You saw that headline coming, didn’t you? I mean, Gap Year!
Two weeks ago, I swore I’d swear them all off. After turning down 27 when I realized I’d never be attracted to him, and then gracefully cutting my emotional tie to Ali, I thought about Mr. Saturday Night and Le Prof and I thought, “I’m done with the bullshit.”
Well, I didn’t totally get there on my own. My BFF, Boss Lady, and I reviewed the current cast of characters in my life, and she was blunt. “I don’t think any of these guys are the one to move ahead with.” She pointed out that I left the father of my children because I ran out of tolerance for his bullshit, so why was I going to take bullshit from this lot? Do I need to put up with a sextaholic and a dude who only texts about the weather? DO BETTER, MEN!
So I mentally shifted, had good food and hangouts with my pals, went dancing, laughed until I cried. And then of course, the men sensed it, because the universe likes to fuck with me, and well, I’m weak. Le Prof asked me for coffee on the first sunny Sunday of the year and given my “everyone gets two dates” rule, I said oui. We met on a cafe patio. I was casually late and he glanced at his watch and gave me a disapproving look. I ignored it, because fuck it. He was late on our last date. I was even. If that makes me petty, so be it.
I’ll admit that I’d been put off by his nightly requests to “play,” his seemingly insatiable appetite for sexting was wearing thin, and part of my nonchalant attitude was born there. (He claims he’s insatiable only for/because of me.) But in person, he was completely charmant again, instantly intelligent and funny, completely respectful. Knee to knee, we spoke at great length about grey issues around race, religion, politics, responsibility. He spoke to me mostly in French, and I tried to summarize my understanding. “The French lessons are free if you stick with me,” he quipped. I’m a pretty intelligent woman who can see through a lot, but when it comes to men, I am a dripping wet mess over an accent and a foreign language. If he is sexually driven by the visual, for me the turn on is mental and aural.
Am I a fucking sapiosexual? I don’t like that word, mostly because the guys in apps who say they are one are full of shit. (A sapiosexual is a person who finds intelligence attractive or arousing.) But I’m realizing that for me, everything sexual happens in those early conversations: the flirting, the witty banter, the ability to volley back some sexy sarcasm. I can’t imagine a life without this spice. It’s everything for me. The question is: Is it sustainable?
“This is my favourite week,” Le Prof sighed, reminding me that the Sunday prior, our entire city was hiding indoors due to a snowstorm. “In just a week it can go from winter to spring,” he enthused en français. What a great metaphor for life that we should all remember, I said, smiling at the discovery that I liked this man. Le Prof continued to French my ears with his sentences and when it was time to go, we French kissed on the sidewalk, and I didn’t care if the whole world was driving by the busy avenue watching us. My city was Paris in that moment, the pair of us a cliché Robert Doisneau black and white photograph.
I have since been completely forthright with Le Prof as we try to navigate two equally complicated schedules. I told him I don’t want to be asked to sext all the time when we haven’t even actually had sex yet. I told him I don’t have much time to date, but if he’s willing to get to know me and be patient, that eventually our schedules might line up to make room for this. He responded, “To be clear, I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for extraordinary sex. Let me know when you have three hours, not 30 minutes.” Um, hot. We shall see…
A few days later, I dressed pretty, let my hair go free and big and wild (my ex preferred me to straighten it) and sat at a bar in a dark woody establishment, waiting for Mr. Saturday Night. It was finally the day of days, the date I’d invited him to weeks before, because the event was a mix of museum and theatre and if you’ve been reading, you might recall that he’s a hyphen of these elements.
When he arrived, I had a glass of red, because happy hour was ending and it had been a LOOOONG news cycle full of emotions. Being hyperbolic by nature, one can only imagine where my head was at. I have two states:
THE SKY IS FALLING! < – – – – – – – > EVERYTHING IS AMAZING AND WONDERFUL!
But as soon as I saw him, you can guess which camp I switched into. In fact, just thinking about laying eyes on him makes my stomach flip-flop. I get that he’s an actor and they are supposed to be beautiful, but wow, he just does it for me, and it’s not just the sparkle in his eye and his adorable mannerisms. He was wearing a black button down shirt with a black tie and a black blazer and dark jeans and I nearly fell off my barstool, but managed to keep it cool. I think.
NOTEWORTHY: Guys! I made it to Date 3!
“What’d I miss?” the Fantastic Mr. Foxy Saturday Night asked with a sly smile.
“Well, you have 10 minutes to decide if you are into buck-a-shuck oysters,” I informed him, secretly hoping he was, because oysters! To my delight he was totally game. We talked about our work weeks, his big project, his health and his daughter, and I will leave out the details but just say that he’s so damn easy to talk to.
