Monday, October 7, 2013

Romance Slow Down

The last time Old Flame came to visit, we had such a lovely time. He picked me up at work and it was admittedly a little awkward at first. He gave me a kiss when I first got in the car, which felt strange since we were right outside my work. Not that I minded, I just couldn't really be physically affectionate in return. So when we parked in front of my building, I paused by the trunk of the car to give him another opportunity to initiate affection. This time, it seemed like he was the one that wasn't in the moment -- he dropped a peck on my lips but his attention was clearly focused on getting his luggage inside. No matter.

We went inside and were immediately consumed by playing with Calliope and Eleanor. I found it hard to look at him while I played with them. It's just that he and Calliope are from such different parts of my life. He is from my out of state party weekends. And she, of course, is keeper of my heart. But not, necessarily, 100% of attention.

He seemed to enjoy playing with them, though he's clearly attuned to playing with his six year old daughter, not two year olds. He was pointing out the words on the page as he read to them, and even spelled out a work. Calliope, especially, quickly bored of his slow pace and crawled away. For the next book, the girls brought it to me so that he didn't have a chance to read to them.

After about thirty minutes, Eleanor's mother and grandmother arrived, as well as our new-ish babysitter, Catherine. Old Flame and fooled around with my banjo for a while -- Calliope had considerately "re-tuned" it when I foolishly left the banjo on her bedroom floor for a few minutes. Silly me, I hadn't heard any strumming so I assumed she had ignored the fascinating musical instrument lying within reach. I won't make that mistake again.

Eventually we gave up on tuning the banjo and left. We enjoyed a long but beautiful fall walk to a new restaurant I'd been wanting to try. I carefully kept my hands jammed in my pockets. It was easier to pre-empt any possibility of hand holding than to reach for his hand and feel rejected if he got tired of holding it. It's possible that this is not an entirely healthy approach to relationships.

The restaurant was a charming little French bistro with candles and and music playing softly, and swilling a glass of red wine loosened me up nicely. The conversation flowed wonderfully and there was lots of laughing, and on my part, some blushing, too. Especially when he cupped his hands around his lips and mouthed "you're awesome."

Following a lovely moonlit streetlight illuminated walk home through the fall air, I paid the babysitter and sent her on her way. As he stretched out his arms to me, I felt a sort of shock. I had forgotten that with all the conversation, there was also another element to our relationship. Despite the flirting, the physical element wasn't on my mind.

After an exciting trip to the kitchen for some creative (and rewarding) physical endeavors, with his arms around me, he asked, "Do you remember what I told you in August?" (When, as I was boarding a bus to come home, he rushed out of the bus station to say, "I love you, you know." I had wordlessly smiled and waved goodbye.)

I nodded.

"What did I say?"

I wordlessly buried my face in his chest and shook my head as I leaned against him.

"I still feel that way."

A pause as I thought about how to respond. And then I said, "Look, I like you to. I've always had feelings for you. Since I met you seven years ago. But I'm scared of getting hurt. Scared of this being about Her, and your daughter. I don't want to be your rebound girl."

"All I meant is that I really like you."

"Oh. Okay. Did that sound stupid, what I just said? Did I read too much into what you said?"

"No, that makes sense. I understand what you said. You should feel able to say whatever is on your mind."

"Well cool. In that case. Can you do me a favor? If you say you're going to call, or I ask you to call by a certain time, can you make sure to call? Or else text me to let me know that you can't call? You don't have to give me a reason. Just tell me that something came up."

"Sure. You need that, eh?"

"Yeah, I do. I'm a planner. I just need to know what's happening or else I get stressed out."


From there we went into my bedroom and further enjoyable activities ensued. We enjoyed a cozy, if somewhat sleepless night together (I don't sleep well with another person in my bed) before he got up at 4:30 am and left at 5:30 am to get on the road to Connecticut.

