Well this complicates things…

It started out as a lark. I’d popped back into OK Cupid in December when my therapist suggested I could make time to swipe right a few times before the holidays if I really wanted. She wanted me to remember that anything could happen, that I didn’t have to put arbitrary timelines on starting to seek something new, that I should embrace the moment.

So I did some swiping and then promptly forgot about the app. In my mind, I’d deleted it. But then every now and again, an email notification would appear in my Gmail. And I’d screen grab them (because they are hilariously bad more times than not) and share them on my Instagram stories. Then one day, I got one that piqued my curiosity completely.

“Well, from one media professional to another, hello.”

The message was from Stavros, a name I instantly recognized to belong to a fellow Greek like me. What are the chances? We work in the same industry and we have the same ethnicity… come on!

“Well, from one Greek to another, yassou!” I replied.

Our text exchanges were initially not great, but I gleaned that he’s a TV producer and sometimes actor, and the father of two. I didn’t feel like he asked me enough questions about myself. Or rather, he didn’t know how to volley conversation over text to keep it going. I’d wake up to a “Psst” — what do you want me to do with that? I’m not a cat! Do some inquiring, otherwise all you want is my attention lavished on you and you have to earn that!

I also detest the apps. They’re a necessary evil. I don’t like how someone can see when you’re on there or when the last time you checked in was. I don’t even know why I asked him to take it to text. But I gave him my number (and one other guy, but that’s another story), told him that I had a weekend to myself so he wouldn’t hear from me until Sunday, and then deleted my profile. I have Frenchie, I don’t need further complications.


I messaged Stavros that Sunday. I know why. Part curiosity, part “OH MY GOD I HAVE FEELINGS FOR FRENCHIE!” You see, I don’t trust myself yet. I am not convinced I know my own heart. I’m too romantic, too idealistic, and too eager to have an eligible person take me off this dating ride. Plus, I have some red flags about Frenchie/Monsieur Magique and I need some objectivity around him, because he’s so damn dynamic and confident. Can I build a life with a smoking, drinking, Frenchman who can go days without checking in on me? I long for banter over text, which is maybe ridiculous, but is something that makes me happy. I have super eclectic musical tastes — can I build a life with someone who likely won’t go to indie rock concerts with me? I know a lot of this is form identity, but while we are in human bodies, we should ideally be with someone who not only makes us feel good, but who also wants to do the kinds of things with you that you love doing, no? Anyway, this needs validation in terms of a judgment on Frenchie. He does like to do a lot of things I like to do. And maybe edgy indie rock types are my past and, as such, should not be my present or future.

Stavros was glad to hear from me and we texted back and forth, getting a sense of each other without ever having met. Online dating lacks that magic “lock eyes across the room” spark that is so damn great. On Wednesday I was supposed to go out with Guy #3 (another story), but he cancelled last minute and I found myself free. I thought about going to the movies alone — something I have yet to do. Monsieur Magique was out of town on business. But then I found myself texting Stavros. “Long shot, but I’m unexpectedly free tonight. Want to meet up for a drink or a movie?”

“Long shot might pay off. What time were you thinking?”

And that’s how I met Stavros. He was waiting for me in the cafe I had chosen for its cute decor and cosy lighting, when I arrived exactly on-time (which is considered late by people who are never late, AKA not me). He had made reservations, something he reiterated at the end of the date, to say they’d denied him but when he explained his situation, they made it work. I appreciate this tenacity; there’s something to it.

He stood up, but having never met before, I didn’t go in for a hug or a cheek kiss. To be totally honest, I didn’t think I was going to like him at all, something he also said to me later that night over text. There’s this inherent bias that intellectual/artsy Greeks have about the average Greek. And we both assumed that the other would be more traditional. So I was surprised when HOURS went by, the two of us talking easily and making each other laugh through sarcasm. Stavros described himself as a bit of a Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favourite shows).

There is, of course, the obvious — coming from a very similar experience of growing up Greek in North America means we share a language beyond our mother tongue. That we both inherently understand some of the childhood experience of the other, the dynamic in our families and what it’s like to grow up ethnic but not racialized and yet still feeling like you didn’t fit in. There’s the fact that we both dealt with it similarly, by exploring the arts and media and using that as an escape. But that’s where it stops. He married his high school sweetheart, and by the sounds of it, he has not really been with anyone since.

