On Sunday, I’m enjoying a solo walk around the reservoir near my new house, followed by some casual yoga in one of the only shaded areas of the park. I’m listening to Dan Savage’s Lovecast and enjoying just hanging with myself. Sweaty, no makeup, I’m not trying to pick anyone up. Naturally, a dude approaches. Sits down right next to me, with a book. But he’s not reading. He’s watching me do yoga. I glance over and smile. He’s smiling a lot. I’m kind of like ‘who is this creep and why is he watching me do yoga?’ But at the same time I find myself moving into more challenging poses, twisting myself into a pretzel as if to say ‘yeah that’s right, I’m flexible – you know what that means.’ I decide to move into plow, and not just because it gets my butt in the air – it also stretches the neck, and my neck is fucked from camping the week before. For this pose, I take my earbuds out. He swoops in.
“What are you listening to?”
“The Savage Lovecast.”
“Oh, I’ve heard that guy on This American Life a couple times.”
I’m impressed he’s heard of Dan Savage. I’m also impressed that he’s currently reading Wolf Hall. And that he went to Sqirl for breakfast, a trendy Silverlake restaurant I’ve been dying to try. He’s training for a marathon, which to me means he’s good in bed. He also just got back from Burning Man, which explains all the intense eye contact.
“Ever since I got back, I’ve been totally into talking to strangers.”
He casually mentions going to movie premieres in the part of town where I work, so I ask what he does.
This impresses me more. I associate Studio Execs with attachment to cell phones and not reading books. He also looks young to have such a big job.
“I’m probably older than you think I am.”
“Probably. Everyone’s older than I think they are,” I laugh, remembering Comedian Guy.
We talk for a while more and it’s nice and natural and we have lots to talk about. He’s very smart and, although I find his job a little intimidating, I’m happy to be interacting with a man who’s not an actor. At some point, I say, “I should probably go do something.”
He wants my number but he doesn’t have his phone on him, which I find amazing, considering his job.
“If I give you my number, will you call?” he looks expectant, and perhaps a touch worried.
I smile and promise to text him.
I do, and many hours later, at around 5pm, I receive a text back.
“Perhaps a drink this week?”
A couple days later he texts me a time and location. This is definitely a step up from Comedian Guy’s “let’s just meet at the mall.” He chooses a cool little wine bar I haven’t been to. I start to fantasize that maybe this is it, maybe this is the man I’ve been looking for — a grown up with a good job and a nice income, someone smart who challenges me and reads books. Someone who likes me sweaty with no makeup, and has the balls to approach a stranger in the park, and leaves his phone off on the weekends. It feels too good to be true – a Studio Exec who goes to Burning Man?!
Thursday rolls around and I find myself nervous. I leave work early because we’re meeting at 7:30 and I want time to get ready and look amazing. I ask my ex-boyfriend if he thinks I should wear something “boob-y” or if I should not be so obvious. He encourages me to rock the cleavage. I choose a little black dress that I think is sexy but not trying too hard. I spend more time on my hair and makeup than usual. I find myself very flushed and unable to get the red out of my face. Why am I so damn nervous? This is not normal. I’m about to leave the house when I decide to change into another little black dress — one that’s slightly less boob-y. I’m not trying to look like a hooker — somehow I think this guy wouldn’t be down with that look.
I arrive at the bar and find a parking spot on the street. I could have valeted but I find the goodnight kiss to be awkward when waiting for the valet. I’m planning ahead.
He is already there, and looks nice — more professional without the bandana and basketball shorts he was wearing in the park. I drink Sauvignon Blanc and he drinks a beer. He mentions going to a tailor and I say, “That’s very adult.” He looks at me funny, as if to say ‘I am an adult.’ In these moments, our age difference is apparent. I tell him one of my best friends just had a baby, my first close friend to do this. He says a lot of his friends have kids. He also tells me his mom recently suggested he freeze his sperm, and that she’s encouraging him to find an egg donor and have a child on his own. He looks at me funny and, for a moment, my imagination spins out of control and I think wouldn’t it make a great story if this guy offered me $100,000 to be his surrogate?
