A Word on First Dates

Last week was a pretty big week for me. First of all, I am now officially a permanent employee having had my end of probation review. My boss was so enthusiastic that he have me “excellent” for eveything. I had to reign him in a bit, knowing full well there is always room for improvement.

Then a day or so later I got the news that my thesis has been examined, and passed! After 9 years, I finally get to relax in the knowledge that I will, in the very near future be “Dr”.

I immediately sent an email or txt message to everyone that I cared about (consequently, assuming that they would care about me enough to want to know the results). I was not disappointed. There were “Dr’s” being thrown around all over the place so much so that I no longer even do a double take when people refer to me as “Dr”, it feels like its now actually part of my name!! Of course, it means absolutely nothing now, other than to say I have dedication beyond even my own imagining. 9 years!!!

I also made another milestone on Sunday. 2nd first date for the month. The 1st first date was a friend of a friend. Lovely man but no romantic attraction at all. After that I went through a couple of weeks wondering if it was time or not to try and get back out there again. After much consideration I concluded that, I had managed to get through that first date without sitting there comparing everything he did or said to Mr X. I simply enjoyed his company and the fact that I spent a full 2 hours talking to someone about life the universe and everything, (except NO mention of anything love-life related, NO moaning over Mr X and NO talk of the ticking clock NO discussing babies and children (be it my hypothetical ones or someone elses real ones!)). That’s right, we just talked about fun stuff, joked and…well…had fun!

So, whilst I returned home from the date to the familiar empty feeling in my gut the moment I opened the front door to my equally empty house. I had managed to pass an additional 2 hours in the afternoon/evening without sliding into a teary, snotty heap on my living room floor the minute the door is shut behind me.

This is indeed progress. I have been fighting off lonliness for such a long time now, I dont know what it feels like to NOT be lonely. The strange thing is I cant even say Im just “generally” lonely. I am/have been lonely for him which is in fact worse because you can fill up your days with the company of other people you know and love, only to wind up even sadder than before because you realise how its just not the same. The problem is, when I think about it, most of the time I was lonely anyway, because though we spoke on the phone almost every day, we rarely saw each other physically , despite the fact that we live only about 5 streets from each other (and I was simply longing to change this but he liked it that way it would seem). I figured I was happy because when I was with him, I felt so great that it made up for the rest of the time that I was missing him.

I have always upheld that the 80-20 rule applies to most circumstances in life. In relationships that equates to 80% of your time together, 20% doing your own individual thing (you know, so that you dont wind up one day taking to him with a kitchen knife because he left his underwear on the floor next to the washing basket again,) With Mr X it was more like the 20-80 rule and that is just not sustainable. My brain (being as logical as it is) has been telling me this since I first realised I was head over heals in love with the man in (well, lets say April 2008). Yet my heart would have none of this logic nonsense, “look how fast I beat when he’s around” it would say, “how good I feel with all of those endorphins and hormones channelling through the bloodstream in copious quantities, come on, you know you feel it too brain, I know you have been daydreaming about how he looks at you with that twinkle in his eye when he’s teasing you. I know you have been dreaming about how exciting your life together will be and eventually, the wedding and the family we will have with him one day and how happy we will be, yes admit it, we love him we love him! thats all that matters! Stop being such a stick in the mud!”.

Thus, perhaps the key is not only to surround yourself with people you know and love, but also with people you dont know and love! Meeting someone new, to discuss new things does actually seem to engage me enough that I can forget about him for a little while. And the “happy high” seems to also last longer than the drive home!

So, my brain is now determined to take control for a while. It has to, otherwise I am in danger of being a lifelong “woe is me” blogger.