Turns out I liked him. A lot. There was something so easy about it.

Pros: He’s funny. We have a similar sense of humour. He dresses well (he had on great shoes) and I enjoyed making him laugh. Those laughs were hard-won. We like the same kinds of music and movies so there’s loads to talk about and share there. He is really into me and not afraid to share that. We have similar tastes in the arts we consume. He is a communicator. We have a few friends in common. That’s all I know so far.

Red flags: He’s a bit of a downer in that George Constanza way. Self-deprecating. Eeyore-esque? He hasn’t put himself out there for the past 2.5 years, not really. He prefers to stay home alone. He doesn’t exercise. (Frenchie swims and plays tennis and does winter sports.) He’s Greek so he probably has a hairy arse… (So does Frenchie — I mean I could get used to it, but my preference is a smooth bum… WHAT? Men can police women’s body hair, I think it’s fine to say I have preferences!) He doesn’t seem to have a life when his kids aren’t with him or he’s not at work. Unlike me, he hasn’t learned to fill his time with interests that take him out of the home. I don’t think he sleeps much and then he fuels himself on coffee. My spidey sense wonders if he has ADHD like me.

But the worst offence is that he messages me ALL. THE. TIME. He’s like me, 2.5 years ago, when I was a mere zygote in the dating world. I’m as neurotic and needy as the next girl, but funnily enough, all this experience with men who don’t text has made me want to text WAY less. In fact, in tuning into my texting habits, I realize that it’s a crutch. I reach for it when I’m uncomfortable or needing validation. Stavros is all about the validation. He gives it and he needs it. CONSTANTLY. When I try to put some boundaries on it, he respects them, but when I message him the next day, he very honestly says that he’s so glad that I did. I just don’t want to be on my phone that much. And if I don’t write him back, there’s always an attempt to re-engage me. It suggests an insecurity I don’t need in my life where it’s at right now.

So while Stavros is fun and chatty and distracting, and the commonalities between our jobs, cultures and interests are lovely, I’m not yet sure if our values are aligned. Monsieur Magique to me is an aspirational potential boyfriend. He has qualities I aspire to inherit. Where as my gut feeling with Stavros so far is that he’s work. And I really don’t want to be someone’s CONSTANT cheerleader, especially if they are prone to depressive tendencies, because it backfires and works against you after a while. I lived that once already.

Anyway, I’ve got a busy weekend coming up, but I decided to squeeze Stavros in for a quick coffee date to chat some more and see if my assumptions/instincts hold up. Then we’ll see about moving onto activities dates. Right now I’m most excited about my sleepover and then day date with Monsieur Magique (taking him to play some sort of bocce golf!). Exciting times, friends. Exciting times!

Falling slowly

Soundtrack for this post: “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that

I open the door to Monsieur Magique’s beautiful home and try to play it cool. He bought it before his kids were born, before his marriage even, when he was on his own in the world. He’s lovingly renovated it himself. It lacks clutter and pretension, it’s imperfect and yet simply beautiful… kind of like him.

He’s making us a salad at the breakfast bar and pours me some bubbly with a glint of the magic that first drew me to him. There’s a confident, shit-disturbing impishness to him. I am butterflies and yet completely calm. I recognize this feeling, but I don’t want to name it yet, because I need to examine if it’s true. Everyone is their best at the start of a relationship, so it’s important to watch for the rough spots and see if they will become deal-breakers as days, years, decades pass.

We talk easily and laugh plenty. He’s fun, SO FUN! We tease each other playfully, and it’s not mean-spirited but exactly the kind of flirting I adore. Physically, he’s not totally my usual type, a bit shorter and stockier than I normally go for, but I’m so attracted to him. He’s so comfortable, barefoot in his kitchen, shirt sleeves rolled up, the way he is making a vinaigrette or tossing pistachios on the salad. He gives me a tour of his house. His kids’ rooms are lovingly appointed. Nothing is ostentatious. It’s bigger and nicer than my house, but not in a way that makes me uncomfortable.


Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react

I keep looking at him, trying to understand what all these feelings are. Could I fall for this person? Have I already? I feel like he’s all heart, and I’m all heart, and that the sunshine in his heart acknowledges the sunshine in mine. But what happens on days we are both cloudy? Is there a way to know? The red flags I see are mostly around the smoking, and yet I enjoy sitting on a porch or deck with him while he politely has a cigarette, careful to blow smoke away from me. His post-cigarette smell is oddly SEXY AF. He’s so careful to wash his hands and chew gum or take a mint after. It says a lot about who he is, his occasional self-deprecating comments about it, but also how he’s unapologetic about his stereotypically French vice, out in plain view. I think there may be challenges with stress relief, he’s incredibly hard on himself in general, he’s a “weight of the world on his shoulders” type. So when he’s in fun mode, he is down to blow off some steam.

Leading me to the other red flag: His European attitude towards drinking. We seem to get stinking drunk every time we hang out. My old drinking habits find their way to me; I will drink whatever you put in front of me, and fast. The “best rosé in all of France” goes down like water. He thinks he’s being a good host with the subtle top-ups, and I don’t ever get a sense of how much we are imbibing, but there are two bottles turned upside down in the champagne cooler. Is he this much fun when I’m not so drunk? Why do we need to get so drunk when we are clearly so compatible? I feel too old to continue doing this to myself and make a note to call him on it.

And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out


After a delicious dinner of roasted halibut and ratatouille (elegant in its simplicity, homey, nourishing, comforting… like him), we retire to the couch to watch concerts. It’s a YouTube sharing bonanza. He loves going down rabbit holes and we use concerts and other things we enjoy on YouTube to tell the story of ourselves. It’s different, for sure, but there’s just so much sharing. In contrast, Mr. SN would tell me about certain shows but we never watched one together in 10 months.

Monsieur Magique’s tastes are on the lighter side, far cheesier than most men would admit to loving, but he’s resolutely French and makes no apologies for his Eurovision ways. He LOVES the Grammys, and Daft Punk, and fun collaborations. We watch old French singers and movie clips. I tell him I have a love of Celine Dion that I will never apologize for and he casually says we should go to Vegas before her show of 15 years ends in June. I die a little? No, I come alive a little bit more. Everything is suddenly more vibrant. This is a man who would whisk me away to places to see a great show. He’s mentally planning weekends away already, which is something I have tried to do in the past with others like Ali and Mr. SN, only to get pushback. Is this really happening? Am I allowed to indulge in this daydreaming about future trips? What does it say about him that he’s so self-assured, that he completely seems to lack any fear about me? Pace yourself, Maria.


Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ll make it now


I make him watch La Divina doing Casta Diva. Then I let him see me in a celebrity’s kitchen watching my favourite band do a private concert. “You told me I could Google you easily, but I haven’t yet,” he says. The alcohol makes me slow to react. I don’t pursue this off-the-cuff comment, but in hindsight I should. I don’t even think he knows my last name, which is different on social media than it is in the public sphere.

We dance until two or three in the morning again, trying once again to outdo each other with song selections. He says he let me think I won when I played “Groove is in the Heart” as a reaction to him playing “Funkytown,” but that “Funkytown” will always be superior. And that really says it all for me. This is not someone who is cool in that downtown, “city guy in the know,” “go where the hip bands go” way. He’s an unabashed pop music lover, something that was always insulted in my marriage. We kiss and dance and hold each other close and he spins me around and then we kiss some more. He doesn’t have cool dance moves, but he’s so damn happy when he’s dancing! You can’t help but be carried away by the spirit of him.

After a big bout of giggles, he holds me still and looks into my eyes. “I think we should go to bed.”

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back


We weren’t supposed to sleep together. I haven’t had a first-time sleepover with a man since 1998. I tell him this is a big deal and he should know that it’s A BIG DEAL! He has given me many options to back out and somehow I just never call that Uber. I have bought a travel toothbrush and face wipes and a clean pair of undies. I’m a big girl now. I’m ready for this. I think?

Except the fucking BOIL. Susan BOIL! It’s a fraction of what it was, just a tiny pin head really, but it’s still present. I have come up with a game plan and tell him I’ve had a small procedure, then end up talking WAY too much, making up shit that no one needs to hear. “I’m cysty and sometimes things have to come out when they are too painful,” I tell him. WHAT?! (Well, I AM cysty, my body loves to make cysts to deal with stress, but did he need to know this on date #4?) He laughs at my use of the made-up word “cysty” and tells me no problem.

