I had a dream wedding.

Just as there has never been a wife more certain of her choice in husband, there has never been a bride less certain of her choice to have a wedding… because I knew what planning a wedding entailed… and I was not wrong. Folks, I spent at least a month straight running errands during every spare moment. I got off work and hit the mall for ties or underwear or wedding makeup. I woke up on the weekends and ran to grab supplies to make boot bracelets for my bridesmaids or to buy a dress for the rehearsal dinner or to pick up gifts for the groomsmen. I worked the day of my own bachelorette party, running home on my lunch break to take care of the dog, so I could have ample time to make some fucking memories. I ran errands before and after my own bridal shower. I did all of this right after relocating to a new city and in the middle of developing my massive Free Comic Book Day program at work, solo, knowing I couldn’t be there, because it was on my wedding day. Planning my wedding was somehow more exhausting than I always knew it would be, and that is saying something.


I’m not even going to pretend that I handled the whole thing with grace and poise, y’all. In fact, Jake had never seen Angry Belle until Easter Sunday. 

::cue musical score from Jaws::

You see, Mrs. Granger is a really sweet woman, who just doesn’t fully consider what other people are going through… particularly when planning a wedding, because she was married in Vegas a thousand years ago. Like her son, she has an opinion on everything and isn’t afraid to voice it, as she did four months ago when she told us that she didn’t like weddings and didn’t even understand why we were having one. Alrighty. I actually agreed with that and took no offense. Still, I figured she’d want to see the groomsmen’s vests and Jake’s jacket over Easter Sunday, so I had him bring them along to make her feel included.

Now, in hindsight, I think Mrs. Granger is just stubborn like her son and made a “my way or the highway” claim, when she realized we weren’t getting married in a church, without thinking it through. If we weren’t going to do things the way she wanted, she just wasn’t getting involved. Then she realized, three weeks out, that her baby was getting married and she’d had little part in the planning. Sooooo, upon seeing the $40 jacket we’d chosen, she figured she would offer to buy Jake a nicer jacket for his wedding, as a caring gesture and a way to make her mark on the ceremony, not realizing that this would throw a wrench in the wardrobe of the entire wedding party. Fair enough, because apparently Jake didn’t realize it either and didn’t immediately shut the idea down, nineteen days before our wedding. I understand… in hindsight. 

Me: “Are you fucking kidding me?!? I had you show your jacket and the vests to her, so she could feel included, because I wanted to be nice, and her response was to veto them?!?!”
Jake: “I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like the jacket. She just wanted to do something nice.”
Me: “Then how about she shut the fuck up?!? Literally every single comment anyone in your family has made has been negative! They don’t like that we aren’t getting married in a church, that we’re taking the pictures beforehand, that we’re paying for it ourselves, that it’s the day of the Kentucky Derby even though they blacked out every other weekend, and now your mother wants to change the wardrobe three weeks out and you said you’d think about it?!?!?” 
Jake: “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Me: “OF COURSE YOU DIDN’TI HAVE DONE EVERY BIT OF WEDDING PLANNING ALONE! Do you have any idea how hard it is, how much it hurts, to do this without a mom to help me and then listen to everyone tell me how much it all sucks?!? You had to have your Pretty Pretty Princess Party and you have done jack shit to make it happen and all I’ve gotten is criticism! YOUR FAMILY HATES ME!”
Jake: “They don’t hate you. That’s just… how they are. They have an opinion on everything. I’ll tell my mom the wardrobe has been decided and that’s it.”
Me: “Then she’ll know told you to say that! FUCK IT! You can wear a fucking clown suit for all I care, because I’m not going! I hope you and your mother have a beautiful ceremony for two! Just let me know how many kids we’re having!!!!”


