Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twenty Five Per-cent

“It is the quality of our interactions which defines our humanity”.
-Desmond Tutu

As an artist, you start a project, thinking you know what you are going to get out of it, or thinking that you know the answers to the questions you are asking. The good projects change your perspective in a way that results in additional questions. As I look back over the handful of dates I have had, the people I have met, my original hypothesis regarding our need to connect and our tendency to distance ourselves from each other with technology has been sidelined. As I have met these men, and I have taken the time to talk to them and get to know them in a short amount of time, I realize more and more that my perspective has been slightly flawed and perhaps oversimplified. I started to see this as I spoke to my friends about my interactions with my dates. The questions regarding how I could handle some of the harsher comments about my beauty, my age, my intelligence, have always yielded the same response: these comments have much less to do with me than they have with the people who have said them. A couple of my friends have tried adamantly to dissuade me from this project, telling me that either there is no good reason to do it, or that it is a part of a thrill-seeking tendency that could end up getting me hurt or killed. While I appreciate the concern, I also believe this is more of the same; a concern that has less to do with me than it has with the person who said it.

After my fifth date, one quarter of the way through my experiment, I realize that the interactions I have considered “good” have been with people who share my world view, and not surprisingly, the others have been with those who have not. The question then becomes, how good is it to surround ourselves with people who are just like us, and how healthy is it for us to marginalize those who are dissimilar from us? On each date I have been on, no matter how different any of these guys have seemed from me, I made it a point to pay attention to them and listen. Of course, they were not operating under this same directive, and at the end of each date I was exhausted because I was not used to this practice. Does this mean that most of the time I am an arrogant bastard who does not listen to my friends when they speak to me, or that I assume I know what will be coming out of their mouths next? Am I surrounding myself with people who are like me because it is easier to get through the day? Do I shy away from putting real effort into my interactions with others?

I have come to the conclusion that while it might not be pleasant, the more I am challenged by conflicting perspectives to my own, the more I examine why I believe the things I do and the more I grow. The young man who wanted to be a cult leader served as a mirror in that his tendencies to control every situation around him brought to light my own tendency to do the same things, on a lesser scale. On the surface he seemed very different from me, but our similarities were what struck me most. After he read the blog I wrote about our date to me over the phone, he asked, “I sound kinda psychotic, don’t I?” The first gentleman I dated sent me an email that stated simply, “I am such an asshole.” I too have been accused of being an asshole, and this is not far from the truth. I am an insensitive, judgmental, irrational woman who is searching for meaning by meeting complete strangers through Craigslist and exposing these experiences publicly on a blog.

Due to a number of major shifts in my personal life, I am searching for meaning in the eyes of strangers. I am looking at people, alone in their cars, and wondering if they are thinking of anything other than themselves. In as much as I am looking into the lives of others, I am uncovering my own and measuring my endurance. One of the men I have been exchanging emails with leading up to an eventual date has referred to my experiment as my “Dating Marathon”. I ran a marathon. Once. It was all I needed to know that I would not be running any more, and that I could have read the paper that Sunday morning while drinking tea and eating a Voodoo maple bacon bar and been just as satisfied with the use of my time.

This does not feel like a marathon. While it is long and requires stamina, I feel like I am gaining more from it than I originally predicted. I am more aware of my shortcomings, as well as my potential, and in this way, the potential of everyone I meet. I recognize that I put about twenty-five percent of my energy into my relationships, fearful that if I decide to put more energy into them, there will be no additional input from the people in my life. How much will I continue to hold back, dubious of reciprocation, until the amount of effort I put into my relationships consists of nothing more than a few messages sent via text and a couple of emails to people I am supposed to go out with in order to postpone the dates? Will I find myself at a table one night with my boyfriend, texting to someone else about how good the food at the restaurant was? Will I be more confused about my place in the universe, if I even possess one? Will I realize this was all just a process I undertook in order to distract me from more pressing issues, like the failing economy, swine flu, or the occupation in Afghanistan? Will I ever feel the need to put more than twenty five percent of my energy into any relationship I ever undertake?

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Date #5: Much Like Picking your Nose

I was talking to my twin brother today about my latest dating experience, and he told me that dating is much like picking your nose; you keep digging, hoping for a winner, but all you ever really get is another booger. Now, I am not sure I ever hope for anything better to come out of my nose when I pick it, but I do think that the deeper in to this research I go, the more I come up with the same results.

