diecinueve / nineteen / dix-neuf

On Wednesday, I had a date with Tom at Ciao Bella in Edina. We shared several so-so appetizers — large helpings of shredded zucchini, bruschetta and spring rolls — and after an hour, the date wrapped and I headed to the gym. I had skipped vino at dinner and thus had a great, detoxifying workout, mixing an hour of cardio (the only time I allow myself to watch “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” on Bravo) with light weights, lunges, an assortment of sit-ups and some Jillian Michaels moves that I was probably doing all wrong. I headed home and by the time I had showered, checked my email and cleaned up my apartment, it was well past 10:00 p.m. I was flipping through Facebook updates and StumbleUpon when I realized that I wasn’t hungry at all. Rather odd considering that I hadn’t eaten since my teensy lunch of Progresso soup, which was, I counted backwards, more than 10 hours ago. Crazy weird! I’d normally being shaking and oh-so-crabby after such a long famine. I peered into my refrigerator to see if anything looked appetizing, for surely I needed to eat at least something before bed… Oh. Ohhhhh. Right. Yep, I had already eaten dinner at Ciao Bella.

And that, ladies and gents, was my date with Tom.

And now on to someone who has had better success than me — from the November 11th edition of The New York Times:

“He used a semicolon correctly; that was reason enough to get a drink with him”

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Eight/teen: The Awesome Aussie

My night with David holds a special place in my heart.

I was really excited about the date beforehand, telling everyone about my pending meet-and-greet with “the Australian.” I made sure to look extra special by wearing a new, picked-by-my-most-fashionable-friend sequined tank, covered with my latest Clothes Mentor purchase, and held up by skinny jeans and my can’t-live-without-but-very-worn navy wedges. I strolled into Barrio, all flouncy and bouncy with my new fall hair color (I have ze best hair stylist!) and ready for a fun night. I couldn’t wait to meet a version of the “Ozzie” man I knew from my half year in the country a half decade ago. Tall, chiseled, salty and bronzed, sporting that wicked accent, relaxed-to-the-max attitude and ocean-washed, sun-bleached blond hair.

And there sat David in the back of the restaurant, a vampirely pale little man with a bald, bald, bald head. And you know what? We had a friggin’ BLAST. We spent four hours sipping Surly, laughing and chatting about physics, Australia, books, music, Minneapolis,  restaurants and then back to science-based matters.

David, it turns out, has a fantastically unique life story so far — a 28-year-old, Ph.D.-holding physicist from Kiama, New South Wales, he was transplanted to Minneapolis for three years as part of his work at a global nanotechnology company. As a complete if not highly uneducated physics dork myself, we enthusiastically talked about the recent NatGeo article on precious metals, discussed his time at CERN, a world-renowned lab that sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva, and dissected his thesis on graphene (aka graphite), which has been published quite broadly. I lapped up his take on dark matter and TOE (the theory of everything), and proudly shared my understanding of the strong and weak forces as they relate to gravity and electromagnetism. I’m pretty sure anyone in hearing distance of our conversation would have wanted to solidly punch us in the eyeballs for being so weird and utterly nerdy.

I took a nostalgic trip back to my time in Australia, remembering the good times (walking two blocks from my dorm to the ocean, meat pies, wearing a bathing suit to class) and what I’ll call the “not-so-smart times” (jumping off a three-storied building into the ocean at midnight, getting caught in a riptide on a long board, aptly acquiring the nickname “Caption Punchy”). And David was graciously willing to travel back with me. We talked New Zealand, bungee jumping, bottle shops, uni and huntsmen spiders, and I swear if I had a time machine, I would travel back to Fairy Meadow Scary Ghetto and live it all over again in a moment’s notice.

The kid was amazing. Having been in Minneapolis for a mere five months, he had already seen more of the Twin Cities than I had. Target Field? Check. Mall of America? Surely. Walker Art Center, Triple Rock, Lake Calhoun, State Fair, Bar La Grassa? Yeppers. He had even ventured up to Duluth in early fall to surf the record-breaking waves. He was fearless and also kindly willing to participate in my relentless “how Australia is different from the United States and vice versa” game, which I personally found to be entirely entertaining.

And you know what? I wouldn’t, and definitely couldn’t, kiss him if the world depended on it. Great guy, but no great love in our future. And that’s really okay!

Escapade #17: Birds of a Feather

After date #17 (my most favorite number and it’s a prime at that), I’ve arrived at what may already be a foregone conclusion — I haven’t yet checked the annals of history — but which I’ll underscore here: small-town guys need small-town girls.

