Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Perfectly": adverb of dating doom

Just out of curiosity, did anyone else pick up and read Rachel Kadish's Tolstoy Lied after I recommended it last year? I've been thinking lately that perhaps I want to read that one again. (You know... after I read the book I'm supposed to be reviewing for the virtual book tour and the one I planned to read for the next Books and Bars event and oh yeah, after I finally get Christopher Moore's Lamb out of my sidebar as well. In my defense, I have read two other books during the time I've had that one in progress, but as they were ridiculous teen vampire books, I'm not sure that redeems me at all.)

I actually think about Tolstoy Lied a lot. I think of it on my way home from every mundane and uneventful date I go on. Specifically, I think of this passage in particular...

Dating emptied me out. One evening, returning from a tepid dinner with a perfectly nice man ("perfectly": adverb of dating doom), I turned on my TV and stared bleary-eyed at a nature special about the tropical rainforest. There, amid platter-sized dasheen leaves and aerial roots... were the hunter vines: stout branches that sprouted from the forest floor, hitched onto the nearest tree, spiraled halfway up its trunk, then--a dozen feet up--groped out into open air to find another, likelier trunk, around which they grew for a dozen months or years until switching to another tree and then, finally, up in the canopy, leafing out into golden sunlight. I thought: I know people like that.

"Perfectly nice man." Oh, how I can relate to that. I'm not a hunter vine. Never have been and likely never will be. I want more than just any old branch to latch on to. And dating is, indeed, emptying me out.

I had brunch with the latest in the long string of perfectly nice men today. And it was... fine. Pluses for being friendly and well-dressed and using the word ethereal properly. Possible minuses for doing 85% of the talking and for not even pretending to reach for the check first. But it isn't about pluses and minuses, of course. It's the overall feeling, post-date. I know it might be too much to expect what Chandler's whiny, nasal-voiced girlfriend Janice called movie love, but shouldn't I once in a while leave a date smiling, feeling giddy with the idea of seeing this person again? Is that too much to hope for? I don't want to believe it is.

As I so often say, the jury is still out on today's date, I guess. If he contacts me again, I'll give it another go, but if today was a first date that was also an only date, I won't be upset either. What's bothering me is that I actually had a good feeling about this one. I may go on entirely too many dates and may be prematurely dismissive and jaded as a result, but every now and then, I still muster optimism. I've done the first-date-prep routine so many times that generally I give it barely any more thought than I do getting ready for work. Every so often, though, I feel an extra surge of anxiety; I have to steady my nervous hand as I bring the mascara wand to my eye, because the date I'm getting ready for is one I've somehow convinced myself might be different. I let myself believe it might be the day I meet The One. I entertain the lofty idea that magic will strike, that I'll finally know what all those people who've found love at near-first-sight are talking about. I want to think there is still hope for me, because I find myself still in that hopeful place now and then. Of course, when that hope falls flat, it leaves me lower and more pessimistic each time.

Am I being unrealistic? When it's right, I should feel something, right? When I've found it, I'll know? Isn't that how it works? Maybe not like a light bulb, but at least a few sparks maybe leading to a slow burn? I want to think it's as simple as that. As I recall, I think Rachel Kadish agreed.


Anonymous said...

Perfectly nice is all well and good. But "perfectly nice" for you might be for someone else "fireworks just went off in my brain". It's not wrong of you to want that. I'm not sure everyone even gets the chance to try it. It's not a myth, of that I am sure.

nancypearlwannabe said...

I won't pretend to know either way. My last boyfriend I was kind of meh about dating for the first month or so, and we ended up dating for three years. With Chris, I knew immediately. I think we both knew immediately. It was like, there is no way I can NOT be in a relationship with this person, despite the 400 mile distance.

So, I guess it can work either way? Don't lose hope, though- there is someone out there who will give you those giddy butterflies. I can feel it!

lizgwiz said...

I'm with you. I want to feel at least a LITTLE spark initially. It doesn't have to be all-out fireworks (though that is nice), but I personally can't imagine having a longterm relationship with someone I don't think about between dates. ;)

Neurotic Grad Student said...

There was no spark with my husband. We were friends and I thought that was all. Until he made a move years after I had first met him. Even then there wasn't a spark until the first kiss. He made me feel so special with that kiss. And that was it.

But no original spark the very first time we met!

Courtney said...

Maybe you shouldn't "know" right away, but I think there should definitely be some sort of spark. Even if it's someone you just want to be friends with for a while, that may be all it takes to set the groundwork for future sparks.

I'm glad you decided to go out with him again if he calls. Maybe his talky-talking was just because he was nervous too, and a second date would be better. Good luck!

abbersnail said...

I read (and loved Tolstoy Lied.

I think the weird thing about "online" dating is that you are meeting someone, getting to know them, and dating them simultaneously. I had a really hard time with that. At the same time, you are right: the first time I met the Horse Whisperer, I wanted to talk with him forever. So. I'm no help whatsoever.

flurrious said...

