A Third Date on the Fourth of July

Gail: “At least I never refused to go on a second date with a guy, just because I didn’t like his brand of microwave.”
Me: “Yeah. I’ve never known what brand of microwave a guy had after the first date, you whore.”

We’re practically Disney sisters.

I’m never going to live down the number of men I’ve refused a second date, no matter how legit the reason. That being said, Saturday night, on the Fourth of July, I had my second ever third date with Fluid Engineer.

Last I wrote about Fluid Engineer, I had to turn down the opportunity to go out, because of such short notice (as in 12 hours). He was willing to make the drive, but we didn’t have any concrete plans and I didn’t feel like brainstorming for an activity at the, fairly literal, last minute. I had suggested we find something cheap or free to do, because although I think it’s chivalrous for the man to pay, I also don’t think he should have to spend $50 every time he sees me. Knowing that there would be several festivals over the holiday weekend, I suggested we go to one of those.

Over the next week, we texted daily, though not necessarily at length. It was nice, but not overwhelming and he always kept it appropriate. Though he’s never flaked before, I kind of expected him to cancel on me as the holiday neared. Perhaps some last minute family plans would be made and he’d decide he’d rather spend time with his family than getting to know me, as Engineer 114 did. Cautiously, I avoided making family plans of my own and hoped for the best. Ultimately, we decided on the Springfield festival at 5:30.

The date started off a little rocky, when I arrived at the park and Fluid Engineer wasn’t texting back. For a moment, I was certain I’d been stood up again and was frustrated by the idea that I might have to spend my holiday alone with Netflix and some tears. I reminded myself that he’s been meaning to get a new phone and just parked my car and waited, periodically muttering “Dude… fucking text me back.” Finally, his truck pulled up and the explanation was exactly as I’d suspected. His phone had died and he had no way to ask where I was, since the park had three separate entrances.

The festival seemed dead, but Fluid Engineer assured me he’d driven around to the other side and it was quite busy. He was right, but only after we’d walked a mile did I think it might’ve been a good idea to bring the blanket I’d packed with us. I suggested we walk back to get it and was a little worried that he’d be annoyed, even passive aggressively, but he was totally cool with it and we talked and became comfortable with each other again as we walked back. I grabbed some sodas from the backseat and Fluid Engineer very sweetly offered to carry the blanket in the heat. Of course, I didn’t just thank him sincerely… but also made a joke about how I was clearly doing my share by carrying the sodas.

What I wouldn’t give for the superpower to shut up.

Throughout the evening, Fluid Engineer was casually chivalrous. He’d opened the door for me at my car and walked on the street side each time. It didn’t appear to be an effort on his part, just natural, which I appreciate. If I don’t want to pretend to be fucking precious, I don’t want him to put on a front, either. But I truly appreciated all of his little gestures. The live music was insanely loud, so we chose a spot quite a ways out to sit and eat our free watermelon and ice cream. We chatted and eventually I commented that I’d like to get something to eat from one of the food trucks, wondering aloud if they took cards, because I didn’t have any cash. I wasn’t fishing, here. I was genuinely planning to buy my own food. Dinner wasn’t in our plans and I suppose it’s habit to pay for myself. Fluid Engineer, however, assured me that he had cash and he paid for both meals and shared his fried green tomatoes with me.

All was going well and the conversation was really flowing, so naturally, I had to throw a wrench into the works. You see, I’d gone to the restroom while Fluid Engineer got the food, so he hadn’t asked if I wanted a Gatorade, but he did have two of them, so I thought one might be for me.

Me: “So… um… is one of those for me or is this a weird question?”

Subtle, I ain’t.

Fluid Engineer told me more about his family and we laughed and chatted and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Physically, we were still a bit awkward, not wanting to sit too closely or too far away, but it was a… comfortable awkwardness? It wasn’t painful. It was natural getting-to-know-you awkwardness. He mentioned that he’d told a friend about me and that made me all giddy. I talked a little about Gail and my family and he told me more about his. I’d texted Gail earlier… “On another date and he’s still pretty keen.”… only barely catching myself when I almost sent it to Fluid Engineer, the last person I’d texted. Seeing my notifications light up, I knew she might be concerned.

Me: “Hold on. Gail’s making sure you’re not raping me.”
Fluid Engineer: “Did I tell you I had to stop for a [unintelligible word]?”
He has a really thick Texan accent and I was willing to concede that what I could’ve sworn he said couldn’t possibly be the case. I was so certain, had it been our first date, I’d have left.
Me: ::still looking at my phone, hiding my expression:: “What did you just say?”
Fluid Engineer: “I had to stop and buy a [unintelligible word].”
I heard it again. There’s no way he’d say that. That’s completely out of character… especially twice.
Me: ::finally looking at him, to watch as he speaks:: “A what?”
Fluid Engineer: ::clearly confused:: “A charger.”
Mortified, I went back to my phone to respond to Gail.
Fluid Engineer: “What did you think I said?”
Me: ::still looking at phone:: “Not that.” 
Fluid Engineer: “Was it inappropriate?”
Me: “Yup.” ::finally looking at him:: “I thought you said ‘Trojan.'”

