Category Archives: dating

Take The Skinheads Bowling.

Whoever invented the calendar deserves a bloody good kick up the arse. Whoever invented the calendar for the Galaxy III phone deserves  two. Let me explain. Recently my sweetie and I sat down to synchronise our calendars and I mentioned in passing that as the kids were away during spring break I would be having them for a couple of days outside the regular schedule. Icy stare. And I mean icy. Icy enough to make a White Walker reach for an extra cloak.That’s how icy it was. My sweetie had had a dreadful week at work and was not ready to hear that our planned weekend together would not be happening. I’m a guy. Hard as you may find it to believe, I am a guy, which means that just because you tell me something and I’m looking at you, it doesn’t mean I actually heard or remembered what you just said, let alone put it in my calendar.

At this point, my mind was scrambling desperately to find a solution so I wouldn’t end up with two ruined weekends instead of just one. Picture Wile E. Coyote trying to claw his way back to safety having just realised that he has run off the edge of the cliff. With me? It was then that I came up with another brilliant idea. “Another one?” I hear you ask in a voice composed of equal parts incredulity, surprise and contempt. Yes. Another one. You remember that idea I had about wearing underwear on the outside to save on laundry bills?

“Why don’t you come over on Saturday like we planned and we can all go bowling?” Phew. Just managed to grab the edge of the cliff with my fingernails. So that is what we did. The kids got a taste for bowling at a friends’ birthday party, and I’d asked them if they would be interested in going again as I’m always looking for ways for them to have a fun weekend with me. They both like my sweetie ( see “We Are Going To Be Friends”), and she and I had been  bowling, so I had a fair belief that the day would work. We all duly piled into the car and headed off to the bowling alley. My son, tech head that he is, set up the scoreboard and away we went.  It was interesting to watch the interactions, as my daughter insisted on showing my sweetie the game in the arcade that she really likes while my son kept track of our combined strikes and spares. All went well, as I expected it would, and I was pleased that the kids took it as read that the four of us would be having what amounted to a family day out. Lunch at a local hostelry followed, giving us more time to chat and the kids to get comfortable with the situation when I got a text from my ex regarding my daughters’ softball uniform pants. The original ones didn’t fit, so she would drop the new ones off so my daughter would have them for practice the next day.

I was futzing around the house when the doorbell rang. I answered it, expecting a quick exchange when my son announced my sweeties’ presence and insisted that the two of them meet. Awkaaaaaaard! Naturally this was unplanned, but both were civil to each other, and at least it answered my question about whether the kids had talked about our museum visit.

I have to say that it was nice to see the three of them spending the day together and getting along with each other, and how the kids just regarded it as a perfectly normal day. I’m really happy that things are working out and that I can expect future visits to be just as successful. Only slightly happier than I am about those three consecutive strikes I got in our second game.

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We Are Going To Be Friends.

I’m sure that at one time or another each of us has been in one or both of the following situations; either introducing two friends from different parts of our lives, or being introduced to people from another part of a mutual friend’s life. I’ve been in both situations recently. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. A couple of months ago, my sweetie suggested that we get together for drinks and tapas with some of her friends one Saturday afternoon.  This is, as you know, something of a major development in a relationship, and I took it as an indication that she was comfortable enough in our relationship to introduce me to her wider circle. So, off we hied to a local tapas bar for Happy Hour, during which I met three of her best friends. They were all charming, witty, intelligent and amusing, so things went well, with lots of jokes and a level of  casual intimacy that suggested that I’d passed the test. Yay for me!

This  belief was confirmed when the five of us got together for dinner a couple of weeks later at the home of one of the aforementioned friends. All went well, as did a second event last week, in which I supplied ample amounts of home brewed beer. It’s always reassuring to learn that you have been accepted by a wider group, and that your sweetie has the confidence to want to introduce you to their wider circle. No matter what we might think, the approval of our friends is an important aspect of any relationship. Having seen how my Ex has alienated her two closest friends with her choice of new partner, I know how much effect this can have.

