Dating Darcy

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Darcy, Moped[**Disclaimer: This account, like all the previous and future posts about my romantic life, are to be considered all almost entirely fictional unless clearly stated otherwise. Any resemblances to real life women who have been unfortunate enough to go on date with me are a result of the statistically common reactions to my many idiosyncrasies**]

Its late afternoon in DMV and I’m running late for the date. My latest addition to my healthy lifestyle involves walking everywhere and I’ve forgotten how long it takes to get to the Café from my house. I’ve walked this route every morning for a week and I can hear my father telling me I need to be more observant as I consider my next move. I debate texting Darcy to let her know that I’m going to be late. It is 10 minutes before I said I’d meet her and I’m about 8-12 minutes away. If I show up exactly on time I’ll seem punctual but I will have to walk fast enough to break out into a sweat to do so. I slow down and decide better to be fashionable late and put together than on time like a hot mess. I consider calling my friend Sam to ask if I should include an exclamation point after the sorry. I decide that Sam is probably too busy having a job and being all responsible to help me compose a text message right now. I decide that go with the exclamation point anyways. My brother always told me not to use smiley faces but I think all other punctuation is kosher.

Sorry! I’m running a little late.

She replies a minute later: no problem at all!!!

 

I pause in the middle of the street to decipher the message. I ignore the horns of oncoming traffic as I try to decide if three exclamation points mean it is really is not a problem at all or if it’s really not a problem…like…at all. As I begin walking again, the exclamation points seem to be more and more angry. Of course she’s mad; I’m going to make her wait. I debate whether or not to text her a joke about a troll underneath the 11th street bridge but I think she needs to see my face for it to be funny. I try and time my burst of quick walking with the gust of autumn air, exerting myself only when the wind will keep me from sweating. I vaguely recognize that this makes me look like a crazy person and vow to stop when I’m within eye sight of my destination. If I’m lucky I’ll arrive with a minute to spare having sent a text message saying that I would be late. That should show that I’m both punctual and considerate.

Two blocks away from the Café I slow down just as I’m starting to get nervous. I wonder if every woman I walk by is actually her. Perhaps she didn’t want to wait in the Cafe itself and is leaning next to her moped smoking a cigaret like a Parisian woman. Could she have dyed her hair, gained 20 pounds and invited her husband on the date or is that someone else? I as I start to look for her, not knowing if she will be waiting causally outside for me or take a sit inside, I marvel at how attractive D.C is. I begin to understand the value of making an effort to look nice and anxiously look at myself in the reflection of the store windows. I cringe at my overweight body made even more awkward by the only clean shirt without holes in it. Check that…my last non overly offensive smelling shirt without major holes in it.  She said that she didn’t like guys who spent more time getting ready than her and she seems to revel in that “I just got out of bed look.” At least she will be put at ease by my homeliness.  15 yards away from the Brown Bonnet, where a local feminist blogger described meeting her partner so vividly that I thought it would hold some the same magic for me and Darcy, I begin to wonder if I want her to be more or less attractive than her pictures.

I begin to think that if she is more attractive than her pictures I may start to feel that I’m not good looking enough for her. Then instead of meeting cool, calm and collected Aaron she’ll get sweaty, voice still somehow cracks at 25 Aaron and even I don’t like that guy. She’s pretty enough in her pictures that if she was less attractive in real life she’d be as attractive as me and therefore easier to approach.

I see her sitting down at the same table I imagined the blogger was sitting at. Life is imitating blog and make sure to note it for my next comment. She’s wearing the same argyle sweater that she was wearing in her profile picture from Vienna. I know I shouldn’t say that though because then she might know how often I looked at her profile. I notice that her back is too the door which means that June was wrong last night she said that the mug shot in the pictures was real. If Darcy spent time in Prison she’d never have her back to the entrance. Before I walk up to her I find myself hoping that she is in fact as pretty as her pictures. I think I could handle that. I remembered to brush my beard so I’m looking pretty good despite the stripped shirt.

I start to approach her from behind. I realize how that would sound in my re-telling of this moment and I pause trying to map out a path through the crowded café that would allow me to casually walk up to her and not seem like a creeper. Instead, my Uchicago awkwardness permeates through the moment and she senses my presence. She turns, rather gracefully I might add, to see me starting at her. I could have saved the moment with my charming smile instead I give her my “well, this is awkward…you caught me” smile.

As I see her face I realize it is worse than I imagined. She actually looks the most like her third picture, the one where she pretending to sing a Britney Spears song at a New Years party. She has the type of face that you know that most people find her attractive but you’re not sure if you do yet. She’s basically Jennifer Garner in in beginning of the movie, before you know if she is the nice character or the stern mean one. I stare at her for a second and sense my face flash the moment’s disappointment.

“Hey, I sorry, I wasn’t sure if that was you” I say knowing that it was her but finally brandishing my charming smile.

