Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ABC's of dating

The problem with change is that it’s often opposed by fear or force of habit. Wanting to be or do something different is easy, the execution...not so much.

For instance, it took me a long time to get over the fear of going back to school. Or at least to get over the fear enough to actually apply to one and make concrete plans to attend. I’m still terrified of being in a classroom again. I was stuck in a routine headed nowhere because it was safe and it was what I knew, but I wanted to go so badly that I finally said “enough” and grew a pair.

But my latest dilemma is a little more complicated than forcing myself to wade through paperwork and red tape. It’s not about just being afraid of change or being stuck in a rut. It’s also that I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

Remember when I got tired of the single life, couldn’t seem to meet anyone new, and ended up dabbling in the online dating thing? And remember how, for my troubles, all I got was a few dinners, a few posts and a sore asshole? Yeah. And remember how I said I was done with that bullshit because it was time consuming, irritating and the majority of the guys are psychos?

Sigh. Well several months ago I inadvertently got drawn back into the snake pit. Seriously, it was not intentional.

I received an email one day from the dating site saying I had a new message. That was strange, seeing as how I hadn’t been on the account in months and, consequently, hadn’t had a message in months either. Apparently if you aren’t on there often, they don’t chat you up.

Being a curiosity killed the cat sort of woman I decided to see what it said and, as it turns out, it was from a guy I’d gone to high school with. I remembered him immediately – a tall, dark, bearded kid that wore big black tennis shoes and a trench coat all the time. In fact, he referenced his appearance himself in the email: “It’s me – Big creepy guy in the trench coat? I saw your profile and decided it’d be rude not to say “hi”.”

“No, no it wouldn’t be rude at all”, I thought, “Because we never spoke to begin with.”

What I said, however, was nice yet dismissive. Something along the lines of, “Yes, I remember you. Thanks for the message. See you’re still stuck in this godforsaken town too. Hope you’re doing well.” The subtext being, “Yep, we walked down the same halls. This is weird. You’re weird. High school sucked balls. Kthanksbye.”

What began then could best be described as a whirlwind of weirdness. I started to receive text messages and phone calls from exes that wanted to “hang out”, “catch up” and, my personal favorite, “go for a little swim...wink wink, nudge nudge”. And, I assume, because I’d logged onto my dating account, my inbox starting blowing up there as well. I went from no prospects to way too many in record time. It’s like they were all on the same period cycle or something.

I was chatting with guys again and trying to decide who, what, when, and where again. I’d forgotten how exhausting it could be and I quickly realized that one thing I am not good at is juggling men. I had a hard time talking to more than one of them at a time because I would mix up details and forget things.

Not only that, but I like to focus all my energy on one thing, which is basically the anti-thesis of online dating. It’s not a hard thing to do when you’re the queen of the one night stand, don’t call me I’ll definitely be blocking your number club. But that wasn’t me anymore...or I didn’t want it to be. I still craved sex, sure, but it was now more about wanting the (gag) connection.

And it’s tricky because I’m such an overtly sexual person. I often don’t realize until later that I was being suggestive in the first place. Or, sometimes I know I’m doing it but I still can’t seem to stop myself. It’s hard to make a deeper connection when I’ve always been so immersed in the physical side of things.

So, I decided that since I was apparently giving dating another shot, I should take steps to change all that about myself – to make a concentrated effort to A) keep my hands to myself, B) watch my dirty mouth, and C) (the most difficult) stop thinking that wanting to have a relationship made me a needy girl and being ashamed of the fact that I was tired of being single.

At first it seemed to be going well. I went on a date with a really nice guy and we started talking on the phone and texting quite a lot. Occasionally there was a bit of flirting, but it was harmless and not at all risqué. I was feeling good about it, really excited that I was not only keeping myself in check but that we had so many interesting conversations.

But apparently we’d reached the statute of limitations on harmless flirting and interesting conversation, because he decided to nudge me in the opposite direction. With his penis. Or rather, with a plethora of pictures...of his penis.

Let’s see, there was one that was clearly taken at an upward angle, but zoomed in to make things appear larger than I suspected they actually were. There was the one following that at a slightly different angle that validated my suspicions about the first. And then there was “the montage”.

Allow me to commentate:

Photo 1: “This is a picture of my crotch covered in jeans. See that there? That’s the tell-tale bulge of my things-may-appear-larger, side-mirror-penis. Now wait for it, don’t get excited!”

