Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dating Games

Be careful.

I've heard these words, or some variation thereof, countless times in the past week.

When I said we had a date planned, and that I was excited about it;
When the date was over and I was reeling from how well it went;
When I mentioned that we had date #2 planned;
Ditto for date #3;
When I said, out loud, that I like him;
When I mentioned that we have plans for Friday and Saturday nights this weekend.

Whatever my comment, the response is the same: Be careful.

Be careful. Instead of Wow, that's great! Enjoy yourself! It's about time! or You deserve it.

While trying to saturate in the giddiness that a new suitor brings, I'm being bogged down by warnings. Cautionary words fall from the lips of my friends and his family, sucking the wind right out of my possibly over-inflated sails. I don't want to bring up this name for fear that I'll get another reminder to stay guarded. I don't want to talk about what we did or what we have planned for the same reason. But I'm too excited to keep my mouth shut. And the price I pay for vocalizing the thrill I've been feeling is having to bow to constant counsel:

Be careful.

But I understand why they worry. Many of my friends and my whole family witnessed the aftermath of my last relationship. They saw me cry, and then they heard me bitch and moan about being single. So I know what they're worried about: They're worried I'll latch onto the first decent candidate. That I'll be crushed, that I'm jumping right into the deep end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and my date was only looking to run through the sprinklers. I know they have my best interests at heart. They see me all googly-eyed over a tall and dashing man, who happens also to be smart and funny and makes me feel just delightful, and they worry.

Of course they do. I wouldn't love them if they didn't.

But I'm not in love. I'm not filling up blank notebook pages practicing my signature with my first name and his last, and wondering when he's going to pop the question. I'm not sitting at my desk during the day, staring into space and willing the phone to ring. I'm not even looking beyond August yet. Because I know myself. I know how much I love to swim in the deep end. I know it's easy for me to get ahead of myself. So I'm watching it. I am being careful.

But the fervor with which those around me demand caution implies that I should have mile-high walls built around me, that everything he says should be discarded as a very loose interpretation of the truth. Their incessant instructions to be careful seem to mandate that I keep myself closed-off, that I lay low, that I "make him want" me. And I wish I were hard enough to do that. I wish that my broken engagement and my mind-fuck of a last relationship would've made me weary enough of love and dating and relationships to make me keep everyone at arm's length. But it just hasn't.

And since it hasn't, I'm advised to play games. To lie and say that I'm busy when he asks if I'm free, to let the phone go unanswered when he calls, even if I do happen to be right there, to "forget" to call him back. And I think, why bother? Why. Fucking. Bother? Why waste my time figuring out the delicate balance between aloof and uninterested? Why not just come out with it: I like you, you like me. Why bow and curtsey and ring-around-the-rosie and plot and plan and make my moves based on moves I think he's making?

"You move too fast - Three dates in one weekend? Slow down, get to know him first. Get to know what he wants out of life." Oh yeah? But how am I supposed to do that when I'm busy NOT calling him back because I want to give the impression that I could care less? How am I supposed to get to know him - or let him get to know me - when I'm wrapped up in NOT being myself? Because not returning calls, not going out because I don't want to seem "desperate" is not me. I've tried to play that game before, and I can't. I can't even play it when I don't like someone - I'm too nice for that.

And what it comes down to is that I have too many people involved. This is why I don't talk about my life of the goings-on therein. Because my ears overflow with advice. It's almost as if I'm not allowed to be happy in the moment: No, Laurie, don't enjoy yourself - Plan for the fallout. Live your life like you're terrified of being hurt. Try to trick him into liking you by acting like you don't like him. Men love that. Don't dance like no one's watching, dance like you're on a live fucking national broadcast.

But all I want to do is enjoy this, however long it may last. I want to enjoy the smile I can't help when his name illuminates my cell phone. I want to enjoy looking forward to his call. I want to enjoy hearing him laugh at something I've said. I want to enjoy when he kisses me for no reason whatsoever. I want to enjoy hand holding and shared dinners and compliments. And I don't want to read into any of it.

And it's quite possible that I will look back later and think "I should've listened," or "maybe I should've played those games." But I'd rather be looking back thinking I should've been more careful than thinking I wish I would've enjoyed it.

17 comments:

Islandgirl said...

Laurie! Enjoy every minute of it. The best part about meeting someone new is the vulnerability it brings. In some ways it's better to just embrace that. You're old enough now to know that things don't always work out and that playing hard to get isn't always the smartest move. I think transparency is so much better at the begginning of a relationship! Go out and enjoy yourself and say poo poo to all the naysayers. At least you'll have fun now and be able to look back on the good times if it doesn't work out.

kate said...

First of all, going on dates is the way to get to know someone. Second, forget careful. Where does that get anyone but always wishing they had tried. Have fun! Put yourself out there. You never know where it's going to end up. :)

Popeye said...

I think some people who love us give "opposite advice." You're throwing caution to the wind so they say, "Be careful." If you were to talk about being cautious, they'd tell you to relax and throw caution to the wind. Its sweet and annoying, isn't it?

Jason said...

Well, sure, if you tend to fall hard and fast and then get burned, it pays to be circumspect. But there's nothing wrong with being a romantic, and where was it said "Better to have loved and lost, than to never know either?" I'm pretty sure I just mangled Shakespeare, but speaking for myself, the best jumps are when I don't worry whether the water's warm.

Scoot said...

Ah, crap, did I say something like that to you in our letter exchange? If I did, I heartily apologize and will smack myself in the head with a large trout 15 times.

Laurie said...

hahaha...

No, Scoot, you're fine.

And thanks Islandgirl, Kate, Popeye and Jason for the encouragement to ignore the advice and just enjoy myself! I needed to hear that! :)

The Zombieslayer said...

Laurie - you're such a romantic. You want the warm fuzzies to last. Don't worry, if it's the right person, they do.

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Paul said...

Anyone can sit on the curb and watch the parade go by...but it's more fun to march. You might stumble and bruise your knee....and more than likely you'll be hot and sweaty when the marching is through....but you were in the game and that's what life is all about. I applaud your decision to embrace you new relationship.

Kristi said...

So enjoy it!

You're a big girl, when there's pain you'll deal with it.
Evry relationship brings pain. Even the ones that are working out.

So i say do what makes your soul happy. I mean still be smart aobut it.
But just do it!
Enjoy.
Thats waht dating is all about.
I've never been good at the "game" either. Can't I just be myself? Say what i mean and do what I say. Why does it always have to be a game?
Whatever. Follow your intincts and do what you want!

freewriter said...

Sad and frustrating that we just can't be open and honest, but it almost seems to be required that we play a few games… *sigh*. That said, if I call a couple of times and there's no return call then bye, bye!

NJ said...

Have fun, don't play games. The games will screw things up.

Kris said...

But I'd rather be looking back thinking I should've been more careful than thinking I wish I would've enjoyed it.

You said it all right there.

Go for it. With all of you!

Anonymous said...

i think you should make passionate love to him.....then smother him with a pillow...that way you can keep him always in your closet

momacita said...

good for you,all those sucky dates.you deserve a great one.forget the games,,nothing gained.hell,i always jump in the deep end,it's more fun.good luck.

Bathroom Reading said...

I'm a newbie to this blog, but I really like it.

And I won't tell you to be careful, or anything like it: I asked my wife to marry me after 72 hours. Yep, first date: Saturday. Proposal: Monday night.

So enjoy yourself.

victoria said...

i enjoy your blog. and, just had a thought...the "be careful" advice is annoying, but sometimes we are more careful with ourfavorite shoes than we are with our hearts. what do i know? i should never give relationship advice...