I kid you not, I cried in the floor of my closet, tearing a layer of tulle out of my wedding dress, with a seam ripper, because I just did not have time to have a mental breakdown, without continuing to be productive. I cried for two hours, because I was so physically and mentally exhausted by planning a wedding I didn’t even want. As little as he actually did for this wedding, though, I have to give Jake some credit. He let me have my inevitable breakdown, despite how out of character such utter rage might have been. When he knocked on the closet door to see if I was okay and I screamed at him to leave me alone, he left. When I came out and lay on the bed and cried, he lay beside me and held me.

Jake: “If I’d known this would be so hard on you, I never would’ve done it.”
Me: “How could you not? The wedding is three weeks away and I just spent every night this week getting vests and ties and shirts for your groomsmen, to match the jacket we chose together. I would’ve let her dress all of the guys four months ago. It would’ve been nice to have some help, but it’s too late now.”
Jake: “I didn’t mean that. I meant the wedding in general.”
Me: “If only I’d said verbatim that I hate weddings, because they’re expensive and exhausting and miserable for the bride, who doesn’t even get to enjoy the day… oh, wait… I said that on our first date.” 


I’m not going to say this was my proudest moment, but I’m also going to forgive myself for it. I had one genuine breakdown as a direct result of planning this wedding in six months, without help (and I’m still the one who suggested the compromise of letting Mrs. Granger buy Jake dress boots). Those six months included Jake’s unemployment and frequent work in another state, my hour long commute to my new job, a move to a new city, and major structural changes within said job. While I’m not one to excuse the stereotypical bridezilla, I am willing to concede to the idea that everybody gets one. In my case, I directed that one at exactly the right person for a limited and precise amount of time and then I moved down the ever-lengthening to-do list, up until one day before the rehearsal dinner… and it was all worth it.

You know, if you marry a man from a rodeo family, this really should be mandatory.

Okay, okay. “Worth it” might be a weighty phrase, so soon after The Great Jacket Debacle of 2017, but I can say, without a doubt, that Jake and I had the perfect wedding. Thursday night, when I got home from another trip to the mall, after work, I was lost. I had nothing left to do. I’d already picked up my dress, done the iron-ons for the bridesmaids shirts, finished their boot bracelets, packed my bag for Saturday, ordered Gail’s vegan cupcakes so she could eat cake with us, cleaned the house so it would look nice when my bridesmaids slept over the next evening and, I was… done. How was I done?!?! For the previous month, I hadn’t had a moment to spare and now I was free?!? Could it be that all that racing around and my growing resentment toward Jake for being unable to help with anything beyond writing checks had actually paid off?!?! Could I enjoy getting married?!?!


The next morning, Jake and I woke early to get our marriage license before the 9:00 a.m. rehearsal. I made us late and for a moment, I thought I’d thrown a wrench into all of my plans for the day, because when we got to the Court Clerk’s office, there were three couples ahead of us. After fifteen minutes, we realized there was just no way to get the license and make it back to Jackson in time, so we left and hoped there wouldn’t be too long of a wait when we returned.

After speeding through our rehearsal, we made it back just in time. Only fifteen minutes later, we left with our marriage license, as literally 10 people walked through the door. I was free to take my bridesmaids to brunch, hit the mall to see the new nerd-themed store and get my ring cleaned, followed by group manicures and pedicures and even a trip to the liquor store. When Jake’s parents insisted we open our thousand dollar grill together (told you I was marrying a Windsor), I didn’t have to rush to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner afterward. My bridesmaids and I were even the first to arrive, after my dad and step-mom, Lena (who paid for and coordinated the whole thing out of kindness and not stupid obligatory traditions). I am pretty sure we found some kind of wormhole, y’all, because nothing went wrong or had to be dropped from the list. We even had time, after the rehearsal dinner, to watch the episode of Black Mirror, where the maid-of-honor goes crazy: my dream ending.

The next day went just as smoothly. While we were running a bit late from coffee and donuts, since the Jackson venue was only 15 minutes from my house in Cherokee, we had few worries. We arrived in plenty of time to put together centerpieces with the decor from the venue closet, since the tables, padded folding chairs, and linens were already set up by staff. We ran to the city to pick up Gail’s cupcakes and grabbed lunch to-go from the food court at the mall. Still, we had plenty of time to giggle as we squeezed into our spanks and Laura did my makeup. We chugged (but in a delicate, ladylike way) our free mimosas, while my cousin did my hair.

