About the Experiment

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beginning, Middle, and End. (Two Dates and a Breakup)

Phew.  It's been a heck of a week.  I'm basically going to cram 6 blog posts into this one, so here goes:

1) We wrapped up Ariana's Matchmaker week.  During the week she'd asked me to respond to the incoming OkCupid messages, and picked two guys that I had been sending messages back and forth with.

Bachelor #14: 26 years old, a filmmaker (like myself).  Ariana liked him because we'd mentioned Tilda Swinton in the profile (Only Lovers Left Alives is one of my favorite movies of this year) and in his initial message he asked if I'd heard about when she slept in a glass box for installation art.

Bachelor #15: 36 years old, a comic book editor.  Ariana liked him because he seemed like a good mix of nerdy, intellectual, and seems like he has similar values as I do (he referenced the Occupy movement and climate change).  I was very intrigued that he's lived and traveled around the world (as I have) and he seems really positive about his life, which is definitely something I'm looking for.

2) I had a date with Bachelor #14 (Date #9).  We met for drinks in my neighborhood, and it was actually nice to have a simpler date after my date with Bachelor #12.  Since I'm combining all of these into one post, I'll give the very brief version of the date: it felt more like friends/networking drinks than a date.  I always like meeting new people and we shared film and travel stories, so it wasn't bad but I didn't feel any chemistry.  I haven't heard from him so I think we're on the same page about that.  I don't know where the etiquette is there, I've been trying to give the bachelors a heads up of what I'm going to write before I post it, but it seems odd to contact someone just to say I'm not feeling it.  Thoughts?

3) We started Matchmaker Week #8, with my best friend's mom Katt as the Matchmaker.  Katt has been one of the biggest supporters of the experiment, she's like a second mom to me and has often posted comments on Facebook about the blog posts.  She's also never shy about her opinions, for example her comment on the previous blog post was, "Taser.  I'm just saying."

After I'd asked her to be the Matchmaker, she sent me some questions to get a better idea of what I'm looking for, including:

"You are a writer and a film maker, so I want to start there.  Are there any fictional guys you are attracted to?"

"Where do you see yourself personally in five years? Waking up next to a guy who stays? Visiting someone on the weekends? Is sex important? Is romance important? Do you want someone who will hold your hand in public? Get you vegan cupcakes when you are sad? What are you looking for long term, not just for the experiment?”

Phew.  Lots to think about.  She also sent me a Dr. Nerdlove article titled "What Couples Can Learn From Gomez and Morticia Addams" which really does have some good advice and some adorable gifs.  

Katt is also a writer, so I shared with her the profile from my brother Greg's Matchmaker week, the profile I had up on OkCupid before the experiment, and combined with the knowledge she has from knowing me for the past 15+ years, she put together a profile.  It looked good to me, so we put up some different photos and the new profile.

4) But it was a tough week because I realized two things:
     a) I was falling for Bachelor #9, and therefore
     b) We needed to break up.

I took a few days to consider it and tried to find some alternative to breaking up, but there didn't seem to be any way to scale back our relationship that didn't seem false.  It seemed so strange to break up with someone because I like him too much.  But the reality was that my attachment to him could interfere with my potential to develop a relationship with someone who actually is looking for a monogamous relationship.

At the end of our previous date B#9 and I had a serious conversation about both of our concerns about our relationship, and whether we were doing the right thing by dating. Neither of us want to hurt the other and we knew that it was a risk of dating, but we also really both enjoyed spending time together. As we talked, we both felt like we were doing the right thing. But as he left, he said to let him know if I thought more about it and changed my mind. So when I did change my mind, it was nice to know that it wouldn't be out of the blue for him.

When we met up and talked, I think it was a bit of a relief for both of us. We'd both been seeing how close we were getting and how tough it could be. It was nice to find a time to end it that felt fair to both of us, before things got messy and we resented each other. But that still didn't make it easy. We both were really sad, I cried quite a bit and it was nice to be able to cry on his shoulder. We also laughed some and talked a lot, and it was nice to be able to say everything. This was the healthiest relationship I've ever been in and (at least so far) the healthiest breakup I've ever had, because we were so open and honest with each other. 
I am so grateful for the time that he and I had together, because it showed me a totally different type of relationship than I'd experienced before: calm, communicative, supportive. Now that I know what that looks like, it will help me find it again. At one point I worried that I would get spoiled by getting used to being with a guy who respects me and treats me well, and then I realized that's the point. To be clear. "treats me well" doesn't mean fancy/expensive stuff: our only gifts to each other were $1 books (on a date at a book store) and though our dates were romantic they weren't very fancy. We just enjoyed spending time together, wherever we were. And that's something really great to experience, to be reminded that it's possible.

Honestly, I think a big difference between this relationship/breakup and others I've had is that he really took responsibility for his feelings and was honest about them. I always knew how he felt about me, even on our first date. He didn't feel the need to hide his feelings, and I never felt a need to push to figure out what he felt. On our third date, when we discussed whether we should date or not, he said that we would both likely get emotionally attached to each other. Most guys I've dated would've said to me, "You might get attached," but wouldn't have admitted that they too might also get emotionally attached. And when we were breaking up, he was really sad about it too and said that this had been one of the most intense relationships he'd been in. But he also felt like it was the right thing to end it now.

