Dating Again, Part 2: The First Date

You can read Part 1 here.

Warning: this post is long.

Since I wasn’t going to start hanging around bars, and I’m not in college anymore, the only logical place for me to meet men was online. No stranger to online dating, this wasn’t difficult. But it carried different risks.

Mormon online dating, for me, meant months of emails and phone calls with the possibility of never meeting in person the men I met online since they never lived in Nebraska. Moving to a different site meant I would probably actually go to public places with any man I might meet online. This caused all kinds of hives and hyperventilation. Especially when, a mere 24 hours after making my profile live, someone contacted me.

I’ll call him James, and his emails were crazy long and offered a lot of information about himself, and I enjoyed emailing him. After a week, we moved to texts, and shortly thereafter, phone calls. But I never added him to my contacts–that seemed too permanent an action. The phone calls often went on for 60 minutes or longer, and after another week, he asked if I’d like to go to dinner.

Cue hives and hyperventilation.

Here’s something I’ve heretofore only admitted to a handful of people: I had not been on an honest-to-goodness, real-life date since 2006. This partially explained the rather visceral reaction I had to being asked out. But a friend told me that meeting earlier than later often prevented problems later on. See, it’s really easy to form emotional connections with people via email and text and phone calls. But sometimes meeting in person is a let-down for one of the involved parties, and then you’re emotionally invested, and you’ve gone on one date and you feel like you’re breaking up with someone. I’m now a firm believer in “meet as soon as possible.”

James decided sushi would be a great first date, and I agreed, though he did not pay attention to the fact that the restaurant was downtown the same night as the opening ceremonies of the College World Series. Nor did he seem to pay attention to the fact that while he could walk to the restaurant from where he lived, I would have to drive 10 miles AND pay for parking. But I like sushi, so I didn’t throw a fit.

The night before our date, we talked on the phone for 90 minutes. And when our conversation ended, I felt like something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I chalked it up to my glacial feet. I made sure I let several friends know where and when I’d be meeting James, in case he was actually a serial killer and I disappeared.

When I walked into the restaurant, I was greeted by a former student. For most people, this might be disconcerting. For me, it was an important reminder that no matter the outcome of this date, people in the world love and appreciate me regardless of my relationship status. Seeing him immediately put me at ease.

I found James, he stood up to give me a hug, and he was easily 2 inches shorter than me. Not that it’s a bad thing, but for someone who is only 5’3″ on a good day, it felt weird. We sat down and our waiter appeared with a glass of water for me. Our waiter? A former speech student of mine, a student I was really close to.

When James asked how I knew our waiter and I told him, he seemed confused that I’d be so happy to see this student. I tried explaining that as an extra-curricular sponsor, I often have stronger connections to those students because of the extra time spent in that activity, but he really did not understand why I would still be happy to see former students.

As we perused our menus, he asked what kind of sushi I liked.

“Oh, I’m not too adventurous,” I replied. “I like the vegetarian ones, and I have a hard time with super-spicy so I try to stick to pretty mild ones.”

“Well, I like super-spicy and super-raw. So that’s what we’ll be ordering. If you do order a vegetarian roll, I won’t be eating any of it.”

I was nervous, because I have a chronic condition that can flare up if I eat the wrong thing, but that didn’t seem like appropriate first date disclosure. So he ordered some pretty spicy sushi, and I figured out what I could push my limits on and chose those, though they were certainly not what I would have chosen if I was there with my friends.

We placed our order and he began to talk. And talk. And talk. And 20 minutes in, I realized what bothered me so much the night before: this man did not want to get to know me. He wanted to tell me all about himself, and had no interest in learning anything about me. He asked me no questions, just told me story after story, complaint after complaint, while I sat there pretending to look interested, sipping my cucumber water.

I couldn’t wait for this date to end.

We had pretty much wrapped up eating our sushi, when my dear student brought out complimentary dessert–green tea ice cream with two spoons. It was so thoughtful of him, but my only thought was, “So close. I was so close to getting out of this.”

I picked at the ice cream a little bit and finally declared I couldn’t possibly eat any more. James paid the bill and we walked out of the restaurant.

