24: Unfortunately, Not My Amorous Adventures with Jack Bauer

It’s starting to become a tad repetitious, I fear. Me, date, restaurant, dinner, done. Forgive me if this has become slightly monotonous and, unfortunately, not monogamous.

I’m basically Rolodexing through the single men of the Twin Cities at this point, but still having fun — and continuing to refine what I do and do not want in a relationship.

And so shines the spotlight on Mr. Jeff at the formerly high-society institution known as Chino Latino…

I arrive first, which is a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because you naturally use your sitting-alone-in-a-busy-restaurant time to spy on the newcomers who swing open the unmarked door and silently pray that this or that person is or isn’t your date. (Unbreakable, sworn-in-blood rule: he who-isn’t-your-date shall appear infinitely more appealing than he who-is-please-no!-yep-okay-still-heading-your-way option. He who-isn’t-your-date will, on cue, be meeting up with an adorably cute lady who is excited to kiss a sweet hello to her man.) It’s a blessing because you are comfortably seated in the audience, awaiting the show. I habitually keep my head buried in the menu, with only a few furtive glances at approaching diners, so as to keep my expectations at nil.

While waiting for Jeff to grace me with his presence, I anxiously shoot my friend texts about how lame my outfit is (a classic well-at-least-I’m-comfortable ensemble that clearly does not denote the I’m-somebody-I-swear! vibe I’m getting from the room) and how 2003 Chino seems to be.

Jeff, a mild-mannered, dishwater-blonde, middle-of-the-road man strolls across the floor (I think, I’m not looking) and deposits himself at the lucky table.

He’s in the insurance business, I recall, but we quickly push our careers to the side and order off the confusingly elaborate menu — mouth-watering potstickers and Korean lettuce wraps (a world different from typical Thai wraps and oh so wonderful) drape our table and are gone in a heartbeat. Conversation is centered on one of my favorite topics: WWII. Jeff studied abroad in Germany and I had an endless list of questions about his time and travels in the still-wearing-its-war-scars region of my heritage.

Appetites subdued for the moment, we patiently sucked down our cocktails and giggled over mutual pet peeves, ignoring the din of parties celebrating a notable achievement with sake bombs. And here’s the curious thing about first dates — sometimes you are having an entertaining time discussing this and that, and all of a sudden, every imaginable conversation topic has abruptly dried up like a grape left in the summer sun and all you want is your plump, cozy bed. It’s as if you’ve reached your time limit with that person. “You, ma’am, have approximately 134 minutes in common with this person and — ding! — time’s up. No more fun shall be had here.”

It was a fine conversation, but I had no interest in grabbing his hand and making him swear to go antiquing with me before dinner at Travail and the Beirut concert if only I promised to check out that really sick goal in overtime that FOR REAL needs to be watched seven times in succession until one can fully grasp the complete and utter awesomeness of such an achievement.

You win some, you lose some. As long as you keep playing, everything is fine. ♥

P. S. With one month left on my It’s Just Lunch contract (and no interest in renewing), I’ve slowly been thinking about the next step. Perhaps it’s burying my head deep into studying, taking in five stray cats so as to fit in with the rest of my apartment building, or giving online dating a try. A few stats on what I might be getting myself into are summarized below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go dye my hair blond.

via

20 is… plenty?

Sometimes you meet someone who satisfies a significantly decent portion of your dating criteria… Meet Joe Black, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Winona, Minnesota. (Confession: I don’t know his actual last name, which isn’t shared as part of the It’s Just Lunch process, but it seems to fit so let’s just go with it. Also, not to confuse the reader, but my Joe Black has black hair, which is distinctly, and not unfortunately, different from Brad Pitt’s delicately golden, wispy 90’s highlights.)

Joe and I met at the newly opened Pittsburgh Blue in the Galleria. Our reservations weren’t until 8:00 p.m. so I had plenty of time to wrap up the work week, stop at Marshall’s for new workout pants and carefully paint on weekend-appropriate date make-up, which is essentially a lot of Bare Escentuals strategically applied to look like a little bit of make-up. Feeling the need to dress more formally for such a fine establishment, I slithered into my thank-God-I-just-dry-cleaned-these black tuxedo pants, pulled over a slightly sequined Banana top and popped my toes into my favorite pair of red pumps. Grabbing a fitted jacket, I was down the stairs and out the door with time to spare, and steered my trusty, non-gas-guzzlin’ Honda towards the Southdale area.