[**Disclaimer, for those you who don’t know me, you should be aware that there is no empirical evidence to suggest any difference between my charming smile and my creepy smile. The jury is still out**]

She smiles back. It is a warm smile that instantly makes her seem more attractive. “It’s okay” she says with no understood ellipses.

I take the seat across from her and as I tell myself not to do that thing where I try to figure out if someone is attractive while they are talking to me. I don’t listen though and find myself analyzing her facial features as she describes racing over here because she thought she was going to be late. When she mentions not having enough time to finish getting ready I smile and tell her she looks nice. It’s a temporary lie.

I haven’t decided if she is attractive yet but I noticed that she had brought a copy of Carcassonne and had set it out on the table. I decided that it was inevitable that I would fall for  any girl this smart, nice and with affinity for board games. I knew that eventually I would think that she did in fact look nice, so it wasn’t really a lie.

Before I begin an internal debate of the fact that because she was in fact very well dressed the statement “you look nice” would have been true even if I wasn’t attracted to her, she asks me if I’ve read any John Rawls before. I panic. I was prepared to fall for this girl slowly, with her attractiveness becoming more and more readily apparent over time. My confidence and comfort was supposed to raise as fast if not faster than my attraction. If she started talking about “A Theory of Justice” my voice would almost certainly crack.

I stare at her for a second. Only her slightly inquisitive tilt of the head reminds me that I have yet to answer her question.

“Yes” I say confidently, suddenly proud that I was able to so speak clearly to such an attractive young woman, “I have.”

She smiles again and I get butterflies for the first time since I read her message about how she is surprised at how comic book heroes have started killing their enemies after decades of calling it a line they’d never cross. I decide that she is being super generous in accepting my oddities. She must either be a closet awkward person or just a generous person. I’m personally fine with either but I’m hoping for the first. As she talks about “A Theory of Justice” I lose track of all my dating tips: I forget to manage my eye contact and stare intently into her eyes, I forget ask her if she want dessert and order so much food myself that assumes I expect her to share, and I forget to compliment her three times. Instead I forget that this is a date and allow myself to be dragged into a pleasant intellectual discussion.

The particulars of her argument matter very little to me. I get the sense that though we are both engrossed by the subject matter we a still being too polite to have a real argument. We are mostly discussing feelings about the practicality of the theory and trying to politely disagree. I am fascinated by the way her mind works though and the clarity with which she can reconstruct my arguments as she gets to see is she heard me correctly.

“You really think that democracy is overrated?” She asked with her butter fly producing smile, clearly thinking I’m being sarcastic and loving it. I decide not to press the point and lie for the second and last time that night, “no, I’m just joking. Of course I love Democracy.”

It’s ten o’clock before I realize we have been talking for hours. I’ve developed substantial if somewhat hard to pin down feelings for her by the time she says it’s getting late and she needs to go to bed. This is the moment when all the advice columns tell me I need to make my move. I am supposed to gauge the situation and go in for the kiss [except for maxim, which seems to think I should assume I’m going to bed with her].

I look at her and she has an amused look on her face and I can tell she had a good time. Yet, ultimately I decide that a mutual good time is different than mutual romantic interests. She was pretty, smart, funny, nice and interesting. I’d definitely love to see her again but our connection was one of exciting potential and not immediate lust. I raise my hand to give my signature and slightly boyish two fingered salute good bye as she sticks out her hand to shake mine.

[**Disclaimer my signature salute is not as nearly as creepy as it sounds. It is literally waving goodbye and not something from one of Dave Chappelle’s “Great Moments in Hook Up History”**]

I realize askmen.com would say that I put myself in the friendzone with that move but then I’d just say “you’re a website, what do you know” and walk away confident in my disbelief in the existence of zones…I only believe in having awkward conversations about how we feel about and will you go out with me? [Yes. No. Maybe] notes.

Dating In The Chocolate City? A Humorous But Impotant Excursion Into Beltway Dating Rituals

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singles-dc

You would think, for a man recently reentering the dating game in a new city, living with two beautiful D.C residents would be a huge added benefit. My sisters are both attractive, accomplished young professionals in the DMV with goals and ambition and laid back [broadly speaking] demeanor. They must have insight into the befuddling and majestic alien creature that is a beltway woman. In all seriousness, I recognize that all women are individual human beings with their own wants, desires, strengths, quirks and insecurities. Yet, I also know that each region has it norms and regional ways of going about social interactions. I was hoping my sisters, DMV veterans that they are, could enlighten me. Yet let’s examine how these conversations actually play out.

[**Disclaimer the following account is a fictionalized account of true events. Everything in this account happened but the timeline, names, and minute details of the dates were changed for illustrative and entertainment purposes** **Irritable Bowel Disease is a real condition and if you identify with any of the symptoms, please seek out medical attention**]

Sister #1 [we’ll call her…Lindsey.] is currently wearing sweat pants and flowing flowery shirt. She is rubbing her stomach and smiling a satisfied smile.

