My Bestie, happily married to an awesome guy, was the one who first suggested I blog about my dating “adventures.” Or “misadventures.” Or “experiences in terror and embarrassment whilst in the company of a man who is buying my meal and the alcohol required to get through this coupling catastrophe.” Whatevs.
Anyway, she’s always the first to hear about my awkward-as-ass dates, the first to give me the wide-eyed “He said WHAT?,” the first to cringe when I finally find the nerve to voice aloud the awfulness, like that my date showed up driving his grandma’s powder blue Buick and wearing a Members Only jacket – and not because he’s a hipster.
She loves the stories, and said I need to write them down lest we forget all the the cringe-inducing hilarity – like Buick boy taking me to a movie for our first date where we obviously couldn’t talk and said no more than seven sentences to each other but he didn’t let that stop him from from flipping his flowing locks (did I mention the flowing locks?) in the wind and leaning in – eyes shut – to kiss me goodbye.
(I’m really not a shallow girl. Yes, I judged the poor boy for his Meemaw mobile and outdated attire and shaggy mop o’ hair that he really enjoyed flipping in the wind. Ultimately, though, my gut said “flee,” so I did. And that boy is now a woman named “Rachel.” Well done, gut. You’re alright.)
It’s appropriate that Bestie was the first to suggest the blog since my first post-divorce date was her doing. (So, in a way, this is all her fault.) She set me up with one of her co-workers. “He’s cute,” she said. “He’s fun,” she said. “He’s 25,” she tossed in like a footnote…at the bottom of the page…in a really small font. I was 38.
At 25, this guy was a pup. I was hesitant to meet him, but she assured me he had no hang-ups about our age difference and was anxious to meet me. So, she handed over my digits, he texted me immediately, and we went out that night. She was right. Pup was cute, and he was fun, and our age difference didn’t faze him at all. But I knew that night that a relationship was not in our future. My issue – Pup was not terribly bright. I base this on his assertion that Chiquita bananas come from “Brazil or some other place in South Africa.” Pup’s issue – he was only interested in sleepovers.
I was with The Ex for twelve years. Prior to that, all of my relationships had been long-term, monogamous ones. The whole “no strings attached” thing was not something in which I was well-versed. Or even kinda’ versed. Geography fails aside, he was fun and attentive. So, several months after that first date, Pup and I were still seeing each other, and still having sleepovers, and I was still clueless on how to conduct myself in this situation.
Many more months went by. Pup and I saw other people. After each failed relationship – his and mine – we’d gravitate back to one another. We watched movies wrapped around each other on the couch. We went skinny dipping at midnight. We drank beer and trashed our exes and discussed important stuff like the Chiquita banana’s port of origin. We got jealous when the other had a date. We would bump into each other and ask how it was going with that new person. We would know it was over with that new person when we received a text from the other in the middle of the night that said, simply, “What are you doing?”
And that’s where we were when it all came together for me. We were each other’s hormone-driven support system. We knew from the start we’d never be a “couple,” but we successfully created this pseudo-relationship to fall back on when life was suckish. Break-ups are hard. Promising dates that go up in a blaze of Buick fuel are humiliating. People you care for treat you badly. But having someone around who wants you, despite the emotional mess you might be at any time, is badass. Is it frowned upon? Prolly. Is it ideal? Nope. Does it help rebuild what someone else knocked down? Almost every damn time. While “no strings attached” means you lack the ties that bind, you also lack the ones that choke the life out of you.
After more than two years, our fake relationship finally ended like many real relationships do – in a restaurant after a slightly drunken brouhaha set off by some ill-timed snark. There was chair slinging. As fake relationship break-ups go, it was a good one. Bestie was there.
He and I didn’t speak for five months, and I was okay with that. I didn’t need him anymore. By then, I knew my worth – I will even begrudgingly admit that he helped me find it between the terrible dates and a couple of bad break-ups that made me lose sight of it briefly. When we did bump into each other again, it was for a work project. We were friendly and spent some time catching up before I went down the hall to finish my job. The door had just closed behind me when a text popped up on my phone from him. It said…
“You look great in that dress.”