For most of my 15-year dating career, I went for Fledglings, Makeshift Men, pre-release beta tests of the fully formed adult male. Like Rusty, the dread-locked guitarist with groupies to spare whom I followed to various smoky, sticky-floored venues in college, hoping he’d recognize me from anthropology class. Guys whose giant charisma, outsider cool or longer-than-purely-business hair stoked my sense of adventure and ate my own — often annoying — level of maturity for breakfast.
I was drawn to men who were nothing like the soft-spoken, principled and straight-laced person who had been the dominant male presence in my life so far: my retired CPA father.
”Dad, a southerner who thought switching from Shredded Wheat to Fiber One was risky, was known for online tracking the status of every flight I boarded, calling to remind me that my driver’s license was up for renewal, and locking his car doors — from the inside — in suburban New Jersey wine store parking lots because, in his words, “I don’t want to be the subject of a carjacking.” A rule-following, church-going Catholic with old-fashioned values, he never missed a child’s soccer game, ran a red light, or went to bed before all his four children were home safe, by 11:30 p.m., of course. He was loyal to the same accounting company for 35 years, and has been married to my mom for almost 50. In a word, he’s “solid.”
Growing up, I couldn’t wait to escape my heavily protected cocoon and experience the world — and men — with less predictability and more adventure. This led me to a string of partially finished fellows, unable to figure out what they wanted to be and unwilling to commit to anything but “Family Guy” re-runs. A struggling writer who lived above a massage parlor and drank Pabst for lunch. A 44-year-old serial bachelor with a roommate. A boisterous, life-of-the-party actor still entangled with his ex.
And decidedly unlike my serious, dependable dad. Yet I kept going back for more with Charismatic Unreliables who presented a challenge and kept me painfully guessing where things stood. All drama that I said I hated but actually signed up for by choosing them in the first place. As if the cat and mouse game gave me some outlet from my sheltered existence and an antidote to my own fearful, overly cautious tendencies in life and in love.
So when I was introduced to Kyle, a reserved, suit-wearing banker with a buzz cut, my initial thoughts were, “Cute, but too buttoned up.”
He wasn’t my “type.” In fact he was the opposite of males in my recent quasi-relationships: shy, conventional, pin-striped. Not the flashiest or flirtiest guy in the room. And not, as I found out on our first date a few days later — Saturday night dinner at a trendy restaurant with a reservation — the kind who exhibited the slightest whiff of “player” or expected me to get the tip on our bill.
As we began dating, I came to appreciate all the things that were different about him from the men I had met over six years of hitting and missing on the New York singles scene: He plans in advance. Still uses capitalization. Isn’t on Facebook. Is steadily employed. Never booty-texts. Can do his own taxes and knows how to make a mortgage calculation spreadsheet.
He had, I realized, a lot of traits that reminded me of my number-crunching father, the traditionalist who still fumbles call waiting and sends a “Lobster Night” save the date email to the family three months ahead of time.
Like my dad, Kyle plays golf, stays up late watching the History Channel, and deadbolts the door in his doorman building before we go to bed. While highway driving, he won’t pass another car when the lane lines are solid. When he and my dad met at Lobster Night this year, they were wearing the same thing: light blue polo shirts tucked into khakis.
But that’s OK. After a string of flaky false starts, I’m fine with the resemblance. Especially if it means, in over a year of dating, my boyfriend, a man of his word, has never backed out of doing something he said he would.
Except he doesn’t cut his hair as often as he threatens to. He knows I like it long.