But first let me rewind a bit…

There I sat in a roomy booth at Stella’s awaiting the arrival of Ryan. I was slightly out of breath having just walked three blocks to avoid paying for Uptown parking, and felt only mildly unkempt for a weeknight date in dark, skinny jeans, tall Optiz-purchased boots and a cozy, but fitted sweater with a big, funky neckline. I was attempting to smooth down my flop of curls that had become decidedly messy while simultaneously checking for happy hour specials when Ryan meekly approached the table. He was tall, quiet and plainly dressed with a gold necklace roped around his neck that seemed entirely out of place. He was a shy, soft-spoken man that I immediately took a protective liking to as one would a wounded animal.

Determined not to overwhelm the conversation by chit-chattering away as I would normally do in awkward situations, I quietly glanced over the drink menu. After a moment, Ryan said he was going to go with a Bud Light, and biting my lip, I disclosed that I was hoping they still had Summit Octoberfest.

After ordering, it was quickly determined that Ryan was a dyed-in-the-wool small-towner from the upper limits of Minnesota. Only a sliver away from Canada, he grew up in a teeny-tiny community with a entire population less than my high school, and spent his time hunting, studying, working in his dad’s shop and likely cow-tipping, I’m assuming. (Let me pause here to state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with small towns, the people who populate said small towns and the general small-town lifestyle. In fact, I know — and like — several small-towners so don’t go calling me a populist city-ist? metropolist … person who hates small towns.)

Moving on, Ryan moved to the cities a few years ago and worked at a property management company since it was virtually impossible for him to be gainfully employed in real estate given current market conditions. He was nervous and quite quiet so I asked painless questions that would hopefully put him at ease, and found out that he was planning to eventually move back home after gathering up some savings, even though he didn’t dislike city life. He liked rap music and loved country music, but didn’t go to concerts. He liked going out to eat, but didn’t have anyone with whom to grab dinner. He wanted to travel outside of the Midwest, but hasn’t. And a few other things I have since forgotten.

Basically, by the time the date ended, I just felt really bad for him. He carried around a sad look in his eyes that I left me a bit brokenhearted. We split the check — he paid in cash, me with a credit card — but he misunderstood what was going on, thinking I was paying for the full amount and ended up leaving no money. At this point, I was so flustered by the date itself that I didn’t realize he hadn’t paid a penny until we were out the door. We had shorted the waitress half the bill, which made me feel even worse so that by the time I was home, I was practically crying.

Taking a deep breath, I decided three things: 1) clearly I am way too sensitive to wounded animals and the like, 2) I am most certainly not right for a meek man, and 3) in general, people who grow up with a small worldview need someone who wants an equally small life. Score one for the Birds of a Feather Flock Together team (which I’m assuming is a real thing that exists).

Sincerely hoping Ryan finds a lady that suits his lifestyle, I cracked open The Zookeeper’s Wife, turned on the fan I can’t sleep without and read away all of my stress.

Not-so-sweet 16: What the Frick? And Other Intellectual Witticisms

Let’s be honest. I may be outspoken, impatient, left-handed, random, opinionated, hard of hearing and quite simply a whole lot to handle, but at least I am FUN — you know, I smile and stuff. I’d like to think I am friendly, engaging and open-minded on a first date to put the other person at ease, show interest and avoid the toe-crinkling awkward moments…

Enter Keith. Keith was decidedly a dud of a dude. I made a bet with myself to guess when he would first smile during the date. It took 10 minutes — 10 minutes! — before he cracked a toothless grin and I’m pretty sure it was more of a smirk than a smile. Keith, 33, with a shock of gelled, spiky blond hair and otherwise average features, worked in medical device sales and lived alone in downtown Minneapolis. He seemed so uninterested in anything I had to say — even my numerous peace-offering inquiries about his job, family, hobbies, etc. — it was as if I were repeatedly throwing a deflated ball against the wall. There was no rhythm, no cadence. Each time I threw the ball, it produced a small, pathetic bounce and I had to walk over, stoop down to gather it up and step back to throw all over again. Repeat until insane. I expended so much energy trying to prop up both sides of the conversation that I was spent after only an hour.