My sweetie has already met my friends – see “Girlfriend Is Better” and “Tango Funebre”, and passed the test with flying colors, but there is an even more important test in my situation; meeting the kids. My ex and I had agreed not to introduce anyone new to the kids until the relationship had reached the six month mark, and agreement to which I, and only I stuck.  I will admit that I had more than a little trepidation in broaching the subject with my sweetie, as it is much more of an acid test than meeting friends. Luckily, she had already told me about a museum exhibit that would interest the kids, so I suggested that meeting us there would be a good introduction; we’d be on neutral ground and the kids would be interested enough in the exhibits that her presence would not be seen as anything unusual, there being plenty of other distractions.

My other major concern was how the kids would react to the news, so I brought up the subject at dinner the night before. They already knew about the museum trip, and to my surprise and immense relief were completely nonplussed to learn that “My friend” would be joining us. As we waited outside the museum, my daughter, as expected, was all questions and nervous energy, making both me and my son dizzy as she did her best impression of a Whirling Dervish on speed. To my immense relief, the visit went well;  the kids were intrigued by the Lego sculptures and spend quite a while making their own, before we explored the rest of the museum. I must admit that whilst my daughter enjoyed the ‘Hands on” exhibits, my son was less than enthralled, and my failure as a father was rubbed in a few minutes later when he announced that the Jimi Hendrix exhibit was “Not interesting”.  Mind you, this is a boy who listens to medieval English plainsong and polyphony in order to get to sleep and listens to The Blackeyed Peas in the shower, so  he still has a way to go, although my daughter refers to Frank Sinatra as “That really good singer”.

We retreated to a nearby pizza restaurant where my son really came out of his shell, which I had expected,as he takes a while to warm up to new people, whilst my daughter, the social butterfly had been fully engaged since the start.Thankfully, my sweetie really liked meeting the kids. As someone who had made a conscious decision not to have kids, I did wonder how she would react, but she took it all in her stride.

So this is the elephant in the room; what would I have done if things had gone differently? If the kids had  not liked her and spent the whole time being sullen and sulky, or if my sweetie had been unable to cope with the kids, what then? Would I have brought the relationship to an end? There is no way I would have my kids around someone who didn’t like them or whom they didn’t like, and the bottom line is that my kids are part of the deal.  I will admit that I had spent several days on tenterhooks prior to last Saturday as it was pretty much a make or break event and I was mightily relieved when all went well.

We will be taking things slowly, but now that they have met, it should be easier from now on. The next step is her coming to the island and meeting us for dinner. We want to take the process slowly and not rush ahead to the part where all four of us are in the house over night. That may take a while but on the basis of this first step, I think things should go well.

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My Funny Valentine

I’m not the most romantic man in the world. Are you O.K.? Hang on, I’ll wait while you get a cloth or something to dry off your screen and keyboard, because I know how embarrassing a spit-take can be. I hope you didn’t choke or aspirate. Maybe you should take a couple of minutes to recover.

Is it fine for me to continue? Good. Now that you are over the shock, let me elaborate. Valentine’s Day is a con, a multi-billion dollar scam designed to make us spend money we don’t have on things we don’t want to buy. Getting a card from a secret admirer, while potentially creepy, is not unwelcome, but the modern Valentine’s Day industry has removed not only the romance, but also the mystery from the day.

Let’s be honest. If a guy doesn’t buy a card and a gift for his S.O. he is going to be in a world of hurt. For the married man, this is doubly true. Over the course of my marriage my interest in the so-called holiday waned, from the initial enthusiasm of the newlywed to a perfunctory duty as it became increasingly clear that our marriage was nothing more than a domestic arrangement. There was one bright moment, though. When my son was about six, I was sitting at the table waiting for my wife to come downstairs, and he asked me what was in the  box on the table. I told him and explained that it was a Valentine’s Day gift for his mother. Eventually, she came downstairs, and with an air of fake interest asked “I wonder what this is?”, to which my son, in a bright clear voice full of enthusiasm announced; “It’s earrings!” Thanks, son.

Fast forward to this year. My sweetie came over on the 10th, and as we planned our weekend, she said “You realise what Friday is don’t you?”.

“Ah. I was going to talk to you about that”. I explained that I regard Valentine’s Day as a scam and how I resent the societal pressure to express my feelings for someone in a public display of consumption in front of strangers. Much better, I said, to simply prove it to the person concerned on a daily basis, rather than on one particular day, my example being Christmas. Why the emphasis on “Peace on earth and good will to all men” on 1/365th of the year? Why not apply that tenet every day?

