Today was one of those lovely days where people I love made some gesture to indicate my affection was returned. As I do enjoy being the center of attention, I basked in the experience. I spoke to Brother and Dad on the phone as I commuted to work. Barely resisted telling the woman at the bus stop that I was dressed prettily in honor of turning 28 when I’m sure she was thinking I was insane for wearing a short jumper and thin white shirt. My hair was pulled back, but I allowed curling locks to frame my face. And, of course, my feet were shod in my favorite brown flats with their pretty satin bows. The woman’s glance at my outfit was justified either way you looked at it – I was very cute and freaking freezing.
I boarded the bus and scooted to the window seat as we stopped to pick up more passengers. I found myself staring at one man in particular. Perhaps it was the orange stripe on his jacket. Maybe he was just in my line of vision. He was rather cute. But he glanced up and we looked at each other for just a moment through the window of the bus. I settled my bag more comfortably on my lap and continued to look out the window at the cloudy day. I glanced over when someone sat next to me, then turned away immediately when I saw it was him. I noticed there were seats left, though not many. But what should I say when faced with a cute man of the appropriate age who is seated mere inches away for a 3 minute ride?
I don’t know. I didn’t say anything. I just thought about how Dr. Counselor would be so disappointed in me for not smiling or doing something to indicate interest.
We had almost reached the last stop when my seatmate said something.
“I’m sorry.” I said, turning to him in surprise. “What’s that?”
“My feet are really hot.” He said again, glancing at me quickly before facing forward again.
“Oh.” I smiled. “My legs are very warm too. We must be over a vent.”
“Right.” He responded with a brief smile and we lapsed back into silence.
“We must protect against the cold at all costs.” I offered and received a grin for my effort.
“Of course.” He said, still smiling.
“You have a nice day.” He said softly as we pulled to a stop and everyone rose from their seats.
“You too.” I said equally softly.
A rather meaningless exchange for most people, probably. I took note though because 1) He might have been the tiniest bit interested in me. This is unusual. 2) I wasn’t sure how I felt about the situation. I wanted to talk to him – there was something about him that was interesting – but I was afraid. Some immediate impulse insisted that I face the window instead of smiling in greeting. He might hurt me – decide at some point that I was not worthy of further attention. And I don’t want to feel that pain again.
“By avoiding the bad stuff,” Friend offered when I was huddled in my house on Tuesday, claiming I was pretty numb, “you lose your chance at the good stuff.”
Dr. Counselor agreed. “There are no complete successes.” He lectured after I shared my bus ride defeat. “Nobody always wins in love or science or friendship. Bad things do happen. You will get rejected if you put yourself out there. But – if you truly want a man to love you – you can have that. I know you can.”
We played the chair game – moving from corner to wall to other wall. I was asked to move my chair to Dark Blue. I live there a lot, but I knew that. He told me – in a moment of frustration – that I was free to stay there forever. If I couldn’t be positive or strong – if all I could offer was timid fear – then I didn’t have to return. He couldn’t help me if I wouldn’t make an effort!
I looked at him, unimpressed. “I am trying. I’m just not going to say ‘I will find someone!’ as you request because it might not be true. I won’t do it. Not even as an exercise.”
“OK, I’m not saying that either.” I shook my head a minute later. He’d moved into some feline analogy for some unknown reason. Perhaps because I admired the lynx on his calendar. I really don’t know.
Dark Blue was supposed to be a cat hiding under the bed. “That’s not fun.” He said. “Not the kind of pet you want.”
“I don’t know.” I argued, for today I was arguing and not crying. “I think it’s fine for cats to hide under the bed.”
“All the time?!” He asked, eyebrows raised.
“Well, no. The cat has to eat and play.”
“Exactly! So move here.” I stepped into Yellow. “Now say I am a curious, sleek, gorgeous pussycat.”