My fifth date was with a man I was supposed to go kayaking with. The first time we set the place and time for the date, I fell ill and could not go. This time, we were to meet downtown and go to the Willamette to kayak around. I was excited. I had not been kayaking since I was in Alaska roughly ten years ago, so I thought it would at least be a good date in that way. Sadly, when my date showed up, let’s call him “Tom”, he was not in shape to go as he had been working hauling logs all week and had just finished hauling wood that morning. Instead we settled on driving through the Gorge and up to Bonneville Dam to look at the fish ladder. Much less to be excited about; especially if you live in Oregon and bring every freaking tourist who visits you to the falls along the Gorge. I might as well have gone on a date to McDonalds Playland; sounds like fun, but then you get there and all it is, is a bunch of screaming kids in large colorful tubes throwing balls at each other.

The first item of note regarding Tom is that he is older than me by more than 10 years. This in itself is not really that amazing; the fact that he acted like a man at least 10 years older than that was noteworthy however. Tom is handsome, white hair, ruddy complexion, and has the carriage of a man who is familiar with heavy labor; his shoulders slump forward slightly and his arms hang by his side as he walks. He picked me up in front of the Multnomah Public Library down town; we put my bike in his car, and went back to his house so he could clean up. He lives in a house in the west hills which he built himself; he is a home builder by trade and drove me past several of the houses he had built on the drive to his house. They were all impressively large, and he told me the ins-and-outs of how he came to build each one. As we drove, we talked of the possibility of going to a Mariners game in the future, which sounded great to me, as I love baseball. He told me that he holds season tickets with a group of people and he determined that picking games where you get a free bobble head of one of the players was the best value. I am a fan of bobble heads, so I could see his point.

We entered his house and the first thing I noticed was how gigantic it was. I asked him if he thought it might be too big for just one person to which he immediately replied, “No.” As I walked through the house to his back room, I recognized all the markings of a bachelor; he owned nice furniture, though none of it was arranged well, nor did it match. There was a beer bottle and a pizza pan out from the night before, along with several other pots and pans strewn about the kitchen. His house had a huge fire place and windows facing the trees and the wilderness behind. The view was beautiful, but there were no curtains or blinds to close to keep anyone from looking in. He had two or three huge sacks of bird feed on the floor in his kitchen nook; one was open with a scoop still in it. His mantle was made of stone and reached up to the roughly 20’ high ceilings, and on little stone ledges were old ceramic beer steins. There were crocodile heads on the floors, and on the stereo speaker: a fox pelt.

He told me he was going to go upstairs to clean up, and he put on some music before he went. It was the first indication that things might not go so well on this date; it was a New Country station. New Country is the worst kind of Country in my opinion. Why put on some music, which you yourself will not be able to hear, leave the room and not ask the person left to listen to the noise whether or not they like it? I personally am more of a heavy metal/hard rock fan, but I would never put this music on in the company of a perfect stranger without first asking if it was to their liking. As I looked around his living room, a song about marrying for money playing in the background, I saw the fruits of his trips to Safeco Field: at least fifteen bobble heads of different Mariners players were displayed on the mantle, shelves, and tables. It was hysterical. One sat in its box on a side table, waiting to be taken out and placed in a special spot next to its brothers. I looked around more and saw, on a stereo speaker, a picture of him and three hooters girls outside of a hooters restaurant set in a gold frame. This was getting more and more grim. Then he came back into the room wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and a black baseball hat with huge red and orange flames on it. Awesome.

As we drove to the Gorge we talked. Every time he began telling me something, he would introduce it by saying either, “I have a story for you” or “this is something you might find interesting” or something of that nature. He also started all of his sentences by saying the first word very loudly and then quieting down to a normal “inside voice” level by the end of the sentence. It was a bit disquieting at first, but I slowly got used to it. He had a bad habit of asking me questions and then not waiting for me to finish my answer before he told me what he thought, or if I tried to tell him something about myself, he would interrupt by pointing out some amazing geographical feature like the Willamette River. He told me about how much money he had to spend on rope for a job, (a dollar a foot, roughly), he told me about paying for a chainsaw in trade with some wood he had recently procured. He asked if I would ever want to go to Hawaii with him, as he had free housing there if he wanted it. He then launched into a story about how he purchased some Macadamia nuts while he was in Hawaii and got a free ukulele CD with them, which he just happened to have in the car, and then, yes, horror of horrors, he played. This was when it hit me: he had Grampa Syndrome. Grampa syndrome occurs in males of all ages, and is reflected in the way they treat money. A friend of mine has this same syndrome; once in our early twenties, as we sat and drank tea at a non-descript Starbucks Wannabe cafĂ©, he asked me if I thought it was a good idea for him to save his tea bag for later. My immediate reply was, “of course, Grampa, why don’t you leave a dime for a tip on the table when we go?” Grampa syndrome is usually a life-long affliction; trying to train someone out of it can be very dangerous, and I highly suggest just steering clear of these people all together if you are not of the same mind. No amount of happiness is worth the price of having to hear all of the stories of great deals, free bobble heads or other amazing bargains for the rest of your life.

