Those Great Expectations

On the second-half of our very long (and very great) date, Mr. Unexpected and I met in Greenwich Village at one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall places, Bamboleo. It’s a place that M and I discovered when we were funemployed, single and in dyer need for margaritas, tacos and guac.

It isn’t a place I typically suggest with a guy I just met – it holds a lot of special memories with my friends – but I figured we wanted something in the West Village, something easy and something inexpensive, so it fit the bill and he fit my hopes so far. As we ordered and sat in the window, his hand making it’s way to my knee every once in a while, he confessed that he had Goolged me in the five hours we spent apart.

And what did you discover, apart from pages-beyond-pages of content about what I think about dating? I said, reminding myself to breathe. It’s not like I kept the blog a secret, I had told him what I do for a living – but to know that the guy you like can browse your chronicles, and thus literally know every ridiculous, crazy, obsessive thought you’ve basically ever had… well, it’s a little scary.

No, actually – it’s extremely terrifying.

He laughed and said he read a few things, but didn’t want to dive in too deep to the pages, that he’d rather just go out with me instead. I told him I appreciated his resistance and that conversations are better than paragraphs on this URL, but in response, he said he just had a question:

Do you think writing about dating and love all the time gives you unrealistic expectations?

I’m sure my face must have registered a ‘deer in headlights’ kind of shock – even though the inquiry, in all seriousness, was valid. If you’re going to be seeing someone more often, wouldn’t you want to know what they expect in a partner? And if that someone happens to be a girl who has made a career out of relationship writing, might you be a little, intrigued on her thoughts? And maybe a little scared? Possibly extremely terrified?

Yep. Touche, Mr. Unexpected, touche.

That’s a fair question, I said, exhaling and finishing my margarita. I’m not sure what I said verbatim, but it was along the lines of: Being single for a while has taught me that the most important part of a relationship isn’t the grand gestures or the big romantic moments, but the day-to-day support, contact, communication that keeps you connected. I’d rather have someone to come home to every day to watch TV and order takeout than someone who buys me roses and recites sonnets. I’m looking for a match who is on my level emotionally, physically and mentally, and someone who will also be a good friend. I want to like the person, not just the idea of that person as my boyfriend.

After our date – and the ones that followed – I couldn’t get that question out of my head. Here I’ve been doing this whole meet-and-greet with guy after guy, and no one has ever called me out so directly. Excuse the cliché reference to Carrie Bradshaw (if you all compare us, I might as well live up to it, eh?): I couldn’t help but wonder…

…do I have unrealistic expectations of love?

In the moment, my response was the clearest thing that came to my head – and an honest assessment of what I’m hoping to find in a mate. I’d pick laughing and flirting with beers and burgers at a sports bar, over some guy reading me a poem in a tuxedo at a $200-a-plate downtown restaurant, any day. I want to like who a person is, not just what they can offer me. I want to waste time instead of buying time in dating. I want the honest-to-goodness reality of a person, not the rose-colored mentality that is deluding and unattainable. I used to crave the attention of a man who was magically enamored with me, and now I most long for someone who I feel comfortable, sexy and relaxed with.

Life is complicated, and hopefully the relationship we all eventually find will bring peace to the chaos.

But there are things – in fact, many things – that I frankly, won’t settle for. I want to have a wild, intense, seductive sex life – I’ve never been the girl who uses a headache as an excuse for anything. I value someone’s morals and I appreciate someone who keeps me on my toes – and is also tall enough to make me stand on them. I don’t typically need daily reminders of affection, but my dad has taught me that the right man never minds holding your hand. I try my very best to truly listen to a man’s words, instead of adding an adjective here-and-there to make them more appealing. I pay attention to the details and to the questions he asks, and the answers he gives. After far too many failed could-be courtships, I’ve learned – often the hard way – that men will tell you exactly what page they’re on, if you are brave enough to stomach it. And that you have to keep your anxiety at bay so you can figure out if those butterflies are worth the risk to fly.

Sometimes they’re not. In rare times, they are.

