On Friday night, I had a first date that left me… curious. Pleased but cautious. Puzzled. Interested.
It’s not often that I find someone who can keep up with me intellectually. I don’t mean that in an arrogant or unkind way; I just mean it factually. Usually when I go on dates, I can show up, look pretty, be charming, and my date is easily won over… too easily won over.
I can read my dates like a book, dissecting stories of their family life growing up and its implications on their relationship style. I pick up on clues they don’t even realize they are giving away; insights into who they are and what makes them tick based on offhand comments made unthinkingly. Meanwhile, most of them never even learn that I almost married someone else this summer because they never bother to ask questions of any depth whatsoever. They want to talk about sports or movies or the weather or work.
But last night, I went out with a guy named Bryan who was not only my intellectual peer, but also extremely perceptive. I take for granted that none of my dates are observant or mentally deft enough to catch my subtext. But Bryan didn’t miss a thing. In fact, he picked up more than I meant for him to.
Bryan asked good questions. Hard questions. Revealing questions. And he read between the lines and heard all the things I didn’t say. I felt like we spent the evening proverbially circling one another, each trying to solve the other’s puzzling persona. I may have found the Irene Adler to my Sherlock Holmes.
Driving down the highway to dinner, Bryan had to slam on the brakes at one point because traffic backed up unexpectedly. A few moments later, he commented, “Now you keep tensing up every time I come up on another vehicle. What do I need to do to regain your trust?” I hadn’t even realized I was tensing. Reveling in his emotional intelligence, I teased him that I never let guys pick me up on the first date, so he should feel very trusted that I gave him my address. His response, curious and not accusatory, was: “And why do you have trust issues?” Then, after I answered, “Why did you decide to trust me?”
Over butternut squash ravioli, I took a turn. Bryan had mentioned that he and his best friend Russ had both gone through a rough breakup at the same time a couple of years back. “I was able to help him since I’d just gone through it,” he told me. “Interestingly, we’d each started dating our respective girlfriends within a few months of each other, too. The timing just lined up.”
A few courses later into the meal, Bryan let slip that Russ was having trouble meeting people because he’d dated his last girlfriend for five years and was out of practice. I put the pieces together and asked, “So you dated your last girlfriend for five years?” Bryan looked at me sharply, surprised and not pleased at my revelation. I explained, “You said that you and Russ had started dating girls at the same time and broke up with those girls at the same time.” Bryan furrowed his brow; then chuckled. “I hadn’t expected you to put that together. You’re a lot smarter than you let on.” A back-handed compliment, to be sure.
After dinner, walking around the zoo lit up with Christmas lights, the wind caught my scarf, and I got it tangled in my purse strap. When we climbed back into his truck an hour later, I arranged my scarf to drape over the seatbelt so it wasn’t bunched against me. Bryan tweaked his eyebrow and asked casually, “You don’t wear scarves often, do you?” Guilty. I was born and raised in the South, where Christmas is usually 80 degrees. I squinted at him. “I would have been more coy from the beginning if I’d realized how observant you are. I don’t normally have to be so on my toes.” He smiled. “I could say the same about you.”
At the end of the evening, I asked Bryan why he’d asked me out. He smiled sideways at me, as is his way, and said contemplatively after a moment, “You have a uniquely captivating personality. And you have lots of interests, which makes you interesting.”
I actually don’t even know if I like him, romantically I mean. I was just so fascinated by him – excited to have a conversation parter who wasn’t entirely predictable and boring – that we stayed out for seven hours together: first to dinner; then the zoo; then a wine dive.
I want to see him again. I want to understand him. And I want to be understood. But do I want to be loved? Or just solved?