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

Oh, baby ~ #23

When it comes to dating — especially online or through a service — you have to trust your gut. And your heart, of course. I guess also your mind, as well. And your toes. They’re certainly picking up what you are putting down.

The point is — this is a very intimate part of your life and you have to trust yourself.

[begin scene]

It’s late-ish on a damp Friday night. The office is deserted, but I’m still wrapping things up so as to have a fresh start on Monday — consolidating piles of paper, deleting emails, yanking my darnit-why-didn’t-I-eat-this-instead-of-that-Twix yogurt from the fridge. I had told myself much earlier that I needed to leave at 5:50 p.m. to powder my face and make it across town in time. Yet, it was twenty minutes past six and I was still trying to cross one more thing off my list. #onedayiwilllearn

Down the stairs, out the door and I’m racing down 494 on my way to Axel’s Bonfire in St. Paul, glancing now and then at the clock display and hoping the minutes will pass more slowly. Score! I find a sweet {free} parking spot, skid across the street with a fleeting glance at Pottery Barn and duck into the restaurant I used to frequent in another life. Breathless, rosy-cheeked, scarf all knotted and slightly late, but acceptable.

And there, oh there, sits at my table a 12-year-old boy.

It was a beautiful December weekend night filled with unseasonably warm air, holiday festivities, shoppers and the sparkingly golden lights that adorn trees in wintertime. I had slipped into my dry-clean-only (and thus sparingly worn) dress, cuddly-yet-cute leggings and fashionably worn boots, thrown my hair to the side in strategically placed bobbies and redrawn shimmery kohl eyes. It was a limitless Friday night and I was stuck with a kid in a tragically cliché business suit. Sigh.

I knew, knew, this wasn’t going to be a match because he was three years my junior. But you feel like a big, fat jerk when you decline a potential It’s Just Lunch match, so I had gone along with it.

John was a studious, interning law school student — which I’m sure you just pictured as a sexy, quietly brooding, bespeckled man, but which I will accurately re-frame as a cherubish little boy with a thoughtless haircut and a large booger in his nose. (I solemnly swear I will never use that word again, but this particular nasal mucus had a life of its own and, refusing to give up, stubbornly clung on and prevailed during treacherous circumstances, and is thus worth the mention here.) John was very proud of his lifelong achievements, and not wanting to share any details about my life as to initiate closeness, I peppered him with questions about his love of the law while I stringently sipped my seriously sour wine.

Why, oh why, anyone thought we would be a good match is beyond me. I’ve learned not to take it personally and have long since known that my friends would be approximately 23,892 times better at hooking me up with a potential companion, if such a compatible man was ready, available and in proximity.

After shooting the waitress multiple urgent glances to bail me out — it was a Friday night and things were a’hoppin’ and a’poppin so it was an excruciatingly slow process — she finally bestowed us with the night’s tab.

A quick “great to meet you” hug and a hurried dash to my car completed the date. Not wanting to cheat myself out of an enjoyable night, I drove north to my parents’ Arden Hills abode, fed the puppies several richly-deserved treats and scooted onto the couch in an attempt to finally finish season six of LOST.

Next time, when presented with a single and available man, I will listen if my gut, heart, mind and toes are screaming, “Heck NO!”

[end scene]

22: Thank God I Wore Flats + All the Single Ladies

Date #22 was with Jim … or Jeff… I have both written down in my Blackberry calendar and I can’t for the dear, sweet life of me, ascertain which is correct. (This is partly because the date was over a month ago, and I have been busy working, Christmasing, treadmilling, reading, new-musicing and friending, and partly because I have a terrible memory.) At any rate, I had to reschedule my date with J after falling under the weather that Friday so we met the next Monday at Tryg’s in Uptown and shared delectable, if not teensy, apps. J was a short, muscular, short, older (late-thirties) gentleman hailing from a very eastern suburb of St. Paul. He was quick to smile and had the calm confidence of a man comfortably settled into himself.

It’s always interesting — and perhaps telling — how the first conversation topic of a first date finds its form. Often, it’s a bit quiet and uncomfortable, with napkin-twisting concentration on the drinks menu and the shuffling of chairs and the hanging of coats. Other times, you dive right into discussing a mutually agreed-upon topic. First up to bat with J was sports. I was proud to hold my own as we divulged team affiliations, talked Vikings in Arden Hills, hashed out the latest Twins’ trades and discussed the then-recent tentative agreement between NBA players and owners. I may dislike football because of the players and their exceedingly large attitudes, but for goodness sake, I still know what a safety is.

J was a very decent gentleman, letting me order first, holding the door and embodying a general sense of graciousness, which is old-fashioned but surely appreciated on a first date. We got along just fine, chatting about jobs, nieces and nephews, the holidays, and there were a few laughs sprinkled here and there.