How has my brain taken charge? I have decided to start dating again. The only problem is…who? I mean, I work with 700 men but few of them rarely talk to me much less ask me out on a date, and besides, one rule I must stick to is not to date someone I work with. Far too messy! I cant keep dating a man that I dont want a relationship with though, 5 dates or more and the guy might be well within his rights to expect us to become exclusive and not see other people. Now, I just want to clarify I dont intend to….er….become intimate with any of these people, initially I dont expect I would want to date any one of them long enough for that, and besides by not getting too involved with them, Im not likely to hurt anyone when I have to break up with them. Its a win win! This is merely an experiment to see if after 18 months of being heartsick over one man, I can get over him by keeping myself busy learning about entirely new people I have never met before.

Thus, I have joined a dating website. I have done this before remember, I found it to be a very uncomfortable and contrived experience. But that could have just been the hang ups I have always had in relation to internet dating. I did meet some lovely people, but the problem is you build up in your mind a preconception of them before you meet them and then regardless of how conservatie you might be, its always disappointing. They have lied about their height, the photo was 10 years old, when they say they are really into cycling they really just mean 500m to the corner store at an average of 7km an hour on their treddly, when they say they like running they actually mean they like to watch the marathon event at the Olympics being broadcast on TV, when they say they have an interest in diving it means they think the lobster tank at the local Chinese restaurant is fascinating…you get my drift. So when you actually meet someone for the first time by meeting them in person at a bbq or even at the local bar or through friends, you will often get a feel for all of these things at the time. And at the time, you will be in a position to either walk away immediately (More or less) if you a) find them offensive or b) are not at all interested, unlike internet dating when you have to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment you have coughed up after the first 5 mintues of your date, knowing that you at least have to wait for him to finish his coffee/lunch/dinner/drink before you can leave.

I dont know what it is about people lying on their profile. Do they really think you wont notice that they are a head shorter than you rather than 5cm taller? Do theyreally think you wont mind that they have children when you have specifically stated that the potential man you would be interested in dating does “not have children”. Now I dont have anything against children. When I was 21 I embarked on an 8 year relationship, which ended with an engagement, with a man who had a young boy. I loved that boy for 8 years, I was part time mother to him for that time. I made his lunches, changed his sheets in the middle of the night when needed, bathed him, entertained him, held his hand when we crossed the street, picked him up from school, ironed his uniform, cheered him on at Saturday morning sport, shed tears of pride at presentation evenings, read bedtime stories and kissed him goodnight. Which is why it took me 3 miserable years to finally tell my fiance that I was not happy in the relationship, that he wasnt the man for me, regardless of the fact that we were the best of friends. It took me this long because I was so worried about how it would affect my stepson (well not officially but after 8 years he practically was), given that he had already had to go through the separation of his parents 8 years earlier. Not only that (and this is purely selfish) it was like a double whammy. Not only did I miss having my best friend around (despite the fact that it was my choice to break up), but I had lost my stepson too, and not being his real mother, I had no right to expect any further contact or joint custody, or to have him visit on weekends as is every parent’s right. So, that is the reason I choose to not get involved with men who have children.

Anyhoo. Despite all of the above. I updated my profile and reloaded it. By Sunday morning I had an email from a man who said he’d rather speak on the phone, then before I could even reply (or call) he sent me another message saying itwould be good to catch up that day. Whoa, alarm bells ringing already, not only moving fast but kind of a bossy tone too! So I called him just to say hi, and he asked what I was doing. I hesitated – do I really tell him Im doing laundry and cleaning the house? hmmm, yes because if I had such an exciting life I would not be on RSVP in the first place and besides, did I not just give a big speech one paragraph ago about lying??? So I listed off all of the things I had to do that day, laundry, cleaning, walk and bath dogs…”so basically, you’re doing nothing” he says. Ok, now Im a teensy bit pissed off.

“maybe nothing that exciting” I say “but its necessary stuff”. So he says “well why dont we catch up for lunch or something once you’re done with all of that, Im making a curry”.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt I squash down the irritation at him being so pushy and also so bold as to expect that I would want to go to his house when we have barely known each other long enough to put two sentences together nor actually seen the other person yet. My suggestion at meeting somewhere for a coffee was denied, the curry apparently was already cooking and he couldnt leave it unattended.