We arrived at the fish place and got out of the car. He brought an umbrella with him as it was perfect spring weather for Oregon: windy and rainy. Half way to the fish area, he decided he needed a heavier coat, reached in his pocket, pulled out a quarter and directed me to “feed the fish”. He went back to his car and I fed the fish, which was strangely enjoyable, especially when I threw in the pellets and created a feeding frenzy among them. He came back and we walked around the different ponds. At the Rainbow Trout area, he gave me another quarter for fish food. Sadly, as I turned the lever for the food, all of the pellets came out quickly and some of them spilled out onto the ground. I walked over to the pond and started throwing in the food. He then walked back to the machine and began to pick up each little pellet which had fallen out and fed the fish with those. I could not look, it seemed too ridiculous, and I knew if I had, I would have laughed. After going to see the 70 year old Sturgeon and the empty fish ladder, we decided to head up to Skamania lodge to grab lunch. The conversation had somehow turned to people we had dated, and I asked him what the largest age range had been between he and someone he was dating. He replied that he had dated someone who was twenty just last year. It ended up not working out though, not because of the age difference, but because she was crazy. Go figure.

We sat down at the pub-ish restaurant at the lodge and ordered. I ordered the burger, he ordered the pulled pork, and then asked the waiter what Gnocchi was, except he pronounced it “Ganache”, so there was a bit of confusion initially. After the waiter explained the Gnocchi and left, Tom asked me if I had ever heard of it. I told him that I had, and then I taught him how to pronounce it and told him what Ganache is. He said he felt stupid, but I assured him that our waiter had probably heard far more stupid things come out of people’s mouths. It was a pretty good lunch, but during our meal, he asked me a question about my brother which I had already told him the answer to on the way up. After I informed him I had already told him this information, he looked a little surprised. Then I told him that he was not a good listener. This information apparently did not surprise him at all. His response was basically, “yeah, I know,” and then it was kinda on to the next thing. I figured since we were being honest, I also told him that he rarely told a story that didn’t in some way relate to money. I recounted a few of the things he had told me, and then we got into a very stimulating conversation about the importance of money.

On the way to the car in the parking lot, he asked me what I thought the definition of a date was. I told him I didn’t really know, mostly because I knew he asked me in order to tell me what he thought. After he told me that I was not going to like his answer, he told me that a date is defined by a meeting of two people where the possibility of sex exists. I pretty much agreed with him. I asked him if he thought we were on a date, and he said yes. He then asked me, and I said yes. He seemed surprised by my answer, until I told him it wasn’t happening. This reply did not seem to surprise him at all.

On the way back home we stopped at the Pendleton Woolen Mill. Yet another amazing tourist attraction I have been to countless times with tourists. Tom was interested in getting another flannel shirt, as the ones he owned were of such good quality. While we were in there, he showed me one he was thinking about buying. It was orange and yellow. I asked him what exactly he was thinking, as he knew it was ugly. He said it was a great price, and he could wear it around the house or when he didn’t care about getting his clothes dirty, to which I replied, “Dude, don’t do that, there is no excuse for ugly clothing, no matter what the cost.” He settled on a black flannel on another rack. As we were walking around the store he offered to buy me a $10 sweater. I replied in the negative, but he kept pushing it. Even out into the parking lot, he kept asking me why I didn’t want a stupid sweater. Then, he let me know that all the other dates he had brought there had wanted one when he offered. I couldn’t hold it in, I just burst out laughing. He tried to explain that he didn’t take all of his dates there, just a few, but I just kept on laughing. I had been polite about the bobble heads, the hooters girls, the hat, the ukulele music, but this was too much. He had taken me on a date he had been on before with other women. It made me feel so very special.

After we left Pendleton, we started talking about the Mariners game again. He told me that he usually slept over for night games, and asked if would I want to do that. I asked if that meant we would be having sex. He said yes. It was very business like, no romance, no anxious feeling, no trying to casually brush my hand at any point during the date, no flowery compliments on my behalf. Looking back, I wasn’t really even offended; Tom rolled dispassionate, and by this time, I knew it.

