Dater X: In No Particular Order…

With my head still a bit scrambled by last week’s concussion, this column may feel something like a grab-bag. Which is actually not so far off, it turns out, from my bizarre dating life these days. My bruises ended up including a whopper of a black eye, and my concussion kept me couch-bound for a lot of the past week (as did looking like a battered housewife, a condition that not even a full face of makeup managed to completely disguise). But there were a few developments, both internal and external, and I want to share them with you. In no particular order…

I had an embarrassing amount of time to myself this week, and visual diversions (including television, computer, cell phone and books) were strictly verboten while I recovered. Faced with all those empty hours on my couch, I did some fall baking, listened to plenty of music, and mentally pirouetted through my recent dating past. Among a concussion’s more charming symptoms, in addition to debilitating headaches and sensitivity to light, are depression, paranoia, anxiety and hypersensitive emotions. In other words: you basically feel like you’ve had two to three drinks and a couple of hits of mediocre weed at all times. Stumbling around my apartment like a drunk, stoned shut-in, obediently avoiding social media and Netflix, I couldn’t help reflecting on The Big Easy and BB King and wondering what would come next. I nit-picked every detail of our recent interactions (more on those in a minute), and in a startling moment of what felt like clarity, I realized something: I think I look at men the way that men are supposed to look at women.

Here’s what I mean: perhaps because of my steadfast singledom, perhaps because I grew up without brothers, I’m oddly in thrall with men’s every move, mystified and captivated by their minutiae. I find myself amazed by how they dress, and curious about each of their smallest preferences: I love the way they pick out soap or deodorant and how they decide what drink to order at a bar. All of the little things that I do every day – clothing myself; cleaning my apartment; making breakfast; reading a book before bed – I’m captivated to find that men do these things, too, and I can’t get enough of the tiny details of how and why they do them. This all leaves me feeling weirdly worshipful of the opposite sex, which is, I’m told, how they see women: as impossibly complicated creatures of mystery, meant to be appreciated but not understood.

As for what this means for my dating life, I haven’t extrapolated that far. But I imagine that, at the very least, it puts limited faith in my own feminine wiles; after all, if I’m that mystified by the objects of my desire, how could I ever hope to engage their attention in the same way? And, still more troubling: am I the only woman on earth who thinks this way??

I did emerge from my apartment twice this week: once, as promised, to visit friends and pick up my piece from The Big Easy. He texted me that morning to say that he was ill and would be home all day, so rather than waiting until after my dinner plans, I offered to stop by en route. I brought the custom softball jersey that I’d ordered for him what seems like ages ago, and I made no effort to cover up my black eye, which would have felt somehow like performing. When I got to his apartment, I rang the bell, expecting him to come down and make the hand-off and have that be that; to my surprise, he buzzed me in and invited me to stay and chat. I did, for a few minutes, and it was … fine. Not nearly as fraught as I’d expected. I watched half an episode of the TV show he was Netflix bingeing, then excused myself to go see my friends. Between his coughing and my bruises, I don’t think either of us felt much like touching each other, or I should say: we didn’t touch each other. It occurred to me that I might like to, but I thought the better of it, and I left without even a hug.

After dinner, though, I did something that I debated even writing about here, since I know I’m going to hear it in the comments: I texted him and invited myself over to watch some more TV. What can I say? My head was hurting, and my friends were going to bed early (as expectant parents in the middle of packing up for a move are wont to do), and I wanted company. His just happened to be the most convenient, if only in terms of distance. He encouraged me to come by, and I spent several more hours on his couch, watching TV and chit-chatting about this and that. Nothing serious came up; the closest we came to talking about “us” was him joking that if my black eye was caused by anything other than softball, he’d have words for the guy. He mentioned spending a lot of time bopping around his new neighborhood with the same friends he’d been seeing after he moved in, including purchasing a new piece of art: a massive photo print of a nude woman, hanging prominently above his couch. Single Guy Apartment, indeed.

