Monday, February 1, 2010

A Wrench in the Plan.

My friend Sarah has been in love with the same man, Jack, for around three years now. While her devotion has never wavered, it took him time to focus. He dated a lot of meaningless girls, and rolled up to Sarah's house whenever he needed a friend. Jack knew the connection was there, but wouldn't admit it, least of all to Sarah. To the point where she sometimes felt like she was going crazy, that it was all in her head, that they weren't speaking the same language. At various points, the relationship was a sexual one, and two years ago, Sarah found herself pregnant and alone, as Jack had recently departed for one of his surface "relationships" with another woman. She had a termination, much to Jack's consternation (he didn't want to be with her, but wanted her to have the baby), and when it was all over (with Jack noticeably absent from the support network that grew up around her), Sarah told him she never wanted to see him again, and tried to move on.

Of course, it wasn't that easy. Jack was in love, whether he could see it or not, and so he couldn't stay away from her, even if it was the kind thing to do. Kind because he still wasn't willing to commit, or to declare publicly, what all of us knew: that he loved her. Sarah's self esteem took a beating. My heart ached for her. I've been in unrequited love. It sucks. I've also been in love with someone who loved me back (which I knew, in my soul), but couldn't admit it. That's worse. Sarah moved to a different city to focus on her career, and to get some distance. Every few months there would be a call from Jack, an offer to visit. They formed an uneasy friendship. Whenever I saw them together, I could tell how gingerly Sarah was treading, how every word, every gesture, was designed to protect her from further heartbreak. About six months ago, in a desperate bid to move on, Sarah told Jack to stay out of her life. He tried, but was still in touch with her family and some of her friends. And of course, Sarah couldn't really enforce the separation either. She took whatever she could get.

And then, four months ago, for whatever reason, Jack came to his senses. He realized who he loved, and moved heaven and earth to get to Sarah (still in a different city), to tell her what she meant to him, and that he wanted to try. Finally. Romantic? Yes. Terrifying for all of Sarah's loved ones? Absolutely. We didn't know what was different this time, what was going to make Jack's commitment finally stick. So we have all been holding our breath, moving slowly from dreadfully anticipating when Sarah's heart gets broken again, to being cautiously optimistic, as Jack made plans to move to be with Sarah, spoke to Sarah's parents about his love for her and his intention to marry her, as soon as he could win their approval. Sarah's parents of course never knew about the termination, or the emotional maelstrom that ensued, but somehow sensed that Jack had to jump through a few more hoops before he got their blessing. So Jack is devoting a lot of energy right now to being worthy of Sarah's love.

Sarah called me today to talk. She's pregnant. Again. And she's terminating. Again. And this time, she's not telling Jack.

So. There still won't be a happy ending for Jack and Sarah, not right now, although it's probably the right ending. If Sarah told Jack, he'd want to get married (he's kind of an old-fashioned alpha male in this respect). He'd want her to have the baby. And four months into a very precarious, high-stakes relationship, Sarah (and I, for what it's worth), know that this would be the death knell for their future. He'd feel trapped. So would she. They'd rush into something he hasn't yet earned. She'd resent taking time off from her career at a crucial point in her development in order to have this baby. She also knows that because they're finally "in love," Jack wouldn't be able to accept her decision. And so...she won't tell him. Whether that's right or not, I don't know.

"Can you live with not telling him?" I asked her. There was a pause on the phone.

"I think...I think that I can. Because I don't want this to end. And this baby would end it...I can imagine all the ways in which it would end it," she said. I nodded into the receiver. So could I.

"And in the future," she continued optimistically, "I can see us talking about it. And I can see him forgiving me...then."

I remained silent. I can't see that. I can't see Jack forgiving her. I can't see him accepting this decision again. But I support my friend. I want her to do what's best for her. And this is what she thinks is best. And if she thinks it's best not to tell him...well, I support her in that. Whether it's right or wrong. I can't even decide if it's wrong, to be honest. All I know is I don't want my friend to be hurt again. And the truth? I think she will be, no matter how this turns out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Attract Them Like a Magnet.

So, up until this week, things were going fine with David. It was nice, dating again. Going out to dinner, doing date-y things. I was a little worried, however, that we were going to be left circling in friends territory, as after several dates, he still hadn't made a move - to hold my hand, kiss me, nothing. I brought it up one night at dinner.

"So, where's your crazy?" I asked him, taking a swig of my Mojito.

"What do you mean," he asked. I had just rather abruptly switched tack from discussing which appie we were sharing.

"Well, my crazy is always out there, on display, " I pointed out. "I'm overdramatic, histrionic, at once flirty and prickly...it's all there. YOU, on the other hand. You seem so normal, so well adjusted. You communicate. Where's your crazy."

"I suppose in bed," he said thoughtfully. I spewed Mojito across the table, choking.

"Good answer," I muttered.

After that conversation, we were off to the races, and soon left friend territory behind for more exciting lands. Unfortunately, David also seemed to think, within days, that we were also crossing the line from dating, or sleeping together, to serious relationship, rather more quickly than I would wish, given that I had disclosed, in abbreviated terms, the sad history of Complicated Man and cautioned that my heart was bruised, that I would have to take it slow.