Conversation highlights: He called my no-longer-living grandpa a “man-whore” (a typical response when someone shares that her dad has five sisters and no brothers), told me to stop listening to MPR, scoffed when I suggested — with a smile! — that perhaps he was over-generalizing by calling all Occupy participants “idiots,” and glared at me when I realized I didn’t have $2 in cash to tip for the free valet. Remind me to never again go on a date with a libertarian (“maximum freedom, minimum government” is apparently the only way to live).

I drove home from Urban Eatery (sorry, valet man, I’ll get you next time!) perplexed, but undaunted and happy to be a not-angry person. Back in my perky, colorful apartment, I wiped off my weekday-casual smokey-eye makeup, unzipped my cowboy-inspired boots, swept up my hair and poured myself into pajamas. Not quite satisfied with the sriracha edamame we ordered (even though it’s exquisite), I pulled out crackers and Dubliner cheese, bebopped to Foster the People and cracked open A Short History of Nearly Everything, a favorite book I’m rereading once again. No complaints here!

Even though my waistband is expanding and my pocketbook is shrinking — both at alarming rates, I might add — every new date is still a learning experience. And if one or two make me fully appreciate my Singledom, I can still smile.

#15: Goldilocks was on to Something…

A first for me, I had initially declined a date with It’s Just Lunch potential match Chidau for one reason and one reason only: he was 25. Although he graduated from an Ivy League school and was “very mature for his age,” I just wasn’t feeling it. But upon prodding and the feeling that my true ageist (and apparently flaming) colors were  showing, I agreed to meet the kid.

I wore fitted jeans and a slightly-less-fitted Theory top, anticipating he would be more dressed down than me regardless. I slapped on big, bouncy earrings and a complementary bangle, and although my desperately-in-need-of-a-trim hair was barely making the cut, I moseyed over to Amore Victoria and arrived before my date. (Maybe another first? Score.)

Chidau was smiley with endearlingly crinkled eyes and a combustible demeanor. We held the same job title at our respective companies, but didn’t share the same responsibilities so we ambled around a variety of work-related subjects until I realized I was most definitely approaching the conversation as if he was the child and I the parent. A surefire sign of a romantic connection. I doled out career advice in a sanguine, (hopefully) helpful, yep-been-there-done-that fashion and he reminded me about life with roommates, college loans and internships. Well-intentioned, but exceedingly not relationship worthy.

Side note: Having now dated boys in their mid-twenties to guys in their very-late thirties, I believe there is a morphing of years that occurs in age differences between men and women. A dude younger than me will seem disproportionately more so than another dude with the same age difference but older. To rectify this, take the difference in years between you and him. If he’s younger, multiply by two. If he’s older, divide by two. Now you have a better representation of your standing.

Although our conversation at Amore was interesting yet uneven, Chidau delicately pressed his business card into my hand as we saddled up to my car, but I haven’t followed up.

Thereupon, I would like to suggest a Goldilocks theory that seems to be testing well — there’s too old (>34), there’s too young (<28) and then there’s juuuuust riiiight. As luck were to have it, my idealized Mr. Right(eous) fits snugly between these two limits — mature, yet adventurous, spontaneous and youthful; experienced and grounded.

A friend recently asked me what was the No. #1 characteristic I looked for in a guy. My immediate answer was “He’s smart… he’s just… smart.” If I were given the chance — and I’m clearly giving myself a soap box here — I would extrapolate that to “he’s smart, therefore he’s likely to be educated, funny, interesting, worldly and freaking smart.”

Geologically speaking, I wonder how many levels of defining characteristics I would need to dig through until I reached the “optional/not essential” plane. Let’s see… The Must-Be’s:

  1. Smart
  2. Funny
  3. Handsome* ** *** (to me)
  4. Generous (to all)
  5. Patient (to me all of the time, others as needed)
  6. Loving (to all, but most pointedly to me)
  7. Kind-hearted, cultured, passionate, fun, adventurous, spiritual, willing, lovable, endearing, entertaining, independent, unique, rugged, engaged, dependable, driven, grounded, interested, interesting, athletic, hobbyrrific, so so sweet, disciplined, open, loving, affectionate, animal-loving

*Tall, dark and handsome, to be specific. See: Robert Downey, Jr.

**A TD&H man doesn’t always guarantee attraction, however. See: Nathan Fillion — although my grandma thinks he’s “hot” (her words).

***I will also accept a Patrick-Jane-esque man, of The Mentalist variety.

Seven and I’m in heaven! I think Goldilocks would be quite enamored with this fellow. Yes?

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Age difference, schmage difference. Underneath it all, we essentially want the same things: