and I had spoken leading up to the date. I would spend a few more hours planning my outfit and working on my hair and make-up. I would leave my house nervous and excited. I always had the same thought while driving to the location: he was going to be The One. I had to be perfect because the date was going to be perfect. I would tell myself "this date is going to lead to my big romance and someday, when we tell our story, it has to be magical." There was also energy calling those same friends to report on the date and even more energy figuring out why things just didn't work out.
I've written about a ton of first dates on this blog, and none of them were worth the energy I put into them. At best, most of them were mediocre and at worst, they involved beer cans in the shower and drug deals during the date. I was a serial dater and I've gone on lunch dates, dinner dates, met up for dozens of drinks and even karaoke. I've had guys make me dinner, take me dancing and one very creative soul took me on a hike. For each date, I spent hours upon hours and phenomenal amounts of energy building up what, in my mind, was going to be a profound and life changing experience.
I had to learn the hard way that the sole purpose of a first date is to find out if we should go on a second date. In retrospect, I treated each first date like a make or break situation because I was deathly afraid that I wouldn't get another chance to find someone and fall in love. I treated each first date like my last chance at love. I never realized that there was a chance that I wouldn't like the person or he wouldn't be a good fit; I treated these guys like they were doing me a favor by going out with me. I had every expectation that these men were going to rescue me and make me happy.
|Random board I came across|
Recently, I wrote about the way expectations only set us up for disappointment. I used to imagine what my relationship with the person was going to be like - even before the first date. Would he fit in with my family and friends? Would we write our own wedding vows or stick with tradition? Would we be able to work through any differences we had (for the sake of our hypothetical future children, of course)? Would he be my knight in shining armor? Even when I was on strike, I secretly hoped I would find the person who would magically erase every fear, doubt and past hurt.
Spoiler alert: he doesn't exist. Good partners do, however.
I met someone in December on a fluke. A few weeks earlier, I signed up for an online dating service one night when I was baby-sitting my godson who went to sleep at 7. I was in serious danger of calling the October Break-Up. Because of the toxic nature of our relationship, I didn't trust myself nor did I feel like I had enough self-control to leave him alone, so I figured I would sign up and entertain myself with the ridiculous messages that would be sent. The trick worked and after that night, I sort of forgot about the dating site.
One night, I received a new message on the same site. I read his message and before I replied I looked at his dating profile. What he wrote about himself made me laugh so I replied. We sent messages back and forth for about an hour and the whole time I was laughing. Communication flowed easily, but I'm no fool - I know that written communication has a completely different dynamic from "in-person" conservation. Either way, he was fun to "talk" with. The next day he sent another message and we agreed to meet up that night at my favorite brewery. We weren't going to meet until I finished teaching a writing workshop and he got out of work.
After my workshop, I went home to freshen up and didn't even change my outfit (I looked decent enough). I didn't think much about meeting up and had zero expectations. I wasn't really nervous when I was driving to the brewery and I even showed up a little late. I walked in and saw a guy sitting at the bar who sort of looked like the photos from the dating site. Sure enough, it was him and when we shook hands, I didn't feel the spark and fireworks weren't going off in my head. I didn't have that fluttery feeling in my stomach and I didn't have visions of us falling in love. We talked over a few beers and he made me laugh, but I wasn't particularly impressed by our conversation and I didn't feel the spiritual connection I often crave on first dates. When it was time to go, he walked me to my car and gave me a hug. That was all - no magical kiss, no goofy grin on my face and I definitely wasn't planning our wedding or imagining our future children.
He sent me an email that night thanking me for meeting up and while I thought it was a sweet gesture, I still didn't have many feelings either way. He asked if we could meet up again so I agreed to lunch the following Monday - mainly because I was going to be swamped the entire week and that was where my energy was at: work. I wasn't worried that he couldn't deal with my busy life, and I didn't think twice about the fact that I didn't have time for him. I didn't worry that he was my last chance at love because I didn't have any expectations. He was just a nice guy that I was having lunch with.
That nice guy turned out to be everything I never knew I was looking for.
On paper, he and I have zero in common. We come from different ethnic backgrounds; he is from the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest and I am from the desert; he is apolitical and I live, breathe and eat politics; we don't watch the same type of movies nor do we read the same types of books (but he does read!). In all reality, he is nowhere close to being Peter Baca, which is a blessing because he is real. As I got to know him, I learned a few things about him: he is a hard worker; his friends genuinely love him and care for him and he is easy to talk to. He cares about my well-being, and he truly sees me for who I am. I have found that he is incredibly compassionate, strong and a support system I didn't know I needed. He isn't here to magically save me, but he is here to cheer me on as I walk my path, just as I do for him.
Last October, I stood in the Alameda Bay and asked Creator to send me someone good. The next day, I made a wish on the morning star at Alcatraz Island and asked to be lead to the one I was waiting for. I didn't put any restrictions on who he would be; I just asked for him. I finally surrendered to the fact that I can't control who comes into my life, and I can't build my perfect partner. All I could do was be open and ready for him.
The first date led to a lunch date. The lunch date made me want to know him a little better. About a week later we were having late-night pie at Village Inn and talking for 4 hours straight. When he walked me to my car, I wanted to kiss him, but somehow a first kiss in the parking lot of an all night restaurant didn't feel right. I've had plenty of first kisses and some have been great, others have been ridiculous and a lot of them have been in parking lots, but I felt different about him. I wanted a magical, first kiss because it would be a good story to tell one day, and it is... but more about that later.
Next time: Falling Gracefully