Finally, it was time for Jake and I to do our first look photos. It was a perfect, cloudless, still day, just a touch too warm when we first got started. Jake and I giggled through our photos, with no objection from the photographer I found through work. As we headed toward our families, his 7-year-old niece, Lucy, came barreling up to us.

Lucy: “UNCLE JAKE!!! You know how you talked about me being a flower girl!?!?”
Jake: “You mean when you said you didn’t want to, because you were a tomboy?”
Lucy: “Yeah. I want to now.”
Jake: “Well, did ya bring any flowers?”
Lucy: “No.”
Me: “Don’t worry, Lucy. We’ll find you some flowers. You find one of my friends in a pretty bright dress and they’ll get you some flowers. You can’t throw them, but you can walk in front of us and show everyone how pretty you look, okay?”
Lucy: “Okay. Where are your friends?”

I’m pretty sure my impromptu flower girl was carrying faux flowers from a vase inside the venue owner’s home, but she sure was happy to do it. The pictures went quickly and before I knew it, I found myself hiding in the bridal suite, taking a shot from my cousin to calm my nerves. We all gathered in the groom’s suite, half of us in one room being coached by our wonderful drill sergeant coordinator/venue operator, the other half of us taking shots behind a closed door. As my dad passed around some kind of mentholated liquor, my step-mom Lena stuck her head inside and snapped:

Lena: “Seriously? Give me a drink of that!”

Before I knew it, my dad was walking me out.


Dad: “You did good this time. You picked a good one.”
Me: “I really did. It means a lot for you to say that.”
Dad: “I like him even more now that he’s got a job.”

Because that, too, fell into place just in time. A month ago, I found a listing for a wastewater treatment worker position for the city of Cherokee. Jake wants to build a career in his major, hydrology, and was excited to start from the bottom, especially considering they agreed to let him off for the wedding and honeymoon.

As my friends walked down the aisle one by one, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I thanked God for bringing me here. I was once so miserable in my life. How could it be that I got everything I ever wanted? My dad’s arm in mine, I walked down an aisle of people excited for me. No one passed bets on how long it would last. No hidden feuds were being quelled for my sake. My friends, Jake’s, and both our families were just happy for us and I thought:

This is exactly as it’s supposed to be. It was all worth it.

My dad gave me away and it was less gross and antiquated than I thought, knowing he approved. Jake and I took hands as one of his best friends, a youth minister, started the ceremony, which included just the right amount of humor, with such gems as:

Jason: “Now, Jake… he’s smarter than he looks.”

Jason read Ephesians 22-33, as I requested. I felt a bit apprehensive for a moment, knowing all my liberal library pals were in the crowd, but finally decided it was my party and I could be archaic if I wanted. I held Jake’s hands and looked into his blue eyes and thought he looked so handsome, even though I once swore I’d never date a redhead/anyone shorter than 5’10″/an oil man. He’s absolutely perfect for me.

We didn’t read our own vows, but Jason had asked us to list three reasons we fell in love with the other. He read Jake’s, cleaning up the language to say I countered his smart aleck attitude, that I had a deeply rooted faith, and that I made him a better man. He chose to read mine verbatim, which I did not realize he’d do when I wrote it.

“I was asked for reasons I fell in love with Jake, but those all seem too generic, like his work ethic and his patience and his intellect. I didn’t just fall in love the one time, but multiple times. I fell in love with him the first time I was truly upset with him and he apologized and kept his promise not to make the same mistake. I fell in love the day I thought the dog was choking, but it was really just Jake cuddling him and cooing at him like a baby. I fell in love when he introduced me to his friends and I realized that I wasn’t alone in my affection for him. I fell in love when I hit my head skiing and he held me while I cried.