Gail: “That would be a really weird thing to say, period. ‘Did I tell you I had to stop for a single condom?'”
Me: “Actually, it would’ve been more like ‘Did I tell you I had to stop for one Durex?'”

Fortunately, Fluid Engineer thought this was hilarious, but didn’t even really tease me about it. The conversation just went back to normal and finally the lights went out for the fireworks show.

Me: “You got that Trojan, now?”

I am such a dork.

After the fireworks ended, we stayed on the blanket talking for the longest time. I was in a dress so I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I was pretty sure there would be a visible bruise on my ass, because there are only so many ways to sit on the ground in a dress. I didn’t want to end things, though, because I was genuinely enjoying Fluid Engineer’s company and I realized this was the first Fourth of July I’d spent with a man since I was married and it had gone so well. We walked back to our cars, him carrying the blanket and walking on the street side again, and stood by my car talking for ages. I don’t think either of us wanted to end things. At one point, I was pretty sure he was going to kiss me, so in my nerves of having only actually kissed two people, I started babbling like an idiot.

Any time on that superpower…

Fluid Engineer settled for putting his arm around me and didn’t push it, but didn’t seem irritated either. When I told my friend Dana, she assured me I was “gonna lose him” because we didn’t “make-out with tongue,” but Fluid Engineer seems to disagree. The fates have aligned and my work schedule has been changed to give me Monday night off, so we’re planning the – unprecedented for Belle – FOURTH DATE.

So, there it is. Over the last month, we’ve been out three times and I’ve yet to convince myself that there is something fundamentally wrong with this man. I actually happen to like him. He’s laid-back, yet quite intelligent. He’s not threatened by my level of education (it’s a thing), nor does he feel the need to belittle my career. He texts often enough that I know he’s truly interested, but not so much that I feel like he’s stroking a lock of my hair as he does it. Despite living an hour away, he’s made every effort to see each other during his limited time off. He seems to want something serious, but doesn’t expect to impregnate me tomorrow. Perhaps most importantly, he seems amused by my humor and awkwardness. So many men on online dating sites talk about how they want someone sweet. I’m a lot of things y’all, but sweet sure ain’t one of them… and this one doesn’t seem to mind. I like him. He’s still pretty keen. He even Facebook friended me and I accepted… another first.

Three and a Half Men: Air Force

The trilogy and a half started with Engineer No. 94. He was nice. The conversation flowed. He didn’t live at home, unlike half the men my age. I was totally willing to overlook the fact that I wasn’t attracted to him, because he looked like my pal Ward, and go on a second date. Then… radio silence.

After two weeks of regular and daily texting, I heard nothing from Engineer No. 94 all weekend. When I did, there was no excuse for the absence and I’d already talked myself out of him. I wasn’t attracted to him and silence is exactly the protocol for completely blowing someone off, when you meet online. If that wasn’t what he’d been doing, then clearly he was playing some kind of game. So, though I tried to get a feel for him again, just… no.

Then, a couple of Sundays ago, I went to church and lunch with my lifelong acquaintance, Andy. We grew up together, as some of the only Catholic kids in town, but never actually spent time alone. It wasn’t so much a date, as catching up with an old friend, but it was wonderful to truly enjoy company with a man, sans pressure. Thank the good Lord it was, because, that evening was my date with Civil Engineer. An hour and a half, five beers (all him), and about 37 insults later, I was done. This wasn’t concealed by my claim that I had to leave to get to bed, because I had to work the next day… even though it was only 7:30.

Meh. He was too drunk to have feelings.

So, that left me with one more date, which had actually been planned when I started this series. His name was Mailman and he lived about an hour away. He seemed eager to meet and we made arrangements for that Saturday evening. We were going to get coffee… until he changed his name to The Flake. The Flake had an emergency come up with a friend and canceled on me, promising to get in touch to reschedule. Fulfilling my commitment to actually try, I messaged him my schedule. He said that would be great, he’d let me know, and…

Sigh. It’s a part of online dating, one with which we’re all familiar. The Flake is the Mellenial version of the man you meet in a bar, who asks for your number and says he’ll call. Perhaps Mailman realized, as did I, that he lived an hour away, was thrilled with the house he’d been restoring, and loved his job; while I lived in Shetland, working for the best library system in the state, a mile from my Gramma, just a few from my best friend, and a few more from my daddy. I’m not going anywhere. Neither was he. Well, then… I guess he shouldn’t have freaking messaged me in the first place.

The plan was to try to get another date before I posted this. If I couldn’t, I was going to open with “That’s right. You’ve been How-I-Met-Your-Mothered, bitches!” Then, came Air Force.

