Heart and Brain

I love this comic. I hope you do, too, because it is awesome. 

My heart and brain are currently having the following discussion:

Heart: I miss the Backpacker. Maybe if I didn’t send him that angry text he would have apologized for cancelling our date last-minute by actually giving a reason. And maybe he would have gotten better at communication if I was clearer in my communication needs. And then we could have had great sex and also maybe become adventuring buddies.

Brain: He was a terrible communicator and he was not making an effort to see you.

Heart: He had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail! He knew about the 5 lb pancake challenge in Seiad Valley. He likes hiking off trail and he packrafts and has a beautiful, oversized dog he takes backpacking! He kissed my hand when he was holding it on our last hike. And he cupped my face in his hand when he kissed me. It was the best kiss ever.

Brain: You don’t need him. There are other guys out there who would treat you better.

Heart: But…

Brain: Here. Open up your Tinder app. See if there is somebody else you might like.

Heart: Hey, swiping is fun…

Heart: None of these guys seems as great as the Backpacker.

Brain: Oh, Heart… Come on. Let’s go get the laundry out of the dryer.

Heart: I have to get up? And shoes?

Brain: Yes. You will like it. 

Heart: I dunno… But can I eat some cheese from the fridge now? And oatmeal. Can I have some sugary oatmeal since we are out of interesting food?

Brain: *Sigh.* Go for it.

That’s the end of that

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.

Actually

So, the Backpacker did arrange to meet up with me after all. The slow communication has been in part due to his field work and having to camp for his job. As to the rest, well, I decided to take a chance on him and it was actually a really nice date. He seems like a very interesting person and I really like him. Too tired at the moment to write much else, but you know that giddy feeling when you have a crush on somebody and find out they like you back? Yeah, that. Throw in a kid and a difficult schedule and it gets more complicated, but for now I will gladly take the giddiness of meeting somebody new and hitting it off.

Conversations today with my inadvertant texting penpal…

Backpacker: You haven’t been very talkative this week
Me: Yeah… Things have been busy – I’m sure you know how that goes. I’m getting ready for my first teaching exam next month, I applied for a new job and have an interview next week, and my ex is out of country for a major surgery right now, meaning I really am parenting solo for the next 30-60 days. Not complaining… That’s just the lineup right now.

I have enjoyed our conversations. Writing is a comfortable space for me, but I’m not big on texting, at least not by itself. I think writing is a great way to relate to people, but the only way to actually know them is face-to-face. No pressure, because I really do understand being busy and choosing priorities. For me my priority with my limited free time is getting out with friends, and maybe expanding my social circle or exploring other options by meeting the random interesting stranger.

Ha, that was probably a more in-depth answer than you were really looking for.

Unspoken subtext: Dude! I’ve asked you out like 3 times already. Most girls don’t do the asking at all. Either meet up with me or stop texting already! It’s been 2 weeks.

The Toddler Test – Day 3

I signed a new apartment lease today. It is the first time in my 30+ years that I have been on a lease entirely by myself. It will be only the second year in my life that I have lived alone… Well, I say alone. Just me and the kiddo.

Backpacker messaged me out of the blue today after several days of radio silence. We had talked about potentially getting coffee next weekend, but just like last weekend when he had said he might be able to manage something on Sunday and then never got back to me, I highly suspect next weekend is not going to happen, either. Today he simply asked me “how are you” and talked about the icy roads. And then back to silence. I am a little annoyed. And yet I still would be excited to meet him. *Sigh.* Ugh.

“Write them a lovely message”

This is the last weekend for the next 1 – 2 months that I will be kid-free. My ex goes to Thailand for major surgery in about a week and will be gone for a month. When she returns, it is very uncertain just how soon she will be recovered enough to help with childcare.

I knew this was coming. It was not a not a big deal because I love the toddler, but it is a sad thing to be losing all my free nights. There are so many things aside from parenting that I want to do. Meet friends and develop new friendships. Have dates. Study for my teaching exams. The time crunch of life is very real when you have a young child. At least I can be thankful that my ex is a part of the picture with our kiddo. I know people who don’t have that.

Speaking of dating… I have been using OkCupid for some time now, but I also signed up for Tinder recently, and it has been interesting to compare the apps. There is more activity and more people on Tinder, but I feel a little more overwhelmed by message volume there. To be clear, I do not have a ton of matches (I stopped swiping), but of the 5 or so I have maybe 4 sent me a short “hi.” Sometimes even a more thoughtful note. But between that app and OKC it is just too many potentially interesting people to communicate with, and I can see why lots of people are flaky messagers: it is too much work to make small talk introductions with a never-ending influx of new people when you are talking to more than one or two at a time. I prefer to keep my convos limited to just a couple guys at once tops, or better yet, only one at a time. It gives me the space to feel interested in the conversation and allows me to make a judgement without falling prey to the Grass is Greener sickness. Maybe my method will change over time. Right now I am establishing basic practices…. Like, I will start or attempt to jumpstart a convo with somebody new (even if they sent a lazy “hey” my direction — as long as their profile has something interesting that I think might make them worth knowing). If, after the first few exchanges, they don’t seem to be holding their end of the conversation and really engaging, I break contact. They can message me more if they are really interested, and then maybe we will talk. But I have had some choppy conversations because of this pervasive distractedness that exists online. 

Thus far the really interesting conversations I have had have come from OKC. There is a guy I am interested in right now who I have been communicating with for maybe half a week now. I noticed him first because his profile photo was a pair of boots by a campfire by a river. No face, just scenery. And next to the endless abs pics on the site, I really appreciated that notion. It was in fact the kind of photo I tried to post when I first joined OKC, but I think somebody reported me and my picture got blocked for not including my face. Anyway. I figured here was a guy who was outdoorsy, had a decent chance of being fit, and any other concerns regarding his looks seemed less important. He had a decent profile with no red flags. I sent him a message asking him what river he was camped by in the photo, and I shared a random misadventure story from one of my previous river trips. He responded, and we really seemed to click. The one thing I have to say about Coffee Guy (see previous posts) is that he was athletic, but he was not a dedicated hiker. This new guy, let’s call him The Backpacker, is just that. And he packrafts, something I also have experience in. Talking to The Backpacker made me realize just how much more fluid conversation can be when you can share similar stories with another person. Bushwhacking, gear talk, getting lost… He gets all that. The Backpacker said he took his actual picture off OKC because he got lots of messages from people but that they had nothing in common with him. After he and I had been talking for a day or so he changed his profile photo to show his face… And it was a nice face. The only problem I see right now with The Backpacker is that he seems in no hurry to meet. He has mentioned things we might do when we meet (not sexual, just to clarify), but when I suggested he come on a hike I was hosting through a local Meetup group he couldn’t come, and he has not suggested an alternative. I have zero problem asking a guy out online, but this is one I think I need to wait a little on. Not super long… But I need to sit back and watch for another day or two. If he doesn’t make a move I will likely say, “Hey, I’ve enjoyed our convos and you seem like somebody I would want to meet in real life. Do you wanna get a beer or coffee sometime?” And based on that response, it will either move forward or it won’t. I hope it does.

The final thing I wanted to say was how surprised I have been to discover that it is easy to feel attracted to different guys within a short span of time. I have always been a slow (think glacial) mover with romance related stuff, not the kind of girl to have my eyes looking in more than one direction at once. This newfound flexibility, if you will, is really thrilling. And maybe a little dangerous. So far I like it.

Update:

Hey, look at that! A little progress.