Our first sleepover was a Friday, and was accompanied once again by a talk about how I like to take things slow, that what is comfortable for me is to push people away, and that while I was going to try my best not to do that, I was only prepared to take baby steps, romantically speaking. That Sunday, he asked me to brunch to meet his ENTIRE circle of friends, who, when I arrived, had all clearly been briefed about me. I smiled through the brunch and suppressed my paranoia, offering up my cheek when he tried to kiss me in front of the entire table.

The following Tuesday, after yet another dinner with another set of David's friends, and another talk about why, no, I was not comfortable being referred to as his girlfriend yet or changing my Facebook relationship status, given we had only been dating a few weeks, and again explaining how I was trying very hard to move on from hurtful things in the recent past, David dropped the bomb.

"I love you RCC," he said, staring into my eyes. I covered my face with my hands.

"It's too soon," I wailed.

"I know," he said. "I'm sorry. It's just...I was in love with you years ago, and couldn't deal with it then, and now all the emotions are just flooding back, and...I love you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

I couldn't say it back. I just stared at him.

"I don't want to hurt you," I said softly.

"I don't think you could," he said, smiling. Which made it even more clear to me that he wasn't in love with the real me, he was in love with this idea of me he's been caring around for eight years. Because the real me definitely had the capacity to hurt him. And if he knew what was good for him, he would have seen that.

From that point on, David got just that much more clingy, and I got that much more freaked out. On Wednesday he tried to sleep over and I made him go home. I needed alone time. On Friday, we went to a burlesque show with my BFF and her new man, who came for drinks at my place first. David, who had showed up with flowers for me, played the genial host, serving drinks, offering people a seat. At MY house. It was a little unnerving. Then, at the end of the evening, after we had all come back to my house for drunken snackies, and the last guest had left, David remained, loading the dishwasher, wiping down the counters.

"You don't have to do that," I said several times from the sofa. "I'll do it in the morning."

"No, no," he said. "I'll do it now." He continued puttering around my kitchen.

Finally I stood up.

"Well, I'm tired and going to bed," I said, yawning and stretching. "Good night."

David didn't take the hint.

"I'm going to have a shower," he said.

I was annoyed, but a little too drunk and tired to point out he had not been invited to stay. I climbed in bed and prayed I'd be asleep by the time he came to bed. I wasn't; he climbed in, and soon began snoring, so loudly it woke me up. I sighed, stood up, and stumbled down the hall to the spare room.

David heard me and quickly followed.

"Was I snoring? Oh, sorry sorry...I'll sleep in here," he said.

"No," I said. "I don't like the idea of you sleeping in the guest bedroom. You should just go home."

"But I want to be here, with you."

"But you're not. You're down the hall. In the guest room."

"But I want to be there."

"But. I. Don't. Want. You. To."

I couldn't believe he was making me argue with him about whether he was welcome in my house or not. I insisted he could not sleep in the spare room, like my handservant. This would not do. I could tell he was close to tears as he slunk towards the door. I was furious and relieved when he left.

At the door, he turned. "I won't call you tomorrow," he said. "YOU call me when you get up."

I nodded tiredly, knowing I would not call.

When I woke up the next morning, there were two voicemails from David.

And the bonus? My BFF had two voicemails from David. The first, informing her (mistakenly) that my phone was "toast" after I had sent him a Facebook message telling him I had taken my iPhone to the Apple Store (it wasn't toast, nor was there any need for him to tell my BFF about it), and a second, telling her that the two of them should get together soon to start planning my 30th birthday party. WHICH IS FIVE MONTHS AWAY.

BFF was furious. I was furious. And now, David has crossed from potentially-really-nice guy to crazy-clingy-and-just-a-little-bit-scary-guy.

I called him on it. I sent him an email laying out in no uncertain terms how I was feeling, and why he was jumping the gun and needed to take a step back. In 10 days, we had the L-bomb, plus all this clingy boyfriend behaviour. And the calls to the BFF? Back the fuck off.

He sent a reply to the email saying he was working on a reply. He also sent me a message on Facebook to ensure I understood that he had received the email. 4 hours later, came a biblical second reply in which he admitted he was completely in the wrong, grovelled more than slightly, begged me to always tell him when he's being obtuse because he "doesn't get hints" and "doesn't understand when he is behaving inappropriately in relationships," and gave himself "action points" to take away, such as "Do not treat things RCC tells you about baggage as merely RCC trivia, understand this applies to your actions and behaviour" and "Do not assume RCC feels the same way you do and that what is good for you is good for her."

The email made things worse, almost. Maybe a different kind of woman would appreciate this. I didn't. His backbone completely disappeared, and the fact that he is trying to hold on to a woman who has basically said, "I'm pissed off with you and not interested in being your girlfriend so chill the fuck out" has somehow made him less attractive. I'm not feelin' it anymore. And it's disappointing. And also, I don't know that I can be with someone who has relationship autism, who can't read cues, doesn't know how to act, and actually INVITES out-and-out criticism as this is the "only way" he will know he is behaving inappropriately.