“But we’re still doing  flowers and Champagne, aren’t we?”

Which is why I found myself in Costco on Feb 14th, surrounded by concerned looking men who were  enveloped in a fog of desperation and despondency. Yes, I bought roses,and yes, I did buy Champagne. I have always put quality above quantity and refuse to drink sparkling white wine. What I do resent is the 50% hike over the price I paid for a bottle just before New Year’s Eve.  I’d already bought her a gift, so I’m not entirely stupid, no matter what you might think.

She came over on the Friday evening, but timing and circumstances meant that it wasn’t until Sunday that we actually celebrated. I baked a mushroom strudel from scratch, made a salad and provided dessert to go along with the roses and champagne, and I must admit that it was the most enjoyable Valentine’s Day I’d had in a long while. To be honest, it didn’t feel forced at all. I enjoyed the evening, and at least I spent it in the company of someone who doesn’t treat me like a mildly retarded house N*****.

Am I wrong here? should I have said nothing and just gone along with the game?” I’m not perfect, ( sorry, I hope you had the cloth nearby) but at least I know when the hill isn’t worth dying for. It’s not that I don’t appreciate her, it’s just that she’s the only one who really needs to know that, and I can do that in much more effective ways than the production of dying flora and carbonated alcohol.

 

 

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Girlfriend Is Better.

There comes a point in any relationship that lasts beyond the first morning when you meet each others’ friends. With luck, this will happen in an inviting environment and will involve everyone having a drink in their hand and probably a plate in front of them.  This serves two purposes: It proves to your sweetie that you aren’t some sad, pathetic loser, and it proves to your friends that your girlfriend isn’t imaginary. The operative phrase here is “With luck”. Alas, things do not always go as planned.

Just before Halloween, my sweetie convinced me to attend the haunted house at the old mortuary in Georgetown. I will admit that this is most definitely not my thing, not that I’m easily scared, it’s just that confined spaces are not my thing, and I don’t respond well to strobe lights. That being said, we had a good time and returned to her house for a relaxing end to the evening.  No sooner had I removed my shoes and sat down than I was summoned by a rather frantic cry. Water ( and thankfully it was only water) was pouring out of the toilet and shower stall onto the bathroom floor. Long story short: I spent 45 minutes mopping the floor with a variety of towels, putting them down as a barrier at the threshold and then wringing them in turn into the teacup sized sink. Very little water made it into the bedroom, and the emergency plumber discovered the root cause – the guest of an upstairs resident had disposed of some feminine hygiene products by flushing them! Ugh! It under these circumstances  that I was introduced to two of the neighbours,- standing in half an inch of thankfully clean water, wringing out towels like a washerwoman on speed. Not the best way to meet people, but it could have been worse.

It was worse. We had arranged to get together the following Monday,  me picking her up from work and heading to her place for a quiet evening. Alas, this was the same Monday when we learned of the sudden death of our friend ( see “Tango Funebre”).  An impromptu gathering had been organised, and as I could hardly take her home and head off to the gathering, we both attended. She knew some of the dozen people there by name and through stories, but had met none of them. Not the best of social occasions to meet new people, but she could see and understand  the depth of our grief and bewilderment, and the group accepted her as one of our own. I can’t imagine how she felt, surrounded by strangers numbed by shock and trying to make some sort of sense of the news. I’m sure that at first we must have seemed like zombies, but as the evening progressed, we all took comfort from each others’ presence and a kind of balance was achieved.

Needless to say, alcohol played a part in evening, replacing one kind of numbness with another, and I was grateful for the fact that she maintained a level of sobriety that was far beyond my ability. I had warned her in advance that I probably wouldn’t be in a fit state to drive, and for once, I proved Yogi Berra wrong.  I dread to imagine what she thought as I stumbled to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless unconsciousness within minutes of arriving home, but I do appreciate her for having the decency not to pass judgement or say anything about it the next day.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had planned to spend that weekend at my place,  relaxing, watching a movie or two, generally enjoying each others’ company, but  instead found ourselves attending the memorial service. I felt terrible telling her that she would have to fend for herself at lunchtime due to the fact that those of us acting as ushers would be meeting at the pub and had decided that we needed time alone as a group in order to process the weeks’ events and reconnect. She took the news with equanimity, understanding that at times like this, the circle needs to draw tighter and that there is a need to express emotion without restraint or the need for explanation. At both the formal reception and the informal gathering afterwards she understood my need to catch up with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and was accepting of my sometimes brief and jargon laden explanations.  Again, I felt guilt over leaving her to fend for herself for so much of the day in a veritable ocean of strange faces and unfamiliar terms, especially under such emotion laden conditions, but again, she accepted the circumstances and at least now has a deeper understanding of just what a special place my school is, and how it breeds a sense of community like no other.  Additionally, I got to see how she responds to extreme circumstances at short notice, how she deals with other peoples’ grief and how much she is willing to put up with from me. I only hope that I can do the same if the tables are ever reversed.