Photo 2: “Oh! Oh! Look! He’s coming out to play! He’s a little shy at first, I know. That’s why he’s only poking his head out of my natty boxer shorts.”

Photo 3: “SHAZAM! Here he is in all his glory. And see?! He brought two ugly, hairy friends to make him look better!”

The whole thing was hilarious, with each picture arriving mere seconds after the other, but at the same time extremely disappointing. First, because I’d gone to such lengths to try and behave myself and he had to cheapen the experience. And second, because it was ill timed, terrible photography.

After that guy there was another with nearly the same story – great conversations, funny, interesting. Then the invisible switch flipped and he was making random comments about my tits and the like.

He didn’t actually use the word “motorboat”, but it was implied. And though I find the concept funny, the reality is actually quite awkward and slightly uncomfortable. It’s like when you’re running and not wearing a sports bra so they’re bouncing all over the place, only imagine them going that fast sideways, back and forth, instead of up and down. Though, given a choice, I’d certainly rather be “motorboated” than run without a sports bra...or run at all, for that matter.

Where was I?

Ah, then there was the slip up.

The “I’m feeling sorry for myself because I can’t seem to meet anyone nice, so I’m going to agree to dinner with a guy friend that’s always liked me because, after all, we’ve been having lunch often and it’s been just fine.”

And even though I’d established ground rules about our friendship, mainly “you can compliment me all you want and we can be friends, but nothing else”, I ended up drinking way too much beer.

And even though we didn’t have sex, I did end up on my back.

Because he said, verbatim, that he’d been “dying to eat this pussy for years” and being under the influence I thought, “Self, how could you deny a dying man the treatment he needs?” I figured, why the fuck not?

I’d had sex with him years ago and that was horrific, so I wasn’t going there again. I’ve not had many good experiences in the oral sex department, and in fact I usually decline any offers, but I’d heard a rumor once from his ex girlfriend that he was excellent at it. So I shrugged and said, “As long as we don’t have to play Wheel of Fucking Fortune, go for it.” And he did.

I must say, though I was disappointed that I managed to break my ABCs of change rules, she was right. He was excellent. The only problem was, after two go rounds I was pretty sober and he refused to stop. I think it must have been some kind of ego thing, to see how many times he could make it happen. And no matter what some people may say, you can always have too much of a good thing. Especially if it comes with a nonstop commentary and demands to look at him, while he looks back with a creepy wet childish grin that screams “LOVE ME! I ALWAYS CLEAN MY PLATE!”

So, once again I said enough. No more online dating or hooking up with exes. “Self, you are unable to become involved with a guy, past the point of introductions, without getting penis pictures and offers to use your tits as bongos. Your vagina is not a frozen yogurt buffet for the needy and you just need to quit while you’re limping back in last place.”

Then I met someone – a friend of our new neighbors who has been hanging out on the lake with us nearly every weekend.

At first I didn’t even think of him that way. I simply liked hanging out with him, and everyone else, and thought he was funny. Then one afternoon we were floating together, cracking jokes and I realized, “Uh oh. I think I kind of like him.”

We’re both generally flirty people anyway, but it was when others started drawing attention to certain things that I really started to wonder if maybe he liked me too. Like when we all sat drinking one night on the dock and he lay down with his head in my lap, then held on to my hand when he finally got up to leave, releasing one finger at a time as if to hold on longer. Or how he somehow always ended up beside me or directly across from me on every boat ride and at every dinner. There were dozens of little signs that, had my confidence not been so wrecked by all my dating failures of the past, I probably would have jumped on, said “A Ha!” before suggesting, “Yo, let’s go make out behind the bleachers.” Or, you know, the classier, simpler version: “I like you.”

But maybe wasn’t good enough for me, I wanted to be sure. So I talked to his friends, our new neighbors, who’d quickly become my friends too. Basically I got the he’s always been a little flirty, but he’s actually quite shy speech. “I know he wants a serious relationship and he doesn’t just hop into bed with people”, she told me.

I decided then that my strategy would be to let him take his time and, if he was interested, he’d make a move when he was ready.

Unfortunately patience, shy men and subtlety are not on my list of specialties. So far I’ve gotten two kisses on the cheek, one “you’re so beautiful”, and a lot of disappearing acts. I’m not really sure any of those count as “moves”, except possibly the disappearing acts and that would be a move in the opposite direction. No bueno.