We headed to our event across the street and immediately he recognized a beautiful woman in a smart suit standing out front. They embraced and caught up while I stood back a bit, observing the scene. I had a feeling this would happen, and I wanted to pay attention to how I reacted. She was a big deal in the theatre world and as we walked away he casually mentioned that they had been lovers. To my surprise, only the slightest pang of jealousy. The overwhelming feeling was a thrill and also the relief at having met someone who could just come out and tell me the truth. This is who he is, George Clooney, minus the Lake Como house, a 50-something eternal bachelor, a lover of women. If we make it to date 4 or 17, I’m sure there would be a lot of former lovers we’d run into. (I’m pretty certain we’d run into some current ones too.) The old me would have hated this, but since I am adopting a “Holly Golightly meets Rey the Jedi” mentality about dating (I belong to no one, no one belongs to me, I belong to no one, no one belongs to me), I allowed myself to just be a bit removed and enjoy the scene.
He worked at the event space at one time and knew some of the staff, who were all happy to see him. I’ll bet he was lovely to every person he worked with, from the lowest rung to the highest, I can see this already, even in just a month or so of knowing him. He introduced me to his friend the bartender, and we got free drinks. As he walked through the atrium saying hello to people he recognized, I noticed the way I was being seen. Everyone who saw me with him looked at me like I was the flavour of the month, which again, is my perception, I have no actual proof of it. But I found it thrilling. I’ve never been anyone’s younger arm candy before, not that I can recall, and now in my 40s, it’s exciting to be seen this way. To be with Mr. Saturday Night is to be “one of many” and I wonder if my girl Amal felt this way when initally out with the Cloon-dogger.
We enjoyed the presentation, whispering in each other’s ears throughout. Man I wanted him to take my hand, but alas, no. I’m chalking it up to “he wants to pace it.” But compared to 27, who was adorably handsy in the movie theatre, and Le Prof, who texts throughout the day in an attempt to connect, Mr. SN is distant. But while frustrating, that’s more about me and my need for attention than anything. Watching/observing it, because it was an issue in my marriage too. It’s how I ended up with Theo; I found his distance was catnip for me, because it made him less attainable. The new Maria wants EQUAL ENTHUSIASM. Something to explore, for sure.
Mr. Saturday Night and I toured the galleries of ancient European empires afterwards and I was tempted to pull him into a dark corner and snog him with a coy, “When in Rome…” but I resisted. I need a better mantra going forward than, “Don’t let him sense how much you want him to kiss you!” We talked about a big exhibit he was curating and he mentioned a reception for it, then, after a beat, “You should come.” I told him I was going out of town and would miss it, but would love to see it at another opportunity. To be honest, it’s too soon to meet “his people,” especially in my “flavour of the month” capacity, and I was relieved to have an out.
We talked about our big breakups over wine and cheese, he mentioned that he’s got no sexual bucket list but that he’s into it, he just knows what he likes at his age. Interesting in contrast with Le Prof, who is in a mode of sexual exploration… I wonder which man has had more lovers? Then Mr. SN asked if I’d slept with anyone since my husband left and I told him that I’d had a “friends with benefits” situation, but that had ended recently. I told him I have no expectations right now, that it’s like I have a Eurail pass and I’m moving from town to town. I’m not ready to settle yet. He laughed and nodded in approval. “So in 20 years, you’ve slept with two men?”
I think I got a bit defensive at that. He wasn’t accusatory, he didn’t mean anything by it, just an observation, but my response was something to do with the fact that I had a lot of practice in those years and I’d learned a few things. But have I? Am I as good as I think I am? Suddenly I felt nervous.
Somehow we recovered from that moment and noticed that we were the last two non-employees still sitting there. He and his bike walked me to the subway in the rain. At the doors to the subway, there was a “So I’ll see you when I see you?” kind of awkwardness in him, and I was sure he liked me too. And then there was a kiss, a soft wet kiss in the rain that intensified and I so tried to keep my hands at my side but I couldn’t help but lift a hand to his beautiful face and stroke his bearded chin. So if this were a London kiss, it might be like Mr. Darcy kissing Bridget Jones. There are disappointingly few famous London kisses, which is something to consider. Is Mr. SN a Mr. Darcy? Can there be parallels to their cool as a cucumber ways being misconstrued as disinterest? Is he just an introvert? I don’t know, but two epic kisses in a week was nice.
What’s next? I don’t know, but I’m rolling with it. I’m learning that I overbook myself all the time and for the first time ever, my pace is exhausting even ME! Why do I need to fill all the spaces with activities? I’m booked until June! So I made a point of going through my calendar and marked off a few dates that I should keep open just for dates. I marked off some quiet time too. I’m trying to get to a space of quitting, I think, of saying no to the pull of DOING ALL THE THINGS. I read this great piece in the NYT on this concept and I’m going to let it marinate. I need to learn when to step back and observe, as I did that night with Mr. Saturday Night, but in my own life. If I don’t make space, if I fill all the gaps, I will never make time to mindfully clear out the warehouse of my mind and soon it will be filled with debris and old lawn chairs again. Off for a really long walk in silence in the sunshine. À bientôt.