I guess I can’t give a handful of reasons why I fell in love with him, because I keep doing it. I even love that his answer to this question is going to be lame and vague, because he’s bad with words.”

We spoke the traditional vows and traded rings and I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. We walked down the aisle to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, because we had the best DJ, who took liberties when I told him I did not care what music he played during the ceremony.


We took pictures with our wedding party and I had another cliche screaming girl moment with Jane, even though we’d done the same thing when we’d run into each other at the mall. Jake and I had our first dance and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jake was such a great dancer… because he refused to practice with me and I am not a great dancer. This was especially difficult to hide when Jake elbowed me in the head trying to spin me.

Me: “No one told me this was going to involve sports!”

My mortification only increased when I danced with my father, who kept telling me when to step and then loudly instructing me to quit leading when I did as told, as Lena stood to the side giving me looks of pity. My first dances were easily the worst part of the day. In fact, I’m pretty sure purgatory for me is dancing at my own wedding.


Pictured: Jake and some other, more graceful woman.

Jake danced with his mother and I let her believe that he chose the song. We ate and poor Gail gave a brief, but sweet speech, about how she’s loved me for many years; that she’s loved Jake ever since she realized how much he cared for me and that he can match and counter me when I name and dress up the stuffed deer head on his all. Aaron, Jake’s best friend, gave a speech of all the reasons Jake is his worst best friend. Of course this means my family now knows that my new husband vomited all over his best friend’s honeymoon suite the night before his wedding and then cleaned it up with the shirt he was supposed to wear the next day. Jason shared an equally disgusting, yet far more endearing story about Jake wearing a dead snake in his hat during a camping trip, until it started to smell. When Jason kindly mentioned this, Jake responded in true Jake fashion “It’ll be a’right.”

Jason: “So Belle, whenever times get tough, just remember ‘it’ll be a’right.'”

The rest of the night was spent laughing with family and friends, eating our beautiful lemon naked cake, made by my aunt and occasionally dancing. We drank from the cash bar and made s’mores by the fire, while our guests played horseshoes, jumbo Jenga, and cornhole and filled up on tacos and cake. While we do have enough leftover meat in our freezer to eat for a month, our to-go dessert boxes were genius, because we only left with the top tier of our cake and a few cupcakes.

As the night wound down and only our closest friends and family remained, everyone danced, with my dad and Lena stealing the show. I suffered a brief respite, throwing up in the bathroom, after realizing I’d had too much and that if I didn’t make it happen, my body would. Lena and I had a sweet, drunken heart to heart where she declared she thought of me as one of her own and if I ever needed her, I just needed to let her know. This had been proven throughout the night when she, quite soberly, introduced herself as my mother. As the venue closed, our friends gathered our things into their cars and Jake and I rode separately to our house in Cherokee. Fortunately this meant Jake missed his chance to watch me drunkenly lick and dig into the top of our cake with my bare hands, because I am a dainty little lady.


Our friends brought our things into the garage and Laura fed our pets. We helped each other out of our wedding clothes and into our own bed, where we spent an inebriated and chaste first night as husband and wife.

I never expected to enjoy my wedding day. I assumed it would pass in a blur of stress and frustration and drama. Instead, we had the best day. Now that it’s all behind me, I can say that I’m thrilled to have celebrated my real marriage with a real wedding.  I’d live it over and over again… just not if I had to relive the prep.


Click here for a throwback to my first dates with Jake.

Normal: I Never Thought I Would Be Here

In a country where divorce has become an inevitability, it’s no surprise that, as a society, we’re pretty damned reluctant to admit how much it screws us all up. As a divorcee, with divorced parents, I’m not throwing stones, here. My childhood, though, like that of half of North America, is split into two points: before the divorce and after the divorce.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have no illusions that my life would have been improved by my parents staying together. Those two… it was like if Archie Bunker of All in the Family had married Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery. Sure, there were times when they were good together… or more accurately good separately, but zetus lapetus, all I remember after age seven was hate and insanity. The most obnoxious thread in any divorce discussion is the erroneous claim that these marriages shouldn’t have ended. Had my parents not been allowed to part, I’d have been orphaned in a murder/suicide by age twelve. I’m not really exaggerating. Despite divorce sometimes being the best option, however, that doesn’t mean those involved aren’t damaged from it.