We got back to my apartment and unloaded my bike. I took it from him, thanked him, and went toward my apartment. It had been my best date yet; but as I threw my bike on my shoulder and carried it up to my apartment, I had to admit, it still was not that good.

This blog is now an ebook on amazon!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Date #4: 15 minute man

This may seem like a short amount of time for a date. The only reason it lasted as long as it did was because I was waiting for my food. So I could take it to go.
This was one of the guys who had been in an all-fire-hurry to go on a date with me. He emailed me once, and then we messaged each other for a while. His screen name was “Bob Crazy” and I assumed that “Bob” was his name. It was not. I assumed that “Crazy” did not actually describe him. It did. This name is what I eventually decided was most suitable for him. In my first message to “Crazy”, I asked him how he was, to which he replied: “horny, lol.”
A short note about “lol” in this context: It is the modern man’s version of, “I don’t know why she thinks I sexually harassed her; I was only kidding.” To this point in my virtual dating experience, I had not yet come upon this term very much, but as my experience grew, this acronym popped up more and more, mostly in places where a man would want you to know that he was kidding if you were offended, or, not, if what he said did not offend you and you were receptive to whatever come-on he was throwing out.
I ignored the horny comment and moved on. I asked him what he did, and he replied with some generic IT answer. I asked him where he worked, he said in town. I asked him for a picture, and he replied that he didn’t have one and that, “I look like a typical Asian guy,” I almost fell off my chair laughing at that one, “lol” or no. He then asked me what I do, what my hobbies are, etc….pretty standard questions, so I answered them, and his reply came back: “What about romance?” I replied that I had never considered romance a “hobby”, but I could see why he would think so, in light of my Craigslist ad.
After that, we set up a lunch on a day later that week. Sadly, he suggested Pizza Hut. I must reiterate: there are so many great places to eat in Portland, Oregon. Why oh why is it that so many settle for multinational corporate non-food? This issue is one that tends to get under my skin and gnaw at my sinew until I lose control of my emotions and my tongue, obviously. I countered by suggesting a local deli close to my work which was known for its gyros.
Unfortunately for “Crazy”, he did not abide by one of my rules in this experiment: weekends only. The title of this project is 20 Dates in 20 Weekends. If a man, through impatience or stupidity or sloth, chooses to meet with me on a week day instead of a weekend, he is automatically disqualified, not from the date itself, but from having it go anywhere. Why, you might ask? Well, I look at this process in much the way an HR professional looks at job applicants. If you can’t follow the directions to apply for the job, chances are you won’t follow instructions once in the position either. It’s simple math.
We met at the deli, and I immediately recognized that he was of East Indian descent, which struck me as odd, given the way he had described himself earlier. I will never understand how, when one is from a continent which contains so many different countries within it, he could describe himself as “typical looking”. I for one have never had the inclination to describe myself as a “typical looking American woman”.
We ordered our sandwiches and sat down. As I sat down across the table from “Crazy”, I judged that he was older than he had told me in his initial email. He said he was thirty, but frankly he looked mid forties, if not fifty. At this point it did not matter much as it was a Wednesday. I also noticed that his lips were chapped to the point that dry skin was literally hanging off of his bottom lip. He spoke very quietly and had the tendency to turn his head slightly while he was talking. Taken together, these facts pretty much eliminated the chance that I would understand everything he said, as I couldn’t really hear him, nor could I watch his lips move as they were too disgusting to look at.
He seemed rather intent on getting to the bottom of what I was looking for on Craigslist, and asked me with quiet diligence, why I wasn’t using Chat rooms, and why I hadn’t yet used to meet people. When I said I was just doing it to date, he did not seem satisfied. I was a bit mystified, but I let it go, mostly because I wasn’t quite sure what he was saying anyway. Then he told me he was married with children and that his wife was out of town for a month. The whole conversation, his mannerisms, and his hushed tone suddenly made sense. At this point I had very little compassion for “Crazy”; he lied about his age, he wanted to set up a date during the week, he suggested Pizza Hut for lunch, and now this. It was more than I could forgive and I let him know by outing him.
There happened to be two young mothers with roughly fifteen children between them at the next tables, so I said very loudly in their general direction, “So you are married, and you want to date me?!?!?!” He looked around nervously. I glanced over at the ladies and they were looking at us. In the same tone, I asked him if his wife knew. He shook his head no. A very long and awkward pause followed. Initially I was very pleased with myself, but after about a minute and a half, I felt quite ready to go. I was starving and trying to decide whether or not I should wait for my lunch. I think he sensed my intent and said the most surprising and offensive thing of all: That I should let him know if I ever wanted to have sex with him. I could barely believe it. Thankfully, our food came; just in time for me to tell him I was uncomfortable and that I was going to leave. Before I could, he made the offer once again. It didn’t seem to bother him whether I was offended by this request or not; there was no trace of “lol”, no whisper of hesitation. I looked down at the Gyro in my hand and decided that if I didn’t leave soon, I would end up throwing it at him, so I headed for the door. No use wasting good food on someone who wouldn’t have appreciated it anyway.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Date #3: Five Food Guy