The date started out on the wrong foot. I had arrived and been seated before Joe arrived, and so when he slid into the booth shortly thereafter, I naturally began with “You made it!” and then spent the next five minutes explaining that no, he indeed wasn’t late, I was just early, and really it’s no big deal because, hey, I’m late ALL of the time. Awkward. (I’m also not sure he heard a word that I said, I was talking so fast.)

Joe was tall, dark and handsome. Well, two steps down from handsome, but still a good looker with a smattering of silver hair at the temples, which made him look distinguished rather than old. As we inspected the drink menu, I put my other foot in my mouth by sharing that obviously I don’t drink white wine (I mean, come on) and, since that was in fact all he drank, we settled on a Grey Goose gin-and-tonic for him and a Malbec for me. (P-Blue is spendy so I had to go with the cheapest red on the menu — classy!) Conversation eventually drifted towards fitness and the gym. Joe used to run several clubs and was a dedicated athlete — he ran, lifted and swore by yoga and kettlebells — and a bit of a health nut who loved his juicer. I didn’t have much to add to the conversation except a quip about the hydrating powers of coconut water and sat there in hopefully strategic positions designed to camoflage what I shall refer to as my “date weight.”

Our doting waiter shared the night’s specials and I selected the salmon (because it’s better for the world than red meat — Joe didn’t agree) and he elected for the steak because, well, it’s a steakhouse. The food was sumptuous and we turned the chatter to our professional lives. Joe was an entrepreneur in the strictest sense. He thrived on taking an idea and building it into a successful business, regardless of industry or trade, and had managed to secure quite the nest egg for himself. He worked when he wanted to, just moved into an apartment approximately five times larger than my 600-foot space (no exaggeration — he shared the square footage) and pretty much lived a fine life as a single, independent, well-heeled thirtysomething man.

In fact, after poking around a bit, I wasn’t sure if there was even room for somebody else in his larger-than-life world. He didn’t seem especially interested in asking any questions about me and when he did, it felt like a competition. Also, we weren’t laughing — just talking. And that’s huge. In my opinion, if you aren’t laughing on a first date, it’s not going anywhere. Life is long, our skin sags, friends disappear, money runs short, unfortunate things happen — if the person next to you isn’t there to laugh through it all once the tears are brushed away, what do you have?

So there I sat, spooning deliciously creamy butternut squash onto my plate and trying to make this into a great date. He was far better than any of the other guys I’ve met since July and technically I should be interested, right?

I have Joe’s business card and it’s been sitting on my dining room table for a solid week, collecting dust and slowly being overtaken by junk mail. When it catches my eye, I keep thinking I should send Mr. Joe Black a text (I’m too lame to actually call), but feel like I would just be forcing myself to do so. I wish had more to say, but that’s really it — I just never felt the urge to pick up the phone.

But here’s the thing — and I truly believe this — no one ends up with Mr. Perfect. We end up with Mr. Right. The one who failed our endless checklists, but still stole our heart.

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!

#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?

###

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


14: The Over-Qualified Bachelor

His profile at the sperm bank would certainly be popular: A soft-spoken Hispanic gentleman who is an experienced surgeon, successful businessman, world traveler, volunteer and community leader; he’s been described as wealthy, attractive, well-dressed, highly athletic, cultured, knowledgeable, kind-hearted and in possession of a great hairline. Great genes, I daresay!

Luis and I met for dinner and drinks at Murray’s last Friday. I arrived ever-so-classily and on time (!!!) via car service, a sweet tip from a dear friend who knows my inability to be punctual and carry cash for parking. Luis was waiting in the bar and walked me to my table, whereupon a waiter bequeathed us with an extensive wine list. Over sips of a Pinot as smooth of silk, we decided on our own version of surf and turf — sirloin steak and a lobster tail that was essentially the size of my head. In steady measures of brief sentences, Luis shared an abbreviated summary of his life story — born in Central America to an affluent family, he had the choice to play on the national soccer team or head to med school. He trudged his way along the narrow path before ending up in the U.S. for his residency after being attacked and kidnapped for driving a flashy, fancy car. Over the next two decades, he settled into Midwestern life and worked his way up to the head position in a prominent surgical unit while acquiring another advanced degree here, a business there. You know, normal stuff.

Although my life story was clearly vanilla compared to his rocky road (I’m talking off-brand, yellowish, gallon-sized vanilla ice cream — not even of the Sebastian Joe’s variety), he was incredibly gracious and complimentary, and picked up the half-my-month’s-salary check. Being the chicken that I apparently am, I did accept his invitation for a second date. Although I was having a good time, I realized it was only because it was interesting, not because I was interested in him — and I politely rescinded via text message the next day like a true Gen Y lady.