3ed6673b748b2e9208e960af20a81decI literally cannot watch this movie, because she reminds me of my mother.

Before my parents divorced, I was… normal, for lack of a better word. I was ornery and a bit bossier than the other kids in my class, but I didn’t get in a lot of trouble at school or home. I never wore the cutest clothes or the most complicated hairstyles, but I was dressed in clean and matching outfits and I fit in with the other kids, well enough. Then, everything changed and I was too young to understand why. The other kids didn’t like me, because no one was making sure I was bathing or brushing my teeth. I was putting on weight, so I grew defensive and mean. I got in trouble constantly, because I acted out in class, wishing more than anything that I could be the petite teacher’s pet or the cute blonde girl who was good at sports. I was the smelly, chubby kid, who was always sitting out at recess for one reason or another. Of course, at age eight, I didn’t understand that this was the direct result of my parents’ distraction during their divorce. I thought something was wrong with me.


I get it, y’all. I don’t hold a grudge for any of this. If anyone understands the consequences of choosing the wrong person, it’s me. My parents tried… mostly… sometimes? Regardless, I still had my Gramma, food in the fridge, and plenty of material wants provided by said Gramma. I’m not typing this while weeping over Sarah McLachlan’s Angel (or I wasn’t until I got the craving to listen to that song… fucking emotions). What I didn’t have, however, what affected me most deeply, was the sense of normalcy I enjoyed for the first seven years of my life. I’m not being dramatic when I tell you that I never got that sense of belonging back, even after the dust settled.

I started showering, wearing deodorant, brushing my hair… but those formative years of being outcast and bullied, set a precedent. If I wasn’t going to fit in, it would be because I chose exclusion. I eventually made friends, many of whom were equally defensive, and gained a sense of inclusion from the refusal to conform, but it wasn’t the same as feeling truly accepted, even if my friends or those looking in saw no difference. With a still unstable home life, it’s no surprise that I clung to a true outcast, mistaking him for a kindred spirit, instead of a man who was being rejected for having no good in him. I married him at 19 and I have never felt more alone. If being chubby and unwashed and bad at sports made me feel excluded at age 10, being morbidly obese and plain and married to a sociopath at age 20 made me feel like Will Smith in I am Legend. Like, literally, I had the dog. That’s it.


Y’all, I never thought I would be here. After Gail’s and my shockingly similar divorces, I was pretty convinced that all of the “happy” people were… lying. I don’t mean that in some catty way, mocking the Facebook statuses and family newsletters, so much as I mean that I never witnessed true happiness. I assumed the people complaining about their relationships on Facebook were being tacky and the ones who weren’t just knew better than to air their dirty laundry in public. I didn’t want everyone to be miserable, but of course they were. 

Then… I lost 90 pounds, graduated with my master’s degree, started my career, and life was good. Things were really working out. I was headed in the right direction. I had great friends and coworkers. I felt like I actually fit into society, for the first time in nearly 20 years. Sure, I hadn’t met a good man, but… how many of those were really out there? Why would they want me with all my mouthiness and baggage? Still, I prayed. I asked God to help me to get over myself so I’d see a good man when I found one. I asked for a man of strong character to love me and take care of me and let me love and take care of him. I prayed for someone who would bring out the best in me and for whom I could do the same. I wanted a good father for my children and even bargained, promising it would be okay if I couldn’t get a full time job, if I could just get him; because more than anything, I still yearned for the traditional family unit comprised of a husband, wife, and kids… “normal.” I knew many women who were fulfilled and happy without these, but I would never be one of them. I followed up said prayers with bad date after bad date, often crying to Gail about how it was “never going to happen,” while making self-actualized blog posts about why people wouldn’t want to date me… and along came Jake.

