The 23-Year-Old

You know a date wasn’t great when you turn down an invitation for dinner because you’re thoroughly exhausted from the conversation.

I had high hopes for The Italian. Since I’m taking Italian language classes and going to Rome in April, I was excited when I came across a Milan transplant with gorgeous eyes and a sexy accent. But an hour into our date, as he talked so much that he still wasn’t finished with the first glass of vino rosso Italiano yet, I couldn’t stomach the thought of another two hours to get through dinner.

Luckily my friend G and E were up for a far less sophisticated evening at a Southern-style college bar called Brother Jimmy’s. It isn’t exactly the classiest crowd but the drinks are cheap and the food reminds me of my life below the Mason Dixon. As we drank our $5-you name it concoctions far faster than the Italian, we noticed a young group of tall, handsome guys attracting the attention of every girl in the establishment.

Look how they are surrounded so quickly! Are we so starved for attractive men that we flock to whatever semi-decent one we see? I asked, half-appalled and half-formulating a blog post in my tipsy head. The three of us, all different ages (and all incredibly single) discussed the situation while laughing and ignoring everyone else.

A half-an-hour later, after the bartender joined in our humor and gave us free bottom-shelf rum shots, one of the guys found his way to me.

Need a drink? He asked as he bumped into me, quite purposefully. I looked at my completely full glass and smiled, Thanks, but I think I’m alright for now. He grinned back and said, I saw you watching us, what conclusion are you drawing?

The three of us explained our theory and he played along, calling his one extremely tall friend (6’6″!) a “chick magnet” and how he was more just along for the ride. He was goofy and casual, but still acted unsure of himself. Maybe it was the alcohol – or maybe it was the fact he was 23. Though a two-year age difference doesn’t seem like quite that big of a deal, so much changes in your twenties, it can feel like a lifetime ago that you were that early-20-something. I noticed how boyish he was and yet, how he tried to build his confidence around me. It was charming.  Against my better judgment, I found myself enjoying his hand on my knee, his slightly inappropriate jokes, his seemingly soft lips.

Well shit, I think he’s cute, I thought as he bought another round and waved off his friends goodbye to spend more time with me.

Another hour passed and the night went on, my friends bid me farewell and I stayed behind. As the bar cleared out, we danced to old music and attempted to speak Italian to one another, and he wrote me a poem that didn’t rhyme but was sweet. He asked for my number and out to dinner the next night – but he was 23 and my expectations weren’t high for his level of seriousness but there was a click.  A spark.

A something.

And then there was kissing. Lots and lots of kissing. The kind of kissing you do in high school before you have gone past second base. When magic swells on your tongue and every touch is heightened – 10 years ago by anxiety and anticipation, and now, by liquor and pipe dreams. By the time I finally went up to my apartment – alone, for the record – it was 4 am and I sighed for the hangover I knew I would have the next day. A 25 year old head is much different than the 23 year old one, but apparently no wiser…

It wasn’t even noon before he cancelled dinner, and by 2  p.m. he gently told me I was a sweet girl, but he didn’t want to waste my time. And even though I knew the outcome was likely, I was disappointed. Connection feels so rare after so many years of dating, that when it comes, it’s hard not to hold onto it with all that you have.

But even though The 23 Year Old’s presence in my life lasted all of a few hours, he brought out something in me:

My soft side.

My voice was calmer, my shoulders relaxed. I wasn’t thinking about my never-ending to-do list or my worries over everything I want and all that I don’t have yet. I was flirty without being overbearing, and I let myself just enjoy the moment, as fleeting and unimportant as it was. I listened more than I spoke and I let him ask me to dance instead of inviting him myself. I put down my guard and I didn’t check the time, allowing myself to giggle and twirl into the early hours of the morning. I didn’t run over a mental checklist to see if he matched all of the qualities I want in a partner, I was just myself and let him be himself.

And it was nice.

It was really nice to simply let go of all the dating drama. It was nice to feel soft and vulnerable, open and hopeful again. Though there won’t be an actual date with this bachelor, sometimes you need a young-something to remind you to not be so jaded. To not think the worst of people. To go with the flow. To say “yes” to another drink, even if you say “no” to a sleepover. To smile without wondering if it means anything and let it mean whatever it does in that moment.

To remind you to have hope in love and in men, but mostly in your ability to love. Even if all you love is the splendid fun of a chance encounter of the Brother Jimmy’s kind.

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