I thus present why Date #2 with Bachelor #14 will not take place, which shall henceforth be known as Jenny’s Reasons Why Not. My argument is two-fold and structured as follows:

  • He is 39. There are 5,781,600 minutes between us. Luis is worried about hitting the big 4-0 and walking down the hill. At 28, I’m practically brand-spankin’ new. Heck, my lil’ sis just graduated from college and I still bring my laundry to my parents’ place (okay, maybe not the shiniest of points to make, but I’ll stand by it…). MTV was already two years old by the time my mom got around to popping me out. Luis surely will not be able to relate to my early teenage years, of which the better part were spent dreaming about the middle Hanson brother, reading The Babysitters’ Club and watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. (Man, I was a lame kid.) A wholly-unqualified elementary scientific approach to my self-described ageism is as follows:

  • He lives in North Dakota. Now, before my Fargo and Bismark friends start squawking, please note that this is a simple case of logistics. His practice is firmly stationed in the northernmost Dakota, while my heart remains in Minnie. Even if the date showed signs of promise, this would be a deal-breaker.

It was a fantastic night that knocked me slightly off-center if only as an exercise in reemphasizing what is important to me. Not the lifestyle, wealth or flash… just the guy who will love me in sweatpants, stop me from eating a full bag of Baked Lays in one sitting and gently remind me that I am never again allowed to rent an apartment without a dishwasher.

And, so, I head in a slightly different direction, carefully removing the training wheels that have padded my journey so far. If It’s Just Lunch is bowling with bumpers for dating, it’s time to remove said safety measures and take yet another chance. This time, I’m picking the guy, I’m defining the parameters, I’m in control.

This time, I’m meeting who I want to meet.

Slim Pickins

Defined by Urban Dictionary as “almost no choice of chicks/dudes to date in a certain group of people,” I am totally owning this phrase right now. After having politely clarified that I preferred quality over quantity (in addition to my dates being generally good-looking [too much to ask?] and not almost 40), I haven’t been matched in two weeks. To counter this lull and entertain myself, I decided to brush up on my dating etiquette compliments of The It’s Just Lunch Guide to Dating. It’s an interesting read from the folks who live and breathe the subtleties of dating and have seen more than one neurotic lady grace their hallways. Heretofore follows a list of rules I am repeatedly breaking:

  • Height preference: Guilty! Yes, I have surreptitiously crossed someone one off my proverbial list if I deemed them too short. The dating guide details a study where 77 out of 79 women admit they wouldn’t date a man shorter than them — and instead of making a case for the vertically challenged men of the world, I think the research is more indicative of a genetic preference with which women are hard-wired. We survive if we have the big, strong, manly hunter by our gathering side, right?
  • High heels: “Guys love gals in sky-high heels, but wedges don’t count.” What? Lame. 
  • Widening my scope: According to the experts, I shall not be turned off because of occupation, income, fitness level, hair color, hobbies, musical taste, boldness or lack thereof. Okay, fine. But if the guy is out of shape, listens to KS95, can’t manage his income (or lack thereof), likes to tie-dye in his free time and is as shy as a mouse, we aren’t a match! If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, financially, etc., I think this speaks to larger issues I care not to touch with a ten-foot pole. See also “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Double fail.
  • Strike a pose: I’ve isolated the problem—Note to self: Must pose more.
  • Tardiness: This sends out a negative message, per the dating gods. But how am I supposed to make a swooping grand (and perfectly posed) entrance if the guy isn’t even there?

Luckily, there are a few rules I am correctly following — telling it like it is (triple points!), and being proactive, enthusiastic and, most importantly, myself. According to It’s Just Lunch, other successes include: tousled hair (it counts even if the look is due to a lack of taming time); smiling lots; not wearing really tight pants or ordering spaghetti; and — I think this is the clincher — not jumping too quickly into “sexy talk.”

Admittedly, I have some refining to do in terms of my reproach approach. If I were to poll my therapist, hair stylist, career coach, matchmaker and masseuse — obviously, some of the most important people in my life — they would undoubtedly say an attitude adjustment is in order. Although, I will still console myself with soothing “don’t settle!” self-pats to my back.