After that conversation, and enjoying our visit together so much, I started to have very intimate feelings for him. Started to think about using "the L word" (the other L word), even. We texted and emailed a couple times over the next few days. Initiated by me. By Thursday, three days after our visit, I wanted to talk to him again, to maintain that intimate feeling that I had had on Monday.

He sent a text message first, so I texted back "Are you free to talk?"

A few minutes later he wrote, "Not now. About to read stories [with his daughter -- he had gotten home to her that night]."

Ninety minutes (or so) later, he wrote back, "she's almost ready to sleep. Can you talk tomorrow afternoon?"

I responded, "Sure. Between 3-4 pm is good for me."

I went to sleep, a little disappointed but not overly worried about it.

He never called the next afternoon. By 4 pm, I was seething. I knew he was leaving that afternoon for a camping trip with his daughter and a group of friends (indeed, he had invited Calliope and me along... I demurred. I'm nowhere near ready to meet his daughter.) So I knew I likely wouldn't hear from him all weekend.

It was even slightly worse than that. I didn't hear from him until Monday evening. When he texted to ask if I was home and free to talk.

Turns out he was with his daughter through Sunday night, and left very early Monday morning.

But still, he could've sent me a text on Friday afternoon. Or on Sunday, when he returned from camping. Or at any point during the camping trip, if there was service there.

I had explained that it was important to me. And he apparently didn't care. And he didn't even apologize or acknowledge the missed phone date.

I was angry over the weekend, but by Monday, I was over it. And over him. I can't be invested in a person that can't be considerate enough to send a short text message to cancel our phone date.

But then I talked to my two close girlfriends that know him, and know me very, very well. And they both asked, "can't you just chill out? and just enjoy sex without strings attached?"

And after talking to them, I realized that yes, I thought I could.

And so that is where I am. Trying to just enjoy the occasional opportunity for sex and companionship. Without thinking about the future. Without worrying about how we would combine our families, or if he would be willing to move to NYC versus my moving to DC, worrying about how Calliope would be impacted. I'm just here, in the present.

Wishing it was Friday already because I'm ready for some more extracurricular activities.

And happy, again.

And for the record, he texted me on Friday and asked me to call, and I did, once I finally finished what I was doing and got around to checking my text messages. And we had a nice chat, but I was reserved. Though friendly.

And now my brother has just met someone that he says is amazing. That sounds like "The One." Who is a single mom, and has a young son. And I'm a little wistful. Because letting my heart open up a crack has made me realize that, in an ideal world, it could be nice to have a partner. But in the real world, I've realized that opening my heart up only makes me vulnerable.


  1. Oh, all of this sounds so, so familiar! For the record I don't think it's within most women's capabilities to enjoy "just sex". That's a guy thing. We need to know where this is going, if there's a chance we might get married someday, how he feels, is this love, etc. So you're not crazy for wanting more than just some casual encounters. I think if women ever do have casual encounters it's with someone they're not really that crazy about but they figure they might as well kill some time until the real one comes along.

  2. I think being reserved is fine and probably good. He probably has a lot he still needs to work through and sort out for himself. I know its hard to not wonder where things are going and wanting to have some idea of what the future might be. I'd focus on your life in NYC and with Calliope and when he's there or your together enjoy and then gradually see where he fits into YOUR life instead of trying to fit into his.

  3. Just my opinion, but I don't think you are going to have to worry about this relationship for long. Control much???

  4. Just from my own experience...sometimes relationships that start slow and rocky end up fabulous. The love of my life didn't come along until my son was 11 and honestly he was supposed to be a "summer thing" just a fun, physical, no strings summer thing. 6 years later and plenty of reserved conversations and "I don't want a "real" relationship" ups and downs (all me) and we're happily going strong. He hung in there with me and let me be as distant or close as I was comfortable with and I love him all the more for that. If you really think he could be "the one" give him space and time, don't be a doormat, but don't be "my way or the highway" either. It sounds like he has a ton to still work out in his life. If nothing else be his friend and enjoy the extra curricular activities ;-) Can't go wrong there...