Sunday, July 06, 2008

Context (eventually, anyway)

So then. Is it just me, or did that supposed "LONG weekend" fly by even faster than the usual not-so-long variety? Obviously I am due for a vacation, as a mere weekend (long or otherwise) just isn't cutting it. Unfortunately, my vacation budget at the moment is less "lounging beach-side enjoying fruity drinks brought by a handsome cabana boy named Eduardo" and more "sitting upright in a $4 green plastic Rubbermaid chair in my backyard, sipping sangria beside the lawn sprinkler." Maybe I can at least train a squirrel to fetch my refills. You think?

Mind you, I am not destitute. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I received a "job well finally done" bonus, but rather than splurge on a trip or some other frivolity with that extra cash, I decided to do the responsible thing and put it in savings to earmark for my "Operation: No More Holes in the Shower" fund. Funny how the Universe always likes to mess with us, though. Shortly after deciding to be responsible and place my entire bonus directly into savings, I also thought, "You know, I really haven't updated my summer wardrobe in a very, very long time, and I am quite tired of staring into my closet pondering what to wear each morning..." One "I deserve this!" purchase turned into about twelve, and suddenly a third of that bonus was quickly gone. Whoops. And what was the Universe's answer to this? Well, this morning, I went down to my basement to retrieve the load of laundry I'd left tumbling in the dryer the night before, and I found that my ancient water heater was steadily leaking a large puddle of rusty water onto the floor. Blast.

So tomorrow morning I will be handing over several hundred dollars to a plumber to install a new, made-in-this-century water heater and haul away the rusty old one whose label bears the name of a department store that's been out of business since my early grade school years. If I were a glass-half-full kind of girl, I would be grateful that the work bonus came just in time to pay for this household problem. Apparently I'm more often a bitter, "I can't catch a break" sort of gal, however, so the Universe and I are on thin ice. On the plus side, at least I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow, which is a rare treat on a Monday. The plumber will be here no earlier than 8:30, and since I'm not about to take a second cold shower in two days (Sidenote: Cold showers? Not as appealing as one might think, even after an hour of yard work on a 90+ degree day. The first few moments? Lovely and refreshing. After that, not so much.), that means I need to get up around 8:20, rather than 6:30. So yay for that, anyway. Glass half full after all. I might even get to watch tomorrow's Ellen. See? I'm all about the silver linings here, aren't I?

That said, the Universe and I still need to have a few words. Remember that whole Year of Stef thing? How I decided to do what Oprah says and put positive thoughts out into the world hoping the law of attraction would bring positive things back? Well apparently the Universe did not get my message, because this year has been no more successful (romantically speaking, anyway) than any other.

I admitted last week that there was some context to that little question I posed for all of you. Again, thank you for the crowd participation on that one. As I said in my cop-out follow-up post, the explanation I started to type quickly turned into an excessively rambling and introspective post that I didn't really want to finish, I guess. Suffice it to say, there was a boy. Or, two boys, rather. Both were men I was matched with during my brief Free-Communication-Weekend foray back into the nonsense that is meMarmony, although one also turned out to be a very good friend of a good friend of mine--someone I know I've met before but apparently needed a computer to tell me was in any way interesting to me. And he was interesting... on paper (or, on screen), anyway. Like so many of the perfectly nice, respectful, smart, and genuinely decent men the mysterious Dr. Warren has set me up with, he was ideal for me in the magical world on my computer screen. We don't live on the computer screen, however (much as some of us try, anyway). Perfect on paper doesn't mean perfect in real life. And with both of those fine-on-paper men, I just wasn't feeling it in person. My gut was telling me that if I wasn't even giving more than a passing thought to either of them in between dates (much less looking forward to seeing them again in any genuine way) then neither was probably the guy for me. But the "on paper" stuff (as well as the echo in my brain of certain friends who have, on occasion, suggested I might be too picky or not be giving things enough of a chance) made me reserve judgment anyway and made me wonder if I was perhaps giving up on them too quickly.