There’s apparently something fundamentally wrong with me, because it can’t be all these guys. I don’t know how to date AND I don’t know how to wait (patiently) for the sex.

My solution to this was to ask other people for advice, but unfortunately my friends and certain family members aren’t really qualified to give it.


Claire: “Fuck him. He blew you off that one time. Ignore him. Wanna take a shot of this?”

Leigha (Yes, my 18 year old sister, Leigha.): “You should do what I do because it totally works. I don’t pay them any attention and they come running. Play really hard to get, mmk? They like it. Sigh. I love the game.”

Dave: “Put it on him. GET SOME, AL.”

Mom: “They all want one thing. Stop giving it to them. You did? Well, search me then!”

Grandma: “I’ve seen these commercials for products that help extend the penis. Does he own a house?”

Claire: “He’s probably gay anyway.”

Rachel: “You need to go out and get some strange.”

And we’re back to the beginning again, with virtually no improvement save for the realization that oral sex doesn’t always suck. The whole time. Back at the beginning with no idea what I’m doing, no current prospects (unless you count the one that’s “probably gay and wants you to be his beard”), and a cancelled dating profile.

The changing bullshit is hard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lakeside reflection

I spend the winter months praying for summer to come quickly. Spring is beautiful here, but it’s merely a pleasant stop on the way to a more satisfying destination. I watch the trees turn green, white blooms float to the pavement, and I start counting down the days until I can take that first dive into the waves only yards from my door.

As always I am impatient and before the chill has left the water completely, I’m running down those weathered planks at full speed, bracing myself for the shock.

Summer weekends begin and end in the water. Before the sleep can be rubbed from our eyes, Hannah and I are shoveling down breakfast and tugging on swimsuits. She gets coated with sunscreen, dancing impatiently from foot to foot, chattering about jumping off the tall platform.

“I can do it all by myself, mom. I can swim without a lifejacket too! Please, can I?”

From the moment she steps outside, she turns as dark as an Indian. It’s in her blood, in fact. Dark brown eyes, brown hair and brown skin with just a hint of her white bottom peeking from the edges of her swimsuit – the opposite of her naturally fair mother, who has to work extra hard to become nothing more than golden and still burns her nose every other weekend.

Appearances notwithstanding, she’s a summer child just like I was – pouting as the sunset signals it’s time to go home and marching, red eyed and exhausted, up the hill with water dripping from her hair, wet feet squeaking loudly in rubber flip-flops. Stomping up the back stairs and onto the porch, she strips down and hangs her suit over the tall chair, our towels immediately following. Then, with a sudden burst of energy she runs into the house, the white parts of her skin glowing like another swimsuit and, giggling, announces to the household that she’s naked.

After bath and dinner, bed time comes quickly. She’s asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow and, though I no longer run bare assed and giggling through the kitchen (at least when people are home), I copy her night routine down to the open mouthed breathing. The sun can be draining, no matter your age.

And we do it all again the next day.

Instead of doing cannon ball after cannon ball and bouncing up and down on a tube full of other children, I spend as much time as possible floating on a lounger. But now I’m the voice that controls the mayhem rather than the one behind it. Chasing down reluctant children to apply more sunscreen, diving in to rescue this or that float, shooing away the stupid goose, toting coolers and arranging towels, docking boats and giving Jet Ski rides – that’s what I traded (most of) my cannon balls for. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All grown up, my family and friends surround me like aptly placed buoys, clutching cold beers in colorful koozies. Their children run with mine and we laugh, reminded of old feuds and excitements that are being played out all over again, right before our eyes.

I’ve spent every summer since the age of two on this lake, in this little cove. It’s where I learned to swim, with an old fashioned belt around my waist. It’s where I held my first sparkler on the Fourth of July and where I nearly drowned learning to ski. It’s where I lost my best friend in the world and where I sat and cried every evening, watching the waves wash up on shore, until I found the courage to keep going without him. It’s where I celebrated every single birthday until the age of 16, when I became too cool to have parties.

I’m happy that I get to watch Hannah grow up walking the same banks, making similar but new memories with her generation of our family. I’m happy every time we’re gathered around the gazebo with our Papa, watching him smile and pick on her the way he’s always done, with every grandchild. I feel lucky that I have a place that’s so special to me and I hope that, twenty years from now, she’ll be looking back, just like this, and feeling lucky too.