Register Monday | June 24 | 2019

On Dating

Let’s begin: I’m going to build myself up before I tear myself down. I don’t see the point in placing myself under the microscope immediately, x100 magnification, every hair follicle and skin pigment and bruise and scar there for my own perusal. I’d rather stand at a distance at first, a mere silhouette. A perfect form, just human potential. Let’s talk about the positive things I bring before I bit off this pound of flesh.

Actually, let’s deal with this in the abstract first, and then we’ll go to the personal. People have a lot of theories about dating. They’ve written books and columns and inches and pages, spoken volumes and volumes, if words had weight, we’d be dropping tons at this point. It’s all just theory, really, though, because when it comes to the question of whether two people connect or not, how can there be any hard and fast method? So the first rule of dating is this: There are no rules to dating. The second rule of dating is even easier: There are no rules to dating. And the third is the most important: There are no rules about dating.

I bet you thought I was going to go all Fight Club on you. The first rule of dating is: We don’t talk about dating. Well, we do talk about dating. At least I do, here in my little space. In fact, I talk about it a lot.

People will tell me, as a means of advising, the things I can and cannot do. “You can’t say that, it will just intimidate her.” “You should wait X amount of days before following up, she might think you are overeager.” “I would call on this day, and say this thing, because women like to know they are worth the time.” And all of the advice makes sense, within a certain context, when removed from real human interaction; it is all well and good. But to me, there can’t be any rules, because, like snowflakes, no two dates are the same.

Sleeping with someone on the first date is just as legitimate as not kissing them. It depends on where the night takes you. Not forcing it, but if the night takes you there, you end up where you end up. If you are talking, if you connect, if you feel at ease and excited, then there are times that ending the night in someone’s bed, wrapped in sweat and skin and hair and scent, is not just the right thing to, it’s the only thing to do. Sometimes not having sex on the first date is as unnatural as forming some rule about not having sex on the first date.

Sometimes there’s just a kiss. Sometimes there’s heavy petting. Sometimes you leave the person on their door step, no touch of any sort, just a hug, and wanting more. And sometimes there is nothing. No chemistry, no interest, no want, no nothing. It’s tasteless.

Hell, under the right circumstances, with that one in a million person, I’d get married on a first date, and who’s to tell me I’d be wrong.

So there are no rules to dating. It’s like the military in that regard, you have to be adaptable, you have to overcome obstacles, you have to have a plan, and idea, and then be willing to change at a moments notice. The answer to the question is all fair in love and war takes one word. Yes. It is, and I have an armful of cherry bombs and booby traps, I have live ammunition. You’ve got to be smart about these things.

I haven’t really been out there in over two years. I was involved, in love with, this little Australian thing, and even though, because of the distance and other things, I could date, I just had no interest. There were one night stands, sure, but I never allowed myself to feel any interest in them. I wasn’t interested in them.

And the truth is I’ve never really dated. Not in the “hi, I don’t know you, but I’d love the opportunity, so can I take you to dinner sometime” sense of the word. I don’t spend time with people I don’t feel compelled to spend time with, and usually I was either in a relationship, or spending the random night with the random girl I met at the random bar. But there was no dating, per say.

I will start with the positives, and I say this with all due balance and humility: I am a fucking catch. (Stupid word for dating: Catch? Who came up with this? I am a Flounder! I am a Mackerel! Bait your hook, reel me in. What a disappointing term.) I absolutely am a catch, and I know this. I know this by the way women respond to me, I know this by the looks I get, I know this by the regularity with which I catch someone checking me out, I know this because I rarely, if ever, make the first move at a bar. And I know that I’m smart, I know that I’m interesting, I know that I’m funny and have great friends.

I’m awkward right now about dating. I don’t have my legs under me right now. Why I’m a bit wobbly. Because I understand that this is a game, I understand that there are abstract rules and regulations, invisible guidelines, but I was, in the past, always good at skirting my way around them. As one ex-girlfriend once told me, after we dated, “I had never been more intrigued in my life. You gave away nothing and everything at the same time, and that drove me nuts, and drew me in.” I was always the kid that girls wanted to take care of, that they thought they could change, or make better or heal.

It sounds strange to say, but I’m actually excited to be out there dating again. Perhaps too excited, because I find myself doing things that I would never do under normal circumstances. I find myself jumping around; flailing my arms, trying to prove something that I know is true about myself, because I want the other person to see it. There’s a mild desperation there, sure, but there’s also just unbridled enthusiasm. For some reason I’m enthusiastically dating right now, and it’s like I can’t stop myself.

The date I had a few weeks ago, the one that went so very well, I have no idea what happened. I'm an intense person in general. I’ve always felt that knowing me takes a lot out of the people in my life, but that the tradeoff, the benefits, so far out weigh everything else. As my Dad likes to tell me, “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been consistent at only one thing. Being inconsistent.” And he has a point.

She could have gone upstairs after we kissed and thought, “I’m not ready to tackle someone like him.” She could have not wanted to follow up. Maybe I said the wrong thing when I called a few days later. Maybe one of my e-mails was overly assumptive. I don’t really know, and I don’t really care to know. There are only two things I’m positive about: When we kissed that night, she was there, right with me, in that moment. And, over the past few weeks, our e-mails got fewer and with more distance between them. I cannot explain it, but I don’t need the specifics either.

It’s like seeing a ball on the field. You pick it up and run, dodging people, breaking tackles, sprinting down the sideline. After you score, you throw your hands up, spike the ball, you celebrate. And when you look back at everyone they are staring at you with a bemused expression. It turns out they weren’t playing your game. They just happened to be standing in a field.

That’s what it feels like right now. Instead of saying something on a date, laying my comment on the table and letting it stand, I feel like I have to say something, then explain, then explain my explanation, then apologize for explaining. I don’t have my confidence about me yet, that this is relatively new to me.

I’m going to fumble a bit for now. I will say and do the wrong thing, and until I get my confidence back, in these situations that is, there’s going to be an imbalance for me in this. Like a bad Reality TV show: INTENSITY DATING, Monday’s at 8:30 on NBC, starring Jarret McNeill.

And the honest truth is that there’s a part of me that’s having fun with this. That’s just enjoying this. Just being out there, being open to all of these little things. It’s so interesting. And watching myself, well I may not have my Lloyd Dobler back, but I’m getting there, but why not fuck up in the meantime, but fuck up with flair. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, and that’s true. But you also would never pick up a bike after 10 years away, stand at the top of the steepest hill in San Francisco and kick off down the 50 degree slope into oncoming traffic. I haven’t forgotten how to ride the bike, but damn these hills and oncoming cars are tricky.

There’s this girl I see outside my building. She works a floor above me. I always give her a sideways glance, a little smile. She smiles back. She just looks so self-contained, so cool, so aware and calm about herself. It’s alluring. And the other day I sat down beside her with a coffee and we started to talk. Just 15 minutes. Nothing more, nothing less. Then yesterday as I walked past her, on my way to lunch and she was speaking with someone else, I just waved. She looked over and perked up, “Hey, hi!” she said, and returned to her conversation.

My favorite question in life is: How Does It End? I love knowing the answer, which I never do, but even more, I love finding out. Even when the answer doesn’t suit me, I can still justify the search. Just blindly figuring it out.