I met this guy through my first “20 dates in 20 weekends” ad. I put the ad out the same afternoon I had been out with the cult leader, and the next evening, I met the five food guy for a date. He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to go out with me, which had been initially bewildering, but after a few times around, I realized this sense of urgency was pretty normal.

This is how it works if you are W4M on Craigslist: You post an ad, and within the first hour, you get 10 to 20 people emailing you. Some send pics with their emails, some only ask for pics in their first emails. Some question whether or not you are a Spambot. You then go through a blitzkrieg of mad emailing back and forth, some of them try to message you, some just comment on your project as a “game”. Either way, on average, you end up with a bunch of guys who all want to be first, or last. Not surprisingly, they are all looking at this as a competition. It is the same as when you are sleeping with more than one guy at a time (hypothetically speaking, of course). They always ask if they are 1) bigger, and 2) better than the other guy(s). I know that as a woman, my natural tendency should be to protect his feelings and tell him he is the best, but the real secret is that it is to your advantage to tell them that the other guy(s) are better. They tend to work harder. Just a little FYI for ya, and you’re welcome.
The emailing with the Five Food Guy was interesting enough, he sent pics, he seemed pretty normal, but he had one horrifying flaw: he was a Dallas Cowboys Fan. I figured I could overlook this for the sake of science, but I warned him not to disparage my Bears.
I met Five Food Guy at the entrance to my complex, as many of my friends and relatives expressed their extreme concern for my safety when I told them about this project. I had the unfortunate bad luck of conducting this social experiment right around the time the woman had been killed by a man she met on Craigslist. 
He was driving a Jeep, and he got out of the car so I would know it was him. We decided to go a few blocks down to the nearest McMenamins, where I figured it would be easy to find something to eat. McMenamins is a Portland phenomenon which began in 1983, has spread to over 50 locations in the northwest, and is significant because the two brothers, Mike and Brian, were among the first to start the Microbrew movement in the Northwest, and have built an empire by taking over decaying old abandoned properties and turning them into amazing and wonderful places to drink a lot, eat, sleep, and maybe even watch a movie.
As we began driving, he immediately impressed me by telling me that I had ended my ad with a prepositional phrase. People who understand grammar and spelling thrill me because they can be articulate even if they aren’t interesting or smart.
It was quite late for Sunday dinner in Portland, and the restaurant was pretty much empty. We sat down and started to peruse the menu, and I suggested Tater Tots, figuring that everyone likes them. It was then that he told me that he was a picky eater and that he DID NOT LIKE TATER TOTS!!! The Dallas Cowboys thing started to make sense to me. I then suggested the hummus platter. He asked me what hummus was, and after I told him, he told me the main problem with hummus was the Garbanzo Beans. I decided to order the hummus plate and told him he could eat the bread. He seemed happy with that. I was beginning to feel like the one wearing the pants at the table. He then described to me the things he ate:
1) Meat, but only lean meat, and bacon, but only well done.
2) Cheese, but no cheese with mold or fungus (I decided against telling him how cheese is made)
3) Bread
4) Green Beans, preferably out of a can
5) Potatoes, but not fried, because he did not like oil

I asked him if he was concerned that he didn’t eat vegetables. He told me potatoes and green beans were vegetables. He also informed me that he never got sick. Actually, he didn’t really look that unhealthy, not counting the slight double chin and almost unnoticeable spare tire around his middle. As I sat across the table and talked to him, I was sure that he was also aware of the lack of electricity in the air. I might as well have been talking to an uncle……who I see all the time……because he stops by my place unannounced…..with leftover tuna casserole.
The discussion was getting a bit dull, so I asked him why he liked the Dallas Cowboys. I was assuming he like them because of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. His answer was well, amazing, and once again, left me feeling as though I was the one at the table wearing the pants. He liked the Cowboys because they have a big star on the side of their helmet. Now, I consider myself to be a modern woman, but this is a chick’s reason to like a football team. There. I said it and I am not going to apologize, because it is true, and that is why it is funny. After this, he drove me back to the entrance of my complex and as I was getting out of his car, he told me he wanted a hug……outside of the car. I agreed, and walked, somewhat nervously, around to the back of his Jeep, reached out to hug him, and realized he was giving me an “A-frame” hug.
I think that last bit speaks for itself.