“Well, I should get home–I have to make cinnamon rolls for an event tomorrow,” I said.

It was not yet 7 PM, my first date in seven years, and I could not wait to get home.

“Why don’t you just buy them? That’s easier. Why do you have to make everything?”

And that was the final nail in the proverbial coffin–this man clearly did not know me, nor did he even make an effort to. Telling me–ME–to purchase a baked good instead of make it from scratch? Please.

“It means more when it’s made from scratch,” I said with a bit of a light-hearted laugh. “Well, thanks for dinner!”

“Yeah, thanks for coming out with me,” he replied.

As I walked to my car, I pulled out my phone, found the text message thread from the previous two weeks, and deleted it.

I wouldn’t be needing his number again.

But I was glad for the experience, because it dusted off the cobwebs and got me “back out there.” Plus, he had set the bar pretty low for the next guy…if there was a next guy…(there was).

Dating Again, Part 1: Nice Mormon Boys

For 22 years, I’ve been holding out for a “nice Mormon boy.” Here’s the problem though: “nice Mormon boys” don’t like me.

This survey was published this past week, and it suddenly makes sense why they don’t. While I certainly think I’m compassionate, a good listener, and have a great sense of humor, two key criteria stick out to me. First, the emphasis on physical appearance, and second, the near-disdain for having a successful career.

It shouldn’t surprise me–at least two “nice Mormon boys” I dated in the past 22 years told me I wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough to marry. One “nice Mormon boy” I dated didn’t think I needed to work at all–not even teaching a few piano lessons or writing or being adjunct faculty at a community college.

“Nice Mormon boys” have proven to me time and again–for TWO DECADES–that they don’t like me, yet I’ve continued to limit my dating pool. And honestly, up until about 10 years ago, I didn’t feel all that limited. I had options all around me for possible “nice Mormon boy” spouses, and then I turned 30 and the “nice Mormon boys” I could have been dating started dating way more fertile 20 year-olds. And suddenly, the only “nice Mormon boys” interested in me were actually “nice Mormon grandpas” in their 50s and 60s. And thus was my cross to bear for 10 years.

So in May, I decided I was done holding out for the “nice Mormon boy.” I looked at the men I worked with–all married, of course, and none of them Mormon–and they often complimented those very traits that the “nice Mormon boys” see as flaws. So if these non-Mormon married men saw me as a decent-enough woman, I thought that maybe there are non-Mormon single men who might see me the same way.

Like I told my parents when I broke the news to them that they needed to start getting to a place where they could be happy for me regardless of whom I marry, I’ve spent the past 40 years of my life alone. I don’t want to spend the next 40 alone. And if the “nice Mormon boys” won’t give me the time of day, then I have to start hanging around a different pool.

And so I have. I’m officially off the traditional Mormon fairytale bandwagon (though let’s be real: once I was 23 and still single, I was pushed off that bandwagon).

 I’ve been on three dates this summer–not a lot by a long shot–and my friend Kim has been nagging for me to blog about them, and so I will. But I wanted to explain first why I’m dating outside my faith. I know it’s not that big of a deal for other people.

But have you seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding?” Take the familial and cultural pressure from that film, give it Alex-Rodriguez-sized doses of steroids, and then you land in the general ballpark of the pressure placed on Mormons to marry other Mormons.

So it really is kind of a big deal for me. But it’s a deal I’m happy to make, if it means that by the time I’m 50 I will have someone to travel with.

When I Was 15. And 25.

One Friday remains before I leave my 30s. To “celebrate” (process, deal with, etc.) I’m going through journals and sharing entries that represent the decades of my life.

To preserve Deanne’s reputation, I will not be sharing a journal entry from when I was 19. Ya’ll can wait to read about that year when my book is published. By the way, if you’re reading this, are you in the publishing business? Wanna read a scintillating memoir about a spinster Mormon?

Anyway. So Kirsty said 25, and Amy said 15 and when I read the journal from 1988 I knew it would make Amy laugh, and I love to make Amy laugh. So I’m gonna give you two, two, two for the price of one! So settle in because this post will be long, and it will be full of boys.

