These days I barely get nervous before a date. I go through the whole routine of trimming various hairs, picking out the right outfit, and making sure I smell good but I do it with a sort of clinical detachment. I really fake most of my self confidence but I do have a very healthy sort of screw 'em if they don't like me attitude. Then again maybe it isn't healthy because it leads to me not trying to impress anyone and therefore only impressing those that I can impress without trying. Still, that attitude is part of who I am, part of who I've always been, and it's probably never changing.
That attitude must have been on vacation, though, when it came time for my first date after my marriage ended. Even the asking was a long, drawn out mess. I had no idea that I should have a time and place in mind. I was used to the what do you want to do, I don't know what do you want to do, screw it we'll stay home rhythms of marriage. Eventually, she figured out that I was trying to ask her out and said yes and picked the time and place. It wouldn't be the last time she would lead me like a little boy through some of the rituals of dating.
Then, of course, I realized I had nothing to wear. That wasn't the worst though. I had no idea what I should wear. I didn't know what I looked good in. I didn't know I looked good in anything. It didn't help that for at least the last half of my marriage when I asked my ex-wife what I should wear her answer was that she didn't care. I probably should have seen that as a sign.
I didn't know who to ask either. My mom always likes it when I dress like an old man. My brothers both have styles, if they can be called that, that I wouldn't work for me. I knew that much at least. I had a friend that would give me grief about my wardrobe consisting of a variety of Cardinals shirts but he apparently didn't know the meaning of irony because he would mock me while wearing one of the five different colors of tank tops he owns. So I turned to a married friend of mine for advice and she suggested I wear green. I must say she has good taste. I don't know if it's the Irish in me or what but green has turned out to be a lucky color for me.
I shaved my head and my face. I hadn't stumbled upon the magic of the beard yet back then. I cleaned my truck of the trash and kid junk for the first time in ages. My friend that mocked my wardrobe mocked me for this too. It felt nice having so much support and with that vote of no confidence I pretended like I knew what I was doing and set off for my date.
She lived forty-five minutes away so on the drive I cranked the radio to drown out my doubts and cranked the air conditioning to cool my nervous sweat. I smoked way too many cigarettes but took comfort in knowing I had at least thought of breath mints and to bring along some smell good. Somehow I managed to ignore my sense of impending doom long enough to make it to the gas station where we were meeting in one piece. I made it to this less than romantic rendezvous half an hour early.
Being early is a habit I can thank my father for but that night I was cursing it. There isn't much at a gas station that can distract me for thirty minutes. I played some scratch offs, gulped a couple cups of coffee, chain smoked, got worried about my smell and appearance, checked myself out in the bathroom, put on some smell good, popped some breath mints, told myself not to smoke anymore so I would still smell good when she got there, and then chain smoked some more. I needed to talk to someone that would remind me how ridiculous it was that I was so nervous but the woman that gave me fashion advice wasn't responding and I was too much of a man to admit to other men that I was nervous. So I sat there by myself as the night grew dark and convinced myself she wasn't coming even though it was still ten minutes until the time we'd agreed to meet.
She texted that she was on her way so I quit worrying about being stood up. It should have been a relief but it wasn't because it meant that this was actually going to happen. I was going to go on a date. I'd been sixteen the last time I'd truly went on a date and dates aren't really dates at sixteen. I was really about to go on my first date and I was as nervous as a virgin. Actually, I was more nervous than I had been when I lost my virginity. Not that I was thinking about sex as I sat in that gas station parking lot. I'd only ever had sex with one woman and the possibility of sex with another didn't seem like a real possibility even though I was going on a date.
I sat on the tailgate of my truck and watched cars pull into the parking lot. She'd told me what car she drove but for some reason I got nervous with every car, truck, van, or big rig that pulled in. Finally, after minutes of waiting, a car matching the description she gave me showed up. I managed to get to my feet without falling down, though it was close, and walked toward her car. As I did she opened the driver's side door and emerged.
"Oh shit," I thought, "She's far too good looking for me."
I didn't know whether to shake hands or hug so I awkwardly tried both and accomplished neither. She chuckled and I didn't know if she was laughing at me or the situation. Still, I chuckled too and although I knew I was laughing at myself it still calmed me just a bit and smoothed over the situation. We decided where to eat and that she should drive because I didn't know the area. That was a life saving decision because right then if I would have had to try and drive as nervous as I was around this beautiful woman I probably would have driven us off a bridge.
