As I type I am sitting in the ER with my toddler, who had bad tummy pains last night. It turns out he has early stage pneumonia and will be kept for observation until at least tomorrow morning.
Writing about my dating life feels very superficial of me at this moment, but we are (updated) sitting in a room in pediatrics, watching tv and there is nothing else to do right now.
Last weekend I met the Backpacker for a short hike, and it was lovely. We also kissed and made out a little, which… You know, I have no idea what is fast or slow for most people, but I’m not going to be embarrassed about it. When we went our separate ways I said to him, ‘Why don’t you plan our next meetup.’ Because frankly, me planning everything has been driving me nuts. Before our second date I was getting such mixed messages from him that I had even backed off and said I understood if he wasn’t interested in getting together, and that I didn’t want to be pushing too hard …just, as a parent, pre planning is important for me. He assured me he was interested, which was a relief. I can handle rejection but vagueness is harder.
To his credit he nailed in a day to meet up for the third time fairly quickly. His texts also turned sexual and basically nothing but sexual. I can’t say I didn’t encourage it some, and when he asked if I wanted our next meetup to be active like hiking or more intimate, I said either. But although I participated a little in the intimate texting he was initiating, I was more reluctant. When it felt like too much I found ways to deflect or put him off… For example, sending a picture of my kitchen chair’s seat and legs instead of pictures of me. I am not so willing to have photos of myself out in the world like that… And Backpacker certainly wasn’t putting himself out there. After about his fourth mention of photos of my legs I decided to ask him for a basic head shot, and he sent a photo of himself outdoors wearing a balaclava (face covered). Huh. I had long since sent him photos of my face. Little things like that just felt off. Also, sexting is not something I am used to, and while I was willing to be somewhat openminded to the idea, I was not thrilled with the constant focus on the one theme. I found myself missing our earlier conversations about things like dogs and hiking and wildlife management.
The one thing the Backpacker did not nail down for our third date was a location. And really the exact times were up in the air a little, because I had given him my window of availability for Friday evening and that was where communication stood until Thursday. On Thursday I also texted him twice asking where we should meet up and he completely ignored the question both times, deflecting back to sexual talk. Friday morning I asked the question a third time, feeling annoyed but trying not to show it. When he responded, ‘Greenbelt?’ I asked him what part (it is well over 20 miles long), and he responded, ‘Where’s your favorite walking / getting teased part?’ Which was a big ol’ WTF on several levels. When I said I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of making out in a public space like that and asked (very nicely) if we could slow down on the sexy talk a bit, he said okay, and that he understood, and we would just do a walk (which section of Greenbelt was still unspecified). But his messages seemed a little more terse and a little less friendly. And the next thing he wrote, three and a half hours later and only two hours before I was scheduled to drop my kid at the sitter, was, “Sorry to do this pretty much last minute but some stuff came up and I’m going to have to cancel tonight.”
At the advice of my sister I simply wrote back, “Okay. What came up? Everything all right?” When there was no response over 20 hours later I finally told him what I really thought:
“There is probably no point in me writing this, but I’m just going to put it out there. Setting aside the way you cancelled on me yesterday, do you know how demeaning it is to be sexted at for a week solid and then to be told, at the absolute last minute, “Let’s go make out on the Greenbelt — you choose the location”? I say this as somebody who loves the Greenbelt! Even the obvious booty call invite of ‘Why don’t you come over to my place and we can watch some Netflix’ is more respectful, and more appealing.”
The honest truth is, I wouldn’t have minded a Netflix booty call invite, and given the tone and content of the Backpacker’s recent conversations, that is what I would have expected. To get an invite to the Greenbelt felt a lot like him saying, “I want to make out with you but I really don’t want you to know where I live.” Overthinking? Dunno. But shortly after starting my new job I had asked him if his work office was the one a few blocks away from mine, and as with so many of my direct questions, he never answered. Suspicion builds over time with crappy communication like that.
I did get one final message back from the guy: “This goes without saying but since I had a death in the family which I am now out of town for that definitely takes priority over you and since apparently according to you my actions had made it to where we both have lost a lot of respect for each other then I see no point in continuing talking. Best of luck to you.”
My ex and my sis have been following my progress with this guy a little more than anybody else in my life, and they had slightly different takes on the situation. My ex, who has a more jaded mindset, insists that the Backpacker was lying in his last message and says I was right to call him out on acting like a jerk. I too have my doubts about the family death story, but in the end I went with my sister’s more level-headed advice. I messaged the Backpacker one last time to say I was sorry to have sent an angry message when he was dealing with a loss. I explained how the combo of his sexting and lack of planning effort had made me uneasy, and that his cancelling our date felt like a direct reaction to when I said all the sexting was too much too fast. I apologized for misjudging him and said that it seemed anyway like our communication styles were incompatible. I also wished him the best, and in a nicer tone than he had written to me. And that was that.
I was sad for a while, but the combination of talking to other people, particularly my ex, and then writing this blog post has left me feeling a lot better. The Backpacker may potentially have been a decent guy with lazy communication and planning habits, but those habits made interacting with him a constant struggle. At worst, he was a secretive guy who was unwilling to be honest about who he was and what he was looking for. I am better off without him, even though he is a great kisser who shares my love of long distance hiking.
As one final thought, interactions like this make me less a fan of texting than before. Assuming Backpacker was the least offensive version of the person I have been trying to understand, talking on the phone would have minimized a lot of the frustrating aspects of our communications. And it would have eliminated a lot of misunderstandings when he cancelled on me. Which brings me to my final question – at a time when a lot of people dislike receiving and making phone calls and texting is the normal way to be in touch, how can I go against the trend without coming across as weird? Maybe it is just a matter of self confidence and discretionary use of calling on my part.
Oh. Also…. Another time, I am going to make a better effort, not to hide my frustration with another person, but to spell out my frustration in a less emotional way. My one regret about my conduct with the Backpacker is that I didn’t say to him, “You know, when you do / don’t do ____ I feel hurt because ____.” Had I sent that instead of my angry message, communication might have had a shot at improving. It would have been an invite to more open conversation. My actual message was a pretty solid communication shut-down.