Just shy of one year ago, I headed out on what would undoubtedly be just another funny blog post. Instead, I met a guy who more or less looked like his picture, opened the door for me, paid for an actual date, laughed at my jokes (even the unintentionally offensive ones), and was charismatic and fun. I left to take my Gramma a birthday present and told her it wasn’t love at first sight, but I liked him, he seemed to like me, and I’d go on a second date if I ever heard from him again.

One year later, I make no exaggeration when I say that Jake is everything I never knew I needed and wanted. He’s responsible, independent, adventurous, funny, intelligent, unbearably obstinate, considerate, attentive, generous, affectionate, impossible to offend, driven, hardworking, charismatic, rational, even-tempered, and good to his core. He both tells me and shows me that he loves me. He makes me strive to be a better person, while encouraging my passions and relationships. He gives me a sense of stability I never knew I was missing. He has strong, healthy friendships with good people and so much love for his own family, that I know that being with him will never make me feel excluded, isolated, or worst of all damned. I still don’t believe in soulmates, but I do believe in answered prayers. Is it sappy to say all this? Does this completely defy all of my claims that emotions belong with the last Horcrux and feelings are for the inside? Sure. But sometimes that’s what gratitude looks like.


The Fault in Our Deal Breakers

Things with Jake are going really well. He’s funny, smart, hardworking, and chivalrous. We enjoy enough of the same things to be compatible and have a good time, but have enough of our own interests not to bore one another. The sexual chemistry is as good as it can be for two people who are not actually having sex. Simply put, after three months, he is still the bee’s knees.

It’s funny how such chemistry works, though. When I met Jake, we’d barely chatted on Plenty of Fish, both eager to just meet and see if there was anything there. At first sight, I remember thinking that he was, indeed, 5’8″, which was both a positive and a negative, in that he was being honest and 5’8″ is fine, but was not secretly a very sexy 6′ tall. I noticed that he was clearly a country boy and drove an attractively ridiculous pickup. I supposed the red hair wasn’t so bad, but I did wonder what he looked like without the hat. Yes. Those are the initial physical impressions I had of the guy with whom I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love. These observations were without negativity or distaste. I considered Jake the way I assume most people consider an online date, comparing him with the image I’d been given and assessing whether or not the result was workable. It’s almost… scientific. Looking back, though, I find it somewhat fascinating what does and does not actually matter in our relationship, in regards to the deal breakers I initially set forth, even after reading the book that helped me to completely reevaluate my priorities in January. For example…

What Doesn’t Matter

His Hairline

Two years ago, I went to a festival with Ava, a friend from high school. Ava’s married to her second boyfriend, so as much of a doll as she is, she’s not really capable of exchanging dating experiences. She had, however, brought a friend from work along, Sheila. I’d been discussing some of my latest dates with Ava, when Sheila shyly admitted that’s she’s tried some online dating as well. We started to specify, in a little more detail, what we will and won’t accept in a profile or photo, when Sheila announced with disgust “I don’t want bald guys.”

At the time, I was still in the midst of my Shallow Phase and even I thought that was a little harsh. I mean, bald can be attractive, particularly when worn with confidence, but I figured everyone has their limits and I didn’t want to be judgemental toward a woman I’d just met. That was then. Today, I’ll say with certainty that if you’re turning men down because of their hairline, you’re making a mistake. Statistically speaking, over two thirds of men will experience significant hair loss by age 35. It truly is only a matter of time and wouldn’t it be a damned shame to be single at 33 (disclaimer: assuming you want to be married at 33) only to realize that the petty reason you had for turning down potentially great guys five years ago is now a quality shared in most of the men you meet?

