All It Has To Be

The message popped up on Facebook a week and a half ago, the day after I’d gone to Paul and Elaine’s house for game night with some other neighborhood folks.

“Paul and I just ran into one of Paul’s old friends, and we thought we’d love to introduce you. He’s a really smart, good looking, nice guy. Sorry if we’re out of line here, just tell us to back off if so here’s-his-facebook-pagecheckitout.”

Alright, so that last part with the words all running together isn’t how she wrote the message, but it was how I read it because I know her, and this was probably how she tried to just casually toss out that I could view his photo.

Well. Hello Liam. What might be wrong with you?

I know it sounds terrible, and I know it’s probably what other people think when they’re first introduced to me as an available woman in her mid-30s (I’m not quite 37 yet). But Liam is 40 (I know because his apparent sister mentioned it on his page) and single, attractive and professional, and seemingly never married. Which generally means fucked up in some hidden but very significant way.

I’m not saying that’s not the case for me as well. Seuss probably had it right when he said we’re all a little weird and if we find someone with whom our weird is compatible, we fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. Therefore, I do subscribe to the belief that some people just have a hard time finding their Compatibly Weird Person. But by and large, in my dating life, I have found that if a guy is never-married and not with someone at this point, there’s a reason, and that reason is eventually going to make me really sad or really bitchy. Possibly both.

And so I wonder what might be wrong with Liam. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to meet people and I have no real reason to avoid it. Just last week I found out that Jack sold his condo two miles and a body of water away from me, and now lives in Gwyneth’s house, one mile and a park away. This affirms that I will eventually run over them nearby.

Into. I mean into them. Damn. I always make that mistake. *shifts eyes*

The point is, the last guy I loved is dangerously close-by and, by some absolutely insane twist, married—to a child, comparatively speaking—and I know he’s Fucked Up In Some Hidden But Very Significant Way. The last time I had a date that I knew was a date was in April of 2013. Javier is still with Lydia and is presently visiting Colombia (without her), and it’s been relatively easy to dismiss his mild advances as unconvincing. I’ve learned some pretty important lessons. And I’ve been really comfortable not-dating and not-looking. I’ve enjoyed that. What harm can it do to meet someone? Especially if he’s been endorsed by friends who have known him for years? We don’t have to date.

Stll, the winds of fate seemed a little dramatic when they decided we should meet the night of an epic snowstorm and preceding Valentine’s Day by 12 hours.

Elaine had decided to have us both over for dinner. My only question was whether Liam knew this was a set-up, because how awkward would that be? But she replied yes, he’d seen my picture and heard their descriptions of my personality and wanted to meet me.

So I slopped two blocks through a snowy mess, wearing jeans and an enormous, heavily-pocketed, highly unflattering coat (hood up to defend against large drops of freezing rain) out of necessity, carrying a spare pair of shoes in a bag along with a bottle of Bordeaux, and praying my armpits wouldn’t sweat through my curve-appreciating but cleavage-covering shirt. (Hyperhydrosis of the underarms. Thanks, Dad. Cool trait.) Dramatically misjudging how long this walk would take, I got to Paul and Elaine’s a few minutes early. Liam arrived a few minutes late, having caught a cab from his house because the idea of finding parking in our neighborhoods right now is nothing short of hilarious, and a mile is too far to carry a six-pack of craft beer through slop to get to a set-up dinner.

The liberating thing about having been through the six-bladed blender of misguided love is that it makes you stop trying so hard. I looked as nice as I could under the circumstances, but refused to obsess. I was with other people I knew, so I couldn’t act like anyone other than myself. And I honest-to-God could not have cared less if this guy wasn’t into me. Beef stew, sourdough, multiple tiny cups of amazingly delicious mousse and some red wine were all perfectly lovely reasons to spend an evening with friends and their friend, and I didn’t need it to go beyond that. I quite literally have no fucks to give. So I guess thanks for that, Jack.