“ok, well I can probably manage it after I have walked and bathed the dogs. where do you live?”, I ask.

“Rockingham”. ROCKINGHAM??? Apart from being a little dodgy, its about an hour drive!

hmm, guess its going to be a late lunch then but I’ll sort the dogs out which will be about an hour an a half and then head down, txt me your address”.

Ok and just to clarify, it normally takes me about an hour to walk and bath the dogs, and then I need a shower because I smell and look like wet dog. So you can imagine my surprise when not 40 minutes later I get a text message “how long?”

JAYSUS! Ummm. I thought I said…? nevermind.

I ignore the txt until I am showered and ready to go, and then I decide to call after I have stopped off at the liquor store to get him beer (he is feeding me after all, its rude to show up empty handed) but before leaving just to make sure he was still expecting me and to get clearer directions.
“Where are you now?” he asks
“Just getting onto the freeway”

“Well thats a good start” he replies, sounding slightly annoyed. Far out, this guy is really starting to tick me off, not only does he interrupt my day of domestic goddess-ness, but he’s wanting it all to happen on his timeline! Does he want to meet me or not?!

I clarify my intended route and make a conscious decision to ignore any further txts until I arrive (thankfully I did not get any).

So, I arrive and yup, you guessed it, he’s shorter than me, not nearly the 175m he claims given that I am 172…not to worry.

He is watching Bathurst car racing when I arrive and as we walk in he cuts me off mid sentence to exclaim something about a development that has occured in the race in the mere 15s it took for him to open the door. (not a great start). he then starts talking about who is winning and how it is practically a historical moment and its so cool and…..I am looking at him blankly.

“Dont you know who these guys are? Dont you like motor racing?” he asks

“Er, no, not really” I reply wracking my brains for evidence of such on his profile (diving? tick. Cycling? tick. Motor racing?…..nope Im certain this was not listed!)

“oh well, thats unfortunate for you” he quips “because after this is the formula 1 and then the motorcycle racing!” (yeeeeaaaahhh….you’re assuming Im going to stay that long)

“Oh you brought me beer, thanks!” (1 point for manners) “do you want something to drink?”

“Yes, thanks I’ve brought some soda water”

“Soda water?! Why dont you have a beer?”

“no thanks, its full strength and I have to drive so….”

“But you can afford to have a couple of these- you dont have to drive for a few hours!” (again, with the assumptions)

Eventually we get to talking about our online dating experiences and what we are looking for in a relationship generally and he proceeds to almost lecture me on how women are so needy and how he cant stand women who expect that their partners/husbands to work and be the breadwinners while they stay at home and look after the kids (charming- I mean not all people are prepared to let their children grow up in day care, regardless of how career orientated they are, plus daycare is hideously expensive, often its cheaper to stay at home…but I guess he cant be expected to know the finer details of daycare costs. Therefore, I subtract only one point instead of 5, but I suspect this was more about where women should expect to stand with him in the relationship and what follows does not disappoint). Then he goes on about how his last girlfriend used to get annoyed with him for taking off to whatever country every few months on a diving trip for a few weeks, without giving her forewarning. “you see” he says (inbetween glances at the racing on tv) “to me a relationship is just a physical committment to one person. Other than that, you retain your own independence and live your life the way you want. I dont ask my girlfriends if they mind me going away for a few weeks, I just tell them Im going and then I go! I dont get why they get so worked up about it”. (please note I have paraphrased here – except for the “I just tell them…” comment, thats a quote-, he lectured me for a good 20 minutes, so Ive had to summarise).

“umm yeah, I guess I can see that, I mean provided they’ve been invited to join you…”

“well if they wanna come I make it clear that they will jsut be sitting on a little dive boat doing nothing while Im under the water!”

“oh you mean so she wasnt a diver…um yeah but I guess she could travel with you and stay on the mainland and explore while you’re diving. She wouldnt actually you know, have to be ‘on the boat’ “.

