|Not actually me. I don't look this good in a dress.|
On occasion, a reader will suggest that I am too picky. How could I possibly go on so many coffee dates—Is it beyond a hundred yet?—and come up empty? I ask that of myself, too. Am I brushing people off too quickly? Should I settle for something less?
I think I give people a chance. It’s rare, however, that an initial meh turns into anything better. There are stories of people being repulsed at first sight and somehow finding love. I don’t find that unreasonable. There’s some truth to that expression about a thin line between love and hate. These are people who at least get our attention. But it’s hard to move anywhere from meh. It’s a relationship gutter. Nothing grows there.
Recently I met up with a handsome man who grew up in Venezuela and Spain. He’s traveled the world and speaks many languages. Seems to have a lot going for him. I typically get along extremely well with people from different backgrounds. The differences in culture and perspective fascinate me as well as the commonalities reflected in good people regardless of where they were raised. And, while I contend I don’t have a type, I am easily enchanted with Latin men.
On our first meeting, it was a warm Vancouver day and the bakery was not air conditioned so we grabbed our drinks and sat on a shady bench in a nearby park. We talked for a couple of hours. Mostly, he talked. Much of the talk was ranting. For instance, when I said I worked in education, he immediately went on for ten minutes about how unmotivated teachers can be. Sure, he had some good points based on personal experience, but it’s generally not a good idea to attack your date’s profession right after “Hello.”
The opinions continued to fly over a range of subjects and I realized I had shifted my body into the arm of the bench, as if trying to get away from him. Not a good sign. But it was clear that he was attracted to me and I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was talking too much because he was nervous. Maybe he was trying to impress me with his thinking. Maybe he didn’t normally drink coffee.
And so when he called and left a message a few hours later about how much he enjoyed our time and how he’d like to get together again, I shrugged and said sure. With the introductions out of the way, maybe things would get better.
But they didn’t. As he rambled on, I felt awful for extending things. He clearly dressed up for our lunch and, yes, he continued to give off signs of being attracted to me. I buckled down and tried to get invested. This is a guy that actually likes you. Give him a chance. Even when we talked about things we had in common—writing; running—I simply couldn’t connect.
We walked and Ralph suggested a drink after lunch—no caffeine whatsoever. Sure. Could he see me shrug? It got to the point where I was biding my time until the alarm on my phone would go off, reminding me that I’d reached the two-hour limit on my parking meter. My escape. But even then, I didn’t bolt. We ambled sloooowly toward my car. Was he trying to prolong things? With a hug, we parted ways and, as I started the ignition, I felt relieved to be alone once more. (The loneliness seeps in later.)
An hour afterward, I received a text. “Hi, James! Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed my time with you today. Hopefully you did too. It would be great to meet again. Enjoy the rest of the day!”
Two exclamation marks. (I don’t take punctuation lightly.) I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach, the same kind I felt whenever a professor would pass back assignments and I had a sudden fear of a big red “F”. This was a worse kind of failure because now I had to be the messenger. I fretted. I mopped my floors. I ate a bag of popcorn. I even returned my mother’s phone call.
And then I texted: “Hi Ralph. Nice to see you again. You’re an attractive man with a fascinating background. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite feel a connection. Wanted to, but sometimes it’s not there. Good luck with your work application. Really seems like a great path for you.”
No exclamation marks.
I pressed “Send” and sighed. The deed was done. Hopefully he didn’t feel as badly as I did. But I know how rejection stings. I am all too aware how it butt-kicks already fragile self-esteem. Ralph is in his forties. I know how another polite “No thank you” disheartens. What if “meant to be” refers to alone rather than with Mr. Right or with Mr. Tolerable or with Mr. Who Happens to Be Breathing?
So I listened to the “too picky” accusation. I gave a guy another chance. And now I only feel worse. Like a heel. I hurt someone, however temporarily. I feel no closer to finding a soul mate. Just farther off-course. The pickings get smaller.