Pizza and Beer and a New Friend

The other night I had my first official date from the online dating site. I don’t like to think of it in terms of a date, but in Joe’s eyes it was. He kept referring to it as such. And while my ears burned to hear it, I realized that I now needed to get used to the idea that I am dating. I never actually have. I always looked at the thing in terms of hanging out with a friend. I let Joe know that this was my perspective. And he seemed perfectly happy to be my new friend.

I had the best time. First of all, I put off our first meeting for a few weeks due to my being busy, and also a little apprehensive at the idea of meeting a guy this way. His idea was for me to meet him at one of his favorite clubs in Long Branch for Happy Hour. I decided that after a long weekend of work, come Monday, it would be really nice to have such a break to look forward to. I have never been good about letting guys buy me dinner or a drink, or whatever. But this evening I had the most wonderful time just letting him take the reins, make the decisions and just going along with it. This was, as I let him know, sort of trial thing for me. I was just getting my feet wet I told him. He seemed to also relax at the idea of us just getting to know each other as friends. He was so incredibly personable. I recognized that he had ADD, and let him know this was something he and I had in common, once he confessed to it.

He suggested many different drinks that all looked delicious, but for some reason all I wanted was a draft beer, which I soon had sitting right in front of me. We talked about anything that came to mind, and seemed to have no lack of topics to discuss. I recognized that I actually wasn’t so bad at keeping the conversation a float, probably due to many years as a customer care rep for a cell phone company. I noticed an interesting thing on the menu, miniature corn dog appetizers. Once I pointed them out, he insisted that we start out with that. They were served with a sweet mustard, and were absolutely delicious. He mentioned the salads, but ever since Joe had suggested pizza in the last online message he sent me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And so we went with a delicious pizza which was topped with goat cheese. With my being resolute on just enjoying the evening, everything turned out so nice. I never approached the date as something which could turn into a relationship, and Joe seemed content also to just enjoy the evening for what it was.

We soon escaped out the back door where his bicycle was parked. He said “Hi” to a number of friends. He had grown up in the area and knew quite a few people. I envisioned him being proud of his “date.” In my experience guys tend to kind of be “show-offs,” but this has never bothered me. We walked to 7-11 to get something for my headache and Joe asked if I would like to walk by the water afterward. We were right near Ocean avenue, and the beach was right across the street. I felt very comfortable with Joe and I told him this, so when he suggested we walk to the Oceanside, I was very welcoming of the idea. With Joe’s ADD personality, I also felt very inclined to be myself. I felt I could say nothing wrong. His style of conversation was stream of consciousness, so I let this out in myself as well. At one point in the evening I let him know he reminded me of my dad, and he was flattered. He got a smile from me more than once. As we walked by the water, on this lovely evening near dusk, he told me about his previous marriage. His wife had cheated on him. I got the impression that he was such a sweet guy, and that this possibly was not at all his fault. I said, “I’m sorry,” and thought to myself “There really are nice guys out there.” In truth, if it hadn’t been for my insistence on finding someone with a strong Christian faith I may have been interested in him. On the other hand, he didn’t seem to talk to me much about myself. And this is something which I have always let slide with guys I’ve gotten to know, much to my own detriment.

Joe seemed surprised when I was willing to exchange numbers with him. But I totally trusted him. He had suggested quite a few different things we could do, even the next day. However, while more than willing to be his friend, I did not want to lead him on. He soon had to go to pick up his son. But it was good timing. Why should the date go on for too long? We walked back to my car and discussed hanging out again. He knew he was the first of many guy friends from the dating site whom I would like to meet. As for him, I wanted very much to encourage him, so I told him everything positive which I saw, how he had such a great personality, and seemed able to enjoy the moment without making things into something they weren’t. I told him how much I appreciated his being able to postpone our first meeting without getting upset at all, and how this spoke volumes about his character. Most of all, he simply needed to put up new pictures as the one he had up didn’t accurately portray what an awesome and personable guy he was. I’ve even thought about meeting him and taking the pics for him myself. After all, why should I not be willing to help out such a nice guy?

