I had texted my friend Sam, whose interest in my love life rivals my own, a photo of what I was planning to wear for my date with Rick Friday night.
“Are you going to church?” was his reply. “Really cool looking bathroom, though,” he added.
Ugh. “The shirt is see-through, asshole. But fine. Suggestions?” And then I sent him a picture of the bathroom.
“The problem is that you have something underneath the see-thru shirt.”
“Yeah, kinda have to.”
“Anything to offer the occasional cleavage glimpse?” he wanted to know.
I changed the damned shirt. Put on a tight, black v-neck. Sent the picture.
“Giddyup” came back.
I wondered. “Do accessories matter in the slightest?”
Ding. “A necklace might be nice. Whaddaya got?”
I took two photos. Two different necklaces.
“#2. Something to give an excuse to glance at when I’m not looking at your boobs.” He really does have my best interests at heart, but Sam has never been shy about talking up my assets. God bless him.
“I see you’re planning to come along,” I told him.
“If this dude loves your body as much as I do, you’ll thank me.”
Sam, Sam, Sam… have you forgotten the delicate situation that led us here? “This dude met me because I had a stalker. Can’t go too hot or I’ll look like I deserved it.”
And so I prepared for dating in the digital age. Yes, I have had a date or two since the dawning of that age… hell, my age bracket invented social media and the text message… but it’s been a while, and frankly, I’m kind of no good at dating. And I really do have to think a little bit about how to date the guy I met because he was chief of staff for a state senator who wrote a bill increasing victim information, inspired by my story of stalking. He was always very respectful and careful about it while we were working on the bill. And apparently, he had thought about how to ask me out, too, because, over dinner, he told me that he hadn’t been quite sure how to approach it.
I find that rather gallant.
I hadn’t known for certain whether this was a date, this meeting for drinks to talk about my ideas for legislation that no longer had any bearing on his life since he no longer works for the state senator. I knew that was a guise, but I didn’t know how much of a guise. Thus the outfit debate. Obviously I needed something that looked effortlessly sexy but not too hot, age appropriate but not boring, appealing enough to suit a date but average enough not to presume one. For women, this translates to “thought-out for hours and put on immediately after the pre-meet-up shower, but appearing to have only just been thrown on somewhere in the course of the day.”
Were we really only having drinks? Might we have dinner? Would it be presumptuous to put a name in for a table when I got there before him? How should we greet each other? I’ve actually only met him in person once, despite two years of phone calls, emails and, most recently, Facebook messages.
There is, like, no precedent for this when you’re in your mid-30s. You feel like a teenager who just arrived from a third-world country. You’re past the part of your life where you feel like appearances are everything and you have to play it cool, but you still don’t want to demonstrate the very high likelihood that you’d just about kill for a relationship that works out.
Fit that into 140 characters. With the appropriate emoticons.
But when he threw open the door and ushered in a gust of frigid wind, made late by a traffic jam, he didn’t hesitate to come right up and give me a big (but not too lingering) hug. “How long’s the wait?” he asked. I hadn’t inquired, but had been just about to. It turned out we had just enough time to order a bottle of wine at the bar before the hostess came and found us as the bartender popped the cork.
Honestly, though? We were totally comfortable from the beginning. I guess that’s because we have communicated for nearly two years – albeit for somewhat professionally-driven purposes on his end and lobbying purposes on mine. But we stayed in touch when that effort had ended, talked job hunting, traded the occasional inconsequential tag-up, like a base runner making sure to tap the bag before taking off.
Rick recently broke up with someone, and I’m moving past Jack, so we’re both dealing with a little trepidation mixed with excitement at the prospect of something – and someone – new. His circumstances are trickier: he moved out of the place they were sharing and is now staying – horrors – with his parents. Sleeping in his old room.
Which has been converted to his nephew’s room for sleepovers.
Which means a 34-year-old man is sleeping in a bed made to look like a pirate ship.
I found his telling me this, hanging his head in mock shame and full awareness of the difficulty this could pose on a possible new relationship, endearing.
But we had a really nice night. We spent five hours talking and eating, drained the bottle of wine but paced ourselves. There were pink-faced confessions that, indeed, this had always been meant as a date, that indeed there was mutual attraction from the first time we met. There was wonder at the circumstances that had brought us to this table. And we laughed. We laughed a good bit. (Happily, I didn’t spit out my food even once.) Neither of us wanted dinner to end, and he asked where else we could go; in the cold, we only bore walking half a block before we spotted a dive pizza joint and ducked in to down hot chocolate before they turned the lights off on us. Standing outside my car, we hugged goodbye and agreed to get together again soon.
I drove home grinning like a fool. He texted me a thank you and reminded me to let him know when I was free next. I grinned more.
And now I’m back to being the third-world teenager, navigating a day of text messages infused with flirtation and possible days for the next meeting.