I’m seeing someone right now and I’d like to be flippant and say that it seems we’ve been dating for roughly one month but the truth is that I’m tracking things carefully and I happen to know that yes this Wednesday will be exactly one month and that if it goes much beyond that one month it’ll be the most serious affair I’ve had in a while–which isn’t to say that it is serious, since neither of us has really said anything about our intentions or whatever, nor have we mentioned anything about sexual exclusivity even though I, for one, haven’t been seeing or even talking with anyone else in the past month. But I don’t think she has either. She keeps in such close regular touch with me that, even if she is sleeping with someone else, I’d kinda have to put my frustration in my pocket and just applaud her time-management skills, her stealth.
But we both still have our Hinge profiles up.
The other day we started talking about a mutual desire to move about a dozen miles north, into Fort Lauderdale or thereabouts, where the rent is considerably cheaper and you can still walk to a bar or a grocery store. A place where you can park your car for free.
But so we’re commiserating about this mutual interest for a new living space…and how we’re both considering the same area…and there were lotsa pauses that seemed…suggestive…
She’s really cool but I don’t wanna get too much into describing her because I feel like this blog and the podcast and whatever else I put out into the world, divulging all my intimate shit, create a pretty huge liability when it comes to dating. Most people don’t seem all that thrilled to know that the intimate things they tell me might end up in a monologue. Also, I think some people feel it gives me a kind of upper-hand, because my version of things is the one that gets chronicled for all to see (even though I never really date anybody with a single overlapping acquaintance). One of my exes recently, in what seemed like a pre-emptive nuclear strike, wrote a post about me on her finsta (fake instagram, her covert one, where she can talk more openly about sex and drugs and stuff) that was so bizarrely aggressive and hurtful. I’m aware that she was probably afraid I’d pop on here and list her full name and SSN and whereabouts before impugning her character, so I’m not taking it all that personally, but, dude, it was really upsetting, and I ended up blocking her, but now I feel bad about it and kinda wanna just ask her what the fuck that was all about.
What I’ll tell you for sure, however, with respect to the person I’m currently seeing is that she’s a few years older than me and she works in retail, which I consider a sibling industry to hospitality, and so we’re both in this situation where we like our jobs a lot, the jobs are very physically taxing, and–although she’s got a more managerial/salaried role than I do–we pretty much leave our jobs behind us when we go home at the end of the day.
She mentions with a kind of waffling self-consciousness that the first thing she does in the morning, against her better judgment, is snatch up her phone and check her work email.
But it’s not an anxious maneuver, she says.
It’s just cuz she likes her job and wants to see what’s developed.
She’s got a couple diplomas, one’s in biology but I forget the other, and she’s wonderful conversation, curious and very smart, and she’s as versed in academese as anyone I know; but she’s also a lot like me in that she’s down to just spend the whole evening sitting at a bar, talking shit, and then going home and…doing other things.
For the most part she’s down to just talk for hours and hours–which is a surprisingly elusive quality I think I’ve kinda been looking for. If you were to ask me what I’m looking for in a partner I’d for sure say that I’m looking for someone who’s gonna take me by the ear and lead me into the outside world–but there’s gotta be some warming up. It’s pretty disarming and intimidating when I go on a couple of nice quiet conversational dates with somebody and then for the third one they wanna go parasailing or something. Kayaking.
What’s striking me as a little difficult to reconcile, though, is that we’ve spent like eight or nine evenings together at this point (this again is a performance of flippancy: I know exactly how many evenings and can provide a pretty solid ballpark of how many hours) and I can tell you with certainty that I’ve pretty much run out of things to talk about. I mean in terms of my supply of things to talk about. Anecdotes and whatever. I know that, even if she and I remain in each other’s lives for the next fifty years, there’ll still be things we tell each other about our first thirty years that’ll come across as new and maybe shocking–but for the sake of conversation I kinda feel like I’ve reached the bottom of my magician’s trunk.
The tricks’ve been spent.
The good jokes, for the most part, have been told and the epiphanies recounted in excruciating detail.
I’ve done what I can do to convince this person, this prospective partner, that I’m good company.
And now we’re at a point in the…the coupling where I have to face a new challenge that I actually don’t remember facing.
Now I just have to be good company.
Like, off the cuff.
And it’s weird because we’ll be out at a bar, meeting for the seventh or eighth occasion, and I don’t have anecdotes to lean back on. She’s just gonna sit down and make an observation about the traffic, and I’ll respond with something.
Who knows what!
And then from there she’ll make another observation, and I’ll comment on that, and then, if I’m feeling bold, I will make an observation and she will comment on that.
I suppose this is just what couples do.
The people at Macmillan were kind enough to send me an advance copy of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming novel, Crossroads, and I’m liking it a lot (just a scoche over the halfway point and trying to determine if I love it, which I might, but I don’t know for sure…), but there’s this point that I keep snagging my shirt on, it’s stressing me out in a way that I don’t think the author intends, where a particular character, in talking about her marriage, is saying (a bit self-loathingly) that she’s lucky to even find herself in a bad marriage. Because who would want to marry her in the first place? She feels she isn’t interesting, isn’t fun, doesn’t rock the boat, doesn’t have many ideas.
And frankly that’s what I’m worrying about too.
It’s a huge help that this woman I’m seeing is pretty verbal with her affection, and that she sometimes words it not in a sentimental way but in a matter-of-fact way (i.e., “I really had a nice time talking to you tonight and look forward to doing it again” which is then even more hearteningly followed by something like, “are you available on Wednesday?”–which is the exact kinda thing that I need to hear in order to believe that I didn’t make an absolute fool of myself). But I’m not shitting you: I’m genuinely shocked sometimes when she sends me one of these texts.
Cuz part of me’s like, “The show’s over. I ran outta material. What’re you here for?”
Which is a huge source of anxiety because of course I find her very riveting and fun, I’m very eager to hold her interest, but it’s hard for me to understand how I’m doing that when basically, for the past three dates, I’ve just been holding her hand in this hopscotch across conversation topics. Somewhat eagerly handing the floor to her to tell me a long story about something from her past (she’s good at telling stories, by the way, braiding plotlines–I actually have an essay in my forthcoming ebook that remarks on her ability to tell a good story).
Anyway. I’m not particularly comfortable in my ability to hold someone’s attention for very long and that’s making me wonder if it isn’t that embryonic relationships from the past couple years have failed so much as I’ve allowed them to wither away from neglect once I felt I was out of things to say.
Which is dark because it suggests that I look at these courtships as a place to perform. But also reveals not just a fear of being myself, and proving uninteresting, but a strange condition of honestly not knowing who or what that “self” looks or sounds like.