In retrospect, Monday evening was the best thing I could do for myself. Joe was generous, which is a trait I decided I will always look for during such dates. I am a generous person also and would not even want a guy as a friend who was not. And so, being able to enjoy a nice evening of drinks and dinner was such a pleasure. I never felt I owed him anything. This exercise for me opened the door to other such meetings which could be said to be more like fun interviews. After meeting him I felt first of all that I could look forward to hanging out with him as a friend, someone who knows the beachside community pretty well. And also, I could certainly look forward to my future dates, to having fun conversations, and delicious food, while of course being just as careful to screen these guys, and exercise caution as to where and how we decided to meet.

Asbury Park (the Drumming Circle)

Walking toward the beach last Tuesday evening after parking my car on an old crumbly road, I could feel the clean late summer night air on my skin. It felt wonderful. I had been to the Asbury Park boardwalk before but each time I experience it anew as the emerging project that it is, toward what end though, it’s always hard to be sure. My analytical mind automatically set forth to try and figure out this puzzle which was apparent to me, as I asked myself, whether the vibe was real, or completely disingenuous. Or was I rather, just being cynical, a mode I should break from on this occasion, to give Asbury Park, and Shawn, a chance? I guess I assumed that if something didn’t “feel right” to me as an artist ostensibly with a gift of perception, then there must be a reason. Such questions lingered as I walked through the carefully crafted set up, hearing the drums off in the distance, like an ancient tribal ceremony of some sort. These drums would probably lead me to Shawn, the guy whom I had met briefly on the online dating site.

Walking down the boardwalk I saw the familiar, the things I liked about Asbury Park- the amazing architecture that someone with a vision for the town sought diligently to preserve, and it’s emerging identity, as I continued to question whether it had really found itself, or whether it was still in some kind of existential flux. The prices ridiculously high for such common items as T-Shirts bearing the name of the town, it seemed to have turned into some kind of a tourist trap. I eventually found the drums and nonchalantly circled the area, walking a couple steps in, trying to get a good shot of the scene with my cell phone.

The drummers sat in a circle. They drummed and drummed together for reasons unknown to me and perhaps themselves. I could see Shawn. He looked a lot like his online picture. I don’t know if he saw me. As I looked on with the others surrounding the camp, with questions possibly similar to mine, I wondered as to the value in this strange communal activity. I recalled that Shawn had told me they do this from 6-10 every Tuesday, and at Belmar every Saturday. It was hard for me to believe that there was anything which could cause such commitment with such little payback. It wasn’t even a full band, just drums, pounding non-melodically over and over, with about 20 men, women, and children participating.

Suddenly they took a break. I felt like seizing the moment, so I walked up to Shawn. He stayed turned away, while the lady next to him acknowledged me. I thought of a question to ask, “Are you here until 10?” He turned, and seemed to finally look at me as he answered yes. I said “Hi, I’m Katie.” He seemed ashamed, perhaps of where he had met me? He looked better than his picture, but his teeth reflected bad dentistry, which I could not overlook. His arms were nice with tattoos, and muscular, possibly from drumming on a solitary conga for 8 hours a week? He seemed artistic like someone I could perhaps be interested in. But we had very little conversation before he excused himself and walked away. I did not get the impression he wasn’t interested in me, but rather he was very shy around women, or me in particular. And so I wasn’t insulted. He had said, “excuse me one moment,” but after about 2 minutes I decided it wasn’t really worthwhile to wait for him to return and so I walked away to find something else to do.

I went in to the Parthenon where they have the big name acts come in to play on occasion, and wandered into a bar which jutted out into the beach area. The evening beachside air was beautiful. I ordered an over-priced Corona and sat and felt the fresh breeze coming off the ocean, as I sang along to a random John Mayer tune, admiring the acoustics in the old fashioned space, newly renovated, but keeping with some of the rusty old architecture for the nostalgic sorts like myself to enjoy. I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel I needed what the drum people had to feel good. I was enjoying myself much better where I was at.