The trick of figuring it all out is managing those great expectations – but also being very clear from the get-go about what they are and what you want and need from someone. These are the ‘rules’ and your standards, your guidelines for what you seek in a mate. And just like blueprints or outlines – for the right person or the right situation, adjustments can be made. Minds can be changed. Things can be tweaked here-and-there.

But for the most part, what you seek is neither unrealistic or realistic – it’s just specific to you. Or to me. And Mr. Unexpected’s expectations are explicit to him.

Like how he’s not reading this blog – or anything that’s written about him – until he’s ready. Until later down the road. Instead of reading what I think, he’s talking to me. Instead of reading in between these lines, he’s asking me questions. Instead of letting a blog define his expectations or who I am, he’s getting to know me.

And that’s an expectation that I didn’t know I cared about, but I do: get to know me, then read what I write, next. The archives are part of me, sure – but I’ve come a long way from that love-addicted, obsessive, insecure gal I was at 22 when I started this blog. My taste in men, the value I have in myself and the strength I have to be both brave and vulnerable at the same time – that’s only happened after lots of practice, and even more risk.

While his question caught me off guard – less than 24 hours into meeting him - it was refreshing to speak from the heart. And to know that even when I’m 100 percent honest with someone, they might actually still call – or ahem, text – you for another date.

And if you’re really lucky, for another 10 or 15 so…

 

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And Then Mr. Unexpected Came Along…

The weeks after I returned from Europe were one big blur: getting over jet lag, starting a new job that starts an hour earlier than my last one, and getting my finances, insurance and 401k set up and settled.

Needless to say, I wasn’t focused on dating and quite honestly, didn’t have much time or energy for it. (Especially since all the running blogs were telling me I needed to start my marathon training… yesterday.) It was after a long, sweaty run in Central Park on a Wednesday, while I was picking up odds and ends at the grocery store that the dating app, Hinge yelled at me for not logging in for a while.

You could be missing great matches! It said.

Mmmk, Hinge. Whatever you say.

I’m not really a big fan of Hinge and at that point, I had never been on a date from it, mainly because while the concept is smart (10 matches a day, must have at least a third-degree Facebook connection), the technology is lacking. Most of the time when I opened it, it crashed before I could even decide if I thought a guy was cute or not.

So why I decided to open it that day, I still don’t know, but I did. And I’m glad I gave it a whirl, because there waiting in the inbox was a message sent while I was in Rome from…

…Mr. Unexpected.

It was hard to tell exactly what he looked like – he isn’t a big fan of having his picture taken. But from the few selections, I could tell I was into this tall, dark, Greek daytrader – who apparently liked sports, dogs and fishing. He went to college in North Carolina, so at the very least, I reassured myself, he would understand and maybe share my Bojangles obsession (and extreme longing for it). His message was smart and short, enough to get my attention but not so intense it turned me away. I responded with my phone number (not in my character, but I had to get off that faulty app before it completely failed).

Mr. Unexpected asked me out for the next day – a Friday, after work. He hinted to dinner but kept it cool with drinks first – ya know, just to make sure we could tolerate one another for an entire meal.

Turns out we could. And that’s when everything started to become rather unexpected:

I usually don’t get tipsy on a first date – but by the time we headed to Bowery Kitchen, I lost all track of time and wits and … I had already downed three cocktails. He ordered us a bottle of red at dinner and suddenly, the me with a big appetite, had zero interest in the lobster roll or the skirt steak… instead I wanted to be that girl who kissed a guy on a first date in a restaurant. (Sorry -I’m not sorry- other patrons!)

When we left, we got caught in the rain and huddled underneath an umbrella, his 6’3-self attempting to hold it over his head and my head without both of us getting soaked (it didn’t really work, but was cute, nonetheless). We found a covered building and made out for a bit, laughing at the irony of the “romantic kissing scene,” and generally just savoring the unexpected moment.

And then I became Ms. Unexpected myself:

We could go to a place near my apartment, I said. I have to walk Lucy anyway.

We grabbed a cab uptown from Soho and had another glass of wine before heading back to my place- I won’t give details (quite yet) but while a deed wasn’t done, it was evident that Hinge quite accurately predicted a vibrant chemistry. So much in fact, that after a restless sleep, two giant iced coffees and a stroll in the dog park, I went to brunch and flying trapeze with M, took a shower, took a power nap, and headed downtown again to meet him, less than 24 hours later for dinner and drinks.

