fifth date

I went on a fifth date yesterday with somebody I like and whose nickname is Reason, so that’s what we’ll call her, and the two of us appear to’ve reached a point where we’re talking about us. About the unit we appear to’ve formed.

And while we were comfortable from I think Date #3 in making offhand remarks about, like, “this sure is a lotta dates,” it does seem like a step in a new direction how we’re discussing, at length, the way that we’ve been talking to each other; talking about how we talk; and we came to the conclusion yesterday evening on the patio at Books & Books (she with a cuppa tea and me with the IPA I still need before I can talk openly and comfortably with seemingly anyone about anything) that if we’ve come this far along in things, where it feels like we’re maybe on the cusp of becoming first- or second-tier characters in each other’s lives, it’s probably best to literally just say everything we feel like. So long as it’s natural. Even if it’s the kinda thing that might turn someone away.

We basically decided that, if one of us gives voice to something that we genuinely think or feel, and the other person finds it repugnant, we’ll know to jump ship now before there’s any kind of attachment (it might actually be convenient!).

Also, if after five dates we’re still interested in one another (as does appear to be the case), it’s probably because we’ve each gleaned at least a relatively clear idea of what the other person is like, or what they’re about, in terms of like values and sense of humor and interests and so on.

But something I mentioned to Bob & Lynda at Redbar the other night is that, apart from enjoying the warmth of having somebody around who’s very pleasant and smart and who’s gonna sit real close to you and grab your hand now and then, I’m realizing that something I’ve been missing (desperately) over the past few months is verbal affection, the amorous sort, where you can text somebody in the middle of the day like, “So I’ve been considering your hair for the past few minutes and here are some thoughts…”

Cutesy shit.

Which yes you could conceivably send to your relatives and platonic friends if you’re itching to dish compliments. Why keep that shit to yourself? Plus, I mean, it’s certainly the case that I have some friends and relatives whose virtues and strengths cross my mind when they’re not around. Surely I could send one of those people a text about it.

But it’s not the same. Cuz then they feel obliged to reciprocate somehow, and (if they’re like me) they’ll start wondering if I need something, they’ll get distracted wondering if I’m buttering them up for some horrible piece of news in the near future or buttering them up for a big request. They’ll start texting relatives to see what’s going on with Alex, maybe send me a text outta the blue lamenting their financial situation, kind of a preemptive strike against the money request they think I’m about to make.

What would’ve begun as an effort to make the person feel good (and exorcise my compulsion to give compliments) will’ve worked only to stress them out. (I had a friend who was writing a memoir a few years ago and when I sent her an email saying I’d love to read it as soon as she had something to show, she wrote me back a half-page missive saying, basically, “I appreciate your offering to read my work, but here’s a laundry list of reasons why I can’t read your work in return,” which I totally was not asking her to do, but which did kinda sting, even though I totally understood where she was coming from.) (I did end up reading her memoir and it was very good.)

But yeah: the thing about verbal affection.

What I’ve been equating it to is that scene in Magnolia (one of my top ten favorite movies, by the way) where William H. Macy breaks down with a mouth fulla blood and broken teeth and says, “I really do have love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.”

So if I’ve got a prevailing concern here in terms of dating this person, apart from the overarching concern about whether or not my general life situation is conducive to a relationship at the moment (which, just as a footnote, might not be something I actually want(?)), is the question of, like, does my inclination to pursue something with this person (whose name is Reason) stem more from (1) my attraction to her, or (2) my hunger for the giving and taking of verbal affection. Or just affirmation in general. And, if it’s the latter, is it possible that I’m just so elated to have someone in my life with whom I can trade sweet nothings that I’m jumping into it too hard?

I’m thinking of those prisoners of concentration camps who, after so much starvation, promptly at themselves to death after the liberation. This is of course not at all like that experience, but it comes to mind with like the idea of harming yourself by jumping too heartily into the sudden bounty of a thing for which you’ve been so long-starved.

But no: this person is great, I like her, conversation is fun and fluent and she lives nearby and she’s very busy, same as me, and ambitious and chill and likes to just linger at bars and talk. Things are good. They’re good.

Which is probably why I’m stressing.

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