I tell him everything else is available but my underpants are off limits, and he’s respectful. But I’m drunk and the second his mouth is on my naked body and he’s begging to see and taste more of me, I buckle. Because I want him too. And my normally solid willpower is nowhere to be found. Booze and sex are my vices and both are partying with me tonight.

It’s dark and I’m slutty. I guide his hand to the bandaid on Susan BOIL, “Avoid this part.” The rest is a loud, drunken fumble. It’s messy, but fun. He spoons me without hesitation afterwards. He apologizes for the fact that he will snore and we fall asleep holding each other.

Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black


I wake up every time his cat meows but manage to experience the snoring as a sort of white noise, and fall in and out of dreamy sleep. Until 5 am, when I experience an intense hot flash. Hormones and alcohol and 40-something me do not mix. I’m AWAKE. And THINKING.

Is this real?
Is this happening?
Why doesn’t he have curtains?
Will the cat shut the fuck up?
Does it endear me to him that his cat is all up in my grill, or does she do this to every woman he brings home?
Is any of this sustainable?
Will I get used to this snoring?
Why didn’t I say no to the digestive cognac?
Why didn’t we just fool around without full fucking?
Why am I so soft on my healthy boundaries around drinking and shagging? And so on, and so on.

I try to use my meditation skills to sort myself out, but my brain is MUSH and I can’t recall a single mantra from Thich Naht Hanh. I just lie there, with my eyes closed, in his dreamy bed, trying to get out from underneath his snuggle grip without waking him.

Later, he comments that I’m a furnace. I tell him I’m perimenopausal and to get used to it.


You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Then WHOOSH! I decide to just accept that I’m not going to sleep. I decide to delight in the warm glow of the sunrise in his picture window, the hotel quality fluffiness of the duvet and the pillows, the arms wrapped around me, attached to the caring, snoring Frenchman next to me. Haven’t I earned this comfort, this security that I don’t seem to be able to trust? Don’t I get to have this after the past 5-10 years of struggle and heartache and pain? I think I do.

He wakes up around eight and says, “I think we should eat and then come back to bed.” We are both FAMISHED. I love how sensible and “here’s what the right thing to do next” he is. I borrow a t-shirt and I can barely speak from sleeplessness and hangover. He expertly whips up some eggs and reheats some ratatouille. He has NO COFFEE. Well he has coffee, he just has no way to MAKE IT and I am too out of it to try to rig some camping style contraption to have it. I make a mental note to bring a French press next time I visit.

We talk about our kids, their personalities, their weak spots. The conversation is so natural, even without coffee. He looks at me intently as I describe reading about my son’s perspective on his sister’s illness in his high school application essay. His eyes are so blue. Gah! WHAT IS HAPPENING? I break his gaze but then meet it again. It’s like he SEES me.


Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now

We go back to bed, and joke around about our rumble in the sheets the night before (“Who needs Callas when there’s you?” Hahaha!), then we fool around a bit, with exploring hands only. I tell him no more drinking so much, that I want to get to know what we are like together sober and he agrees. Then he spoons me again and we take a four-hour nap. And I sleep this time, relaxing into the unknown, embracing this imperfect human who is so open and giving. Grateful to have him lead me a tiny step towards who I can be in a relationship, while figuring out how to stay in the present when with him.

I decide I should leave. We both have to work. He offers me a shower, which I take gratefully. His bathroom is full of sample sized shampoos and soaps from all his business trips and I love that he’s a sample hoarder like me. The shower does me good, I feel half alive after. I get dressed, but half of me doesn’t want to leave. The alive half.

He sits on the stairs and makes sure to put our next date in his mental calendar. Our kid-free weekends typically line up, and unlike Mr. SN, he seems comfortable booking me so far in advance. He seems to get that I’m a planner, and if he wants to be in those plans he has to be vocal about it. He texts later to say I can drive the next date, but might he come over the night before, after my dinner guests go home, to keep me warm in my cold basement bedroom?

It’s a beautiful dance this. Not a cool one, not a smooth one, just so damn flawesomely pretty in how it’s coming together.

Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing it loud

“Falling Slowly” written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová, from the film, Once