Air Force

I met Air Force on OKCupid. I saw his profile, thought he seemed nice, but he had that whopping flaw: he was in the service. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what these men have done for our country. I do. I just don’t want to be the carry on item, while they do it. It takes a lot to be a military spouse… and I don’t have it. I went to school for seven years to be a librarian. I’m very attached to my family and have just mended some very important relationships. My Gramma is my favorite lady and Gaily and I have been conjoined since the 9th grade. I’m. Not. Leaving. So why bother starting something?

I imagine Air Force realized this would be a concern to women, because his first message explained that he’s ready to settle down and lucky to have a position where he can stay for as long as he likes. At this news, I figured, why not? He didn’t open like this…

online dating convo ew
That’s right. It’s a friggin screencap, because that happened. 

I figured I’d see where it led. So, we had the normal online dating conversations. By that I mean…

Air Force: The last book I read wasn’t anything impressive. There’s nothing wrong with a little light reading, though.
– He’s nervous. Librarians might be literature snobs, who only read classics. –
Me: One time, I read this paranormal romance novel about a dragon shapeshifter, who falls in love with a unicorn shapeshifter.

Air Force: I have a bit of a nerdy side. Do you have a limit on that?
Me: I just told you about my dragon meets unicorn paranormal romance book. So not really.

dragon bound
Print this off, for your First Date Conversation Cards.

So, after a couple of days, Air Force gave me his number and told me I could text him. How very confident and decisive of him… and how very unfortunate that I had to give the lamest (albeit true) excuse: I don’t have a phone. You see, my Samsung Galaxy S 3 completely died on me Friday night, right around the time Air Force wanted to start texting. I had already ordered the Galaxy S 5 when it happened and was stuck with a Go Phone/carrier pigeon/smoke signals until it arrived. Fortunately, Air Force didn’t take this as the brushoff and we continued to message online. Eventually, he asked to meet. I expected the usual “I don’t care. What do you want to do?” crap, when he asked what kind of food I liked. I told him sushi, because I gave up meat for Lent.

Air Force: “Is Wasabi good?”  Shetland’s sushi restaurant –
Me: “The food is great. The service is meh.”
Air Force: “Alright. Would you like to meet there Thursday at 6:30?”

I shit you not. The man actually just named a time and place, instead of forcing the back and forth “What time is good for you? Where do you want to meet?” nonsense. He was polite enough to ask what I like and enough of a man to make a freaking decision. Furthermore, Wasabi is nowhere near him. He chose Wasabi, strictly because it’s in Shetland and so am I. He didn’t demand I meet him in the middle. He came to me.

So, I went all out. I figure, even if I’m only cautiously optimistic about a man, it’s a waste of both of our time if I don’t put in effort and vice versa. I donned my cowboy boots, the cute $5 dress I bought at Goodwill with Gail a few months ago, and my new jean jacket. I did my hair and full makeup, with the brown eyeliner that makes my eyes look eerily green and headed out.

On the way, I got a text message asking me to let Air Force know when I arrived. Rather than just wanting to know when to look up from his phone, when I texted, Air Force actually came out to the parking lot to meet me. He opened the door for me and directed me to the table, where he already had menus for us. He was patient while I decided what to order and after the orders were taken, we talked… and it was great. The conversation flowed. He was nice looking and certainly didn’t look like Ward. He was clearly into his job and talked about the countries he’d visited and the cultures he’d experienced. I not subtly mentioned that I was divorced and he seemed cool with it. I, of course, rambled like a moron at times…

Air Force: “I lived in Virginia for awhile. That was nice.”
Me: “I’ve never been further east than Arkansas. It looked beautiful in Hocus Pocus.

Air Force had plenty to say, though, including offering dessert. We talked and ate for over an hour and a half. After he paid, on the way to our cars, he asked…

Air Force: “Have you seen Captain America yet?”
Me: “No, but I was just talking to a coworker about how it looked good.”
Air Force: “Would you like to go?”
Me: “Tonight?”
Air Force: “Well, no. This weekend.”

He just asked, y’all. There was no…

Does he like me? Do I even like him enough to want him to like me?

He didn’t ignore me for a few days to seem aloof. He didn’t make vague “let’s do it again, sometime” plans. I texted him when I got home…

Me: Thank you again for dinner. I had a really nice time.
Air Force: I enjoyed your company. I will look at the weekend movie schedule for Captain America. Do you have any conflicts?

Again, he just made plans. He asked if a time didn’t work for me and then chose the Springfield theater, just north of Shetland, because it’s closer for me. A man mastered the gentlemanly formality that came off stilted and awkward when Geologist called me “enchanting.” So there you go. There’s actually a second date happening.

Air Force: How does noon on Saturday, in Springfield sound? Then a late lunch?
Me: That sounds great. Springfield has lots of good lunch places.
Me: Or restaurants, as they’re more commonly called.