We talked on the way to eat, talked while we were eating, and sat in the car and talked when we got back to the gas station. The more we talked the less nervous I felt and the more it seemed that she wanted to talk to me. Funny how that works. I didn't have enough of a history of dating to appreciate it then but it was one of those rare first dates where everything clicked. I'm lucky that my first, first date was like that and not like some others I've had. Otherwise, I might have given up on this dating thing altogether.
As I've said, we sat in her car in that gas station parking lot and talked for hours. Occasionally, she would look at me like she was waiting for something. I caught the look but I couldn't imagine what it was she was waiting for. It wouldn't occur to me until I was halfway home.
We had both worked before our date, I had a long drive home, and two in the morning really was pretty late to be sitting in a parking lot. So we said goodbye, I successfully executed a hug this time, and I drove away. After I was sure I was on the road I needed to be on to get home I texted her to thank her for the wonderful evening and said I hoped we could do it again. It made me seem like a gentleman but I was really just fishing for reassurance because I was beginning to doubt myself again.
She replied that she was glad to hear I had a good time because she hadn't been sure. That shocked me that she would doubt herself. I was amazed that this beautiful woman was as human as the rest of us. I wondered why she would be unsure. What had or hadn't I done? Then I realized and I actually did the Homer Simpson d'oh out loud.
"I should have kissed you," I texted her.
"Why didn't you?" she replied.
"Because I'm new at this and I'm an idiot," I answered.
"Well you can kiss me next time," she texted.
I went to bed with a smile on my face that night and marveled that a beautiful woman could like a goofy looking dumb guy like me. When I woke up in the morning I convinced myself that she didn't really like me and we would never talk again. Then she replied to my good morning text and I was ecstatic all over again. That week we kept talking and texting and we planned the second date and I was almost convinced she actually liked me.
The second date was a lot like the first except I actually kissed her before we went into the restaurant. It was a damn good kiss too so this time when we sat in the gas station parking lot afterwards we talked and kissed and talked and kissed for a long time. I still didn't think about sex. I mean obviously my body was reacting to kissing a beautiful woman but I still just didn't consider sex a possibility. She asked me if I would be okay driving home because it was dark and raining and late and blissfully ignorantly I assured her I'd be fine.
We made another date as soon as possible and she decided that I should come to her place and she would cook for me. She lived out in the country and my gps insisted that I should turn into a cornfield but I found the place okay. I cursed my father again because I was there so early she wasn't home from work yet. She was on her way though and sitting outside watching the sunshine on stalks of corn was easier than sitting in a gas station parking lot. It turned out to be good that I was there when she arrived anyway. I was able to help her carry groceries in. So score one for Dad's influence I guess.
She wasn't happy I'd been early though because she was still in her work clothes. I told her she looked beautiful and that smoothed that over. She started cooking without worrying about it. That was the first time I realized the power of being able to look a woman in the eyes and truthfully tell her she's beautiful. It has served me well that I find many women truly beautiful.
She cooked. It was great. We talked and drank. Then she decided that we should watch a movie. We curled up together on her sofa and didn't watch much of the movie. We kissed and touched and I grew braver but not that brave. Finally, she said untangled herself and said that she needed to shower. There was exasperation in her voice but I didn't realize it then.
I sat there like a bump on a log, a frog on a lilypad, like the clueless man I was. I played on my phone and listened to the sound of her shower. I won't say thoughts didn't run through my mind but they were the sort of background perversions that are like low level white noise playing in the back of a man's mind most of the time. I heard the shower shut off and her go in her bedroom and I sat there waiting for what I didn't know. Then I heard her walk into the room.
She walked in wearing black lingerie with her blonde hair flowing free. She shuffled nervously but whatever reaction she saw in my face and eyes reassured her and she bravely walked over and stood in front of me. My brain hadn't been working well but it was working and I knew the score now. She'd basically had to hit me over the head with a hammer but I figured it out. That's sort of what I felt like too, like I'd been hit over the head with a hammer but in a pleasant way.
I still moved hesitantly and ran my hand up her thigh slowly and softly. Part of my hesitation and methodical pacing was nervousness but part of it was just how I believe things should be. That's how a woman should be touched the first time she shows herself to a man like that. A man she be reverent to a beautiful woman's body.
I stood up and kissed her and touched her and we ended up in bed. Then...well I mentioned losing my virginity earlier. This lasted shorter than that. I stared at the ceiling in shock. I'm well aware that every man says that's never happened to him when it happens to him. I truly meant it though. That had never happened before and I had no clue how to handle it. I muttered an apology and she said it was alright, turned off the light, and pulled my arm around her. She fell asleep while I was holding her.