The check arrived, we split the cost, climbed our way out of the oversized booths and headed for the door. It was indeed a good thing I wore flats that night — otherwise I would have usurped him in height. I *think* we exchanged numbers or something, but whatever the case, I didn’t call him or he didn’t call me and that’s the anticlimactic end of it.

A good chunk of my recent dates have been of the same lukewarm temperature — we don’t find anything freakishly wrong or disturbing in each other, sure, but nothing is really compelling us to explore a romantic route. It’s more like a friend date — a “frate,” or a “driend.” (Although the former sounds like shipping freight and the latter like something out of Lord of the Rings so let’s forget I wrote that and move on, okay?)

Kate Bolick’s article, “All the Single Ladies” (courtesy of the remarkably unfettered The Atlantic), about the single, contemporary female life has been out for a while, but still commands attention. Kate (we’re on a first-name basis) wonderfully describes the new male/female dynamic for the modern age and recounts the history of marriage and gender roles, but mostly I love her spirit and intellect and can trace commonalities in our lives as single, independent, superawesome women. We’ve both broken up with great guys for no great reason (although, admittedly, something was missing), and share the same refusal to simply settle. She puts her finger on a lifestyle trend I have been trying to get my mother to understand for several years now:

” … we keep putting marriage off. In 1960, the median age of first marriage in the U.S. was 23 for men and 20 for women; today it is 28 and 26. … We’re also marrying less—with a significant degree of change taking place in just the past decade and a half. In 1997, 29 percent of [the] Gen X cohort was married; among today’s Millennials that figure has dropped to 22 percent. (Compare that with 1960, when more than half of those ages 18 to 29 had already tied the knot.) These numbers reflect major attitudinal shifts.”

Kate goes on to examine the effects of the current economy on relationships, the advent of honeymoons — the couple used to invite family and friends along — and several other delightfully interesting topics relating to love, gender and happiness. (Well, perhaps delightful to those of us unattached lady fellows.) It just goes to say, for all those single ladies out there, you don’t always have to put a ring on it.

For more, check out “The Marriage Paradox: Why We Say It’s Outdated but Get Hitched Anyway” from my fave, GOOD.

twentyONE

I walked into the ghost town that apparently is Bar Abilene on a Wednesday night. Furtively glancing around for Mr. Tonight, I stomped my booted feet and clapped my mittened hands to warm up. The host brought me around to David, a fantastically large-shouldered man of average height with a crop of curly hair and bushy eyebrows (not dissimilar to a young Eugene Levy).

To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to be on a date. I wanted to get to the gym for a good, sweaty, mindless run and then plop on the couch with the latest from Qwikster Netflix. But, there I was, outfitted in my wear-on-lazy-days cotton dress, Target-purchased scarf and zippered leggings, eyeing up the apps menu for something non-greasy and attempting to disguise my flat-as-heck hair. David ordered a glass of cab and we got down to the business at hand: determining how Bar Abilene was possibly still profitable with such scant patrons. Must be all those wild, post-college kids, drinking loaded beers and dancing on the weekends that keep the lights on. (Surely, this never was me.)

That conversation topic was quickly exhausted and we turned to the inevitable — talkin’ ’bout jobs. David, it turns out, works as a consultant to the banking industry. Basically, he powwows with banks on how to increase profits. This includes such popular strategies as wielding an ever-changing rulebook and slapping consumers with a large variety of debit fees (which, by and large, prompted the Facebook-led Bank Transfer Day that urged citizens to switch to not-for-profit credit unions). Oh BOY, that was a fun discussion.

After our goat-cheesed black bean dip arrived, we engaged in typical first-date chatter — where you went to school, what you do outside of work, the places to which you’ve traveled, what your house/apartment is like, how many siblings you have, etc. David was an entirely decent guy who regularly volunteered, loved his family and probably was in the a habit of holding the door open for the infirm and elderly, but the conversation was like day-old soda — a bit on the flat side. For example, David said he was an avid reader and I excitedly asked for his favorite books to add to my “to read” list on goodreads. However, he didn’t come up with a single recommendation. Not one! Lamefest ’99, dude.

Luckily, we stumbled on a few things we had in common — annoyance at not yet dining at Tilia, inability to tolerate gun-sluggin’ rap while enjoying a smarter iteration a la Atmosphere, and a mutual love of NYC (he had lived there for half a decade).

We kept talking, albeit aimlessly, until the darn waitress finally wandered over with the check. Upon paying, we bundled into our respectively puffy jackets and headed out into the chilly Uptown night. When it came time to part, he asked if I was up for doing this again. Like a good little girl, I was really brave and told him that I had a good time, but wasn’t interested in a second date. (I think it was more along the lines of “I’m actually okay… . . . but it was fun,” which is a super lame way to decline, but I still felt a bit proud about being fully honest in the moment.) He totally took it in stride and we shook our again-mittened hands. It was quite frigid in the cloudless night, so I skipped my way back to the car, humming a little ditty and hoping there was an open treadmill at the gym.

###

Math!

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.