Ok, who am I kidding, this guy would not be inviting his girlfriend along on one of his holidays. He would be leaving her behind intentionally.

At this point Im thinking:

Ummm.. so let me translate this into lay-womans terms. You dont believe that a relationship involves any sort of compromise, or emotional committment, your “partner” is simply there to entertain you (ie sleep with you) whenever you dont have anything better to do, and that you can come and go as you please without providing any support for her (in whatever form that may be) when she might need it, and thats ok provided you keep your physical commitment (which-after having the benefit of the rest of his 20 minute lecture- I translate to mean simply ‘you dont have sex with anyone else’).

“and you know what else I hate?” (please, enlighten me) “I hate how women always expect you to come to them. I mean they want me to drive up to the city to have coffee with them but they are not prepared to drive down to rockingham” (thats because you are just as likely to get mugged getting out of your car down here as you are walking through Kings Cross at 3am and there is no place safe much less nice to have coffee down here). “so these days, if I suggest to the woman to come down here and she says she’s too busy and doesnt have time, then I immediately write them off I dont bother contacting them again.” (right now Im wishing I had not bothered also- then not only would I have not had to put up with his atrocious first date but I would be guaranteed to never have to have a first date with you! Two birds. One stone. Must retain this little tidbit for future reference)

Ok let me just clarify that this wasnt some bogan. He was well dressed, knowledgeable (about diving and photography) and judging by some of his stories, had the ability to be a gentleman and articulate when it suited him. But he was also opinionated to the point of being rude….assumed way too much (ie I got the impression he thought I would be staying until “late evening”) and he also discussed far too many things from a sexual perspective for me to really feel comfortable about it given it was a first date. Having mentioned his friend was apparently at the motorcycle racing that day and the fact she might end up on telly, I said, “its a pretty big crowd, unlikely you will really be able to make her out, right?” to which he replied “oh but she’s blonde and she has big boobs, she’s pretty hard to miss”.

Okaaaay.

“Um, this is good curry” I say.

“Yeah I made it really hot, I dont know if you like hot food or not but this is how I like it” (yes, it was hot, I normally like hot food but this was so hot you could barely taste anything from having had your tastebuds shocked into incomprehension of flavour. Im sure this was another test to see if I was “high maintenance”, test number 1 of course, being whether I would be willing, or rather, “stupid enough” to drive an hour to see this guy. Thats ok though, after the first couple of bites my mouth was numb so I managed to get through it without too much trouble).

The clincher for me was when he decided to pat my leg (thankfully I wore jeans). It was harmless mind you, but I was so put off by the rest of the date that I could not handle any physical contact with this man. I had been there 2 hours, more than long enough for a first (and last) date. As I drove away I had day-[night]mares of him leeringly describing the first date to his mates, or worse his dive buddies, and maybe exaggerating how things went…. and talking himself up. ugh.

Look, I’d like to think he was nice enough, that if I had gotten to know him on the dive boat around other people (which is entirely possible given he apparently recognised me and he is a dive instructor who uses the same dive boat that I do…which means he also knows Mr X- shit!) and not via an internet dating site Im sure I would have seen a slightly different side to him. And Im probably doing him a grave injustice imagining him being such a twat, he did at times come across as having some respect for women but I sort of got the indication that this might have been a bit patchy. I got the impression that if I spent a lot of time in the company of Mr Rockingham I would come away feeling grubby, even without physical contact.

That could also be because Im a bit of a prude and I kind of expect that on a first date a guy will be on his absolute best behaviour and a) not discuss everything that was wrong with his ex-girlfriend (or women in general, apparently) and b) not really talk about sex or anything sex-related. Stick to the lighthearted clean stuff I say. Wait until you are already at the point of being intimate with someone (or just about to be) before talking about i) your friend who stands out in a crowd because she has big boobs, ii) phone sex or iii) masturbation (actually maybe dont ever bring up masturbation).

Well, that is at least, if you want a second date with me.

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