One of my good friends and I were talking one night years into our single days and the conversation turned to one of our inevitable topics—our dating escapades. This topic usually included lots of laughter, an occasional tear or two, a few sighs sprinkled here and there and lots of hope leading the way to the next dating story. One of my favorite parts of these conversations was giving a name to the “offending” guy. We’d go with the quick identifier like “I’m Going to Delete You guy” or “Rate Me” dude. I remember recounting one of our conversations to a college friend and she responded with “I love your optimism that the right guy is out there. God bless ya.” I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment, insult or both.
During one of our next round of belly laughs over the latest dating ridiculousness led to me proclaiming that we HAD to change our mindset. I’d love to say it was because I was so enlightened and healthy but really it was because it occurred to me that maybe WE were the topic of some of these guys’ conversations. Wait. What? How could someone think we weren’t totally amazing and make fun of the stupid shit we did on dates?
With that humbling thought and about a bottle of wine in….I proclaimed that we were going to stop making fun of these dudes for being SO ridiculous but rather see them as not fully developed yet.
Sort of like fish.
When you go fishing, if you catch a fish that doesn’t meet the size requirement, then you must release it back into the water. It isn’t a bad fish. It doesn’t mean you are a horrible fisherperson, it means it wasn’t a fit. The timing wasn’t right. The fish needed more time to grow. To develop. To figure out how to not be bat shit crazy. I mean to mature. It just wasn’t your fish. Your catch needed to be released back into the wild. Or maybe you didn’t track the ‘right kind’ of fish.
So it is in dating.
This blog series is about some of my entertaining forays into the wild world of dating-Catch and Release style. I’ll be posting some of my stories from my dating years back in the day and add other women’s stories into the mix too.
Double date with the Ex
One of my dear friends invited me to spend a few days with her and her family at the beach during their vacation. My son was with his father so I headed down for the weekend. We decided to go out one night to a place that played live music. It was a blast. I love my friend and her boyfriend and they always made me feel welcome and loved and a part of a group instead of a third wheel. We danced, we laughed, we drank, we got soaking wet in the rain. Meeting someone was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to have a big time that night with my friends being silly and carefree. At the time, I was working in a stressful work environment and teaching at night. I rarely had time to cut loose. As things often go, that isn’t how things turned out. Turns out not looking for a date is quite attractive. Any maybe the wet t shirt too….Fast forward to a cute, young guy talking with me and dancing with our group. At the end of the evening as we are jumping into a cab he asked for my number. It was fun for the evening but he was too young and I had no interest in anything further with him so I gave him my email half heartedly and I didn’t think about him anymore.
Then I received his email. It was cute, he was persistent and it was flattering. He hooked me. (Red Flag or Cute First Meeting story?)
I did some “research” (aka internet stalking) on him. He was indeed younger than me but not inappropriately young, he was divorced for over a year and worked for his family. No spelling errors in the email and he made me laugh and smile a few times with his stories and musings. So far so good. Turns out my friend knew his family business and it was a respected company. I started wondering if I should give him a try but felt hesitant because I didn’t know his thoughts on my son because it wasn’t something that was a part of our brief conversations in between dancing. We talked a few times, we emailed more and decided to meet up for dinner. We did and it was pretty fun, I told him about my son, he reacted fine and I started wondering if I should give him more of a chance. It was almost going too well but I squelched that slight twinge chalking it up to me looking for trouble. My two hesitations about him at this point included his age and his near obsession with a band who I was friends with as I knew them from my off and on again boyfriend. He was way too impressed with my friendship with them and his level of fan-dom was a bit odd. But whatever-we all have our thing, right? (Light-Red Flag)
He invited me to the DMB concert in a nearby town for our second date. I was pretty excited about it because I loved the band and the weather was great. He told me we were meeting up with his brother and sister in law for the evening, he was getting a limo to get to the concert and we were going to hang out at the place where they were staying before dinner. Sounds great! As we are pulling up to the inn after our over an hour drive, he coyishly says “Did I tell you that my ex wife is the one who got us the rooms here?”
My inner voice was all “WTH? And why are you telling me this?” but my outer voice spoke, “Oh, cool. Does she work here?”
He explained something about being in the management program or something and we dropped it at that. (WTH Red Flag) We changed into bathing suits and headed to the pool to meet up with his brother and his wife. He started complimenting me. A Lot. Too much. (Trying Too Hard Red Flag) He was visibly nervous. I noted the change but kept attributing it to his nervousness of me meeting his family so early into dating.