Date #2: A Date with a King

He wasn’t a king, but he was a young man, (in his early 20’s), who had aspirations of being a cult leader. His intense energy around this endeavor was reminiscent of characters bound for greatness or great tragedy; all have the presence of a person with a destiny. In fact, I believe down to my toes that one day he will lead a cult; he definitely displayed the charisma, strength of character and intelligence to do it.
I met him through my young, stupid, big-breasted sexual dynamo Craigslist ad. He would tell me later that he thought it was one of two things: a joke or a post by a bitter woman who in a rage would hack to pieces whoever met her in a darkened hotel room. I told him it was the latter.
His initial email and all his emails after closed with a quote he had written which struck me as so awesome that I posted it on a social networking page and it is what initially enticed me into starting a conversation with him. Though I cannot write it here as it would divulge his identity, it conveyed an irony and humor that was emotionally and intellectually dimensional. After we exchanged a few interesting emails, he invited me to call him if I had the inclination. This triggered my “trouble” radar, as this is a classic move of a man who only wants to be chased, (or in his case, “followed”), but he seemed smart, so I called. We talked briefly, and during the conversation, he referred to a woman painting a picture of his wild boar, (more on this later), as “his artist”, not “an artist” or “the artist”, but “his”. I noted it mentally, thought it quirky, but moved on. We spoke more on the phone before our date, a couple times for 4 or 5 hours. At one point we were to send each other pictures of ourselves. I sent him my stock “thoughtful pose” picture which my wasband had taken of me under the St. John’s bridge, and then I Googled the quote he closed all of his emails with. Google directed me to his Myspace page. He had several posts written on it, one which described in emotional and visceral detail his night terrors and tendency to cut himself. The writing was very good; the topic disturbing and enthralling. I called him and left him a message telling him that he did not have to send a picture because I had Googled him. He called back almost immediately, asked how I did it, and seemed quite bothered that this was possible, which isn’t really that unusual; I am not sure I would want complete strangers Googling me and finding out intimate details of my life without my permission. That was one of the nights we ended up talking for roughly five hours.
He had been to Iraq where he found and dismantled bombs in the field for the army. He had seen many of his friends die, and told me that he was made to clean what was left of their bodies out of their helmets and Kevlar for other soldiers to use. He kept wild boars for pets, and described the feeling of killing one. He had chosen wild boars because they are hearty, dangerous, and good eating. He used to be a vegetarian because he fully believed that a person should only eat what they are able to kill. I really enjoyed our talks, even though they usually kept me up to the wee hours of the morning, where I had maybe two or three hours to sleep before reporting to work. But I ask you, what would you rather do, have an interesting conversation with a person you have never known the likes of before, or sleep?  I mean, you can do that when you’re dead.  Then he told me about his ultimate goal of being a cult leader.
He collected people he could control. During one of our later conversations, he told me that he didn’t like “his girls” to wear make-up. This of course he kind of glazed right over and then began talking about something else. I stopped him. After I asked him to explain, he told me that he had five virgins, (yes, seriously), who were “his”, and that he kept them around because he felt like it was wrong to have sex with them, so they were safe around him. This way, he told me, he could cuddle with them and not have them feel like he wanted something out of it. I guess he didn’t consider cuddling “something”. Every Saturday afternoon he got together with roughly twenty or thirty people to play role playing games. When he told me this, I mistakenly assumed he meant Dungeons and Dragons and laughed unmercifully. Then I asked him if he was a warrior or a wizard and whether or not he wore cool outfits as he played.  Rather indignantly, he told me it was there that many of the people he could control hung out; that all he had to do was snap his fingers and one would appear by his side. I usually have a tendency to not believe this type of stuff, but there was nothing about him that indicated that this was false. Intense? Yes. Scary? Sure. Dishonest?  Maybe, but why lie about this?
He also told me that he really loved and admired his mother, who happened to be three years my senior, (yes, I needed a bag to breathe into after he revealed this fact), and a feminist. I found this last part a bit strange as she had evidently married men who were abusive to herself and her son. In many ways he was really quite frightening, but there was this other thing; his armored but intense vulnerability that came through his carefully controlled conversations that made me want to weep for him. He told me he wanted to be a great man and was always working towards that end. It seemed more like he was trying to be something other than what he had always been: vulnerable.
The night before our date, he called and asked how he was going to park downtown. Our original plan was to meet in downtown Portland and play chess at the public tables. I tried to get him to admit that he was afraid to drive downtown, but he would not yield. I eventually relented and we decided he would pick me up around my place of employment and drive down together in his car.