I ask him if he’s ever been married. For some reason, he thinks this is a great question, says no one’s ever asked him that before. I tell him when people ask if I have kids, it blows my mind that that’s even a possibility in their minds, that they think I would even be able to have kids.
“You mean physically,” he says with a wink and a smile.
At some point in the evening, I can see him starting to stifle his yawns. I appreciate that he’s stifling them, but it’s still blatantly obvious he’s getting tired/bored. He woke up at 5am to run 10 miles and he’s usually in bed at 9. He’s also started looking around the bar as if to see who else is here. And there’s a woman sitting behind me whom he glances at several times. I’m tempted to offer to go to the bathroom so he can chat with her. I can feel the relaxed energy of Burning Man wearing off even as we sit there.
“I feel like you’re ramping up for something,” I say.
“This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been,” he responds.
This worries me slightly. He says he rarely reads novels anymore, mostly longform pieces. He says it’s because of his “bandwidth,” he literally doesn’t have the time/energy — I’m starting to think it’s actually because he can’t focus on one thing for long enough to get through a whole novel. I mention one of my favorite books of recent years — Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. He says he “read a couple chapters” and got bored. He’s also a self-proclaimed “know it all” who has two friends who have actually won Jeopardy.
When his yawning becomes un-ignorable, I tell him we can leave. He walks me to my car and we proceed to have an incredibly steamy public makeout session. He grabs my ass and even goes for some vagina squeezes. He feels on my breasts and sticks his thumb inside my bra to rub on my nipple. I lean my knee into his groin, and I can feel he’s very hard in his pants.
“It’s too bad you’re so tired,” I groan.
“Next time,” he says.
I think I have an instant thought that I don’t know if there will be a next time.
He bites my neck and I tell him he’s a tease.
“I’m a tease? How about you with that knee?”
“It was nice to meet you,” I laugh with his tongue still in my mouth.
We finally part, a bit unceremoniously, with him sort of pushing off of me and saying, “Okay, you’re leaving.”
“Yeah, I’m leaving,” I add lamely and redundantly. I’m not tired and I want to have sex, so I feel a little abandoned.
I drive home.
I text him “That was fun.”
I don’t hear from him the next day. At 9am on Saturday, I text him some follow up to a trivia question we were debating. He texts me back at 8pm that night. I am preparing for a house warming party I’m throwing with my new roommates. Who texts back 11 hours later? I decide not to respond.
That's the last I hear from him. And it’s not like I’m particularly disappointed – I also didn’t feel some big amazing connection. But I’m noticing a theme with myself, which is difficulty securing the second date. Getting a man initially interested is easy, nailing down that first date/sex is rarely a challenge. But that elusive second date? I can count on one hand the number of those I’ve had.
I feel like I’m a really cool chick. I’m smart and funny, I’ve got shit going on, I’m good in bed. So, why?
Is it because I have sex on the first date — is that still a thing where guys don’t really respect you or take you seriously if you’re just as easy and horny as they are? Is that seriously still a thing? God I hope not, because if it is, I’m fucked.
Looking for answers, I decide to listen to a podcast my best friend Sadie has been telling me about for weeks. Why oh Why? with Andrea Silenzi – Movies in Your Head with Audio Smut. A radio play, it’s all about the stories we make up in our heads whenever we meet a new person. One guy expressed that whenever a new prospective partner would mention where her parents lived, he would picture Christmas there. It’s all about the fantasies we play out, trying to fit this new person into the future we see for ourselves.
Obviously, there’s a movie I constantly play out in my head with whatever man of the moment I’m currently fixated on, but I’m suddenly curious about the movies these guys might have in their heads about me. Studio Exec Guy, for example. He’s 37, Jewish, from New York, his mom is encouraging him to freeze his sperm, he’s going home for Yom Kippur, he speaks with his parents on the phone often — they’re still together. Clearly very family-oriented, wants children and maybe not too far in the future, has money, a good career. So, what’s next? A wholesome family like the one he grew up in. And maybe when he saw me in the park — no makeup, exercising, perhaps a fellow runner, listening to a podcast, enjoying being alone — maybe he saw this person fitting into that story of his life. Maybe he could picture getting this woman pregnant and introducing her to mom. Maybe he pictured running together in the park, or me staying home and raising his child while he works his insanely demanding job. So when I said having kids felt very distant, that I’m focused on my career, when he realized my age, maybe he realized I didn’t fit so well as he’d originally thought. Maybe when I wore a dress with too much cleavage, or said “fuck” too many times, or let him grab my vagina on the street, he could no longer picture introducing me to his mother.