I soon decided to go home, and on my way out, I walked past the drumming circle again. There were more people. It was darker now, and interestingly many standing on the periphery of the circle had hula hoops. A lady carried a bunch of them and she seemed to be the instigator for the hula hoop vibe now enveloping the drum circle. Wanting to break from my judgmental mode I grabbed a hula hoop, proud of the fact that I had taught myself this skill at the ripe old age of 32. But after a while it seemed non special as everyone was doing the same thing. While fun for a moment, this activity soon seemed pointless accept that it amounted to my entire workout for the day. Shawn was still in his spot, next to his people and drumming on his conga. He didn’t see me. I did not attempt further communication with him, and wondered if he would be one of those who was very honest and forthright through email, while extremely shy in person.

I walked back to my car, happy to be leaving, still questioning what was real, and what was disingenuous in what I had just experienced this evening, and resolving that Asbury Park in its current state was a mixture of both. The tend toward a hippy vibe while applaudable, seemed contrived. And I could not get it out of my head that this guy was wasting huge portions of his time. I kept asking myself how one could actually do this? How can a guy spend hours and hours drumming on a conga drum, and how did this have any value for him? Obviously this practice had something to do with the need for community. But can someone just shut off his mind and beat on a drum for hours in order to be part of a community? Not wanting to discredit this seemingly progressive movement (there must be something worthwhile in it), I compared it to a scene from “Forrest Gump” where he suddenly stops running and says he’s going home now, and all the people following him have to wonder why they’ve been running after him for so long, and where do they go now? It seemed like the same sort of thing to me, people were going somewhere, but not sure where, just following someone else. This definitely wasn’t my type of scene.

What’s more, this guy who has a profile on a dating site; what is he hoping to find? Does he think his new girlfriend will sit for 4 hours every Tuesday and Saturday and admire him banging on a drum with his friends? No doubt any future acquaintance of his sort would already be sitting right in the circle with him, or maybe twirling a hula hoop on her hips with everyone else. She will fit into his community, and be a great conformist to this activity. But it will not be me. I am much too thoughtful. Perhaps if nothing else this eventing helped me to define what it is I am and am not looking for.

I’m Going to Block More Guys

I’ve decided today I’m just going to block more guys. I seem to have guys arguing with me for “not giving them a chance.” When I say as politely as I know how, “I am talking to several guys at the moment” when it appears they think they are the only one, they continue to push the issue. The reality is I find their pictures unattractive, but of course I don’t want to tell them that, unless they really keep pressing things. One time I actually did tell a guy I thought he was unattractive, but only after he was really mean. Such guys are obviously being manipulative, but I can sense there is something wrong when they continue to persuade me as if I were too stupid to know what it is I want, or what I’m looking for. This type of guy gets angry when he starts to realize he’s not going to get his way. He insults me to a hilarious degree, then I get to have the fun of out-witting him. This has happened on a couple of occasions.

Other guys just get mean when things aren’t phrased a certain way. And you see right off the bat, not the nice kind guy whom they purport to be in their profiles, but the rotten SOB that some poor lady recently divorced. Perhaps I am skilled at bringing out the worst in this kind of guy. Maybe it is the psychologist in me. Or maybe it is the vixen that likes to toy with these sorts.

I want to share with you one such conversation. This conversation referenced the profiles which the site encourages you to share prior to having a conversation. I will change the IDs, including my own… This by the way is the first time I ever spoke to the guy. After reading that he was a fun and light-hearted guy on his profile, I thought I would have some fun in my initial conversation with him, I never thought it would turn out as intense as it did.

Kate: Are you materialistic. Sorry, that’s my first impression. Also, you look cute in your pics. Not bad for a 53 year old.