He arrived on time, and we headed downtown. It was a bit strange meeting him; he was small, extremely solid, and walked with the purpose of a man who is very aware of himself and his profound effect on those around him. His head was shaved with only the tiniest bit of hair growing on it, with a somewhat thicker white stripe growing down the center. He wore a goatee which was grown out a bit, and his gaunt features (he later told me he was down to seven percent body fat), were handsome, but ominous. I will never be able to tell you why, but he had sounded taller on the phone. Yes. Taller. He had told me his height, I had seen it on his Myspace page, but he just seemed…..little.
We talked a bit on the car ride downtown. He was quiet, and he did not drive even one mile an hour over the speed limit. I didn’t mention it, as I assumed he was freaked out about driving in an urban area. The whole time we had been talking on the phone, I was very aware of our age difference, mostly because he kept bringing it up in the context of fitness and calling me a “cougar”, (I was casually seeing a 23 year old at the time). He was very into fitness; he worked out hard in his gym’s sauna for roughly forty minutes every day or so, and told me that all the old men sitting around in towels would just stare.
As we neared the city, I found myself more and more self-conscious and less and less comfortable. His movements seemed very carefully planned; he spoke carefully and to the point. I became so nervous that I started to give him shit about anything I could think of just to loosen him up. This was when he informed me that he did not joke. Sadly, this did not really stop me. I asked him how his virgins were, if he was excited to play Dungeons and Dragons later, anything to make him ease up a bit on the intensity. If I hadn’t been so freaked out I might have tried tickling him. In retrospect, I am very glad I didn’t.
We parked in a garage and walked around a bit. He walked around the city like someone awed by the size of it, which I found incredibly funny, as we were walking around downtown Portland.  We walked down by the waterfront, and he was surprised that it was so built up. We walked by the new condos on the waterfront and he asked me how they were divided. We walked by old buildings with fire escapes barely attached to them and I had to tell him he was not going to lift me up to see if we could pull one down. We went to one of my favorite galleries and discussed the art, and went down to Chinatown where he expressed his extreme disappointment that there weren’t hundreds of Asians walking around. At several points during our walk, he would just wander off or simply stop walking. I never waited or looked for him. I saw it as a game. At one point, we ran into some people I knew, but before I could introduce him, I realized he was 30 feet away, walking towards Saturday Market. As I entered the market behind him, he was stopped at a bumper sticker stand. He pointed to the symbol for Islam and asked the people behind the counter if they knew what it meant because he had "seen it everywhere and didn't recognize it." I found it hard to believe, as he had been to Iraq, so I said it was on the Turkish flag. He could only reply condescendingly that Turkey was a country, not a religion.
We went to Subway to eat, where I expressed my extreme disappointment by explaining to him that the amount of money you pay for food is directly related to the amount of nutrition the food contains. After I told him this, he looked me dead in the eye, pointed to his sandwich and said with authority, “All this is fresh.” Yet another mutant of mediocrity. I asked him if he thought that the young gentlemen behind the counter had been cutting vegetables all morning to prepare for lunch time or if everything on his sandwich had come out of a bag. He actually admitted that I was right. Evidently, it was his only meal of the day. He only ate once a day, and he was putting a 12” Subway vegetarian sub in his body. The humanity.  Earlier, as we watched our yummy food being made at the counter, he explained to the placid young man making our sandwiches that I was “his little tour guide”. The phrase sent a torrent of chills down my spine.
At the Saturday Market he purchased a small plastic case of honeycomb, and asked the man in the booth how long the honey would last. As we walked away he talked about how great it would be to get gallons of honey and store it away for sustenance. I had to confirm my suspicions and ask “On the compound?” to which he answered, “of course.” As we walked around the market, he spoke to the pretty young girls behind some of the counters and asked them if they wanted to try some of his honey. While I saw it as a ploy to get me to react in some way, I also thought it was hilarious, especially afterward when he commented on “how friendly everyone at the market had been.”
After we had walked through the entire market, he implied that I was done with him, so I assumed he meant that he was done with me. There had been many points during our five hour walking date where he had tried to get me to create sexual tension. For instance, he wanted me to lick the honeycomb off of his switch blade, he wanted me to “show him” how bad of a kisser a certain young gentleman had been recently, and wanted to lift me up to grab one end of an ancient fire escape which was barely attached to a decrepit building, though I was wearing a mini-skirt. But all this felt forced and inauthentic. In fact, as we shook hands and said good-bye in his car, I had the surreal feeling that I had just been steered through a test to see whether or not I would follow him. I realized that I had failed; I had not followed him once. He told me that he was glad I had called him, (reminding me that I had made the first move), and as I was getting out of the car, he told me he had not hiked around Mt. Hood yet, and that maybe I could call him sometime and take him on a hike up there. His words “my little tour guide” started repeating in my head, so I just smiled and said “sure."
As I watched him drive away, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach as I realized we were too alike for anything to ever really work between us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Date #1: Too Old for a Casual Attitude

