Dater X: What We Talk About When We Talk About Dating

It’s hard to know where to start writing about the last two weeks, so here are a couple of vignettes that I hope will do a better job of telling my story than me rambling about how I don’t know how to talk about it (which is, of course, everyone’s favorite blog content: why the writer isn’t writing!).

It’s a sunny summer Saturday, and I’m sitting at a table in my uncle’s backyard, chatting animatedly with my sister, Mama and Papa X, and The Big Easy. My cousin, whose engagement party is the reason we’re gathered together, comes running out of the pool to try and convince my sister and me to come in for a swim. Friendly cajoling is followed by wet hugs, all to no avail. He returns to the water, and Little Sis suggests we dump the ice water bucket in the center of the table (which once housed beverages, which we had consumed, by then, with vigor) over his head. Snickering, we lift the bucket, charge the pool: and treachery! Little Sis X, who shall henceforth be known as Little Sis Benedict Arnold, reverses course at the last minute and dumps the bucket over my head instead! (I should mention that she’s about a foot taller than me.)

Sopping wet, with mascara running down my face, I return to the table. The Big Easy high-fives Little Sis, then whispers to me that I still look beautiful, even after my mother smears most of my makeup away with a picnic napkin. Later, we play horseshoes with my dad and go back to Mama and Papa X’s place for a pizza. Little Sis offers to go pick it up, and insists that The Big Easy come along for the ride. “I really like him,” says the famously undemonstrative Papa X as soon as they’re down the driveway. “I really like him, too,” I reply.

And that is the story of how The Big Easy met Mama and Papa X.

On one of his first nights at my place, The Big Easy found a pack of cigarettes that, clearly, did not belong to me, an avid non-smoker. They were El Guapo’s, a holdover from last winter’s marathon Netflix binges, something so far removed from my life these days that it didn’t even occur to me to hide them or throw them out when I was tidying up for The Big Easy’s visit. He asked whose they were, and I sputtered something about watching TV with my friend El Guapo, and he stewed about it a bit, making sure to inform me that he had carefully cleaned out any trace of previous partners from his place before I came over.

I felt crummy about it, not because I think I should have to apologize for having a life before him, but because it was thoughtless of me. I’ve gotten so accustomed to being alone and living alone and not answering to anyone for my actions that I think I forgot, a bit, what it’s like to look at my life (or my apartment) through the eyes of someone who cares about me – and who doesn’t want to share me. It’s been so long since I was someone’s girlfriend that I almost forgot what that was like. And after a quick flash of indignation, I realized that he was kind of right, and I threw away the cigarettes.

Flash forward a few days: I’m sitting at the computer writing in the middle of the afternoon when my phone goes off. It’s El Guapo, who I haven’t heard from since our bed romp a few weeks back, and who wants to know whether we’re still going to the baseball game we planned to attend together in September. And I want to, but mostly because I love baseball. So I say I’d like to bring my new guy with us. He says the more the merrier.

I propose this to The Big Easy, who bristles at first, then asks why it’s important to me. And I explain something that I’ve had trouble putting words to: that my life before him wasn’t perfect, and that I’m not comfortable defending it, because I wasn’t as happy as I am now. But that there were some people who were nice to me, and who made me feel less alone, during my many, many years without a boyfriend, and El Guapo was one of those people, and it would mean a lot to me for them to at least meet and be friendly. He weighed it for a few days, and agreed that he’ll go.

And that is the story of how The Big Easy found out about El Guapo.

Finally, a Dater X 3.0 first: my inaugural note to you, the commenters!

Dater X: Not Guilty
On a serious note...

To those who felt that last week’s column about my sister was inappropriate: while I appreciate that you come here for entertainment (and I hope that I occasionally provide it!), it would be dishonest of me to write that dating is always light and frothy and fun. I wish it were. But for too many women, it’s not, and I think that the frightening and painful experiences are as valuable to discuss as the, ahem, easy ones (see what I did there??) If you are fortunate enough to have had only positive dating experiences, I think you will agree that you are part of a lucky minority. And I firmly believe that frank dialogue about consent is critical to transforming it from something shadowy and vague and easily revoked to something irrefutable and concrete, especially in a public forum such as this one. So while there will be plenty more entertaining stories to come, I will continue to speak about the dark stuff too, from time to time, and I hope you’ll join me in continuing the conversation. 

Respectfully,

Dater X 3.0