Instead of sheep, I counted excuses to try and fall asleep. It was my first time with another woman. She was just the second woman I had ever been with. It was the first time since my vasectomy and I just didn't have any confidence. I was nervous period. Eventually, I drifted off to a nervous sleep while still holding her and by morning had almost convinced myself that everything was alright. Then the same thing happened again when we tried in the morning.
She cooked breakfast for me and we talked about it matter of factly like it was no big deal. I'm convinced she knew how much that helped me. She asked about my vasectomy and I said I far as I know that can't really affect performance. I was on anxiety medicine though and I told her that could be a side effect. She reminded me of something she'd said before she went to bed. She said there were physical reasons she was very hopeful that would be able to perform next time. She said she was quite sure that she would enjoy it. I left that morning having had sex twice for a total of under a minute and yet somehow confident in myself and assured that she would still have me. That woman is magic I tell you.
That confidence lessened before our next date though. We didn't talk about it but we didn't talk about it in such a way that it seemed that was all we talked about. I reassured myself that by myself everything was working properly and that seemed to rule out any physical reasons. That wasn't as reassuring as it should have been though. I didn't care how I reacted to my own touch.
We went on another date and talked and laughed and had a great time. I've glossed over that part of things but it was the most important part of things. If there hadn't been the instant connection she probably wouldn't have put up with all the hand holding she had to do. If that connection hadn't quickly developed into a deeper caring she wouldn't have been as patient as me. If I hadn't had wanted to know her so much and gotten to know her so easily I wouldn't have cared enough to be as nervous as I was about everything.
She was sarcastic and got my sarcasm and that was wonderful to me. Her eyes would light up when she talked about her kids or other people she loved. A sort of tragically, beautiful resigned anger would set in her face when she talked about her ex and then it would be gone just as quickly. She was interested in everything I had to say and I in hers. She was more beautiful inside than out, and that was saying something, and damned if she didn't think I was a pretty good guy. She was everything I needed in a woman then and she has told me since that I was the man she needed. It really was like the beginning of a good romantic comedy except funnier and more r rated.
We ended up in her bed again, naked again. I should have been relishing the feel of skin against skin. My eyes should have been feasting on her curves and her lines. I was too nervous, though, and feeling too much pressure. I was too outside myself and thinking too much. That's a problem I often have in life but not when I'm naked so I didn't know how to handle it. It seemed at least this time I wouldn't have to worry about things ending too soon because I couldn't get them started. Then she pulled me on top of her.
"Come on, Paul," she whispered as she looked into my eyes, "I know you can make me scream your name."
It was, and is, one of the most erotic moments of my life. The combination of the challenge and the desperation in her voice, that she was desperate for me, worked wonders. Everything went great after that. I've probably already went into more details than most of my readers are comfortable with so I'll just say this. As we drifted off to sleep that night, with my arms once again around her, she whispered, "I told you that you could make me scream your name."
If life was the romantic comedy I mentioned earlier we would still be together and have had a happily ever after. We aren't though but it wasn't from lack of trying. We didn't have to try when we were together everything came naturally and easily after I got past all of my early difficulties. It was getting together that we had to work at. We both had kids. She had different days off than I did. We lived forty five minutes apart. We tried like hell to overcome it, to the point of exhaustion and I think we came close. We didn't quite make it though.
I've had people tell me that it was just a rebound relationship. It still offends me when someone says that because it seems like they're dismissing the importance of it. She was everything I needed at the time and I was what she needed. Two people being what each other need is important no matter when it happens nor how long it lasts. I know I've mentioned before in this blog that I seem to be good at that. I seem to be just the man to remind a woman that she is beautiful and is worth something before she moves onto the man she's going to stay with and I'm okay with that. I'm kind of proud of that. If I'm good luck Paul that's alright with me. If I'm the Charles Barkley or Dennis Rodman of relationships than that's cool with me. After all, they'll always be women in need of a rebound.
Besides in this case I'm pretty sure it meant more to me. I learned so much from her and our relationship. I learned that there were women out there that would be interested in me. I learned that beautiful women will want me. I learned that I was a good man and had value still to the right woman, that life goes on, and that I could love again. I learned that I should look for the type of woman I want not just the type of women I could get because I could get the type of woman I wanted. Mostly I learned that there are some damn fine, damn beautiful, damn wonderful women out there and that we could touch each other's hearts.
Two people came together at the right time for each other and gave each other the comfort and joy and pleasure they needed. Then they left each other with hearts hurting but not broken; with hearts more mended and intact than when they found each other. They left each other better than when they found each other and remain a fond memory in each other's mind and a warm feeling in each other's hearts. The poets don't write it and it doesn't happen in romantic comedies but that's as much of a fairy tale ending as anything else.