Personally, it took me a little while to get used to Jake without his hat, not because I found his hairline unattractive, but because he just looks like a different person without it. The fact is, however, that when he does all of ­­the sweet things he does for me, such as taking my dog out while I’m in the shower, cooking me dinner, or walking around the fair for 30 minutes looking for the chicken and waffles I just had to have… it never really registers which guy he looks like anymore.

His Height

If they’re going to lie, women lie about weight and men lie about height. This generalization is usually true, regardless of age and no matter who’s telling tales, the logic is the same:

I’m only rounding and once they meet me, it won’t matter.

We all know that lying in online dating is unfair, but we do it because no one responds to us, otherwise.

I’ll just post that more flattering photo from last spring. I look basically the same.
I’ll say I’m 5’10”. As long as she’s below 5’8″, she won’t care.

You don’t look the same. You’re not 5’10”. They’re going to care, because you’re lying by introduction.

We’ve been over this, though. What I haven’t really acknowledged, however, is how little height matters in the long run. When I first started dating online, I stated that prospects must be six foot, not because I was being shallow (okay, not just because I was being shallow), but because my dad and brother are both six foot. At 23 years old, I genuinely thought that six feet tall was average height for a man. When I learned otherwise (less than 15%*), however, I only lowered my requirement to 5’10”, because I wanted to be a dainty little lady next to my guy.

Now, as I mentioned, Jake is 5’8″. That means he has about two inches on me… only two inches on me… and it’s fine. Being an oil man, while not tall, Jake is stocky, so I do still feel quite small next to him, particularly since I wear ballet flats everywhere and he wears work boots that add an inch to his height. I’m not saying that I’d necessarily be just as attracted were he 5’3″, but I think I would even if he were just my height. Attraction is important. I’m not claiming otherwise. Just as with his hairline, though, when Jake pays for dinner, chases his giggling nieces, or laughs at my dad’s jokes, I don’t give one fig how tall he is. Eventually, the individual features that you’re considering on that first date just add up to a whole person. Hat or no hat, 5’8 or 6′, today, Jake just looks like Jake… and I find him pretty darned cute.

His Hobbies

When I started dating, I had this image in my mind of a man who reads non-fiction and perhaps high fantasy. He’d like to fish and hunt, but wouldn’t mount trophies. He wouldn’t really care for video games or have such a juvenile sense of humor as to watch stereotypical boy comedies.

Not only does Jake love South Park and tell me all about each new episode, he thinks Austin Powers is hilarious. He likes to golf and despises cats. We have an ongoing dispute over whether or not his deer mount has a name (it’s Buzz) and he loves to camp. Y’all, when it comes to camping, the only thing I DON’T have in common with the mom from Troop Beverly Hills, is that I will never love my daughter enough to camp.

Take my kidney, but I ain’t sleeping on the ground.

We share a lot of commonalities as well, though. We both like old cheesy science fiction and love the holidays. We enjoy horror movies and Jake doesn’t even mind that I screech like a rape victim whenever anything jumps out at me (at home or in a crowded theater). We share a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and I, in fact, do understand most of his South Park references, because I used to watch the show. I like older video games and can even be coerced into playing some newer ones. We both love to learn and Jake will more or less humor me in regards to any outing I suggest.

Having different interests gives us something to talk about and allows each of us to try something new. Jake’s really enjoying The Walking Dead and I’ve learned some fancy new hunting lingo. Did you know that a successful dove hunting outing does not equal “catching a lot of birds”? Because we work in entirely separate fields, there’s never a competition to be the expert. Perhaps, most importantly, Jake’s silly hobbies allow me mine. I can always crochet or read a trashy romance novel while he plays his new video game or watches the latest political debate. Just as my affinity for paranormal romance says nothing about my intelligence, his South Park quotes say nothing about his. Everyone wastes time in different ways and it’s just been really nice to sit next to someone while doing so. He’ll just have to deal with it, when I get a cat.