Someguy: ###-###-#### call me and you can tell me what gave you that impression…. Sg

Kate: Sorry, I try to get to know guys a little before calling. But I guess you’re the type to only play by your rules, huh? (;

Someguy: Boy, you like to make assumptions don’t you? First, I’m materialistic, which by the way is a wonderful way to make an impression & now I’m the type to make the rules……where did you learn your social skills? And what in my writing or the way I look makes you think I’m materialistic? Could it possibly be my cultural background? I mean as long as we’re assuming things….should I give you the same treatment? The reason I want to talk, is because it saves time, it’s immediate & you hear the person’s voice. All things that let you make a more intelligent decision, rather than making assumptions…or is it that you’re the type to only play by your rules? One more pt. If I were trying to play by my rules I’d have asked for your #, for all I know if you did call you’d call from a restricted number, hence you’d be in control. Finally, since you’re so governed by your faith, why would you click on me anyway? I’m about as non-religious as you can get……But to be fair, you don’t look so bad for a 44yr. old……unreal!!

Kate: Wow, I thought you said you were fun.

Someguy: You make a point of saying you’re a “tell it like it is” person….but I guess you don’t like it when someone else tells you like it is……now, maybe I took what you said the wrong way, but if you read what you wrote, it can very easily be taken the way I took it, especially since you’re refusing to answer my questions. I’d still like to know what in my profile gives you the impression I’m materialistic…..finally, if you’re so consumed w/your faith why would you want to see someone who’s not of your faith? Balls in your court…..I am fun & quite easy to talk to…….your call

Kate: Actually you seem kind of mean. That’s not what I’m looking for as a friend or otherwise.

Someguy: Yeah you’re right…..I’m mean because I point out a MORONIC question that you asked & you don’t have the maturiity/intelligence to explain it, let alone retract it….”are you materialistic, sorry that’s my 1st impression”…….and offering you my phone # tells you that I only play by my rules? Here’s some unsolicited advice……GROW UP!!!….Best of luck to you…..

Kate: So you’re saying you are materialistic, and mean as well?

Someguy: You know, for someone who claims to tell it like it is, you really don’t like it when someone throws it back at you. You asked me if I was materialistic, I asked you what gave you that impression. Since you’ve REFUSED to answer my question, unless you think wearing Levi’s or LLBean makes one materialistic, I’m left thinking that you came to that conclusion based on my cultural background. So until you answer my question I’ll keep feeling the same way……but you go ahead and think what you want if that makes you feel better…….maybe the one…in this case YOU….who makes these statements or assumptions is the mean one…….again you only want someone from your “faith,” so what’s the difference…..LOL

So, after a while you could see I was just playing with him. But after his last comment I figured what’s the point? His faith was Jewish by the way.

Fortunately there are many other very nice guys I have spoken to on the site. And I am certainly not always this challenging in conversations with them. This sort of thing may be an example of a guy who is projecting his ex wife’s qualities onto me (as he perceives them), so I end up in some intense form of conflict I never bargained for. In such case, I have to remind myself, I don’t even know this guy, much less consider it of any value to engage in an argument with him. In his responses it seems that he is saying, “Keep talking to me, but I’m going to continue to berate you.”

There was no further reason to communicate with this person, and no obvious fun left to be had. So all I could do is stop responding. And as I said, going forward, I would not change anything but to stop my responses quicker, unless of course I could have the fun of out-witting such a person. As for the other guys whom I was never actually interested in? I will simply not even respond at all in the first place. Fortunately, these types of conversations are exceptions and not the rule. Overall, the experience of being on this online dating site is still a good one. And I am starting to look forward to actually meeting some very nice guys, who are quite interesting as well, for reasons other than being fun to toy with.

My Last Crush

Everything looks good in my life right now. I love my apartment near the Jersey Shore, though it’s not a fancy place by any means. And the low cost of rent attracts large immigrant families with loud children. This is one small annoyance I deal with, but it is small. I love my job and have great potential for moving up. I work with mental health consumers, who I feel need me. I think I have something to teach them that is worthwhile. And they usually listen to me. I let my “fun self” out at work as well, and always have a new and creative perspective to help make life more tolerable, which seems to be one of my gifts. As I mentioned before, I just joined this new dating site, where I am constantly receiving emails from guys who say I’m attractive, sexy and other nice compliments. It is worthwhile just to go there to feel desirable. I have very little to complain about, and things are fine. I don’t feel I have a great amount of unmet needs in my life, until I start to think about the last guy I had a crush on.