And so far, a month later, he’s still proving that the unexpected can be so much easier, so much sexier, so much more relaxed than when you follow the rules.

Because I’ve been having a lot of fun breaking them.

I don’t ever take home someone on the first date, and I usually never agree to dinner so early in. I rarely do back-to-back dates, or as I’ve called our first/second date: the marathon date. (If only actually running the marathon would be the easy!) I usually try to be nonchalant and uninterested, playing a game that I’m not good at until the bitter end, but instead, we send each other slightly inappropriate memes, pictures of our dogs, talk sports (ahem, thanks E for explaining hockey to me) and just let it flow.

As for Mr. Unexpected, he continuously sparks my curiosity with his candor, his charisma, the way he challenges me - in many ways - and what he picks for dates – a Yankees Game (my first one), a family-owned Spanish restaurant he frequents, potato chips and beer in bed, watching YouTube and perhaps a comedy show in the week the come.

From how it started to where it’s going – the most exciting part and yet, the thing that makes me at ease, is how I never saw it coming. And for once, I put aside the things that make dating feel like such a chore, and I just let someone surprise me. I just went with it and let the ride take it’s course.

Ya know what? Six or seven (or something?) dates later, Mr. Unexpected is still keeping me on my toes. And as he said, “I can’t be ‘unexpected’ forever, I have to turn into something, right?

He does. And I bet I won’t expect whatever that will be.

Falling in Love On Fridays: With Love, From Singapore

This week’s Falling in Love on Fridays post comes from someone I used to work with, J. Bubbly and sassy, this marketing gal made meetings more interesting and after-work drinks funnier. She moved back to her home country, Singapore after a brief stay in the States and continues to have a long-distance relationship with the love of her life that she met while here. Read her sweet story that just might make you go on that date you’re dreading tonight. If you’d like to submit your own Falling in Love on Friday story, click here.

With Love From Singapore

I decided to take the big leap to New York City to pursue a gradaute degree and follow my true passion for media three years ago. Yearning for excitement, I traveled 9343 miles away from my island home of Singapore, leaving behind the familiar smells of tropical palm trees and blue-green jeweled waters speckled with memories of my young 23-year-old self. I looked to the big city that promised so much – vowing that my education and career would be priorities for the next few years. Relationships and love were the last things on my mind especially when I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay in the US for.
For anyone who’s made a drastic move to a new city, it quickly dawns on you on how overwhelming it can be. Even though I spent the first year burying myself in school and venturing into different boroughs on the weekends, discovering what it meant to be a true local in NYC, things got lonely. Coupled with long winters that I wasn’t used to, I decided to give online dating a shot. I heard it worked for some but was still very apprehensive about this unconventional way of meeting people.
I was what you’d call a non-committal online dater. Browsing profiles and briefly replying to messages but rarely agreeing to actual dates. Having not been in a serious relationship for about four years, there was still a big part of me that treasured the freedoms of being single, especially in a place like New York.
Until I met D.
From the onset, D and I didn’t seem like we had much in common and was unlike any others I usually dated. He was quiet, meticulous and low-key. I was sociable, passionate and enjoyed going out. We worked in completely different industries and our shared interests seemed minimal – eating, snow boarding and were of the same religion. After 10 days of texting (yes, 10!), D finally asked me out.
Our first coffee date turned into a dinner in Korea Town because we were both working late. To someone who’s new to online dating, I was pretty sure a dinner date wasn’t exactly a smart idea. What if we had nothing to talk about? What if it became clear that we had no chemistry after five minutes? Oh boy. I was nervous and had a friend on speed dial should I need to make the S.O.S. call.
Thankfully I didn’t have to. The list of things we had in common grew longer as we tucked into fragrant kimchi and bulgogi (not the most romantic of first date meals but we were both famished that day). We had the same sense of sarcastic humor and although he was Vietnamese and I was Chinese, we connected with Asian jokes and history. Interestingly, we both came from a family of five siblings, D was the eldest of three girls and two boys, while I was the third of a set of three boys and two girls. The date seemed to be going well until we bid farewell. I expected an indication that the date was a hit, like a “I had a nice time, we should do it again soon” or perhaps even a hug. Instead, it was abrupt and I walked home feeling more confused than ever. That night, there was still no follow-up text from D and after a call to rant with my best friend about how badly the date ended, I fell asleep thinking,“Oh well, can’t help it if there was no attraction from his end.”
Surpsingly, D got in contact with me and asked me out for a second date… and a third. By the fourth date, it was clear that our relationship was growing and I shared my concerns with D about my permernance in NYC, not wanting to lead him on should I have to move to another city. I expected that any other 28-year-old would run for the hills, but D unassumingly reassured, “I’m in this for the long haul.” That night, we held hands for the first time while taking in the majestic views of Manhattan’s skyline along the Hudson River.
Seven months later, D and I are still going strong. We’ve since then taken snowboarding trips and met each others families. Given my job prospects, I’ve had to make a hard decision to return to Singapore, leaving behind everything I love about NYC. As disappointed as I am to not have spent more years working in the city like what I set out out to do, I gained so much more with my unexpected relationship with D.
His generosity and stability are the perfect complement to my sponateniety for life. What I lack in number skills, he makes up for. What he yearns in elegant writing, I provide. We stay grounded and honest, and go to bed every night saying how grateful we have been to have found each other. We rarely have difficult moments, but when we do, they are almost always because we wish we got to spend a few more precious moments being in the same location.
Even though being away from each other is not ideal, D and I are plowing through – because that’s what you do when you find your other half.
Happy 29th Birthday D! Can’t wait till I next see you.

