Jan 6, 2007

A Bad First Date Gone Good

A year ago today, I went on a first date with this man I'd met online. We'd been emailing each other before the holidays, and in a short week or so of emails, we got into a very involved discussion about interesting things, and I was intrigued by him. He had most everything I was looking for, a mature faith without being corporate or churchy. He had a great sense of humor, on paper anyway, and he was interested in the same things that I was interested in. And he looked cute in his picture.

He suggested we meet for coffee at the Bourgeois Pig in Los Feliz. The BP is a latte and wi-fi joint in the too-hip area of Los Feliz, a place where any afternoon, everyone is working on a screenplay or waking up after a late gig at a rock club. Even if we were too old and too normal for it, it was good he knew about it and didn't suggest Dennys or Cocos or the worst: Starbucks.

I got dressed up in a short skirt and makeup. I was talking with a friend on my cell phone on the way there. I said, "I have this feeling about him. I mean he might not be the one. But if he is, I'll remember this feeling, that I knew he was."

I kept talking to her about other things as I walked in. You know how you walk into a date doing something else so you don't look stupid.

I shouldn't have worried. It was not a good date.

The man was sitting in a low couch that made him look slouchy. When he got up to greet me, he looked older than in his picture. More drawn around the face, like he'd gone on a crash diet and his neck hadn't caught up with his thinner self. Or else he was nervous, because he looked drawn. He wore a collarless shirt and clogs. His hair was long but he'd greased it back like a Ducktail. Like a biker who couldn't decide between being a biker or a hippie. It was weird.

I thought to myself, "well, here's one for practice."

He bought me a coffee, and we sat back in the couch he had been sitting in, and I realized why he looked slouchy, it was one of those old low sitting crappy couches that swallows you. No one can look good in a couch like that. I had a hard time figuring out how to sit, what with my short skirt and all.

When we got talking, he seemed to loosen up. We talked about many of the things we'd been emailing each other about: God, church, our own burn-outs on church related stuff, and the persistence of faith despite it. And we talked about music and films and writing. Well he talked most of the time. And as he spoke he stared off ahead and ran his fingers through his long hair, breaking up the pomade into brown strings of hair.

I liked talking to him, it was great to have a healthy conversation. But he never asked me any personal questions about myself. He just kept talking about god faith and music and writing. But never about me.

Two and a half hours later … yeah, there must have been something worthwhile in the conversation, because we kept each other occupied for over two hours. But he was hasty to get back to his side of town before the traffic got any worse.

We walked out together into the bright January afternoon, and he startled me, because he stopped and looked right at me, maybe for the first time, and said, "Hey I'd like see you again."

"Really? Uh okay."

I filled up the space with some suggestion about going to a movie or what not. But I was surprised, he didn't even act as though he wanted to be there now. Why would he want to do it again?

I drove home and called the friend I'd been chatting to on the way in. "Well, that was a wash. Why do I get my hopes up?"

I didn't realize how much expectation I'd actually put into this date. I'd talked myself out of caring but in fact I had. I'd been corresponding with him for a month and he really seemed like a great guy. He seemed like THE guy. But whoever had been emailing me, that was not the man who'd shown up for coffee. That guy sent his stiff, ambivalent preoccupied doppelganger.

The next day I got an email from Coffee Guy:

Hey Friend, great to meet you, I really enjoyed our conversation about blah blah blah..

Friend. Hey, FRIEND. That made it clear where his intentions were. Forget it, f#K it, I'm never going to find a decent guy on this planet. Shit!

A few days later he emailed me, "Hey, I found these articles on Christianity Today about (something or other, wondered what you thought?"

He wanted to know what I thought? What was this, a quiz?
You know what dude, you don't get to know what I think. My opinions are worth something and you don't get to know.

I think I said something polite like, Thanks, looks interesting!

I never told him what I thought.

But then a few days later he emailed me. Two of his friends were going to see "Matchpoint," and did I want to join them?"

Oh brother. This isn't even a date, it's a group movie night with his friends, in some far corner of the valley. Stupid.

But then I thought, ah what the heck. He actually is a cool guy, and he might end up being a decent friend and someone worth knowing. Besides, I couldn't get anyone else to see "matchpoint" with me.
When he showed up, he looked better. Like he was taller, with more hair. No really, he looked more relaxed, younger. And he had gotten rid of the clogs for the night. His friends were cool. He loosened up around them, he even laughed. And he started to look like the picture I'd first seen of him. But when he walked me to my car he gave me this awkward hug, like we were in high school.

An odd thing happened a few days later. His movie friend emailed him, she thought I'd be interested in this spoken word show where she was going to sing that coming weekend. What was odd was, I was performing in the same show. This woman I'd just met was singing at an event where I was going to read. She and I were in the same show.

So, the two guys came to hear her sing and me read. It was a vulnerable and raw piece I was reading, about myself, my faith, my past. He was either gonna get it and like it, or hate it and be gone.

He got it, and he liked it. In fact he kept getting it, getting me. And we kept seeing each other, steadily and slowly the man I'd met in those emails emerged, like a face in a Polaroid.

We got married seven and a half months later.

We have had rough bits and I'm sure we'll have many. But we've had wonderful moments, we've learned so much already about how to talk and how to act, in light of another person rather than for simply oneself. I see the beauty of marriage, how it changes you for the better, so you'll be ready for heaven, with all of your crap burned off of you.

I can't imagine being with anyone other than that man with the clogs and the long wild biker hair. And I look forward to more years to come.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sus, for another lovely piece. I'm so exhausted, so completely tired, that I thought WHY in the WORLD am I logging on?? And now I know. Inspiring, touching, terrific.



Anonymous said...

This was a good thing for me to read right now as I've been getting it for all sides in this part of my life, so it helped me to see the frustration levels that others get to in adult dating.

The concept that there are many possible good matchs for every one doesn't hold up to the scrutiny of the lab results from actual dating - the reality seems to be that at least for those of us that are not at all mainstream the people that fit our personalities, intellects, aren't crazy, and we have a physical chemistry with comes down to a number that's just about one - luckily, that's enough. - Doug

Mike Morrell said...

Wow, what an awesome post, Susan! It's good to hear y'all's story. My first year marriage anniversary is coming up in a few days, though our "incubation period" was a bit longer--8 years!

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