August 13, 1988

Well, I’ve been on vacation. It was pretty great. I met 4 guys. One in CA, one in AZ, and 2 in Utah. But they’re nothing to me. I like Kyle. He is so nice. He’s coming to the next dance with me on Sept. 3. Right now we’re just friends, but you never know…

I got my permit to drive on August 11. I drove 5 miles home the day I got it, and last night dad took me to Bellevue East’s parking lot. I drove around the parking lot and then drove down to the library, about 1/2 a block away. Then I drove to Shopko. On a major road! It was great. I even parked great!

Vacation was ok. I saw my cousin Dalene and we went to a dance in Phoenix. That’s where I met Andrew. He’s a sweetie. In California, we went to Disneyland. All the cute guys there were taken. But we went to see the Bolands again and their son Scott is a babe. Me and Cynda went to a mall and had fun. Then to Pleasant Grove (Utah) to my mom’s best friend’s house. Her name is Marilyn. She has a 14 year-old son–Eric. He’s a blond hair, blue-eyed, great smile, gorgeous tan sweetheart. And since Emily was gone, I got to know Eric better.

When we got home, Danny H. came over to visit. He and Dawna are going out so he came over to talk to me. David’s on vacation. Can’t wait til he gets back. I better turn in. If Kyle calls tomorrow, I’ll write.

*********************************************************************************

Here’s the run-down of activities that occured in the weeks leading up to my 25th birthday:
July 1: I came home from my mission in Montreal.
July 7: My dad retired from the Air Force.
July 8: My Nana died
July 9: Was told “You’re just not that attractive” by a boy I had loved for 9 years, even though six weeks earlier he had written me a letter in which he suggested we get married
July 11: My sister Jennie’s bridal shower; met the boy I’d date for the next 8 months
July 22: Went on this date.
July 24: Flew to Utah for Jennie’s wedding, turned 25.

The journal entries from this summer are like telegraphs–short, containing just basic details. In hindsight, I’m sure part of it was a bit of culture shock. I had just come home from my 18-month mission, where my only priority was living and preaching my faith. Looking at that timeline of events, I would think I’d be writing up a storm. But I wasn’t, and the only explanation I can think of is that I flat-out didn’t even know where to start.

But here’s one anyway, from the night before my birthday, a much less detailed version of the aforementioned date.

July 23, 1998

I can’t believe I turn 25 tomorrow.  Doesn’t seem possible that I’m that old. Did I mention that I’m working with the youth at church?  A calling with responsibility.  Scary.  Had a date with Brian last night.  It was really great.  He is so nice!  He opened the car door for me…he paid for dinner and a movie…I cried a teeny bit at the movie (we saw Armageddon) but he cried harder than I did.  I was swooning big time.  After the movie we went to Taco Bell and then we went to a park and ate and talked.

We have a ton in common and it was so fun to just flirt and talk and goof off with him.  He’s coming to Jennie’s reception and then after we’re going to do something.  I asked if he’d help me with the refreshments and I told him I’d make sure he was adequately paid…he liked that.  So I’ll think of something cool to do for him. I think I’m fixing us dinner as well.  I am in deep smit and I don’t like it. I’m still fighting the whole Matt thing and it’s really hard to just let that go. But I have to do it.  I don’t know if Brian’s planning on moving to Utah anytime soon…I don’t know why he wants to because he’s always complaining about Utah girls…but that would be just my luck.  I hope he doesn’t.

For the first time in my life I am not nervous after a first date.  I feel very calm and just happy.  I’m not even the jittery person I tend to be.  I feel like whatever happens, happens and I’ll be ok with it.  Anyway, I should get stuff ready for my flight. Next time will be Monday night.

When I Was 30.

Two Fridays remain before I leave my 30s. For the next two Fridays, I’m going through journals and sharing entries that represent the decades of my life.
This entry is from a couple weeks after my birthday. I did try to have a birthday party, but only 5 people came, and I was sick. So it pretty much sucked. I wrote this entry during church. A little bit of context–this guy’s sister remains a dear friend. In 2003, her daughter was baptized, which meant many members of her family–family I had spent Christmas with three years earlier–were in town for the occasion. Another key detail: when Rhett and I broke up, he told me I had “read into” our relationship and all he ever meant to be was friends.
 
