The other night, Rick and I accidentally stumbled into what might have been the most grown-up conversation I’ve ever had with a man I was dating.
He had texted me – this is the vast majority of our communication, which is both cute and kind of annoying because I prefer actual voice-on-voice action, but guys don’t like to talk on the phone – anyway, he had texted me to say he was sorry he’d been MIA in the last few days, but he’d been surprisingly busy with work. I knew he’d been busy and he hadn’t been completely MIA, but I had heard from him less than usual. I also knew there was a lot more reason than that for his relative quiet. And out it came.
“To be honest, I’m not looking to rush into anything,” he said.
Well of course not! He just got out of something two months ago, and last week she boxed up his stuff and dropped it off in a state legislature office building where he no longer works. I mean… there’s some stuff to handle, there.
This opened up an hour-long actual voice-on-voice conversation in which I completely stunned myself by being awesome and not in the slightest bit neourotic.
I know. It’s weird.
He’s worried I’m going to think he has too much baggage. What I actually think is that we’re 35 and anyone on the planet who’s single at 35 has baggage. If not, then their lack of baggage becomes baggage, because clearly they have no romantic relationship history of any kind. In which case? Stay away. You’re about to have a Stage 5 Clinger on your hands.
He’s worried that, on paper, he looks like someone a woman should stay away from right now. And you know what? He’s right. (Aside from the fact that he’s incredibly good-looking, which for me usually means intense attraction slash intense distrust, but herein only means the first bit, which is also weird.) I told him that if I had just met him in January, I might steer clear of this great-looking guy who literally just got out of something that was apparently nuclear in the end, and who is currently sleeping in a pirate bed at his parents’ house. But I’ve known him in some way for two years, so that stuff isn’t freaking me out.
He’s worried about repeating past mistakes. He thinks he rushed into the relationship that just ended- an 18-month term, and they lived together for a significant portion of that. He thinks that rushing may have helped create the problems that eventually led to their undoing as a couple. He wants us to keep seeing each other, definitely. He just wishes the timing had been better, so he wouldn’t be trying to put something behind him while we were getting started. “I don’t want issues with her to come between us,” he said.
And then he said this. He actually said this, he said — are you ready? He said: “I just want us to take our time and get to know each other and see where it goes naturally. I don’t want to go too far (physically) yet. The older I get, the more I understand that that’s no good unless there’s something real there.”
And I was all, Are you real? You’re not real. No guys say that. Exactly zero guys say that. What most guys say is “I don’t want to rush anything” and what they mean is “except the sex part. That I want to rush. The rest I want to avoid for as long as possible. Is that cool?”
So after I recovered from the shock of him being so decent, and the shock of my not freaking out and thinking what he was saying meant he didn’t want to see me anymore, I told him my thoughts. I’m fine going slow. I’m good with not rushing anything. I understand where he is in his heart and his head, and I don’t expect him to be over his ex, or past the pain of the situation, already. I like hearing from him every day because it lets me know he’s still interested, but I’m not going to freak out if I don’t hear from him for a day (okay, that part was kind of bullshit, but he doesn’t need to know that). If I say I’m glad to see him or hear from him, it’s because I am. Not because I’m trying to send a passive-aggressive message about not having seen or heard from him in X amount of time.
“God, that is so refreshing,” he said in a big exhalation.
Can I know how things will unfold? Certainly not. But I know he’s not a walking disaster. He’s been through a lot recently: the death of a beloved uncle, the end of his relationship in spectacular fashion, the subsequent limbo state of staying at his parents’ house while his stuff still lives at the apartment they shared because he has no time to find a new place and no money because he’s paying the rent on the old place while the ex recovers from a hospitalization. Over Christmas. She landed there at the same time as the uncle’s death. And on January 2nd, he started a stressful new job.
So if anybody can handle all that and still stay sane and steady, they’re a winner, in my book. Especially if, a year ago, for reasons having mostly to do with a true passion for public service and a little bit to do with making his boss look good, he got something done for crime victims that will help keep them safe, and he did it because of me.
The morning after our conversation, I got a text. “I’m so glad we talked last night,” it said. “I feel much more at ease about everything. Thank you.”
Oh, honey. Thank you.