At which time I laughed a little, opened my mouth to reword his phrase and shook my head. When he just stared at me after my initial refusal, I shrugged. “Totally not saying anything that even vaguely resembles that statement. I’m sorry.”
I grew tired of his sighing and he likely felt the same of mine. “I don’t want to play anymore.” I said – sick of moving around the room, having him encourage me to talk to the pieces of myself.
“You’re projecting the internal into physical space!” He said.
“I understand.” I said impatiently. “I don’t like it anymore. Enough.”
So we sat again and he asked if I was gay. I stared at him for a moment and said no. “The problem is that I can’t find a man who likes me as much as I like him. It’s finding the right guy. Not that I’m confused about my sexuality.”
“Honestly!” I later said to Friend. “If I were a lesbian, I’d just do that. I think.”
“Complain that you can’t find the right girl instead of guy.” She noted and I nodded.
But then – as if the moving around the room talking to myself, refusing to play into the cat language, answering questions about whether I prefer men or not, it got even more strange.
“I have another client,” Dr. Counselor said, “who shares some of your concerns. He worries he won’t find love and marriage. And he’s nearing 40.”
He’d asked earlier how old I was after giving me a hug and offering me a bottle of water as a birthday gift. (He didn’t have anything else, he explained when I tried to refuse the Dasani.) “You look young.” He said. “The dress is above your knees. Your hair is in a ponytail. Let me see your shoes.”
I pointed my toe out and smiled. “They have bows on them!” I explained, and he smiled.
“Just then,” he pounced, “you were bright and happy and young. Very open and sweet. That’s who you are.”
“I hope things work out for him.” I offered of his male client. I understand it can be tough for men to date. I feel for them.
“I told him about you.” Dr. Counselor said.
“OK.” I offered, confused.
“You might like him. Is 40 too old for you?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “Maybe. I guess it depends on the person. Do you want me to have lunch with him?”
“I’m not a matchmaker!” He laughed, and I raised my eyebrows in question.
“OK.” I said again. “Well, good luck to him.”
“How could we get you two together?” He mused. “In a professional way that doesn’t compromise your privacy?”
“I don’t know.” I said, not really caring. “I’m good at blind dating. I don’t know enough people to turn down friends. But it doesn’t really matter either. I’m fine either way.”
“So I could give him your email address? Just say you’re someone I know?”
“Sure.” I said easily.
“Will you do me a favor?” He asked near the end of the session that was more about me being stubbornly pessimistic than him being a bit strange.
“It really is going to depend on the favor.” I said.
“Will you invite me to your wedding?”
I stared at him for a moment, then smiled. “Sure,” I said. “you’re more than welcome to come.”
I returned to my office to find Ken, the grad student who shares my wall, had left me a post-it. Bright yellow, it said “Happy Birthday!” with a scrawled happy face underneath.
“A post-it card?!” I cooed when I walked in. He looked up and smiled. “Thank you!” In addition to being older than I am, Ken returned from lunch with a Starbucks gift certificate. Which was very sweet and unexpected and lovely. It’s nice to share an office with such a man.
In addition to the emails and comments – from friends on and offline – that made me smile with pleasure, I received phone messages and a tremendous amount of work to try to finish today. Friend offered Thai food (delicious panang curry) and I returned home to clean a bit in preparation of my parents’ arrival. I sent email to the penguin to finish up Part 1 (of many) of Project H. Then I talked to Rachel for hours. I brought my Infra-red door (very impressed with this website – free shipping that was insanely fast.) inside and paid some bills.
It was a good day. I felt pretty. Hopeful about work. Assured that I matter to the people most important to me. I enjoyed the well wishes from people I enjoy reading online - I really do like you all very much. Perhaps I’m learning more than I think through this post-doctoral work. Regardless, if I didn’t have a blog, where would my therapy stories go? I hope eventually I stop having them – that I find the strength in myself to encourage and guide and support. But for now? I have a feeling you can expect more weekly weirdness for a little longer.