Friends who apparently made out all. the. time. Friends who held hands in public. And the most egregious? Since he felt kissing me on the lips in church wasn’t appropriate, instead, he would take each of my fingers and kiss them individually or kiss me on the cheek. IN CHURCH. I’ve spent most of my life being “friends” with guys. Not one ever kissed me as much as Rhett did. 
 
Anyway, 30 was pretty bleak, I’m not gonna lie.
I have one more Friday in this series, and YOU, my half-dozen readers, YOU get to pick which year I share! I’ve been keeping journals since I was 5, so you have 35 years from which to choose. Post in the comments!
10 Aug 2003
Sitting behind me right at this moment is J’s family. I didn’t think it would bother me, seeing them. But it has.
Yesterday was K’s baptism, so of course, they all came. Not a one of them said hello. It almost makes it worse–like maybe they know Rhett’s spin on our relationship was inaccurate?
Anyway, I was okay until his dad spoke, and suddenly I remembered. 
There comes a time when the person you loved becomes an apparition–a mute apparition. I can remember Rhett’s face and the words he said, but his voice is lost. Until his dad spoke, and then I remembered what he sounded like. I couldn’t take it, so I left.
As I was playing postlude, Debbie came over to say hi and said, “This isn’t the same…” 
I nodded, and she said, “There’s a lot of pain for you today, isn’t there?”
And then I started to cry.
People don’t get how hard it has been for the past 4 years to go over to J’s house, to be her friend, to see her family–because by Rhett’s account, I was just a friend he hung out with for a couple of months. It makes me think I hallucinated all the quiet moments in his arms, that I imagined the way he looked at me.
Anyway. I didn’t even want to be here today because I knew they’d still be here. I hate it. I hate that it affects me.

Bonus Kind-of Holiday Post

When I created my Christmas movie calendar, a friend asked me why “It’s A Wonderful Life” wasn’t on the list. (I actually had more people ask why “Die Hard” wasn’t on the list, but that’s a different post entirely.)

My go-to response about Frank Capra’s most famous film is this: “I hate it.”

People don’t usually press me for an explanation, but I’ve spent a little more time this year trying to pinpoint why I hate the movie so much.

Monday in my Pop Culture class, I showed a YouTube video compiled of AFI’s list of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. And smack in the middle of the video is this line:

And then I remembered why I can’t handle watching “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

This boy. 

When I was still at BYU and still under his spell, he sent me a drawing. The boy was actually a talented artist and his daily (yes, daily) letters often included small romantic sketches. But this drawing came in a fancy cylindrical mailing tube. I unraveled it, and melted.

It was the two of us, sitting on a park bench. His arm was around me (the perspective was from the back, so our faces were not part of the sketch), and our heads tilted back slightly to look at a cloudless sky full of stars and a full moon. A chat bubble elegantly filled some of the space in the sky: “You want the moon, Julie? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it…I’ll give you the moon…”

Two months later, he proposed on Christmas Eve, and the next day we watched that movie. The boy whispered in my ear, “I meant it when I went you that drawing, and I mean it now.”

After I found the courage to leave him, I didn’t watch that movie for six years. And then I spent Christmas with a different boy and his family, and that movie was part of tradition. So I watched it and didn’t mind, because that boy was the one I knew I would marry, and I could build a new tradition with him–I could get over the PTSD I’d associated with all things Christmas. And I believed that until six months later when the boy told me he never loved me in the first place, and I was basically delusional in thinking he did.

These two memories were really a lot of take in during a 1st hour class–I truly had blocked out why I loathed the holiday classic so much–but at least now I know why I don’t like that movie.

Fun fact: “It’s A Wonderful Life” won a special Oscar for its snowflakes. From the American Film Institute:

Films had previously used cornflakes painted white to simulate a snow effect, but the falling flakes were too loud for live sound recording. The RKO Effects Department developed a new type of film snow using foamite, soap and water, for which they received a Scientific/Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy.