Sometimes you date someone and everything feels right. Well, almost right. In the early stages, things are awkward enough as nagging questions trigger insecurities.
Should I have ordered something without garlic?
Is he even going to kiss me?
What if he’s only going out with me so he has something to blog about?!
More questions than answers. That’s part of what makes us a glorious mess on and in between the first dates. But some questions are bigger than others. Sometimes red flags pop up.
Damn flags. They are lovely at the Olympics and in parades. A particular red flag arouses pride if you’re an Albanian or Turkish patriot. But keep those flags away from the already navigationally challenging dates. A red flag screams DANGER. It’s the equivalent to the skull and crossbones on particularly potent household cleaners. Poison.
Unless. The ever-hopeful and/or the dating-desperate try to deal with the flags. Yank ‘em. Burn ‘em. Pretend they’re not there.
My most recent attempt at dating revealed two potential red flags. The relationship did a fade-out before I had to deal with them. Alas, they are now only hypothetical reds.
The first flag appeared on our third or fourth date, a lovely movie and dinner evening. The movie had been surprisingly entertaining and our conversation flowed freely at the trendy Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. Matthew had a way of making me laugh and this occasion was no exception. But then he slipped in a stunner. “You should know I’m positive.”
Stupid me. I leaned forward in my chair, waiting for him to finish the sentence. Positive about what? About us?
He repeated himself. “I’ve been positive since 1985. But I’m on meds and undetectable.”
Oh. Okay. Sure.
I’d like to think I was immediately open and accepting. But I’ve never carried off a poker face. Theoretically, I’ve never had a problem with anyone’s HIV status. But this was no longer theoretical. This was real. This was now.
Matthew had more experience with this. Thirty years. Within a few minutes, he excused himself and went to the restroom. It gave me a moment to collect my thoughts. The news was unexpected. But not a deal breaker. I probed further when he returned, allowing him to share his story. “I’m okay with it,” I said. “I’ll just have questions to work through.”
Our dinner conversation moved on to other topics, a mix of getting-to-know-you anecdotes, questioning and humor. Matthew referred to sleep apnea and joked about some sexy apparatus he wore on his head when going to bed. (My mind flashed to Meg Ryan’s Walter in “Sleepless in Seattle”.) Fine. We’d make this amusing. But then he mentioned smoking marijuana as part of his ready-for-bed ritual.
When it comes to drugs, I’ve lived a sheltered life. I may be the only adult on the planet who has never tried pot or anything else. Never wanted to. Hate the smell of it. And I like to be in control. I want full and normal brain function. A crossword puzzle is all I need to get mellow. A rerun of “Friends” is sufficient to give me the giggles. (Or this.)
On two subsequent dates, the references to marijuana came up again. I tried not to cringe. I have no desire to spend my time with a pothead. I made the mistake of falling for a cigarette smoker years ago. The nicotine, not me, was what he needed as his first and last breath each day. Any habitual smoking of any kind is a no-go.
So two red flags. Which was the bigger issue?
My friends were divided. Twenty years ago, both flags may have been deal breakers. But maybe not. Knowing someone’s HIV status, one can take the necessary safety precautions. The pot habit will always be an issue.
Not that either flag matters. As Joey from "Friends" would say, it's a moo point. Matthew couldn’t fit me in his schedule. The dating just suddenly stopped. I suppose he had a few red flags of his own.