I found him in a sociology chat room and we connected. I’m not sure how. Maybe it was my doing. I knew he was taken. But he acted to me like he wasn’t. We never talked on the phone. We just emailed. And I have never met him. And I’m sure that he in actuality bears no resemblance to what has been triggered in my feelings. I told him. I’m not sure what. He was intelligent, a product of a higher education, and out of my reach. He led me, and I’m now convinced this is what I connected to, clung to. He went on vacation with me through my computer. And so when I remember Michigan, along with the other lonely moments; swimming in my mom’s pool alone because none of my friends could make it, rollerblading through old and familiar grounds, driving to the park to get away and sift through old feelings that reappeared without invitation. Along with these memories, are memories of Joel.

Through a computer one projects, but this projection is no less of a reality. And my projection was a reality to me.  Joel got all my jokes and added on to them. He supported me. In the middle of nowhere one day, when I went into the online community we were a part of together, I asked where everyone was. Joel’s name suddenly appeared and he said, “I am right here with you.” Somewhere inside me I believed it. He was here with me. I was not alone at my mom’s, as I had been so often in my teen years. He was no longer in my computer, but by my side. I emailed him and told him things about my past, about my present. He sympathized. He heard me. He wanted to hear more.

The rest of the group seemed to be with me too. We cared about the betterment of society together, about the homeless and drug abusers living on the street, and how we could make the world better, if only with our ingenious collective thoughts. I thought that transformation could occur. I thought that my sociology friends would support my new theory for change in the world of addiction, hear my thoughts, build on to them, change the world with me. For a moment this group was my most important social club. It was in my life no more than a month or so, and seemed to disappear just as quickly as it had arrived. Joel seemed to be dishonest. He was not available for me. He had someone else he cared about more. He got busy and lost interest in the group. I could see he was also losing interest in me.

He was not the teacher whom I could confide in anymore. He wasn’t really there. And now regretfully, I had to let that be my reality. I let him go, this charade of friendship, the daily emails where I confided so much to him, believing somehow he was listening and was the one who had the answers for me, as he encouraged me to talk, and share, even my dreams of him. I wondered about that other relationship, and who I was supposed to be to him, and why in the world he cared, or what unstated needs he had of me.

I let him go and stopped responding to what I perceived to be games, whether they were or not. I let go of the illusion my heart wanted so much to believe was real, because I have come to know through all my years it never would be. I have been in this place of disillusionment so many times before. Removing the emotions for one moment allows me to see. This thing that happened was silly. And I doubt that many women would be taken in by it. But I am just the type that attracts this kind of thing, a guy with opposite mental dissonance and longing to mine, a guy who senses the openness to whatever strange contributions he has to offer. I take the blame so easily onto myself. But I convince myself that it is not all me, as it never really is. In fact, the lesson I need to learn is always the same. If I had trusted myself from the beginning, my own directives and wisdom, knowing I didn’t really ever need anything from this person, as he may have subconsciously implied, if I had trusted myself from the start, this thing would not have happened, this pain, this sense of longing and loss.

To trust myself always is key. It is the thing I need most to learn. Until then I don’t talk to Joel, though I know where he is in my computer. I do not talk to him because there is still a child longing for this sort of thing, whatever form it arrives to me in. Should I talk to him, I have little fight against it. The child is real. She is here. She does not need such a man, but has not quite learned and accepted that yet. And after all, he really doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know I sing, or write. He doesn’t know my heart. But that same heart is not convinced, and so I think of him frequently. I long for him so foolishly. I do not dream real dreams – that he is beside me shopping with me in the supermarket, laughing at my jokes, planning family get-togethers, daily doings. I only feel him, desiring that thing I have desired so oft before – to be known, to be loved, to be close to something real and warm and trust-worthy.

This is something which my heart believed it had when I was in Michigan, though my mind knew differently. But there was never any evidence to support it. And this, unfortunately, has been a recurring theme in my life for as far back as I can remember. Sadly, the backdrop has been multiplicit, the characters diverse, the theme constant, and crushing, but somehow less and less each time I go through it.