but I’m terribly impatient and I want them now. The loneliness I understand, I know how to deal with it. It is the boredom I wasn’t prepared for. I almost feel ashamed writing that, after all I’m in a new city with plenty of things to explore, but still that’s how I feel.
I do know one person in Portland, someone I met while I was visiting the city back in June. We stayed in touch and soon our communication turned romantic. I had all sorts of ideas drawn in my imagination, a future fed by his words, of a life in Portland where we are together. I should have learned by now never to expect things from boys because the reality never quite becomes as beautiful as the one my mind creates. He wasn’t paying attention to me, at least not the amount of attention I wanted. This boy who I thought wanted my heart was behaving as if it was some sort of toy for him to pick up and play with when the urge arose and then put back down again once he became bored. I was alone in a new city and I craved more human connection than what existed over the telephone or with strangers at the super market. And so, I did it, the thing that the independent woman in me is embarrassed of: I created a Tinder account.
I have an issue with online dating, not that I think it’s bad or I care if you do it, it’s just not for me. The idea of going out of my way to meet someone, as if I’m not whole on my own, conflicts with the person I’m trying to become. I always figured I would spontaneously meet someone at the exact moment I was supposed to. Since that moment didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon, I thought I had best create it myself. I wasn’t going on it necessarily to find love, though I was certainly open to that possibility, I just wanted to share experiences with people. And so, I swiped left and right, judging people on aesthetics alone. For someone who suffers so greatly on her body image, deciding if I want to get to know someone solely based on how they look goes against my morals. But desperation screamed louder then morality and I kept swiping. My heart sunk every time I didn’t match with someone and it soon became an ill-conceived game of seeing how many people thought I was attractive. My ego transformed into an online dating app left for strangers to manipulate. I let people I didn’t know hurt my feelings and the ones that were kind to me I didn’t respond to; I never felt like indulging in superficial conversations.
Then there was him. He was handsome, but not ‘oh-my-God-this-guy-must-be-a-supermodel’ handsome. He didn’t say anything particularly special when he messaged me and I didn’t write him back as usual. But the next day I thought of him and for some reason I wanted to respond. Conversation came easily between us and I soon found myself staring at my phone waiting for him to reply. With only an hour of exchanges between us, he asked me if I would like to meet sometime, to which I said I’d love to. We talked on the days leading up to the date, simple conversations, but I enjoyed talking to him. We had a lot in common and as excitement started to bloom within me, the pessimistic part of my brain, conceived from all my failed relationships, stifled it.
We met at a bar in my neighborhood for drinks. I like getting drinks for a first date, which may be odd considering I don’t drink, but it’s the casualness and simplicity that appeals to me. I never tell them ahead of time that I don’t drink because I’m afraid they might ask to do something else. I just order a Diet Coke and at that point we’re already sitting down at the bar and it would be silly to suggest we do something different. If they ask me if I drink, I just tell them I don’t and leave it at that. He didn’t say anything though, and he ordered a beer, which always makes me feel better because I worry my sobriety may make them feel too uncomfortable to drink alone. He looked like his pictures, which was a relief, but I had Facebook stalked him ahead of time and figured that he would. He was cute, with a sweetness about him. That’s really all that I was looking for, someone who was nice, because nice people are less likely to break your heart, or at least that’s the lie I like to tell myself. I had been hurt too many times in a row and I wasn’t looking to add one more person to that extraneous list. He was easy to talk to. We didn’t have to sit through moments of silence searching for things to say. He felt just as awkward about meeting up with someone he met online as I did, and I found comfort in his discomfort.
There are few things in life that I am confident about, but I will say with certainty that I am awesome at first dates, mainly because I’m great at talking. I can have a conversation with anyone. There’s an abundance of thoughts swirling around in my mind, usually I try to quiet them, but they come in handy when you’re trying to find things to talk about. I like first dates because they’re a chance to start over, each one is a new beginning and you can be anyone you want. This boy knew nothing about me. He didn’t know about the pills I take every morning or the scars on my wrists or the pictures of my dead brother decorating my apartment. He would only know the pieces of my life I chose to share, and for one night I could pretend the other parts didn’t exist. I locked all of my past selves inside me and showed up as the current version of myself, the one I’ve fought so hard to become.