 

 

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Sharp Dressed Man

SHARP DRESSED MAN. 08/01/13

I’m just going to sit here for a few seconds while the bass line drills its’ way through your consciousness  like the evil brain worm it is. As even a blind man on a speeding horse could tell you, and as I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t exactly go out of my way to look flash. Married parenthood tends to lend itself towards comfort rather more than style.  Most new parents have had at least one, if not more favourite or special items of clothing ruined by the actions of their offspring, be it the  accidental “spillage” of a newborn, the effects of the drier on a wayward crayon, or one of the more creative acts of a budding artist.

Such situations, plus the fact that what little social interaction as is available is with people in similar circumstances means that practicality wins out every time over style, like the Yankees playing the Peoria Mudhens.

However, my new found singledom has meant that my wardrobe is sadly lacking in modernity, flair, elan and all the things one needs to make that all important first impression.  Luckily I am blessed with better friends than I deserve, one of whom offered her services as style guru for a shopping trip that can be best described as a hetero version of “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”.

I gave my guide free rein, knowing that she would push me beyond my comfort zone without making me wear anything that wouldn’t work, and she delivered in spades, in what can only be regarded as a sartorial equivalent of LPD (Leadership and Personal Development –  a core course at my business school). After a quick, and uninspiring sweep of one store we headed out across downtown where I was presented with several stacks of potential purchases. I hadn’t realised just how tiring it is to be constantly changing clothes. All that buttoning, unbuttoning, stepping in and out, pulling on, etc gets tiring, but pays dividends in the end.

There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from realising that you do indeed fit a size two sizes smaller than you normally wear, or that contrary to what you might have thought, you do look good in a  particular colour. As an aside, you will indulge me if I don’t go into the details of my purchases as it will spoil the effect when they finally go public.

Shoes, however, are a different matter. I buy Costco brand sneakers. They’re cheap, durable and comfortable. The closest I have come to buying real shoes in the past seven years is three pairs of brown slip ons, from Costco, of course, that work well either with jeans or khakis, but that’s it. Our last stop of the day was at Nordstrom.  Ooh boy!  Now I get what all the fuss is about, ladies. I ended up spending only slightly less on three pairs of shoes than I did on all my other clothing combined. The canvas shoes were a must, as I have to have at least one pair I can wear with shorts. The Chukkas are a bit more hipster than I’m used to, but that’s not a very high hurdle to clear. However, the  highlight of the evening were a pair of gorgeous brown brogues, wonderfully tooled and with the glow of lovingly maintained antique Walnut furniture.

I spent more on that one pair of shoes than on all my other shoe purchases in the previous decade combined. I kid you not.

Laden down with  five bags, we repaired to a restaurant for Happy Hour as a reward for my companions’ display of courage above and beyond the call of duty, and my need to ease the pain of spending the equivalent of a months’ rent in four hours on clothing. Needless to say, an hour and a half later, the restorative effects of a couple of Manhattans and several plates of very tasty sushi revived our flagging spirits for less than the cost of one shoe. Again, money well spent.

Having said all that, I had a fantastic time.  I got to spend several hours enjoying the undivided attention of one of my all time favourite people, I underwent a major transformational  experience and have given my wardrobe a sorely need update. I wish I’d done this years ago, but at least now I have no excuse not  to dress like someone from the 21st Century. Thanks, Sweetie.

