Tonight’s date took six weeks to happen. Tim’s first message came while he was visiting his parents in Nova Scotia. I have a soft spot for people from the Maritimes. Generally speaking, they come across as genuine, honest, this-is-me-take-it-or-leave-it people. No bullshit.
In the messages that followed, my reservations increased. Often, Tim would write rambling accounts of a fishing trip or a bathroom tiling project. “Hee hee hee” and “LOL” took the place of punctuation, a writing atrocity in and of itself, but all the more egregious when nothing came off as remotely funny. Maritimer or not, I got a clear sense that this would lead to nowhere. Just like his anecdotes.
There was no way I was making a special trip to Vancouver for another no-go coffee date. However, I had booked two nights at a downtown hotel to attend a conference. Why not meet? Get it over with.
But, really, why bother? I had the wrong attitude going in, like a five-year-old cringing over an incoming forkful of canned peas. Yes, this is what it’s come to. I’m comparing my dating life to mushy, flavor-challenged peas.
I’d intended to change clothes after the conference, but then decided even that wasn’t worth the effort. I opted to spend the extra time with my dog who seemed needier than usual due to the hotel surroundings. A comfy robe and ginger-lemon aromatherapy shampoo mean nothing to him.
Tim showed up at the café and I knew in an instant it was a no. Again. Not my type. Again. Still, he apologized profusely for being a tad late and I anticipated an interesting conversation. As he stood in the coffee queue, it dawned on me that he might be approaching this encounter with low expectations, too. While I had not bothered with a costume change, his sloppy t-shirt, baggy shorts and baseball cap showed even less effort. Is this the state of fortysomething dating? Mow the lawn, engage in conversation with a stranger over coffee, scrub the oil stains in the garage.
The conversation wasn’t bad. It may seem an oxymoron, but Tim came off as an intense surfer dude. He’d relate a family story and start tripping on his own account. Whoa, man. He processed things in the moment, seeming to make new discoveries about a brother challenging him to a fight or his mother refusing to replace sixty-year-old pots and pans.
There were no filters. In the first two minutes of our conversation, he mentioned being lonely. Over the course of an hour, he talked of struggles with alcoholism, becoming HIV+, a recent satisfying sexual encounter and how he lived a comfortable, yet frugal life. Still, he kept coming back to the topic of loneliness. I empathized, noting that I’ve lost touch with many and could count my remaining Vancouver friends on one hand.
I glanced at my phone, not to check for messages but to glace at the time. I could tell from Tim’s facial reaction this was a no-no, but I no longer own a watch that I could subtly eye. I’d fed the meter for eighty minutes and, just as I’d suspected, time had ticked away. I had three minutes to race back before a zealous traffic cop slapped a ticket on my windshield.
When I explained that I had to leave and that I was having dinner with a friend, Tim pounced. “If you’d wanted this to work, you wouldn’t have set up a dinner. You’d have kept things open so we could see a movie or go for a walk or go eat.” I felt my face heat up and mumbled that my friend had pushed up the dinner time. (This was entirely true. My friend, younger in chronological age only, goes to sleep at 9.)
Tim then stated the obvious: “And now you’re embarrassed.” I tried to say it was all right, but felt myself reddening more as sweat flooded my forehead. “Text me later if you want to go for a walk,” he said as we hugged at the street corner. But all I wanted to do was get back to my car...and not just to beat the meter maid.
In truth, Tim was right. It hadn’t been my intention to piggyback the dinner right after the coffee date, but if I’d had any hope that something might come of it, I would not scheduled dinner at all. In my twenties, I was filled with optimism before each date. Maybe this is the one. It was optimism in the extreme. If he smiled upon meeting me, my mind would race ahead to Our First Christmas and thinking about where to round up boxes to move my stuff to his place.
Crazy optimism evolved to a more sane sense of hope—cautious but open. But that has faded with age, with failed relationships and with dozens and dozens of dead-end dates. Technically, I’d allotted plenty of time for my coffee date with Tim, but maybe it’s a bad sign that I no longer hope for a date to stretch out into a spontaneous occasion where neither of us wants to say goodbye. Am I preparing for disappointment before we ever meet? Am I sabotaging dating prospects by expecting so little?
What will it take to turn this dating mindset around?