We went to another bar and had much of the same sort of conversation. As he sat next to me he faced his whole body towards me. I know nothing about interpreting body language, but if I can pretend for a moment that I do, I would say this meant he was interested in me, whether it was because of the way I look or the words coming out of my mouth, I’m not sure. I’m going to tell myself it was a combination of the two. By the time our second drinks were done, it was still early and I didn’t want the night to end. Since we were in walking distance to my apartment, I asked him if he would like to come over for a cup of tea. Now, we all know that “do you want to come over for a cup of tea” really means “do you want to come over and make out on my couch,” but I played innocent. At this moment you may be thinking one of two things: one – you’re a bit promiscuous for wanting to hook up with a boy you only met hours earlier, or two – you’re a bit stupid for inviting a practical stranger into your house where he could do God knows what to you. Well, both are true. I am too trusting, that’s certainly a downfall of mine. But he seemed nice and I decided to pretend that stories of sexual abuse didn’t exist.
As we sat on my couch and talked, our bodies gradually migrated closer to each other. Limbs lightly touching limbs, faces unreasonably close. He told me I was beautiful and although I didn’t believe him, I believed he felt that way. We remained in that awkward place of desire and uncertainly, waiting for the other one to lean in. Eventually I was the one to bring my lips to his, fearing his niceness would prevent him from making the first move. We kissed for a long time and I enjoyed being close to him. I didn’t feel sparks or anything magical mainly because I was too afraid to. I didn’t want to get excited about him. I didn’t want to hope that we could turn into something more then a first date. Because that’s what I always do. I imagine the most wonderful possibilities and every time I am left hurt and disappointed by an emotionally unavailable man who doesn’t want to be a part of my fantasy. I just didn’t feel like getting hurt again. And so there existed this space between us, a barrier that prevented him from accessing my heart. His kisses were laced with comfort and it felt good to be held by this boy I barely knew. Every so often he would pull away and just look at me. I don’t know if he was looking at me because he thought I was pretty, or if he was looking past all of that, into the parts he couldn’t see on the surface, like he was searching to see more. I immediately knew I could like this boy. Damn it, I didn’t want to catch feelings. There is a part of me that has been damaged by all the unhealthy relationships I’ve had with the men in my life and it aches to feel love and acceptance from the opposite sex. A lifetime of desperation swirls around me and I’m terrified of coming on too strong. We hardly know each other after all.
We made out for what felt like forever and I told him that it’s too bad he had work in the morning because otherwise he could sleep over and we could have pancakes in the morning. I don’t know how to make pancakes. I’ve tried, but they always turn out mismatched and burnt, but I have this fantasy of waking up next to a wonderful guy and making him pancakes in the morning. I just need to learn how to make them first. He told me that although we wouldn’t be able to have pancakes he could still sleep over. All my favorite first dates have ended with a sleepover, which is probably a bit odd, but oh well. I have a three date rule when it comes to sleeping with men. It’s something I came up with to send out a message of respectability. I had this idea that if I don’t sleep with them on the first date then maybe they will see me more then just someone they can sleep with. Maybe then I’ll be relationship material. It’s never been proven to work, but still I remain hopeful. The problem came when I got into bed next to this handsome guy who I just made out with for hours and it’s dark and we’re kissing and we’re both not wearing any pants. I only have so much willpower and the truth is, I wanted to sleep with him, whether that made me look respectable or not. Sometimes it is good to re-invent your rules in the moment that you wish to change them. I decided then that I was going to let go of everything I thought I knew about relationships and do what it is that I wanted to do, and whatever comes of that is okay because at least I was authentic. I’m not going to go into the details of our intimacy because that’s private, but I will tell you that he definitely knew what he was doing.
As I laid there with his arms around me I felt a closeness to him that I hadn’t felt before, a connection created by intimacy. But still, I didn’t let myself get excited about him. When I dropped him off at his car the next morning it had been twelve hours since we had met. We kissed goodbye and he said, ‘I’ll see you soon.’ And I said, ‘I hope so.’ I’ve had numerous wonderful first dates that developed into something not so wonderful. I had no reason to believe he would be any different. I’m tired of casualness, of sex that’s just sex, of waiting for him to text me first. I’m ready for something more. Though, whenever I try and control a situation it usually turns into a disaster and so I have learned that it’s best if I get out of the way as much as I can so the universe can work its magic. Sometimes it doesn’t look the way I want it to, but it always leads me to exactly where I’m supposed to be.
As for the boy who neglected my heart, things between us are finished. It’s okay because the next day I had forgotten about him. Thoughts of him were replaced with this new boy. It is interesting how the universe works: if the first boy didn’t neglect me I would never have created a Tinder account, but because he did, I did, and I met this new boy who perhaps I was supposed to meet all along. I may not have met him because we’re supposed to turn into some grand romance, I may never see him again, but I believe we have our experiences so we can learn and grow as individuals and if that’s all he was meant to be in my life, I’m perfectly fine with that.