Times like this, I keep hoping that I'll be wrong--that suddenly, on a third or fourth date something will click or a wall of awkwardness and reservations will break down and I will find myself laughing easily, willingly grazing his arm or thigh casually, saying "I had a really good time" and meaning it, hoping my phone will ring the next day and I'll see his number on the caller ID display. None of these things has happened recently, and maybe I should finally feel confident that I do know what I'm doing and that my instincts aren't failing me. I may have a hard time meeting someone I connect with, but maybe that doesn't mean I'm supposed to connect with someone with whom I simply don't.

That's where you guys came in. I was wondering if perhaps those certain friends of mine were right and I really shouldn't expect some sort of fireworks (or, at the very least, a tiny sparkler) right away. Nearly every one of you confirmed what I've suspected, though. There has to be something (aside from the on-paper stuff) to keep you interested at the outset. Whether it's a physical attraction or a mental one (or just a gut feeling telling you something other than "Meh"), something tells you "This one is worth getting to know a little more."

A lot of people my age are fond of saying, "I'm sick of the bar scene" or "I don't want to meet anyone in a bar." I'm starting to think maybe I should go back to looking in bars, however. Much as I accept the fact that meeting dates online is the norm by now, it always seems sort of backwards to me. In the old days (by which of course I mean the late 90s), I would meet someone (yes, most likely in a bar or at a concert) and we would strike up a conversation, feel some sort of connection, and because of that connection go on a date to find out more. When you meet online, you go on the date first and then try to see if there's any connection. It is absurd and backwards and it's a wonder to me that anyone ever finds a partner this way. It seems so entirely random--no matter how appealing someone might look in an online profile, no matter how promising things might seem in initial emails, you really can't tell much of anything at all until you meet face to face. Maybe the guy with the bad work ID badge photo and the horrendous grammar is actually the one I'd find myself in rapt conversation with for hours. Maybe a matching list of interests and a properly constructed email means little after all.

I maintain that all this ridiculous seemingly recreational dating must serve a purpose, however, and it's a purpose that goes beyond practice for "the real thing." This nonsense continues to be a learning process, frustrating and uneventful a process as it usually is. A year ago, two of you asked me about my relationship deal-breakers. Oddly, I wasn't entirely sure how to answer at the time. Three nice-but-too-shy boys later, however, and I finally have an answer. The obvious things still stand (no drunks, no puppy-kickers, no Los Lonely Boys lovers, etc.). But lively conversation is a non-negotiable as well. Seems an obvious one for me, but I'm not sure I've ever outright acknowledged it as such. With every bad or mediocre date, however, I still think about that first date with Jimmy-the-Pothead--how despite all the red flags and the reasons to run, I genuinely liked him, how midway through that first dinner, he smiled at me and looked up at our waiter and asked, "Can you tell this is a first date?" and the waiter replied, "No, I probably wouldn't have guessed that... you guys look like you're having a really good time." I want that again--that easy conversation, that undeniable spark of something, that certainty that yes, I genuinely had fun tonight and I really want to see this guy again, as soon as possible. I don't think it should be too much to ask.

Maybe someday the smart, lively conversationalist I'm meant to be with will just knock on my door. Maybe he'll be one of those clipboard people I'm usually so reluctant to open for. Or maybe, if Noelle's luck earlier this year is any indication, he'll be the hot plumber who comes to fix my water heater tomorrow.

What? A girl can dream, can't she?


steve said...

Thank you for posting this, Stef. It's interesting as a guy to read how the other half honestly thinks of dating.

I'm sure this has been suggested before, but in case it hasn't... have you ever thought of volunteering? A couple friends of mine have met great people while volunteering.

Mair said...

Your point about seeing if there are sparks AFTER you meet for the first time, per online dating, makes a lot of sense to me, whereas if you met in a bar, say, you'd already know if there was chemistry. And while bars have their downsides, not all are alike. I met many respectable men in said bars.

Hey! I bet you're still sleeping! Lucky!

shelleycoughlin said...

Good for you, lady. There's a difference between giving someone a chance and settling and this post totally hit on it.

You WILL find someone fabulous. I know it.

3carnations said...

