Dater X: A New Long Distance Plan

My crappy iPhone 4S (long live its sad, shattered back panel) notwithstanding, I really was not in the market for a long distance plan. And then I met The Bartender.

To tell you the truth, I’ve never been much for long-distance relationships. Call me greedy; call me impatient. Both are true. My last long-distance relationship drove me to near bankruptcy, moving myself in with him in a city that I loathed and was then stuck spending a full year earning my way out of. The only other experience I have with the whole long-distance thing was in seventh grade shortly after my parents moved me a few towns over – a significant distance when neither of you can drive (and spoiler alert: it didn’t work out, though he and I are still friends).

So while I spent most of this week riding the fizzy high of a truly great first date, I was also apprehensive for what came next. As we’d planned, I stopped by the bar en route to the train station, and The Bartender happened to have just finished his shift, so we went out for burgers and then he rode with me in a cab to the station to wait for my train. If PDA is something that bothers you, count yourself lucky that you were not in that waiting area with us, my friends. We were handsy and giddy and all too aware that it would be weeks before we saw each other again.

Have I mentioned that traveling intermittently for work is a great way to fragment your social life? I feel like I have one full life in my own city and another in this city down the tracks, and it’s getting harder and harder not to miss one when I’m in the other – at both ends.

So there we were, me descending the escalator, The Bartender waving and slowly getting father away, having synchronized our watches and made plans to spend the weekend after New Year’s together. I was simultaneously delighted that things seemed to be going so well and apprehensive that, as a friend once told me after a particularly brutal break-up, “Absence makes the heart grow forgetful.”

And yet, we seem to be navigating this first real test of time with aplomb. And what’s more, with similar expectations of one another.

What I mean by that is: we seem to miss each other the same amount. We text daily, both scheming about seeing each other in a few weeks and exchanging playful selfies (me, at a Christmas party trimming a tree; him, working out in the rain, with the caption “I’m wet,” to which I could only respond “Me, too,” because on the inside, I am a 13-year-old boy with a potty mouth). He asked for my address a few days ago, joking that he would subscribe me to AARP Monthly – our 4+ year age gap gives me the slightest pause, though he is both unbothered by it and amused by my self-conscious cougar-dom. A few days later, an Amazon package showed up on my doorstep containing his favorite book, which he had mentioned on our first date, so that we could compare notes when we see each other next. Sure, it’s a small, sweet gesture, but the English major in me basically fell onto her fainting couch in a swoon. I love a man who loves words as much as I do, especially if they are different ones that he wants to share with me.

And as the week went on, I found that I missed him more, not less. I wanted him there with me and my friends, trimming that tree and baking cookies. I wanted to chat with him about the book, not just via text, but in person. I wanted to hear his voice. Which is pretty much exactly when he called me.

We had a nice chat, and talk turned, as it must, to the logistics of my New Year’s visit. He mentioned that he was off on New Year’s Eve, a holiday I was planning to spend, for the first time in over a decade, not slinging drinks, but lying on the couch with my newlywed softball buddies and their cat and an immoderate amount of Seamless food, a true Netflix-&-chill-a-trois if ever there was one. He joked that he should join us. I told him he was right, but that perhaps my couch might be better suited to our evening. He agreed, and minutes later, he was emailing me his ticket confirmation. We’ll spend the night here, in my city and my apartment, then hop back on the road in the morning to get him back for work on New Year’s Day, and I’ll stay the weekend as planned. I can even bring my laptop and work Friday, like I planned to do all alone in my apartment. And at the end of that work day: no playful texts, no selfies and innuendo. Actual time. With an actual guy. Who I actually like. Which just sounds fucking great, thankyouverymuch.

Things feel like they’re moving at a manageable pace to me; while I acknowledge that not every relationship begins with clusters of dates followed by weeks of empty space, it’s the situation we’re in, and so far, we both seem to be content making the most of it. I’m almost grateful for the distance, which is helping to assuage the panic that I felt when things got serious in the blink of an eye with The Big Easy. If anything, I owe The Big Easy some small thanks, since this time, I feel better prepared to manage my apprehension about letting go of some of my single-girl freedom. And with the buffer of space between me and The Bartender, and the way our expectations of each other seem to be lining up, there’s a freedom in having the time to take it slow in between visits and the luxury to really enjoy spending it together when we’re in the same place.

So I never made plans with the guy from the alumni mixer. I have swiped nary a profile on Tinder. It’s not that I’m off the market – it’s just that I’m not so interested. I have other good things on my mind. And it feels great. So far. Call it a Christmas miracle.

Until next week,

Dater X 3.0