We get to the pool and I spot his brother because they looked alike and he yelled out his name. I figured the woman next to him was his wife but wasn’t sure who was next to her.
Until he went through introductions….this is my brother, this is his wife and this is So and So—my ex wife. Your WHAT? He accented this bizarre twist with an hyena style laugh punctuated with him walking off leaving me with this awkward situation to deal with.
I did my best trying to act like this wasn’t a big deal. I’m not sure why exactly. I guess because I was trying to figure out why he set up this situation, trying to understand that he didn’t know how to tell me she was coming and probably wanted to shove me in her face, and I wanted to go to this concert and have a nice time. (Ugh, Stupid Red Flag) But boy was it awkward.
At the pool, with the five of us at dinner later, in the limo on the way to the concert. The ex was our fifth wheel.
She progressively became more sourpuss faced and my date became increasingly distracted. Somehow we make it through what seemed a 10 hour limo ride for 5 miles and sat in our area for the concert. The ex left. My date became attentive, danced with me to the music, and was considerate about going to get us drinks and food throughout the evening. Quite a bit actually. We didn’t talk about the ex.
I noticed he checked his phone frequently but didn’t put it all together until I went to the bathroom after one of his drink runs. They were standing there together talking. And then hugging. She was crying and he was consoling her. I went back to our lawn seats with a perpetual pattern of ‘Hmmm’ and “Run, run, run Juliana!” running through my head. (Holy Shitballs Red Flag!)
But seriously. What was I going to do? Try to hail an impossible cab? Tell him I saw them and confront the weirdness and then have to sit with them all? So I sat with it and then sat with him. And waited until we were alone and asked about their relationship. He gave me some bullshit reply about marrying too young and her being jealous he had finally moved on and he didn’t care because she was dating. I first mourned the fun it would have been if she had brought a date too and then felt proud of myself because I thought I was handling it quite maturely. I gave myself a pat on the back about my healthy reaction to this bizarre situation and then his phone started blowing up.
I knew it was her.
I would like to take this next action back but time travel is impossible so I will own that I picked up his phone and looked at it.
It was her. Of course it was.
She was professing her love, her mistake in cheating on him, blah, blah, blah. I manically started scrolling through the history and they had been texting arranging their rendezvous all night. Of course they did.
Again, I would love to report that I said some healthy, cavalier statement as I drove off in a cab home but I can’t.
I made a snarky comment and he attacked my craziness of touching his phone and violating his trust. Oh dear God. Do I even need to write a ‘Red Flag’ at this point?
Suffice it to say our conversation ended quickly but wasn’t filled with cheer or planning our next date.
The night ended. I went home. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about the date who brought his ex on our date.
And then I made another fatal mistake. I wrote him an email. It was two pages long.
I know. I know. I know!
Throw me back in the lake! Not fully developed yet! Why in the world would I write him an email?
I don’t remember the details of what I wrote but it was full of self righteous, unsolicited dating/married advice and how- to- treat -a -woman gems. And I pressed ‘send’. Yikes.
That’s an email that would have been best served sending it to an email buddy instead the dude in question. Clearly.
His response was lovely and supportive.
No, it wasn’t! His was short and decisive. Fuck off and mind your own business.
Lessons learned: Why do we override our instincts and accept substandard levels for ourselves for the sake of not being difficult or fearing we are being too negative? I learned to not take dating so seriously and personally after that one. I was frustrated with the lack of dating options and felt like I needed to be understanding because no one is perfect including me. My next lesson in this one was that I had options of how to handle it. I could have gracefully exited the date upon meeting the ex, I could have spoken to him about it privately before the evening and I could have seen it for what it was and dropped any expectation for the evening knowing I wouldn’t see him after the date and just lived in the moment of the concert and company. Or a number of other options. And for goodness sakes….DON’T write a “follow up” email!
Instead, I took it personally, I led with my hurt feelings. Then I showed some crazy when I wrote that unnecessary email.
I bet he has a crazy date story version of this too.
I ran into him over a year later at the memorial concert for my on and off again boyfriend who had died unexpectedly. Remember that band he was obsessed with? They were the opening act. We ran into each other outside the bathroom and had a millisecond interaction.
And then I watched him pump his fist and mouth the words to his band’s best song like a little girl at a boy band concert.
It felt like closure to me.