Dater X: No Kidding

Where were we?

I believe that when last you heard about The Bartender, we were making plans for him to come visit me. Since I’m often in his city for work, it has thus far been convenient to spend the majority of our time together there. But as we grow closer, I’ve found myself feeling more and more eager to show him around my city a bit. I love spending time with him, and I feel very comfortable both in his city and in his apartment, but there’s no substitute for your own bed and your own shower and your own closet, instead of an overnight bag, you know?

So we hatched a plan for him to come spend at least two days with me. We both arranged our work schedules so that his visit would feel like a weekend, despite not coinciding with a Saturday-Sunday combo (one of the perks / challenges of a freelancer and a bartender trying to make time for each other). And then the folks at Weather.com started sounding more and more certain that his planned bus home on Friday night or Saturday morning would be stranded en route. Since his work situation is more location dependent than mine (after all, he has to be behind the bar to tend it; my laptop goes wherever there’s WiFi), he floated the idea that we reverse the direction of our planned “weekend” and then get snowed in together at his place.

I felt a rush of disappointment at the sudden change, but then we did what we’ve seemed to do so well so far: we talked about it. He volunteered that he was disappointed not to be able to come see me and apologized for the inconvenience. And instead of feeling put out, I felt the warmth that comes with knowing he cares about my feelings.

All this was compounded by the conversation that I alluded to last week, which came at the end of our last visit: more than once, in our admittedly early but not uncomfortable talks about what the future might hold for us as we traverse two cities to spend time together, the subject of children has come up – for example, which city would be a more appropriate place to raise them. It had started to sound clear that he was a little apprehensive about the idea of having them, but the morning before I departed from my last visit, he dropped the bomb that, having grown up in a broken home, and knowing that he has some family history of serious mental illness on one side, he does not see himself ever wanting children. He brought it up in a way that felt respectful and urged me to take some time, while we were apart, to mull it over with a long walk or a cup of tea with a friend. I appreciated his candor, but hearing that this person who so suddenly and so completely felt like a part of my future wanted no part of a family still left my insides hollow.

Over our days apart, I did what he suggested and spent some time thinking hard about it. Would I resent not having kids and feel that it was “his fault” that I didn’t have a family later in life? Would he change his mind somewhere down the line – and would it be too late, given the difference in our ages? I reminded myself that at his age, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted a family either, and I thought about the reasons that I do now: my close relationship with my sister (he’s an only child); the desire to build a family with a loving and supportive partner (something I saw from my parents and he did not see from his); the sense that, as much as I treasure my life of independence, having a kid would open me up to a whole lifetime of new and different experiences that I might never find on my own, no matter how free I felt.

I also considered that having kids became much more important to me when I started thinking about my life with a partner, rather than as a perpetually single person, and I found myself wondering about his dating past: had he ever been in a long-term relationship before? Had be considered having kids as a joint undertaking, rather than just an inconvenience?

While we didn’t dive head-first into the conversation on this visit, we started picking at the scab a bit. I mentioned that part of the reason I wanted kids was to build a family with a partner, and he pointed out that he had never had a relationship last more than a month or two, a casualty, he said, of his self-sufficient and independent nature. Something, he hastened to point out, that he was pretty sure we shared. (We do.) I don’t think he was expecting to end up in a relationship with an older writer any more than I was expecting to end up in a relationship with a younger bartender, and even less so one that lives in another city. So without hitting the ultimatum point, I think we’ve both at least resigned ourselves to the idea that this is going to be an ongoing conversation.

Like so much of our relationship so far, I’m grateful for that. After all, when traveling and distance demands that your dates are 72-hour marathons, rather than four-hour rendezvous, you get close fast. If you can’t talk about pretty much everything, that could be awfully uncomfortable.

And so far, what we have is the opposite of uncomfortable. We talk about everything: when the owner of the bar offered him a promotion to upper management, he called me to discuss whether to take it; when my bus was cancelled – twice – stranding me for longer than I planned in his city and leaving me a restless ball of anxiety, I assured him that it wasn’t spending time with him that was bothering me, and he comforted me and helped me arrange a train, instead. And with his birthday coming up, he suggested that he come up to my city and spend it with me, a plan that seemed to satisfy both of us. Next week, I’m back in his city for work; two weeks later, he’ll be here to visit me at last. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep the “no kids” thing out of my head (or at least in the very back of my mind) and just enjoy this for what it is: a totally unexpected but very welcome adventure.

Until next week,

Dater X 3.0