Falling in Love On Fridays: Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

It’s no secret that I’m a little skeptical about online dating. Though I’ve technically been a participant in the love interwebs for years (off and on), I’ve yet to find what I consider someone I’m into enough to date long term. I know that statistics show that lots of people meet their significant others online (1 in 5!) but I just haven’t found much success and often feel like throwing in the towel. But my friend from college, J, makes me want to give it another try. She’s recently engaged to a man she met online and their story will make you get on Match for an hour tonight. No joke. Oh – and just try not to cry during the proposal video. If you want to write your own Falling in Love on Fridays post, click here.

Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

After getting dumped by my boyfriend of two years, I had given up on love.  I would go out, flirt with guys at the bar, and then go home disappointed, realizing that there were no good men out there. I felt like a sad imitation of the gals from Sex and the City: Hopelessly romantic and also a little hopeless… After one of my nights with my girl friend Lillian (and way more than my half of the bottle of wine), I decided it would be cathartic to create an online dating profile. That way, my not-completely-sober self rationalized, I could highlight my best qualities, something I don’t often do in my self-critiques and realize how awesome I am.

I created a profile on a religious dating site, mainly because the guys my friends found on regular dating sites turned out to be absolutely horrific. Immediately, I was receiving messages and emoticons from guys, some of whom were too old, a little creepy, and just so, so wrong for me. It made me laugh a little, though, and I felt better about myself, realizing that at least somewhere out there, guys thought I was worth pursuing.

screenshot

I took a break from the site and retreated to the beaches of North Carolina under the pretense of house sitting for a friend. She was visiting her boyfriend over the 4th of July holiday, so I had 4 days by myself, with only her dog and my dog to keep me company. I laid out, got some sun, read, wrote, and just allowed myself to accept where I was in life.  Like most of my trips to the beach, the salt water washed away my worries. Here I was, surrounded by thousands of tourists, with no one sitting next to me. No one talking to me. I was alone among the masses, and I felt more at peace than I had in a long time. I finally accepted that it was okay to be alone, and that refocusing on improving myself was now a priority.

I drove home refreshed, realizing that for the first time in a long time, I was freed from my insecurities, from my unhappiness. I was me once more, made whole by the sand, sun, and surf. It had been a month since I had joined the dating site, and I thought to myself, “Give it one more go.” After all, I was back to myself, the type of girl who could look on something like a dating website as an opportunity and not necessarily a last resort.

