I sniffed experimentally at my mug of tea, blinking at the barely noticeable sensation of contacts in my eyes, and sighed as he continued to talk.
"Sometimes we'll be emailing back and forth and then she'll suddenly stop responding," he told me, seated across the booth on a sunny early-afternoon. "And I don't know what happened. Or we'll make plans and she'll never confirm."
"I think," I responded gently, wishing my tea lacked ginger - the spiciness was canceling the soothing effect of the mint, "that online dating can be difficult. So much is based on gut feeling and that's hard to explain to someone. Stopping without explanation often seems kinder than trying to explain something that's indistinct, even in your own mind."
I thought of one such phone call I received. John, of the flowers and easy attraction and good kisses, had called to explain why he didn't want to see me again.
I winced upon answering the phone months ago, thinking semi-bitterly that men should never say they're going to call when they'd rather not. "Thanks for the evening," works as a farewell statement. "I enjoyed meeting you," is a harmless overstatement that creates no expectations. And I'll admit that one date is usually sufficient to define the end of a dating experience - I've not gone two and out before.
"So I wanted to let you know," he offered haltingly, "that I do think we're over before we really began. And I don't know exactly why - you're smart and sexy and funny, but..."
I smiled, even though the comment did sting a bit, and spoke into his pause. "John. I appreciate you letting me know - that's gutsy and I do admire bravery. But it's fine - sometimes the chemistry is off or the timing is wrong and that's really OK."
"I hate to say that it's not you, it's me," he said and I could picture him wince at the statement, the dear, kind, liberal boy. "And I'm not saying that, but it's kind of true. I've been trying to figure it out - whether I have feelings for my ex or am just not ready to date. So maybe we could be friends?"
"You're digging yourself a hole there, pal," I said, laughing and thinking that these conversations were, in fact, rather trite. "Listen. You're a very sweet man and I enjoyed getting to know you, but I really do understand. It's not really you. Or me. It's just the 'us' that doesn't work. And there's really no reason for us to be friends. Find someone you want to date, sweetheart. And take care of yourself."
I paused after hanging up the phone, wondering if I was going to cry and feeling like I could but didn't have to. "That is unpleasant," I told Chienne. "I think I'm a fan of failing to reply in order to signal the end of the beginning."
I returned my attention to the man across from me last Saturday and took a moment to glare at my tea for not being alcohol. Wine can blur the edges of these initial encounters and make it seem more amusing than disheartening when you're profoundly incompatible.
He can't stand sitting still - I enjoy naps.
He values emotional stability - I giggled in response, for 'emotionally stable' isn't going on my list of traits.
He asked if I liked rock climbing. Ice skating. Bowling? - Not so much, no.
While - objectively - he was attractive, I was not attracted. - The feeling was mutual.
He seemed to express his disappointment with others - dates, colleagues, politics. - I tend to turn frustration inward - if dates are bad, I selected someone poorly. If I struggle with colleagues, I didn't communicate properly. I even find it challenging to get too upset with politicians as my personal level of involvement and knowledge is pretty limited.
So after a mere hour, there was shaking of hands and semi-sincere smiles before we parted ways.
"I don't know what we're meant to accomplish," a colleague said yesterday when we managed to connect via phone regarding an upcoming meeting that required me to traipse across the country. "It's always good to see you and we can certainly take time to talk, but there doesn't seem like much to discuss."
"I completely agree!" I replied. "And I wanted to have dinner and catch up in a more meaningful way the next time I came out."
So we decided to skip my 24 hour trip that allowed for 2 hours of in-person meetings and I gleefully canceled flights and slept in my own bed last night. Which means I awakened to make pumpkin spice coffee and adequate time to write a blog post.
Sometimes things turn out as they're meant to.