Lindsey: Hey, have you noticed anything different about me?

Sister #2 [We’ll call her…June] is currently wearing her red dreads wrapped up the Do-Rags Lindsey bought for the community clean up last month. She eyes Lindsey and gives her a patented “really?” look.

June: [looks at me now, one eye brow raised] Don’t say anything…maybe if we ignore her she will go away.

Lindsey: [Has lifted her floral shirt above her belly and is now unabashedly rubbing her stomach that is significantly smaller that it was yesterday] I finally had a bowel movement…I just lost like four pounds.

Me: [In a true testament to how not-at-all-out-of-the-norm this is] Yeah, you look great Linds. [I give her a proud look like she just chugged a beer and smashed it on her forehead.] That’s a lot of shit kid.

June: [Clearly disgusted] Tsk. Don’t encourage her, she needs to go to the doctor.

Lindsey: No, I think one more bowel movement and I’ll be good.

The Conversation continues like this until we wake up. My sister’s bicker back and forth for about 10 minutes.

June: How was your date?

Me: It was great. She was really nice, smart and pretty. We had a really great conversation; I’m hoping to see her again.

Lindsey: Hm, did you pay for dinner. [June gives Lindsey her “WTF?” look] It may be the 21st century but a man should always pay for the first meal. [June’s look now says seriously cuz?]

Me: Well, I…

June: See this is way you should come to me with this. [Pause. Looks at Lindsey and back to me.] Some people [look back at Lindsey and rolls her eyes] No, I’m playin’. But seriously. What was she like?

Me: She was really cool. I had a really great time. I’m starting to really love the life I’m been building for myself in D.C. Being proactive, meeting great new people…it’s nice. I’m not sure if I should write her today or wait…I

[simultaneously]

June: call her now, it’s not the 90’s

Lindsey: Wait a few days. You’re a grown man, you have shit to do. You don’t have time to be writing her every moment.

Me: Uh…I feel like… I should just be able to…

June: [fainting anger] What kind of shit is that Linds?

Lindsey: What? He shouldn’t appear needy. Just wait a day.

This continues until they get distracted arguing about their exact same opinions of “The Rachel Ray Show.” I have learned nothing from this conversation other than that my sisters are two very different people. I enjoy it because they are hilarious in their sibling bickering. They are polar opposites who have grown eerily similar due to prolonged exposure to each other’s idiosyncrasies. As they continue to argue I turn to Google to solve my dilemma. As I type in “dating advice” into Google I revel in the butterflies flirting through my stomach as I think about the date. It is been a long time since I’ve had butterflies and so they are a welcomed feeling. What is even more welcomed is their background presence in my day. They are a dull echo compared to my college crushes.

The online advice is basically ten different versions of be yourself, don’t do anything borderline rapey or stalkerish. Check. Check and Check. Phew. I’m glad got out of the clear there. It can never hurt to make sure you are not exhibiting rapey or stalkerish tendencies.

[**Disclaimer. For real though, EVERYONE should check themselves for rapey or stalkerish tendencies. Just because I joke about it, doesn’t mean it’s not serious. I’m looking at you “I’ll get few drinks in her before I go for the kiss” Happy Hour Dude**]

While this confirms my hope that I am perhaps not as out of the loop as I thought, it provides little insight into my current situation. Undeterred, I type in “advice for e-mailing after a date,” and I try my best to wade through the sea of rules for dating.  I lack the focus to stay on task and end up reading a series of variations of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus [MFMWFV.] I’m fortunate at least that as writer this is now no longer procrastination but will be referred to as “research.”

I continue my research as I try to find the nuggets of truth in the universally misguided and oft times bigoted glimpses into out dated courting rituals and blindly binary hetero-normative written projections of loneliness. I am slightly encouraged by the fact that these thirty and forty somethings whom deem themselves worthy of bestowing their wisdom to my generation still believe in being yourself. A few young millennial writers note that people are just people, and therefore women are in fact not from Venus but Brooklyn and Hyde Park and Tarrytown. I am heartened by this but am still left thinking, great, but do I write her today or tomorrow? How do you tell if a person [any person really ‘cause it might help with these job application follow ups] values immediate communication or if that seems too eager? Do I tell her she’s beautiful or should I tone it down a bit? How do you know whether someone is a hugger?

After about 30 minutes of distress I decide to call back on my sisters. I try and channel my mother and project the face that always gets them to stop bickering pleasantly. They see the face and, reminded of my mother, are ashamed for a second. June in turn imitates my mother’s “I’m listening intently but also kind of mocking you face.”  After listening to my blown-out-of-proportion-because-I’m-really-bored dilemma, June says that older people [read: in their 30’s] call this dating etiquette.  I relax a little and peruse those articles before finally settling on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/dating-rules-better-than-3-day-rule_n_3403137.html.