So. I've told him I won't see him for a week. There have been emails but I haven't responded to them. A guy friend, Max, said earlier in the week of David, "It's always better to have the guy be more keen on you than the other way around." But you know what? Sometimes it's not. I know I tend to push people away who tell me they find me attractive. I've been quite aware of that with David and have suppressed that reaction in order to see where things go. But if where things go is being told "I love you" in a week, and having someone ready to move in within 10 days, and me not feelin' it within two weeks, I think I'd rather revert to aloofness. Maybe one day I'll attract a man who can cut through my bullshit and still retain his dignity.




Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Bolt from the Blue

I've been home on the Raincoast for two months now, and settling back into a healthier, happier routine, where I have some work-life balance and am surrounded by good friends and family. Dating hasn't been a priority. I'm not feeling good enough about myself at the moment to actively go man-hunting; I just haven't had the energy. So I've mostly been playing wingman to my single girlfriends, and enjoying time alone.

"Oh, you'll meet someone," say all my smug married friends. "You're too great to be single for too long. It'll happen when you least expect it."

"It" happened Christmas Eve, when I was in my hometown for the holidays. My mobile phone rang, and the number that flashed on the screen wasn't one I recognized, but I answered anyway.

"Merry Christmas," said the male caller warmly. "How are you?" The voice was familiar, but I couldn't place it. "It's David," he said. I racked my brain: "David, David..."

David?!

I had met David almost a decade ago, when we were in the same arts club at university, long before I hit the Raincoast. He was outgoing, smart, flirty, and we had started showing up early at club meetings to talk to each other. Pretty soon he had asked for my number, and we began hanging out. It never turned into anything; I thought I might like him, but David never made a move, I was (and still am) too insecure to make a move on my own, and pretty soon I was dating someone else. We never moved from friend territory. I moved to Montreal, then London, and we lost touch. It sounds horrible, but I never even really thought about David, as the years went by. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen him. Still, it was nice to hear from him; I had always enjoyed his company.

"How did you get my number, " I exclaimed, after we had chatted for a few moments: he lived in Vancouver now as well, and was home for the holidays. "Oh, I called your parents' house," he said. "That was the last number I had for you. Actually, I've called every Christmas to see if you were around for the holidays. I've left messages with your mom. Did she never tell you?"

"Uh, no," I said. "No, she never did tell me that. I'm sorry; I would have called you back."

"It's fine," he said. "She gave me your number, but, uh, can I keep your number?"

I laughed. "Yes, definitely," I said. "We should hang out in Vancouver!"

"Well, let's do something while we're both home for the holidays," he said. I agreed; we made plans to meet up after Boxing Day.

As I hung up the phone, I didn't know what to think. I hadn't thought about David in ages, but it was certainly nice to hear from him. I had liked him 10 years ago; would I like "adult" David? Would we still have things in common? What would we talk about?

The day after Boxing Day, he showed up to pick me up for our meeting. I opened the door and smiled; he looked the same, although a little better dressed, some new facial hair, and, I noted with glee, a little grey (I love prematurely grey hair on young men. I blame George Clooney).

"You have NOT changed," he exclaimed.

"Oh, don't say THAT," I said, cringing. I am well aware I'm not in as good shape as I was even two years ago, when I was at the peak of fitness, running everyday...I hadn't been in great shape in university either and didn't need the confirmation that unfit, non-confident RCC was back.

"Hey," he said. "I am NOT complaining!" It was sweet; and it put me at ease immediately.

Off we went for a winters' walk on the beach. Conversation came awkwardly at first; we had alot to catch up on, including the basics: "What do you do now? Where do you work? Where do you live?" Pretty soon we were chatting away, however, and our walk on the beach turned into a walk through a nearby park, and a tour of downtown. It was nice. When David dropped me off, I gave him a hug and said, "I hope you'll come and play with me when you're back in the city." I was leaving the next day. "Definitely," he agreed. "I'll call you." I was happy to have a new friend to hang out with in Vancouver (my life is rich with friendship, but hey-you can never be too wealthy).

The next day, as I was packing to leave for home, my phone rang. It was David.

"I just wanted to say that I had fun with you yesterday," he said.

"Me too," I replied. "It was so nice to catch up."

"Do you think we could hang out today before you leave?" he asked.

"Absolutely!" I said. I was more than happy to have an excuse to get out of my parents' house, after a week of "family time" (God love 'em).

Pretty soon he was back at the front door, and off we went, for an afternoon drink and a snack at a local pub.

As we chatted away, David suddenly interrupted me.

"Hey-at the risk of ruining everything, do you think, when we get back to Vancouver, we could, uh, go on a date date?"

I was silent for a moment, then smiled.

"I liked you 8 years ago, David, and you never made a move," I said. "You should have asked me out on a date then!"

He laughed.

"Well, I wasn't so confident then. But I am now. And hey-I realize I'm batting above my league here...I'm just really attracted to smart women." (Bonus points for both of those last remarks).

That did it.

"Yes," I said decisively. "Let's go out on a date-date."

And so there you have it. Just like that, I'm dating again.