A sort of life

Not the first choice, but perhaps the right choice

RICHMOND, Va. — It’s a funny thing, that.

I’ve been playing the Internet Dating Game for a while. And for those that don’t know, the game generally begins with a sea-saw of writing followed by an underwhelming face-to-face. Things don’t click. And then nothing. Move on.

You mostly know that things wont click before you show up. You can learn a lot from the words if you really care enough to look. But what do you do? You go anyway. Hope you don’t know as much as you think you know.

But you know. They know.

For the last year or so I didn’t really care much. Either I wasn’t in the right headspace, or, more often, I just wasn’t enjoying myself. To quest for flesh is something I did when I was much younger. You contort in a lot of ways when that’s your primary objective. Now–now there has to be more “there” there. There has to be a fluid discourse. There has to be something else. Chemistry is a temperamental thing. Especially in the beginning. Especially for the awkward folk like me. But there has to be something.

But what do you do when there’s not? Run out the clock? That’s not fair to anyone. If you’re going to run out the clock you might as well end the night early. “I’m sorry [Name]. You seem great. But this isn’t going to work, you and I.” It makes more sense to do that. It’s mean, but also probably the right thing to do. But you don’t do that. I don’t do that. So, run out the clock.

Or, or you could do this. I used to do this: Million question mode. Everyone has a story. Everyone has something buried deep. So, in the absence of the risk of blowing it with a girl you’d like to get to know, I’d push beyond the boundary of proper decorum. Not disrespect. No. There’s space between pushing too far and disrespect. But talk. Let’s talk. Tell me something. I’d prod. I’d push. I’d try to tease out little bits, little pieces of whatever was hidden inside. I’d get a story or two. And then we’d separate into the night.

It’s amazing what you can learn about when you ask. Especially from a stranger staring back at you across a margarita and an uneaten appetizer. Stories about the last failed relationship is amateur hour. It’s boring. I wanted more. And? I learned about covert abortions. And fucking teachers. I learned about cheating spouses. And cheating on spouses. I learned about broken families. And rape. I heard stories about other people too. Remember that congressman who was caught sending explicit messages to the boy pages at the Capitol? I knew about that before the story broke. And I knew about that because I cared enough to listen. Then ask.

Anyway, my point is this: First dates are a lot of fun when you don’t want to go on a second date.

And what about me? I have a history. I have stories. Google things. Read this site and you’ll find things. Sure, most of the older posts haven’t been restored, are not visible yet, but the cache is still out there. My twenties were not clean. Drug use. Depression. Brooding. I wore a corduroy jacket at one point. My thirties are different. But I’m divorced. That’s black. That’s a black thing for some people. There’s ruminating about that. These are all things that are foundational things. They’ve informed who I am now. And I don’t really care that people know about them.

But–and here’s the thing I did not consider–a compelling history is not the best thing to make immediately available to the women I’d actually like to date. Not because I wish I could hide these things. Not at all. But maybe they seem more alarming, or more intimidating than they are. Maybe these things are better eased into. Like sliding into cold bath. “Hey [Name], you know me now. You like me. I like you. Well, do you want to know what went into making the guy you like? Let me tell you about about a couple rough edges realized in an earlier era.” Maybe.

It wasn’t important until recently because I hadn’t been talking to anybody whose opinion I really cared about. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I fear these things will scare people away. And they don’t. Maybe they just don’t care. Or, maybe people actually understand that I’ve lived a life before them. And maybe that’s a good thing. Because it is.

But, maybe doesn’t allay my concern. Worry. Blah. Whatever.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years, it has to be this: A picked scab will always bleed. My attempts to make things better, or explain my condition often makes things worse. I talk too much. I worry too much.

Maybe I should write more about these attractive traits instead. Maybe.

“Not the first choice, but perhaps the right choice” is from Volume Three: Rock and Roll Part Three (2015–).

Bleeding burgundy and gold

Bleeding burgundy and gold

Dan Brenner beams after surviving a punch to the nose by an angry Philadelphia fan at FedExField in Landover, Md. on December 12, 2004. Washington lost the game 17-14.

First dates are a lot of fun when you don't want to go on a second date.