Result: zero awkwardness, zero discomfort, zero anxiety and only a teensy bit more wine than I maybe should have had in this circumstance. Which was Elaine’s fault, and barely had an effect on me at all, while Paul was rather suddenly overtaken by Dr. Feelgood. Always best for the hosts to get blitzed and the guests to remain comfortably in control of themselves.

Things were casual and maybe a little cautious before dinner. Dinner itself was delicious and comfortable. The after-dinner showing off of the delightfully retro basement saw us divided girl-girl and guy-guy for conversation, but without any sense that something was going wrong. Sampling the mousses Elaine brought home from an event she organized was a stand-up affair, and maybe the first sign that there was a little chemistry; Liam seemed to deliberately cross to my side of the kitchen-to-dining-room pass-through, to stand next to me while we faced Elaine, and only hesitated for a second when I offered for him to get a spoonful of the chocolate coffee mousse I was trying not to wolf down like a fiend. He recommended that I try the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate version he’d just eaten. He loves chocolate and coffee. Excellent.

After dinner, sitting in the living room, the conversation continued to flow freely and we got to talk about his travel (he’s in international sales, which means I am madly jealous of his trips) and my music (a previous topic had revealed to the room my classical training, and Paul had been trying insistently to convince me to sing with his rock-blues band). I was embarrassed by my passion as I described a moment singing Mozart’s Requiem in a Parisian church, but Liam seemed to fully appreciate it and reciprocated with other interests.

Also we talked about how the skeleton event at the Olympics is fucking insane, and then discussed which slightly less crazy things we’d want to do. He thinks it’s nuts that I’d do time in a cage while sharks swam around me. Elaine said everybody thinks they want to parasail until they see a guy get hanged by the cords and watch the crew reel in his body.

That was a kind of weird moment.

As we were re-suiting ourselves in winter paraphernalia to gird against the sleet that was now pummeling the neighborhood, Liam flat-out asked if he could call me sometime. In front of Paul and Elaine. This is the kind of stuff most guys don’t do; they try to play it a little quieter. But I guess since we both knew this was a set-up, he didn’t feel the need. I babbled about how my phone isn’t working as a phone at the moment so he wouldn’t be able to hear me if he called me, and he said, “…Okay, but I can text you, right?” and I told myself to stop talking and just say yes and give him my number.

But the best part is that I’m not waiting for the text. I had a lovely evening with friends and their friend. And that’s all it really ever had to be.


21 thoughts on “All It Has To Be

  1. I hope Liam texts you, even though you’re not waiting around for it. You have the right attitude. And I totally agree about men not having been married by a certain age. I’ve dated a bunch of them. I hope Liam is the exception. Good luck!

  2. I am taking a leap here by leaving an opinion that is going to be long and probably unwelcome. Feel free to tell me to f*** off.

    Ya know what singlecell??? From out here, it appears to me you are doing everything possible to sabotage any future romance in your life. I understand you have had real heartbreak. I have followed your posts for 3.5 years, even if I rarely comment. I get that you felt like Jack was your person but that isn’t how it played out. I get it…I do (just for reference my son lived, with, bought a house with, paid for law school for, a girl that ran off and married someone else. My heart breaks for lost loves)

    If you spent the evening with Liam and he just didn’t appeal to you…OK..nough said…but you went over there with the attitude you weren’t interested. You have a lot of telling comments within your post.

    First you ask “what is wrong with him?” You assume somehow he is damaged. Perhaps he is…just as you are. Perhaps, he had the love of his life do the tango on his heart leaving it ultimately bruised. Maybe he is the guy that paid for some girl to become a lawyer and she ran off with a classmate. Who knows why he is single at 40 but you aren’t exactly giving him a chance to talk to you so that you might learn his story.

    He put himself out there by asking if he could call. You shot back with an excuse. You might of just said…”Don’t bother.” You could of offered the possibility that the phone isn’t working now but you would be taking care of it. You could of offered to contact him when you had a working phone but no…you cut him off at the knees.