I silently thank Arianna Huffington for solving my immediate problems and write a heartfelt message about how much I enjoyed the date and plainly asked for another. I feel much better at this point and am glad that, unlike 18 year old me, I feel confident that I can go about my day without waiting for a response. The more I think about the series of MFMWFV articles though, the more unsettled I become. The feeling of unease creeps up on me like after you get off the 90 in D.C or the Redline in Chicago and aren’t sure what to make of the man selling apples out of a biohazard bag. You know it’s not okay but you are unsure as to the extent to which it’s not okay.

I was concerned with the lack of practical non-patriarchal relationship advice for men. Again, I’m super excited that there is a lot of advice on how not to be a creepy needy slightly rapey date. And, admittedly, dating etiquette was helpful for the more banal questions like what to wear, what to say, where to go. Yet what about the more meaningful concerns. Even though I’ve only gone on first dates my mind inevitably wandered to questions about more serious relationships. What does courting look like without patriarchy?

[**Disclaimer. Mom/Dad/ random other adult figures in my life. I’m going to talk about some adult themes so if this is going to make you slightly uncomfortable or[ worse] make me slightly uncomfortable, please stop reading**]

How do you bring up physical intimacy and sex without offending someone or worse pressuring them?  How do you clearly state where you’re at and what you want at the different stages of courtship, dating, and being a couple? What if you’re not sure if you what kind of relationship you want? Is there a way to bring it up without your date being like “dude I’m not even sure if I’m going to peace out on you when my friend calls to see if I need an excuse to leave?”

I tried relationship advice but found that far too broad and again, obvious. Thank you Doctor Phil, now I know that I probably shouldn’t talk about my emotional scars from previous relationships in the first or second date. Really? I probably shouldn’t pretend to be interested in a committed relationship if all I want is sex? I then tried “dating advice for feminist allies.” This advice was only slightly more relevant to me. There were some interesting discussions about not using the word rape to describe things are not rape and how you can show women respect [ http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/11/deconstruction-how-to-be-male-ally.html ]. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the article is awesome. I think everyman should read it and if everyman took it to heart we could end large swaths of rape culture in America.

My concern is, are there really so few men in my position? Most of this discussion is, quite frankly, obvious to me. This would be fine if I were some saint of new age maleness. I would be fine if it meant that I was so far past my Neanderthal-lite contemporaries that I didn’t need this advice. Unfortunately, I struggle with and perpetuate patriarchy every day. I still am not sure how to confidently approach sexual topics with women as equals. How do I make my wants and desires clear and respected while giving her space to do the same? How might I ethically navigate a hypothetical partner’s “sex-positivism” with my odd mix of slightly old fashion views on “common decency” and unique sexual desires? Basically how and when do you create a safe, non-awkward space to talk about physical and emotional intimacy from kissing & sex to commitment issues & mental illness?

To be clear, my concern is less at the practical lack of easily available discussions of these sorts of issues now that I’m dating, it is about the symbolism of the absence in our discussion. Past experience has told me that often these sorts of things resolve themselves organically in my own relationships. I’m fairly confident that if I continue to be the honest, open and caring person I try and often succeed at being it is unlikely that any potential partner will feel uncomfortable pressure or offense. Yet what does it mean that there is no cultural conversation about this. Do people either accept offense and pressure as hazards of dating or possess some sort of brazen honesty on these subjects that risks scarring off potential partners in order to avoid said pressure and offense.

And if I’m perfectly honest with myself [and by myself I of course mean the 20 random people who will read this], it would be practically helpful for me too. What if I’m wrong about things working out organically? What if one of my many unknown unknown’s was that I am doing things in my organically developing relationships to offend women? It’s been known to happen [ “nice guy patriarchy” or back when I used to dance beside girls and pretend like I was dancing with them in college].

So, Facebook friends, random bloggers, fellow allies, womanists, feminist, queer theorists and free thinkers: how do you date ethically in the modern world? I suppose I should also ask, is it reasonable to expect to be able to date, hold true to your needs, wants and beliefs without inadvertently benefiting from or perpetuating patriarchy? I’m not asking about how to date without getting your feelings hurt [mom I know that probably what you’re about to send me a heartfelt message about…send it anyway just in case] I thinking dating, like all human interactions, come with risk and miscommunications. My question is can it come without rape culture, patriarchy, emasculation and WTF moments? Not only would I like to know but I think this conversation (which is undoubtedly taking place somewhere in the interweb) needs to be more main stream. Please, if I’m simply missing out on a great conversation out there, post it in the comment section. Can’t wait to hear from you!

p.s. what’s the deal with :)’s. Is that deal breaker? What if I’m really excited about what I just said?