Since he was so honest about his feelings, it helped me be more honest about my feelings too.  I noticed it was nice that he often told me things he liked about me, so I often told him things I liked about him.  He could also read me really well, and sometimes seemed to know how I was feeling even before I did. Thankfully he never tried to tell me what I was feeling, he was always kind and patient. It encouraged me to be very honest with him about what I was feeling, even if took some time between when he asked me and when I understood what I felt. I'm very used to being able to read other people well but very unused to someone being able to read me well, and I know it's part of why I felt so connected to him.

It's been a few days since we broke up, and it hasn't been fun or easy but I'm definitely alright. I get sad sometimes but I try to appreciate the good times we had together and all that I learned. That kind of connection with someone is rare and that's why it's hard to let it go, but I'm grateful for it.  We're going to give each other a month of space (no communication) and then try to be friends, so I'm glad that we didn't have to say goodbye forever.  
(And for whenever he reads this, #drunkstarfishsaysyolo.)

Some things I'd forgotten about breakups:
A) "We need to talk." I didn't actually use this phrase, because it's so cliche. I didn't want to break up with him via text (because that's rude) but I also didn't want to pretend like everything was totally ok and then have him surprised by the breakup. I hadn't broken up with anyone in a while, and it was a tough balance of not saying too much or too little via text until we could talk in person.

B) Don't listen to the radio when you have a heartache.  One heartsick afternoon I heard "Love is a Battlefield," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "You Make Loving Fun" on the radio.  Tears may have been shed.

C) Telling everyone is a bummer.  Especially because of the blog, everyone in my life knew that B#9 and I were dating.  My friends were getting updates on how sickeningly sweet it is when two romantics date.  Since many of my past relationships weren't labelled "relationships." less people knew about them and there were less people to tell when it ended.


And maybe I thought I could bounce back a little more quickly than was realistic.  

5) Bachelor #15 and I went on a date (Date #10) a few days after B#9 and I broke up. B#15 had planned a mini golf date, because he'd read that I prefer non-traditional date activities. I was really looking forward to the date, but as I started to get ready for the date my heart literally started to hurt. My emotions have a fun trick of presenting as physical feelings, especially if I'm avoiding the emotions (ugh, I get it, I'm sensitive). I was surprised that I was feeling this, since I'd been going on dates while dating B#9. But it made me realize that maybe I need to take a bit of a break to give myself time to process the breakup.

Bachelor #15 and I had fun on our mini golf date and really great conversation over drinks after. Early in the date he said that he really enjoys cooking (and went to culinary school for a time) and one of the things he misses most about being in a relationship is having someone to cook for. I thought that was very sweet, and heard the "kind/nurturing" cues in it.

But I wasn't feeling romantic chemistry. I was trying to assess my feelings/attraction level throughout the date, and keep in check with myself about how the breakup was affecting my feelings. He'd asked me to be really open and honest with him and I though I was. But at the end of the evening he went for a goodnight kiss and I turned so he kissed my cheek, and I realized that my body language was much more honest than I'd been able to be. I was quite frustrated with myself afterwards, that I hadn't been able to be more forthcoming verbally and avoid that awkwardness for both of us. I texted him when I got home to apologize for not being more honest, and let him know I'd like to be friends if he's open to it. We texted back and forth a bit, and although I wish I could have been more honest in person at least I cleared it up pretty quickly. It's the practice.

6) So I'm going to take some time to process everything that's been going on. We're going to extend Katt's Matchmaker Week an additional calendar week, and I hope that'll be sufficient. Also, part of the point of this experiment is to look at the role of community in dating, and now I get to see the role of community in a breakup. I have to really let myself feel this, and maybe I need to watch a romcom and eat ice cream with a friend instead of pretending like nothing has changed.

When Katt asked me about fictional guys that I have crushes on, one of the guys that came to mind is John Cusack's character in High Fidelity. He's far more high-strung than a guy I would want to date, but I relate to how important music is to him. I don't make Top 10 lists, but music is my language and I try to find the right music for particular moments.  "Careful You" by TV on the Radio has been the song that reminded me of my relationship with B#9 from the beginning. It wasn't "Our Song" because we never listened to it together, but everyone kept telling me to "be careful" (because I think they could tell that I'd started to fall for him so quickly) and the lyrics are exactly how I felt. 

I've been thinking about Breakup Albums this week, from Rumors by Fleetwood Mac to Coral Fang by The Distillers (about Distillers lead singer Brody Dalle's divorce from Rancid's Tim Armstrong).  The new TV on the Radio album, Seeds was released today and it's definitely the album of this breakup for me.  From I will care for you/Oh, careful you in "Careful You" to Everything's gonna be ok, I keep telling myself of the song "Trouble," it's like Tunde Adebimpe is in my head (in a good way).  Heartache is part of the human experience, it's something we can all relate to.  And I highly recommend the album, heartache or no.  

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