    Personally…I don’t get it. You would rather mourn the loss of Jack than open yourself up to the possibility of meeting a new friend or a new lover.
    Let’s say we take the “possible romance” part of this off the table..just for the sake of discussion, let’s just say Liam would be an interesting person to know…why are you dodging him? He’s not stalking you…he simply wants to get to know you better. Is that so objectionable that you are making sure you are impossible to contact?

    So all your so called friends that are saying “good for you! Don’t take the chance because you might get hurt again” I don’t see that as being a friend at all.
    I am not your friend and I am saying “take some chances.” You need to be open to love if you are interested in wanting someone in your life. If you really never want to be in another relationship…ever…. be sure to fill your friends in on that so they don’t bother to try to introduce you to people.

    OK…I am ready for the “fuck off” now.

  3. I’m certainly not going to tell you to fuck off. I AM going to tell you you made quite a few leaps there, since I didn’t post a full transcript of our conversation or of my thoughts, and I think you may have read some things you wanted to read instead of what was really there.

    Of course I assume he’s damaged. I assume that because I assume that he’s either had difficulties in his romantic life too or that he has some challenges that cause obstacles. JUST LIKE ME. I’m not saying I’m better. I’m saying yeah, I’m cautious. And yeah, that gets in the way, maybe. I realize that.

    I didn’t go over with the attitude that I wasn’t interested; I went with the attitude that I wasn’t going to be hurt if he wasn’t interested.

    I didn’t make an excuse when he asked if he could call… I offered an anecdote about how my phone isn’t working. And I actually DID tell him I’m going to get it fixed. I’ve been telling everyone that for the last two weeks. I’ve just been broke and haven’t been able to fork over $100 for a new phone, which is what I’ll need. I didn’t dodge him. He asked if he could call and I said, “Yes, sure! Oh, but my phone isn’t working as a phone right now, so if you call you won’t hear me. I’m going to get it fixed—” and he interrupted to ask if he could text.

    I’ve also never told you what any of my friends have said about my romantic life, so you’ve assumed they’re encouraging me to stay on the sidelines. They’re actually either not offering any comments at all or they’re understanding and encouraging.

    I think one of the troubles with the way I write is that I like to go for wry humor, and sometimes people read it as entirely serious. Yes, I wonder what might be wrong with Liam, and yes, that’s a form of self-protection after all of my experiences, but I also confess immediately afterward that there’s probably good reason to think the same thing about me, and sometimes it’s just hard to find the right match. You’ve characterized my evening and my conversations (which I didn’t provide) the way you want to because you’re frustrated by the way I’ve shared my feelings on the blog. I can understand that, and I can see how you’ve arrived at your conclusions about me, and you might be partially right, and you’re probably not the only one. Just know that this blog offers you about 1000 words of my thoughts, infused when I can with humor, roughly once every ten days. That’s far from a complete picture of who I am.

    But what I have needed, more than anything else, was to heal, and to learn. And that’s what I’ve given myself a chance to do. I have sabotaged very little, if anything, in the last year or so, because there has been nothing to sabotage (unless you count a guy who was apparently willing to cheat on his girlfriend – and who wants that guy?) You may not see it, but what I am trying to do is learn how to stop being sad, how to stand for myself, how to know what I’m worth and how NOT to accept being treated as LESS than I’m worth just because I want to be loved. That is a mistake I have made too many times in my life, and I do not want to make it again. For now, that might mean being more careful than I need to be. One day, I hope to put things in balance and find a healthy place for everything to work.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

  4. OK …I stand corrected. I posted a comment based on how I read your post. If I had missing information…it’s on me how I filled in the blanks. Obviously, I need to go back to keeping my opinions to myself.

    • You’re always welcome to share your thoughts. I can understand why you might think I need the kick you dealt, and you reminded me that not everyone sees the same things from the same words.

  5. I totally understood what you meant, singlecell. You have a dry self-effacing sense of humor. I also understand that you didn’t want to get your hopes up and just to take it as it comes. As someone who is in the same boat, I totally get it. And you are smart to be cautious. Even if you’re open to find love, that doesn’t mean you can’t be cautious and wary at times. It’s natural. I hope he contacts you. If not, there will be someone else who is worthy of you.

