It’s December, which is the month I met J. J’s the inspiration for all of the straight male heroes I write in my fiction, and I wrote a couple of pieces about our real life beginnings to illustrate how he influences my writing. This is the first part (there are 3 more parts coming soonish).
The First Move
Fifteen years ago, I was a lonely, introverted, quiet girl who didn’t like ‘going out’ to the places people my age at the time (early-mid twenties) typically went to meet people for potential romantic relationships (bars, dance clubs, other group social events like parties). All (let me repeat ALL) of my close friends were in committed romantic relationships. I wanted this for myself, but I never ‘clicked’ with anyone I went on dates with enough to really commit, and I’d truly begun to think something was wrong with me. That maybe I honestly couldn’t make that level of connection with another person. I was openly frustrated about this with my best friend (who is a guy and a socially astute extrovert). He suggested I try online dating.
So I did it. I got on a dating website…fifteen years ago…on dial-up internet…when NOBODY thought it was cool. It was clearly the way for socially anxious, shy, and maybe potentially damaged people to get dates. You know…people who can’t meet someone in a ‘normal’ way.
I think all of that is horseshit, by the way ^^^^. But that was the perception most of my acquaintance-level friends and all of my family had about online dating. They thought it was desperate and unsafe. (To be fair, online dating definitely has that potential. And I was feeling a little desperate when I signed up. I admit that. But traditional means of meeting people also have that potential.) My bestie suggested it because it was an easy way for me to communicate deal breakers up front without having to voice them to someone’s face out on a date when they’d already made me uncomfortable or upset.
I assumed that if a man contacted me, it was because he’d read what I posted about myself, and was at least tolerant of, if not attracted to, the things I’d revealed. (I was honest. I know online communication has huge potential to allow for dishonesty, but I wasn’t dishonest, and I believed at least some of the men I’d meet wouldn’t be either. And again, traditional means of meeting men also have the potential for dishonesty).
Men contacted me right away even without me putting up a photograph. I exchanged witty banter with dozens of them (most of whom disappeared after they saw my picture that they requested), and met several out on actual dates. I could maybe call one guy a ‘boyfriend.’ He lasted six weeks and several dates, but things also eventually ended less than ideally, like they always did. I was never really hurt by loss when a relationship ended; I was hurt by my own perceived failings (Why can’t I make this work with *anybody?*).
I called my best friend again to discuss how weird and broken and unattractive I obviously was, forlorn and exasperated. I should clarify here, that to this point in my life, *every* man I dated was a man who approached me with that prospect. It was always his idea. He always picked me, and then thought better of it later.
B: Don’t give up. You don’t need to change yourself. Change what you’re looking for. What are your search criteria?
m: Non-smoking man <miles> from <zip code> in <age range> who has read all the information on my profile (which stated ‘college educated, liberal feminist interested in monogamy’ quite plainly).
B: So…guys about our age from about our area? You’ve been historically unhappy with that dating pool. You need to change it up. Branch out. Farther away, maybe. And *definitely* older. Plus, have you asked anybody out?
m: GOD NO! <gasp!> (I don’t initiate conversations with friends I’ve known since elementary school very often, and he knew this, so I couldn’t believe he’d even ask that question. Like I’M gonna ask a guy OUT…WTF was he thinking?!)
B: Well, that’s your problem. Don’t just accept attention from the guys coming after you. Go get what you want. You know what you want. Right?
m: Yeah. But if that guy exists, he probably doesn’t wanna hear from me.
B: Knock that shit off. Of course he wants to hear from you. I know you don’t like bars, but let’s pretend <his girlfriend, now his wife> and I took you to one to look for guys. We’d just turn the guys approaching you away FOR you. We’d look around for a guy sitting or standing in a corner, observing the room, because it’s clear he doesn’t really wanna be there either. His friends dragged him out. Just like you. That’s the guy I’d pick for you. That guy’s not gonna approach you first. But that’s your guy.
m: <my best friend’s name in a whiny, indignant voice>
B: Tell me I’m wrong then. (He wasn’t. Obviously.)
So I took all of that advice. I expanded my search farther away and older. And I really looked at the men I got in my new results with intention instead of just passing, ‘He’s cute…be nice if he messaged me…’ kind of thoughts. There was one man with penetrating blue eyes and a profile that looked practically tailored to me. I pep talked myself by internally running through what I thought B would say: ‘It’s just an email. One email. You can do this. What have you got to lose? The worst he can do is ignore it, right?’ So I clicked SEND. It wasn’t very detailed. It was pretty much, ‘I like your profile. Maybe if you could, please look at mine, and if you don’t hate it, you could perhaps write back to me if you have the time. Ack, me.’
J wrote me back. After seeing my photo and ten days of regular conversation (I’ve talked with J every single day since that first email. Every. Single. Day.), *he didn’t ask me out.* I don’t mean he was shy and retiring, or playing hard to get, or just being polite, or didn’t want to spend time with me in person yet or ever. I mean he literally *didn’t ask.* There was no, ‘Do you maybe want to meet up for coffee/see a movie/have dinner with me?’ He said, ‘We should meet.’ I know it seems like an inconsequential thing, but that declarative statement was noticeably different than every other man I’d seen. There was no ambiguity or uncertainty at all. The confidence implied was wildly arousing. I obviously agreed. And J had no way of knowing the previous (ridiculous) amount of dishonesty I’d faced from online dates at the time, but I had. In fact, the man I’d met immediately before meeting J lied about something so blatantly obvious, it was the catalyst for my ‘I’m Just Giving Up Now’ phone call to B. J offered (without prompting) the following information…
’The photograph I have up on my profile shows me in contact lenses, but I normally wear my glasses. When we meet, I’ll be wearing my glasses. I just wanted you to know that so you aren’t surprised.’
That he wanted me to be fully informed before meeting him, about something so benign and trivial, was also something that clearly set him apart from other men. It felt like the universe sent J to me as a direct response to the other men I’d had involvement with. I know it was simple clarification about glasses versus contacts, but to me, J may as well have been wearing a screaming neon sign that read, ‘I am not like the other guys.’
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first time I contacted J, and the first and only time I made the first move. I don’t summon ample bravery very often, but this time, it sure paid off huge.
So here are some things I write into the fictional men I make up in my head that are inspired by J:
–>Consistency leading to commitment. J has talked to me *every day* for 15 years. He’s never allowed insecurity to take hold because of his amazing consistency.
–>Confidence without being arrogant. J didn’t say ‘We should meet because I’m so great. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.’ In fact, He kind of implied, ‘We should meet because I suspect you’re so great and I deserve to know you.’
–>Honesty. Not ‘Oop! You caught me. Guess I’ll tell the truth now…’ Open, courageous, full disclosure but timely appropriateness type of honesty. (Timely and appropriate is not going too far with honesty at the beginning of a relationship. He shouldn’t be more interested in your sexual desires and kinks than he is in your family or your hobbies or your college major, and he shouldn’t reveal *his* sexual quirks and fantasies up front, either. A man can be totally honest without being immediately transparent about everything.)
That’s me with J. ^^^^ (Ain’t he handsome? He’s a whole lot taller than me, I know.)