I understand all of this, and I also understand not wanting to waste time with someone you know is not “the one.” But I feel like maybe one of the things we’ve lost in this world of reductive dating where you can sum up a stranger in two sentences from an online profile and write them off before you even meet, is that old thing of taking time to get to know a person. I think we’re all expecting that we’ll be able to find that Perfect Match who fulfills all the boxes we have checked off on our list of requirements for a partner. So maybe Studio Exec Guy’s need to look around the bar after an hour spent with me was because he’s a busy entertainment professional, or maybe the problem runs deeper than that. Maybe we’re so ADD in this culture where everything we want is constantly available to us that we simply can’t sit with one single person for over an hour without checking our phone or checking to see who’s next. I know, for example, that Studio Exec Guy does not fit into the story I see for my life and future relationship. I know we’re not going to get married and have babies. But I know that about most people I meet, and that doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience being with that person for a little while, even if it is just for one night. When I’m on a date with a new person, it would be nice to just be in the present for once rather than constantly jumping ahead into the future.
When I met Studio Exec Guy on Sunday, he was fresh from Burning Man. I could see it in his eyes – he was open and interested, he wanted to connect. A week away from LA, from cell phones and meetings and the bar scene, he was truly present. And it was unnerving almost, when he sat down right next to me and smiled into my eyes, because usually when strange men do this, it’s because they’re crazy and I tend to walk away.
When he told me that, since Burning Man, he had been enjoying talking to strangers, I responded,
When he told me that, since Burning Man, he had been enjoying talking to strangers, I responded,
“Don’t lose that. We need more of that in this town.”
He nodded, agreeing. But by the time Thursday rolled around, I could see it was already gone. All of his intense interest in me, the reason I had come on this date in the first place, had all but dissipated. He hardly asked about me, he didn’t seem that interested. And maybe it’s because he had already decided I wasn’t the one for him and he didn’t want to waste his time and energy getting invested in my life. But whatever happened to talking to strangers?
A week after our date, I’m bored at work and decide to do a little experiment. I decide to be very blunt and see what happens.
“Sex?” I text.
I stare at the phone, stare at this single little word that carries so much weight. I fool myself that there is deniability in sending a one word text. I could always say, “Whoopsies autocorrect,” and even though we would both know it was a lie, he would probably accept it and we could move on with our lives. While I’m waiting for a response, I consult with several friends, admitting what I’ve done. The responses range from “Oh boy” to “That’s funny” to “Awesome!” I’m not sure what I want from them, probably validation that what I’ve done doesn’t read desperation.
Two hours later, Studio Exec writes back: “I’d like to. I really would. But I can’t.”
Me: “I’m intrigued. Why?”
Him: “It fits a pattern of behavior I’d like to stop.”
Of course I have to be the one to pick them right when they’re getting ready to reform.
Me: “That’s a damn shame.”
I go to visit my Best Guy Friend. I show him the texts.
“Can you believe this?!” I pout.
“Yeah. I get it. He just doesn’t want to keep having sex with women even though he knows it’s not going anywhere.”
I guess this makes sense but I still don’t like it.
Then he says, “You should text back ‘if you’re ever having a weak moment, call me.’”
I do, and I can feel Studio Exec Guy struggling with himself as he responds, “That’s a tough one.”
I ask my Best Guy Friend if it’s okay to write back “Sorry to make it hard for you.”
He says that’s too much, I should leave it at that. I know it’s too much, it’s always too much, I’m too much. I guess what I’m looking for is a guy who can handle it.