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Eight Days A Week

EIGHT DAYS A WEEK. 07/28/13

 I could just as easily called this post “Unbelievable”, truth be told. See, I don’t really believe it either.
 Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. (research the reference). The week of July 15th was something of a watershed for me. See, I had six dates in seven days. Yes, you read that correctly.  Now, admittedly two of them were with the same woman who is a friend, so they don’t technically count as dates, but to an outsider they would appear so, and as one of them was a happy hour, you get my drift.
It seems I have crossed some sort of self confidence barrier, and it shows.
One date was a complete waste of time, and I had my suspicions before I even left the house. These were confirmed when my companion expressed disappointment that the Museum Of Glass didn’t have any Chihuly pieces, and didn’t understand the phrase “In Extremis”.
One was a second date at a very nice cocktail bar on Cap. Hill, which went very well indeed. My date was a very sweet college administrator  who arrived looking most charming indeed, and didn’t even bat an eyelid upon learning of my habit of disappearing down rabbit holes in my reading habits.
I must have come across as very non threatening, as she  offered to drive me back to my stop. After she parked, she responded most positively to my suggestion that we meet again, either for a movie or the theatre. I don’t know if this is actually possible, but after we hugged goodbye she gave me a kiss that was both rushed and hesitant at the same time. As I say, she’s very sweet, and it really warmed my heart.
My first trip to Tacoma that week had been somewhat more productive than the second. Not only was my date a teacher, and therefore very well educated, but she had taken on the challenge of changing my opinion of Tacoma. After a very nice lunch we made a brief stop at the Federal Courthouse – No, not what you think, but to see the Chihuly art there followed by my first trip to  the Museum Of Glass.  We had a chance to chat over a drink afterwards, and again, I must have made a good impression as she agreed to meeting again as she dropped me off at my car.
Then comes the highlight of the week. Long story short. We’d both picked each other and had some email and phone exchanges a few weeks prior before she’d had to back off, due to some heavy stuff going down. I backed off in order to give her some space, but she emailed me a week before I’d intended to reconnect. The date went extremely well, after some logistical problems, but we hit it off immediately. We found we had a lot in common and the conversation went on long into the evening. I won’t go into detail, but the evening ended with a very long and enjoyable goodbye, with the promise of much, much more to come.
Whisky Tango Foxtrot? I mean, seriously! Even when I was half my current age I never received this kind of attention. Despite the incredibly low hurdle, what gives? Have I been seriously underrating myself all these years? I know that the marriage did a great deal of damage to my self confidence, sense of self worth and self image, but really, is it that easy?

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Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION. 07/08/13

 

As those of you who know me will have realised by now, I’m not one for getting dressed up. As far as I’m concerned, as long as my jeans and T shirt don’t have too many holes, I’m fit to be seen in public. Yes, I do have an acquittal suit, and it does change your attitude and outlook when dressed up, but mostly I regard clothes as something essential but not important.

Dating has changed this to some extent, but not having much of an eye for these things, I have stuck with the basics when buying clothes for going out. O.K. Costo. There, I’ve said it. I can ( and indeed do) clothe myself entirely from Costos’ huge stacks.

It’s just not been an issue for me until a friend for whom I have an inordinate appreciation said that I dressed like “Someone from the last century”. Quite an accurate description, actually, especially since I am still wearing T shirts I brought with me from the U.K in 1992 which were far from new even then.

I called her bluff on her offer to take me clothes shopping and proceeded henceforth to check Pinterest, as the only magazines I read – “When Saturday Comes” and “The Economist” are sadly lacking style sections. I thought this would be a fairly quick and easy task, but I was sadly mistaken.

We’re all pretty much used to the ridiculousness of female fashion, but I was unaware that the absurdity had spread to  the Menswear department. In the approximately two hours I spent scrolling through I found precisely nine pictures that suited me. Nine. That’s about 0.001% of all the pictures, the rest of which fell into four distinct categories.:

1. You’re not actually going out in public dressed like that, are you?
2. Laughing so hard the tears ran down my legs.
3. Slack jawed bewilderment.
4. Nazi homo – eroticism.

I honestly expected some of the pictures to be captioned “Now is the time on “Sprockets” when we dance”.

Thing is, I can’t really get a good sense of what the clothes look like until I see them in the store, so it’s going to be a fun, and I’m pretty sure, tiring day when we do get organised. Still, I’m pretty certain it will be worth it in the long run.

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