  6. He sounds like a solid guy – and I like that he comes with references. Fingers crossed that it works out.

    BTW: If you interviewed with Google, I think it would be good for you to know that they’d probably want to ask how you would plan to escape the six-bladed blender of misguided love if you were 1/10th your current size. Because seriously? They apparently ask some crazy shit like that.

    • I do appreciate good references. I was just saying in a class the other night that maybe, at some level, job prospects should begin with the boss checking out your references, instead of ending with a cursory check on them.

      Also? I have tried to think of how to answer the six-bladed blender of misguided love escape at 1/10 my size question, and aside from the possibility that it would be easier because I’d be 10x smaller, I’m pretty sure I’d never get a job at Google.

  7. I’ve read about those weird interview questions. The best thing to do is answer very creatively and “out there”. Just found out that Google is moving into the building across from mine in NYC.

  8. It is encouraging that your friends both know you and think you might get along. As long as you respect their opinions, it might have a shot. I also think it’s wise to go into it cautious and not over exuberant, especially at both of your ages and with your past experience. It never hurts to be cautious. Hope he calls/texts, hope you get your phone issues worked out, hope it leads to something. But if not, it’s a step. Away from heartache and back out into the world, damaged as you both may be.

    • He did get in touch. He’s currently out of the country on business, but says when he gets back, we’ll come up with a plan to go out. Our mutual friend is playing a couple of gigs with his band in a nearby neighborhood late next week and Liam made note of that, so I’m guessing that might be the plan. Meanwhile, the replacement phone should arrive Monday.

  9. Well, first let me say that this post cracked me up, which is a sign that that I’ve been reading you for a good while and understand that you sometimes turn up the wry humor in the interest of a better post … while staying somewhere south of misrepresenting yourself. It seems to me a while back, I took one of your posts a bit to seriously and delivered some advice similar to Cheryl’s (and having your posting style explained to me). Your humor does manage to sound very genuine to the older and initiated. Things are so different now that when I was in the dating world. For one, most of us were done with it and married, at least for the first time, by our mid twenties. And of course all the online and social media stuff is a mystery that I’m inclined to assume can’t really lead to love. Of course, the eHarmony commercials don’t help my attitude.

    Funny … I used the “everyone’s weird” quote as my quote of the day and attributed it to Robert Fulgham not Dr. Seuss. And on Liam being forty: It is this old guy’s experience that men are at their most arrogant at forty. If he turns out to be reasonable at forty, he may be a winner.

  10. Well, I’ll be. You’re right, Bud. It WAS Fulgham. Thanks for that! And I appreciate how long and how well you’ve been reading my writing and understanding my approach. I know it’s hard sometimes – it’s that wry humor that keeps me from going off the edge sometimes! I guess I write the same way I approach life: it’s real, and it’s serious, but you have to find a way to laugh.

    I think texting and social media have made dating harder, yes. There’s also a totally different expectation about the progress of a relationship than there used to be, and I don’t just mean that in the obvious ways. Is it really a good idea to watch a movie at your house on your fourth date? Should you just stick to dinner for a while? But doesn’t that get boring? Etc., etc. And texting has replaced the phone call… ugh, I hate that.

    Your point about men at 40 is really interesting. I hadn’t ever thought of that, and I might keep it in mind! The thing I like about Liam so far is how polite and unassuming he is without being showy. He doesn’t pull out a chair (which is fine, because I hate it when a guy tries to push me back in… oof!), but there’s a mild old-fashionedness to him that I find disarming. We had our first date on Saturday night. It was two and a half hours – not prolonged like so many early dates can be, which I think, while exhilarating, also runs the risk of blowing it all up-front. When we left the restaurant, he asked if he could see me again. That’s tentatively planned for Wednesday or Thursday.

    • He sounds wonderful and kind of old fashioned or gentlemanly is a good thing. Sounds like he wants to “court” and “woo” you and that’s the way it should be. So many guys just rush in for the kill these days. Best of luck!

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