So, while I was traveling around craigslist, I found an ad that was hilarious. It basically described a man who had a whole list of what he didn’t want: girls singing into his phone, going crazy on him, or squirting into his mouth after he orally pleasured them. I thought this was hysterical, so I sent him an email and set up a date. Initially, it was kind of slow going to set up because I was so busy with all the idiots looking for the fabled stupid, young, big-breasted sexual dynamo I had advertised myself as. But we eventually set up a date for 7:30 am on a Sunday for breakfast. Yes, 7 fucking 30. He was going to see Wicked later that day and wanted to leave plenty of time. He told me that he would pick me up in his “beamer” in a chat session we had participated in earlier in the week. My response was that I would never stop laughing at him. He assumed it was because I thought it stereotypical that an Asian man would own a BMW, but I was laughing because he actually used the term “beamer”.

He picked me up bright and early, of course he awoke me first by texting me even earlier to find out if I was actually going to go out with him. I texted him back that I would after I got some more sleep. As promised, a little “beamer” pulled up outside my apartment, so I ran out and jumped in. I was wearing combat boots, a plaid skirt, and a blue top. He was wearing designer jeans which looked as though they had been pressed, a V-neck sweater, and very nice leather shoes. He also clearly had put more product in his hair that morning than I had used in mine in the last ten years.

His car was clean. I felt very awkward, so I decided to break the tension with sarcasm. I pointed out the fact that it was ironic that he drove a top-of-the-line BMW, though he was an environmental scientist. He tried to argue by saying that every part of his “beamer” was recyclable, but when I asked if he was planning on recycling every part after he was through with it, he confessed that was not his plan. Tension broken.

As we drove to the restaurant we spoke of the hypocrisies of life, whether or not having kids was a good idea, (he had them, I didn’t), and how he could never be a fan of the White Sox because they were in the same league as the Mariners. He talked about his divorces, I spoke of mine, we talked about food, sports, alcohol, and I found myself unusually comfortable with him by the time we arrived at the restaurant.

We sat down, and he told me he was on a fast and could only order certain foods. This amused me, as a good friend of mine had just completed a ten day fast, and by the end of it, had had murder in her eyes. His fast was to last for a month, but unlike hers, allowed him to eat. He ordered the oatmeal, I ordered the French toast with lots of syrup and a side of bacon. I am not the kind of person who will change my diet to make another more comfortable. So, as we sat there, we spoke at length about relationships and food. It was really a relief to me that he understood what good food is. There is nothing more depressing than asking someone what their favorite restaurant is, and the brainwashed, mutant of mediocrity offers up an answer like: “Applebees”.

As we spoke of what we were both looking for, it was clear he was looking for an LTR (long term relationship) and I was absolutely not. This was the part of the date that made the whole experience worthwhile. After I told him I was only dating casually, not really looking for a boyfriend, his exact words to me were:
“Aren’t you a bit old to have that type of attitude?”
Yes ladies and gentlemen, he did.

To which I replied:
“Dude, you are older than me.”

Yes, he was indeed six years my senior, and I thought, a salient point. But no, I had completely misconstrued his perspective, because then he said the thing that pretty much pushed me right over the edge:
“Yes, but I’m a man.”

This is it. This was not unbelievable, this was not even shocking. This was the attitude I had been picking up from most men on CL when they were being honest.

After we finished, he drove me home and of course requested that I have sex with him. When I refused, he went about trying to convince me that I in some way needed him. Sadly, he did not realize that he was talking to a woman who is pathologically independent. Probably one of the reasons I think dating casually is such a good idea.

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