I had a few messages from a few different guys, but none of them really caught my eye. So I did what any girl would do: Scroll through the guys in my area until I found a cute one and then stalk him. I wasn’t planning on messaging anyone, since I still just had the “free profile” that wouldn’t let me send messages, but it was fun to “browse” the available men. One page down, then another.It was interesting seeing the men in my demographic and how varied they were. And then, I saw him. Tall. Good looking. Not too old. Not already divorced. Professionally successful. To say I fell in love with a picture and profile is a stretch, but it was close.

guy

My newfound sense of purpose gave me the courage to bite the bullet and send my first message, something I equated to walking up to a guy at a bar. Really, was there any difference between me approaching a stranger at my local watering hole and sending a message through a social forum? No, I told myself, there wasn’t. Plus, if he immediately rejects you or doesn’t respond, you don’t have to slink away in front of his friends and a bunch of random strangers. I typed out my short message and hit “send” before I lost my resolve. Then it was time to sit back and wait…

A day later, as I was checking my email, a notification message from the site popped up. The mysterious “Brad” had responded to my message. Thrilled that my first foray into online dating had resulted in at least a consensual message, I clicked open my email and read his brief message which was punctuated with tons of questions. What did I do? How did I like NC? Where all have I traveled to? I eagerly replied, answering each question in depth, wanting to give him the fullest version of myself. I hit “send” again and felt a sense of hope. Hope in my newfound freedom. Hope in this conversation with a stranger. Hope in myself.

We officially had our first date at a minor league baseball game, way better than the coffee date that was originally planned. He changed it last minute due to my love for the sport. We laughed. We ate hot dogs. We danced and sang to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” We stood next to my car, and he pointed out the stars to me.  Then we went on a second date. Then we had lunch. And then… and then… The days turned into weeks. The weeks turned in to months. He met my friends. I met his. Then he met my family. And then I met his. We started speaking about the future, marriage, kids, family, all the things you plan for in your head when you’re with someone you love. And every time we talked about it, every time he got nervous thinking about the future, I’d tell him the same thing: “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

dancing

For the first time, I didn’t need a ring to define my relationship. I knew I had found the one, the guy who could make me laugh until I cried and who could cure my tears with laughter. So many people say, “I knew he was the one…” and I finally knew what they meant. It didn’t matter to me how long it would take. Our friends started asking about engagement, proposals, the possible future wedding. And as always, I’d tell him, “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

We celebrated Christmas. We celebrated New Years. We went dancing and cooked dinners for each other. Each and every day, I woke up feeling happy. He didn’t define me. He still doesn’t. I was finally in a place where I was comfortable with myself, and I found someone who loved me for me. All my faults and failures, he accepted. Through his loving me, showing me how someone else could view me, he allowed me to learn to love myself, and for this, I will be forever grateful to him.

proposal


People get cynical when it comes to online dating. I knew I was. For months after we started dating, people would ask, “So, how did you two meet?” and Brad and I would both exchange a look. I was the only one able to tell the story with a straight face because to both of us, it was still so ridiculous. We’re old-fashioned, and we met through the internet? But somehow, in this crazy mess of life, we found each other. In the end, the means of how we met don’t matter. Boy meets girl. Girl falls for guy. It’s a story as old as time.

Once Upon a Tinder

I was adamantly against Tinder when it first came out.

I couldn’t understand as my friends explained about swiping left and right, choosing guys to go on dates with based purely on a glorified, modern version of hot-or-not. I needed to know things before letting a guy buy me a drink. I couldn’t blindly accept an offer without knowing at least the very basics….

… Could I?

I can. I did. I have. I do.

A quick glance at my matches list today reveals I’ve swiped right on enough men to give me 312 potential daters. Of all those guys somewhere in New York (or NJ or CT), the vast majority are sitting idly in my inbox with absolutely no conversation, a third of them are silent after the niceties wore off and others asked such inappropriate questions they quickly escalated to being blocked (or screenshotted) within seconds.

Even so, it’s fun. So you play.

Tinder is an easy, no-fuss app for finding dates, and you would think the process of getting off our iPhones and getting on a bar stool would be easier… but it’s not.

