Yes! I finally went on a date! It all happened very suddenly. I was sick, my weekend trip was cancelled, so I decided to spend the day in the hammock and finish a book off my reading challenge. And for some reason, I decided to peek into OKC just once. Only my 50dates profile has been banned or whatever they call it, because it never lets me log in, telling me that there’s a technical error, which is apparently how OKC, in the fine tradition of cowardly people in dating situations, avoids actually telling you you’ve been kicked off. But I digress.
I logged in with my old ID and idly looked through the matches to see if anyone new or interesting had signed up. There were quite a few over 90% matches, which is new, so I was reading through them when one jumped out. You know me and my gut. So I wrote to him, and he replied and suddenly I was lounging in the hammock, book cast aside, talking to this guy. I tossed him my standard ‘What brings you to OKC?’ question and he replied before tossing it back at me. Then I had to think because that profile does not have the experiment laid out. ‘I’m running an experiment,’ I replied, ‘and also you know I’ve met some fun people here.’ ‘Have you read that fifty first dates blog?’ he asked me. I started to laugh. ‘Hahahaha. Yes I have read the blog. Would you like to be #23?’
We soon switch to Whatsapp and he says let’s get coffee sometime, because I don’t drink. Since Saturday is his only day off, we’d have to wait till Saturday, but then I don’t have a Saturday free for three weeks, so we quickly decide to try and meet right then. It is about 1045 by this point, and he says he has to be in Munirka at 1230, so we could meet around then. I have a friend coming over at noon, but she will understand, and so I tell him okay. ‘Let’s go to Sanjay Van and wander around. I’ll see you at JNU gate at 1230.’ Only, he’s running late and it becomes 1 and I fret because my friend will be here by 230 and then his phone runs out of battery and when we finally do meet at Sanjay Van, it’s 120.
I see the bright yellow Nano he told me to expect and he’s standing next it. He waves at me and I quickly park in front of him and hop out. We say hi and I turn to walk in but he’s checking the doors of the car repeatedly. ‘Wow,’ I say, ‘you have a system eh?’ ‘No, it’s something I need to do.’ ‘Yeah, I get it. Everyone has their quirks.’ I’m trying not to use the word OCD because I hate how we throw around mental illnesses like they’re regular adjectives. ‘I have OCD,’ he says. ‘Okay, I get it, you like things a certain way,’ I respond. ‘No, I mean I’m on medication. I’ve been diagnosed.’ And just like that, the gloves are off.
Later on I realise that moment defines the date. No shame, no embarrassment, no judgement, no thoughtless words. Everything we talk about is brutally honest and completely safe. It’s intoxicating, more than anything I could ever imbibe. There are very few guys (okay, people) I know who can talk like this, and I love it.
We walk a short way in, discussing mental illness, medication, and our own experiences it it. ‘That’s why you don’t drink,’ I tell him. ‘Yeah, it’s not worth it.’ I fully agree, and tell him about a person I used to be friends with who was taking Lithium, among other things, and then would drink and spiral into bas downs because the medicines didn’t work. I have never understood that mentality. He agrees. He asks me what I was taking for my depression and I tell him that no I have never been that ill thank GOD but the therapy really helped. ‘It isn’t much help for me,’ he says, and I agree, because well, I don’t think talk therapy would help with things other than anxiety and depression.
We’ve come across some benches, and he suggests we sit down. He lights up a cigarette and I refrain from telling my camel joke*. And then he starts to ask me questions. He’s read the blog, clearly, and is very curious about a lot of things. ‘What happens after?’ he asks, like many others. (He’s actually already asked me on whatsapp but we continue to discuss it.) He wants to know if I see them again. I tell him that of course I see the ones I like again, but barring #2, I don’t write about them. I also tell him that very few have reached mutual interest enough to still be around–only three in fact. But then how do you juggle so many relationships? is the inevitable follow up question, and I launch into my theory of dating.
The thing with real life is that it’s messy; it isn’t neatly divided into relationship, not relationship, and so on. Every guy who dates me knows about the blog, he knows there are other people I’m seeing. I ask them if they want to know more, or not. I respect what they tell me. I make a conscious effort to communicate. I try and express in clear unambivalent terms what I’m thinking and feeling, what I want, that I want them to do the same. There is no judgement. I try to create a safe space to express unhappiness, anger, jealousy–whatever feelings the other person might have. And I hope the other person understands this and tries too. That’s about all anyone can do in any relationship yeah? Anyway it’s not like anyone has asked me to or inspired in me the desire to not see other people! And it’s not like there are many other people to date.
All the while he listens, engages and asks intelligent questions. Our conversation is the kind I love; it goes tripping and tumbling and soaring off in a hundred directions and we rarely do finish the subject we’ve begun. This is the first time a date has ever got more about me than I have got about them. At one point I say something about how I’m older and see things differently, and it’s the first time in my life a younger person has just casually nodded and said yeah, you’re 32, I should hope you’d have a different perspective. I’m gasping in shock.
He asks why I wrote to him, and I tell him honestly that I have no idea. I pull up his profile and decide that my gut responded to his photo because it was sort of being conscious of its self consciousness. And of course we launch into a discussion being self conscious about dating online and how people react and present themselves, and how everything online is a construct and I like it when people are aware of this, and that’s what his photo said to me. He tells me about a woman who’s asked him is he was going to marry her after their fourth date–I am in shock. I tell him about my troll and the sheer amount of crap I run into on OKC.
We get up and walk a bit now, and end up discussing STDs and how people in India are so head in the sand about them. He tells me this is the first time he’s had a conversation about STDs with a woman who is actually open and informed about them. I laugh and tell him I’m special. He makes a mean crack about my age and shortly after I make one about his. It’s now 215, though it feels like it’s been three hours, and I regretfully tell him I better go. We talk out to the cars; he says we should do this again soon; we hug.
*Two women are standing in a bus stop. They pull out cigarettes and light up, but it starts to rain. One mutters and throws hers away. The other opens her bag, pulls out a condom with the tip cut off, pulls it over the cigarette and continues. Lady #1 is wide-eyed. ‘What’s that and where can I get one?’ she asks. Lady #2 says, ‘Oh it’s a condom. You’ll get it at a drugstore.’ Later that day Lady #1 walks into a drusgtore. ‘I’d like some condoms please,’ she says. ‘Sure, what size?’ asks the salesperson. ‘Big enough to fit a camel,’ she replies.
P.S. Eeek I make it 23 when it was 22. Why did I think it was 23? Huh.