As before, we didn’t touch each other, though I suspected that I could have; instead, I laid on one side of the couch and he on the other. He made me hot tea. Sometime around midnight, he said he ought to get to bed, and we Google-ed to find me the nearest bus and the soonest arrival. Could I have stayed? Should I have? I guess I’ll never know, but he didn’t offer, and I didn’t ask. The way we were both feeling – ill and bruised – it certainly wouldn’t have been sexually intimate, but for me at least, there’s something emotionally comforting about spending the night with someone when you’re both in need, and while I won’t say that I wasn’t tempted, I let myself out and took the bus to the train to my home.

And, yes, I was gratified to note upon using his bathroom that, if there is, in fact, another girl, she is either studiously ignoring or straight-up using my toothbrush, which is right where I left it in the medicine cabinet.

Two days later, The Big Easy texted me to ask how I was feeling and whether I remembered the name of a bottle of wine we’d enjoyed on one of our first dates. Still couch-bound and bored, I checked the restaurant’s website, and not finding it, dutifully paged back through all of our old text messages to see if we had mentioned it. We had, but PRO TIP: DO NOT EVER DO THIS, because in between all of the inane “meet me here at this time” and “when is our reservation again?” notes are the skirmishes you’d have otherwise forgotten; the sweet words best left unremembered; the mementos of a pre-breakup reality that raise all kinds of aching questions about what could have gone differently every step of the way. I found and passed on the name of the wine, with a half-joke that he could repay me by bringing me Concussion Ice Cream. He declined, which was probably for the best, and I did what any self-respecting city gal whose most recent relationship had just flashed before her eyes would do: I had my ice cream delivered, along with a bag of Cheetos and some Orangina, because dammit, at least I can pay someone to tend to my needs.

As I said, I emerged from my apartment twice this week: my out-of-state rendezvous with The Big Easy, and a few days later to head over to BB King’s place. After a week of relative isolation, Saturday found me with a case of cabin fever to rival my convalescing concussion, and I forced myself to apply several layers of concealer and head out into the world looking almost human. I had a burger and watched the ALDS, then texted BB King to ask where he was watching the next game. He replied that he would love to see me but was out of town – and then he did something unexpected, and offered me his apartment (and his cable) to watch the game. After a flurry of text messages to determine whether he was serious (he was) and how I would get past his doorman (“have him call me any time; I’ll tell him I’m at home”), I found myself in his high-rise, curled up on the couch, watching the game on a 60-inch screen. BB King called to check that I’d gotten in okay, admonished me for not asking sooner, and said that he wouldn’t be home until Monday, but urged me to make myself at home.

I didn’t snoop, exactly, though I’ll admit I checked the shower for shampoo and conditioner (present, and troubling, as he shaves his handsome head). But there were no other outward signs of “girlfriend,” or even “recurring female visitors” – myself included – and while I was nowhere near bold enough to take my best friend’s advice and be there naked when he returned, I left a polite thank you note on the remote and quietly reveled in his small gesture of kindness, all the more special to me at the end of a week I’d spent feeling like I wasn’t doing a very good job of taking care of myself.

Finally, since Mr.’s King and Easy aren’t the only baskets where I wish to place my eggs: I’m back to online dating with a vengeance, and holy hell is it a jungle out there. I’m still amazed each time I get a message from someone who either A) would never be bold enough to approach me in person or B) says something that they would never be bold enough to say in person. Like the otherwise normal-seeming fellow whose opening line was, and I quote, “do u like foot massages?”

Thanks, guy, I sure used to. At the moment, the list of “things I like” includes proper capitalization, Concussion Ice Cream, borrowed cable on a big screen, and a vague semblance of manners, including but not limited to saying “Hello!” before plumbing the depths of my willingness to let an Internet Stranger touch my tootsies.

More (and more coherently!) next week. Until then,

Dater X 3.0