Back-and-fourth painfully boring questions (that would already be answered if anyone bothered to fill out their profile or Tinder created a form), makes you quickly lose interest. Or excuse my crudeness – you get guys who ask if you will sit on their face.

Nope.

At the start of the year, I deleted the app and prevailed to meet more men the old-fashioned way. Surely if my parents and their parents and several of the couples I know today met through friends or at a bar or in a class- I could do that too. I’m social! I told myself. I’m friendly! I can do this!

Then polar vortex happened. Like five times. And then I made a last-minute trip to NC. And I got into the NYC Half-Marathon and had to start training. And then… well I stopped making an effort to go out. Blame it on the weather or my age (and the hangovers that just keep getting worse!), or just on the fact that dating is tough, but it’s March 13 and I’ve gone on whopping 4 dates this entire year.

None if which were worthy of a blog post.

And so, I did what I think many women do: I re-downloaded Tinder. I watched as the matches rolled in, building my confidence and making me blush that I am hot! I am dateable! I am worthy! I’ll find love!

But the thing about a meaningless app is that it produces meaningless pseudo-relationships and dates. Because the simple act of just judging someone’s appearance and a two-sentence description (if that long even) doesn’t equal any sort of actual connection. Though it does make you feel wanted, the sad truth is that most Tindering is done while waiting in line at Starbucks. Or on the toilet. Or passing time in between meetings or at lunch.

And while I haven’t actually gone on a date with any of these new guys since welcoming the flame back to my iPhone’s home screen, I feel like I’ve put myself out there more. I feel like I’ve been dating. I feel like I’m being more proactive about my love life. Like Pinterest, even though I haven’t actually done anything differently – the simple act of swiping makes me feel like I’ve pranced around all of New York and met all of it’s bachelors.

But I haven’t. At all.

There are a few guys I’d probably go out with, and yet I couldn’t tell you their names without checking Tinder right now. I couldn’t tell you anything I talked about with them or why I was intrigued enough to say “yes” instead of  “no” – because they had dimples? Their profile said they were 6 foot? Because I liked their photo with a Tiger? Or from the Color Run?

I don’t know and I bet the same guys wouldn’t know a thing about me either. They especially wouldn’t know that while I’m messaging them or selecting them, I don’t look like that made-up girl in my photos – instead, I’m plucking the chinny-chin hairs off my face with my hair in a messy bun, eating popcorn and wearing oversized sweat clothes I’ve had for almost six years.

Attractive, eh?

I get the appeal of Tinder and I understand why it’s still growing and popular – but I wish there was a way to make online (or app) dating more serious. Maybe if Hinge could get it’s messaging issue together, it’d be an option, but even more than that – I want a way to make dating online more like dating offline.

How do you make something so superficial have substance? How to look past your own mental check-boxes while trolling profiles to give someone a chance? How do you know if you’d actually talk to them in a bar before deciding to go out with them? How do I best spend the very little time I have to date the smartest and most effective way?

I don’t know the answers – but my guess is that Tinder probably won’t derive the results that I desire. And so, like I have done several times before, I’m deleting it.

But for good this time. And with a clever twist: I took the time to scour through all 312 matches (yes, really) and I sent a message to the ones that I could possibly be interested in with my e-mail. If they’re interested in something beyond dirty questions and pointless banter, they’ll get in touch.

Or they won’t.

Either way, I give up my once-upon-a-Tinder fairytale dreams. I give up deluding myself that I’m actually dating, when I’m not. And I’m not making myself feel bad because I’m focusing on other things or choosing my friends or new adventures over finding a so-called prince to shape my Manhattan life. I might want a happily ever after, but it’s not going to be found inside of an app. And maybe not inside of a bar or a running group or an Italian class or a philosophy course or any of the above.

Maybe it’ll be somewhere else entirely.

But for now, I’m trading the glass slippers for running shoes to run my second half-marathon on Sunday. I’m letting go of a silly app and I’ll celebrate crossing the finish line with margaritas and my dearest of fairy godmothers – eh, I mean friends – and should an attractive someone be there, so be it.

And if not… I will be in Europe in 21 days. Just saying.