Thanks for the context. Very interesting.

In the same vein as the volunteering suggestion, you should check out the local Jaycees. They have volunteering and social activities. I had a blast with them and met some interesting people. One of them eventually introduced me to hubby, who was a coworker of hers.

Anonymous said...

As I get older, settling seems more like a reasonable option, although that might be because it works in my favor as well.

I really enjoy taking my vacation in the backyard, although if I hear one more person say, "staycation," I will turn the hose on them.

lizgwiz said...

Now remember, I didn't meet a guy until the end of August, when it was the Year of Liz. (Let's just ignore how that romance eventually turned out, okay?) There's still plenty of your year left.

You make good points about online dating, though I have to say I don't think I'm ready to return to bar dating. I remember wearing those "beer goggles" more than once. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the plumber! If it works out, maybe you can get him to fix your shower for free.

Anonymous said...

It could totally be the plumber. Let's just hope he's the kind that doesn't show his plumber CRACK. That's a turn off. Or a turn on? I'll let you decide.

On a different note, wow, plumber is a strange word to say in my head and type over and over.

L Sass said...

Not feeling any sparks is frustrating, but you have to trust your gut!

Here's hoping you'll be enjoying some hottie plumber's crack soon!

Noelle said...

I hope you get a hot plumber, and are able to step it up where I was not.

Also, I hope to send you an email soon about my latest internet dating questions.

Anonymous said...

I admire your perseverance and your continual efforts inspire me to get back out there no matter how frustrating. I encourage you to listen to that meh voice and not settle for less than sparks. If it cannot be the Year of Stef in the lovelife department, at least it will be the Year of Stef's House in the improvement department. (I loved the rumpus room photos and can't wait to see what magic you can eventually do with a professional plumber in the bathroom!)

Stefanie said...

Steve--I don't imagine it's all that different from the guy's perspective, is it? And volunteering? Yeah, I've thought about it, but I guess I'm just afraid of the commitment. (This could be my problem in relationships as well, couldn't it?)

Mair--I was! But now I am $1,100 poorer. Not so lucky. :-(

NPW--Thank you. I hope you're right.

3Cs--My parents were in Jaycees. For some reason I can't get past thinking it's for old people, even though I know full well my parents were my age when they were in it. (Man. I am getting old.)

Flurrious--Settling works in your favor? How so?

Liz--Yeah, I said that in the beginning of the year (that maybe I was supposed to meet the love of my life in December). Still, I feel like Charlotte in that infamous SATC scene: "I've been dating since I was 15. I'm exhausted. Where IS he?!?" (I haven't been dating since I was 15, but I see her point anyway.)

R--No such luck. Good thought, though.

Stacy--I didn't watch him while he worked, so I can't report back on the crack. Whew.

L Sass--Um, thanks? ;-)

Noelle--As you know, I did not get a hot plumber, but I did get a hot electrician. And I was no more able to step up than you were. Oh well.

Badger Reader--That's a good point. At least with any luck I'll end the year with a bathroom that doesn't embarrass me when guests are here.

Anonymous said...

Coming out of lurk-dom to say yes, you can meet the right person in a bar. I met one 4 months ago in a bar, and the sparks! Oh, the spark is so good. It's still going strong, and it is amazing. Don't settle... the real thing is SO worth it! I'm 36, and I really think this is the first 'real thing' I have experienced. Good luck!

3carnations said...

Stefanie - Actually the Jaycees is ONLY for people ages 21-39 or something like that. People get TOO old for it. (Incidentally, if I recall, I think they called those people "aged out" or something equally lovely. They participated as non-members if they chose).

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the suggestions as some friends of mine have had great success meeting people while volunteering or joining a special interest club. Friends AND family have found their "one true love" in a hiking club, sailing club, volunteering for a group that helps homeless teens (my sister - she actually found a fabulous DECENT guy and she usually ends up with complete idiots), etc.

My sister's beau was a good friend first and as they got to know each other the realized that he was a catch, but for a long time she did not think he was her type AT ALL. he's the best boyfriend she's ever had. Yay volunteering!