I decided a long time ago that getting married is not something I ever want to do (meaning that I don't think in terms of meeting The One), so my perspective might be a little skewed, but for what it's worth, I don't think you necessarily know someone is the right guy for you right off the bat. I do think you should have magic, but sometimes magic sneaks up on you. The few times when I've been hit by a thunderbolt at first(-ish) sight were usually the guys who turned out to be hounds. They affected all women that way because they were just that kind of guy. On the other hand, some of the best relationships I've had were ones that I had to initially talk myself into. Then again, some of my worst relationships started that way too. So, I guess if I have a point, it's that there's no one way that it has to go. Which is both wonderful and awful, really.

Alice said...

heh. as someone recently thrown back into the dating pond: ugh. and yes. and UGH.

i had a hard time breaking up with this last one, because the relationship was perfectly fine. it wasn't fantastic, i didn't feel that burning passion of "my life will not be the same if i do not spend it with this person." but kept thinking that maybe slow & steady - and perfectly fine - was really all there was, and the sparks and fireworks only lead to crashed relataionships anyway.

eh, too bad. i want the sparks anyway. :-)

Mickey said...

It's bound to happen. Can't say you're not trying.

Allie said...

Yeah, I totally agree with Courtney. There should be at least a spark, but he should get a do over incase nerves were a factor.

samantha said...

Long-time reader, first time commenter. Your post really struck a chord with me...and finally made me de-lurk.

I don't think it's wrong at all to want to feel a little bit of something for someone. Even if, at the very least, as you described, it's the giddiness of wanting to see that person again, just to learn a little bit more about them.

It's a hard thing to figure out and I can offer you no advice as I feel like I'm in the same boat. But, hang in there, hopefully we'll both have a moment that is more than just nice.

Stefanie said...

12--I know it's not a myth, too. I guess that's why I keep thinking it's not too much to ask. Not fireworks, necessarily, but at least... you know... SOMETHING. Otherwise, what's the point?

NPW--How do you keep yourself interested enough in going on the "meh" dates, though? I mean, if I were desperate for people to do things with, I could see killing time with someone who so far does nothing for me, I guess. But I have friends. I enjoy time alone, too. I'm looking for someone I genuinely WANT to talk to and spend time with. When I'm out with a "meh" guy, I end up just bored and annoyed that I'm wasting time I could be spending elsewhere, and with that attitude, Mr. Meh is never going to grow on me, right? (Man, I'm so complicated.) ;-)

Liz--Exactly. That's been my measure lately, too. If I notice I haven't given a guy more than a passing thought since we went out, I figure I must not be too excited about him or too invested in the outcome.

NGS--There must have at least been a personality spark, though... a friendship spark... right? If not, why did you even hang out as friends? A lot of the guys I go out with I don't even feel much friendship potential with, unfortunately.

Courtney--All good points. We shall see.

Abbersnail--That's exactly it. It's what's so backwards and hard about online dating. You don't meet someone and feel chemistry and because of that chemistry go on a date. Instead, you make plans with a complete stranger to meet and find OUT if there's chemistry. We're still in "getting to know you" territory, and I'm supposed to be thinking about relationship potential already, treating him as someone I'm dating instead of someone I'm deciding whether to date. It almost feels like an arranged marriage sometimes.

Flurrious--Maybe the fact that I'm not desperate and rushing to get married is part of my problem (or, part of why I'm less willing to wait to see if something develops with a guy I'm initially uninterested in). I'm not looking for someone who I think will make a good dad or a good partner, hoping that's the stuff that matters and I'll grow fond of him in the process. Instead, I'm looking for someone I genuinely just enjoy talking to and being with, someone I click with well enough that I'll pick being with him over being by myself any day.

Alice--I do, too. At least at first. Isn't that the whole fun of a new relationship?

Mickey--Thanks. Some might say I'm trying TOO hard. (I'm really not. It goes in spurts, honestly.)

Allie--OK, well, it's two days later and no word from him yet, so we'll see.

Samantha--Yay; I love delurkers. Nice to see you. :-) And thanks. I hope so for both of us, too.

Aaron said...

I am a firm believer in "spark", and while I don't claim to be an expert, I think you should never let anyone talk you into "perfectly nice" if you're not feeling it. The downside to this is that I was single for really, really long stretches, but it all pays off eventually. Swear.

Mind you, sometimes people have off nights and maybe deserve a second look, and maybe I'm just a romantic at heart, but a world without date-related-happy-nausea seems boring.

Swistle said...

I am not sure! My first husband was someone I felt a spark with right away---and we didn't work out. My second husband was my friend for 3 years and I seriously never ever thought of him That Way or felt any attraction to him at all---and after we started dating, we moved in together within a few months and now we've been married 11 years.

So this seems like I think I'm being all CONCLUSIVE. Except that my main high school boyfriend was someone I took awhile to warm up to---and we didn't work out. And my other high school boyfriend was someone I took awhile to warm up to---and we didn't work out. And the guy I most regret not dating was something I felt a spark with right away. And I had a fling in high school with someone I felt a spark with right away, and we totally crashed and burned and I still feel the unpleasantness of it even at a distance of almost twenty years.

So. Uh. I don't know AT ALL.

Simone said...

I agree with Aaron...

At the least, I think you should be left with a feeling of looking forward to seeing that person again and talking more.

There's always exceptions to that, but in general feeling a bit of excitement about someone is the way to go!