I may also be looking in all of the wrong places. Based on my limited experience, there are some terrible places to meet single men — the gas station, Bed, Bath & Beyond, the DMV, weddings and concerts featuring female singers. Super awesome spots to snag a tall drink of water: the Minneapolis lakes area, Half-priced Books, Target Field, my favorite antiques shop, First Ave after The National concert or a friend’s BBQ. Maybe I will stake out one of these fruitful locales and prowl for potentials, setting up a booth for any man interested in organic lemonade and/or taking a short survey. Inquiries may or may not include:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, tell me how fantastic you think farmers’ markets are.
  2. Bill Bryson, Dave Eggers, Ayn Rand, Orson Scott Card and Simon Winchester belong to what category of careers?
  3. Do you generally like or love prime numbers?
  4. Do you own any Ed Hardy apparel?
  5. When is the last time you talked to your mom?
  6. If given the choice, would you rather watch Arrested Development/It’s Always Sunny or MTV/Spike TV?
  7. Tell me about the relationship between you and your car.
  8. Please expound on your talents in spider-killing.
  9. Do you think it’s impossible to love your dog too much? Please explain.
  10. Do your friends love you as much as you absolutely love them?

…but I shall not limit my scope too much.

Striking a confident-yet-approachable stance pose after a long weekend at the cabin, it’s just me and my dirty-from-Spicy-Doritos keyboard, obsessively listening to James Vincent McMorrow and Dan Wilson, updating my queue on Netflix (hello, “Dexter” Season 5!) and paging through my worn copy of The Fountainhead. My GMAT prep books are collecting dust in the corner as I soak up the last rays of summer, but I am blissfully happy. Despite my tendency towards snarkiness, I am blessed with fanfrickintastic friends, an amazing family, a fulfilling job with wonderful coworkers and a safe and comfortable place to lay my head. I’m taking a slight repose to strip myself of pre-judgments, common dating mistakes and the extra calories I’ve consumed from all of those old-fashioned doughnuts and French fries. I shall return ready to take on the next adventure in the quest to find the ultimate partner with whom to share a bountiful life.

For more harrowing dating escapades, check out My Brief OkCupid Affair with a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player. (Language is PG-13.)

And, as it turns out, I do have a few dates on the horizon… more play-by-play action coming soon!

Numero Tres

Today was a bit tricky as I hadn’t yet had a date scheduled right after work. Let’s be honest — no one wants to see you after a day at the office. You’re crabby, hungry, wrinkled and have bad breath from that last Diet Coke you partook in at 3:00 p.m. To minimize the odds that my date would take one look at me and dash out the door Road-Runner style, I ducked downstairs to the scant-used first floor bathroom at work to freshen up before heading out. And, oh boy, there is nothing like an optimally-lit locker room mirror to make you feel super awesome about your makeup and outfit choices. Despite the lighting and one of the worst hair days I’ve had in months (come on, humidity, you’re killing me!), I popped an Advil, stuck with the flats I’d donned during the day and headed to Solera. (Side note: For those of us who work not-downtown, I cannot emphasize enough the difficulty it takes to get to happy hour in Minneapolis at 5:30 p.m. I’m just saying…)

But enough about me, let’s get to the juicy stuff. Karl with a K was a pleasant, 33-year-old who oversees the securities division at one of the major corporations downtown. He was smartly dressed, well-spoken, nicely groomed and clearly successful. After half a decade in the military, he worked in securities and IT in South Korea, Italy, Morocco and Germany. Along the way he picked up his Master’s in Computer Science and an MBA. Comfortably settled in a corner office, he now worked on important global initiatives.

We had very agreeable conversation and chatted in-depth about Minneapolis – the housing market (he owned multiple properties and I’m a lowly renter), restaurants (I was appalled he’d never been to Lucia’s) and the Twins’ ultra-lukewarm season ($9 mil for Nishioka and he’s done thismuch).

All in all, it was a fun-ish evening. He paid for the meal (including the lamb I will never eat again… poor fluffy, sweet baby sheep) and was very courteous. I found my way home from Minneapolis in the same way I always do — drive til you see a highway and figure out where to go from there… but there just wasn’t any spark.

And let me be honest here, a lot of it had to do with the fact that had I chosen to wear my fab high heels, I would have ousted him as the taller of the two of us. Ladies and gents, I officially suffer from an extreme case of heightism. I quote the infallibly-accurate Wikipedia when I say that the “greater reproductive success of taller men is attested to by studies indicating that taller men are more likely to be married and to have more children.” (See, science says it so I’m not a superficially ridiculous person.)

Yes, I’ll reluctantly trade in the dark and handsome (and smart) for blond and adorable (and intelligent), but I want my tall!

Slightly to moderated deflated after three strikes, I’m Spotifying the Infamous Stringdusters, quizzically wondering why I chose True Blood for my next Netflix DVD, and looking forward to a weekend filled with best friends, families and puppies.

Oh, and Mike #2…

P.S. Check out The New Yorker for an inquisitive and insightful look at online dating. For those of us taking the road less traveled, it’s a riveting read!