What Does Matter

His Weight
When I read my one and only dating guide, I was convinced that weight didn’t matter. Like height, weight was just part of the initial attraction and eventually, I wouldn’t notice anyway. Then, I had my date with Dell, who blatantly lied about his weight. This wasn’t 10 pounds, but 40 on a man who was only 5’7″. Jake isn’t a wisp of a guy, but he’s nowhere near obese, as Dell was. The thing is, as we’ve been dating, I’ve realized how much it matters to me that he’s not excessively overweight.

Unlike height, weight isn’t about attraction so much as physical capability. Never have I sat in a booth with Jake only to realize he doesn’t quite fit. Not once has he had to sit down and catch his breath from leisurely walking, as my ex-husband did, because he was morbidly obese. Being with someone so young, yet so out of shape is inconvenient and embarrassing. When Jake and I went to the zoo, on our 6th date, I was the one who needed the break, when my asthma started giving me trouble. Last Friday, we spent the whole day walking around the fair and Jake kept pace just fine. He doesn’t have high blood pressure, or bad knees, or trouble maneuvering in bed.

I think the most important issue in the long run, is that don’t feel pressured to eat poorly around Jake. When we went the fair, sure, we stuffed ourselves with bottled beer and syrup drenched chicken. In fact, I appreciate his ability to enjoy a day without calorie counting. I also appreciate his generally healthy habits, though, as they more or less match mine. We may not be talking forever just yet, but if it’s ever up for discussion, I don’t want to spend the next 50 years fighting about pouring gravy over everything.

His Time

From our first date, Jake has done something that’s set him apart from any man I’ve ever met. He’s made me a priority. When we first started messaging, I was hesitant to get involved with a man in oil, as ubiquitous as it is around these parts. Engineer 114 had been in oil and his schedule and priorities had both been problematic. Jake had assured me that distance wasn’t important to him and he’d travel to Springfield to meet me and buy me lunch. For our second date, he traveled even further to meet me at the mall in the heart of the Metro. For our third date, when we went to the Fourth of July festival in Springfield, he mentioned to me that he was supposed to spend time with his parents, but they’d arrived several hours later than planned. Rather than postpone or cancel with me, he explained to them that he’d made a commitment and he was leaving. He chose to forgo time with his family to keep his plans with me and not ruin my holiday.

Sure, when I was looking, I mentioned that I wanted someone who had time to date, but I never expected the level of commitment that Jake displayed from the beginning. It wasn’t that he was obsessed with me or clingy, so much as if he said he would be somewhere, he meant it. Yes, Jake’s been late when he’s come to see me from his family’s ranch, but he’s never bailed on me. In fact, last Friday, when he hadn’t messaged or called to tell me for sure if he’d still be able to come to the city for the fair, I assumed he’d been caught up in the rig check he’d done that morning. Dejected, I told myself that this is part of dating an oil man and I either am or am not up for it, but that Jake wouldn’t just stand me up without a damned good reason and I didn’t get to guilt trip him for it. I took care to keep my texts neutral.

I’m gonna go to the gym. Let me know when you’re able. Miss you.

Almost immediately, Jake called to tell me that he was halfway to Shetland and hadn’t answered the phone, because he was driving through a thunderstorm. On the surface, I’m dating a guy who won’t ditch me when he knows I’m looking forward to the fair. I look deeper, though, and I see a guy who won’t tell me he’ll mow the lawn and yell at me for guilt tripping him by doing it myself two days later… a guy who won’t get fired for staying home to play video games… a man who won’t leave me to miscarry alone and scared.

His Respect for My Field

To be fair, I did list this as a requirement in dating, but I never realized how important it was to me to not only be with someone who didn’t openly mock my field, but who genuinely seemed to respect it. As a librarian, in the dating world, I’ve received some pretty danged appalling comments about my degree and profession. I’ve written entire posts about them. In short, there’s just no quicker way to end a date with me than to to mock libraries and/or librarians… after I lecture you about how wrong you are.

Jake has never belittled me, especially in my career. On our first date, he naturally asked a lot of questions, and I think the stress involved in my job still surprises him. The other night, when he asked me how work was, I answered “over stimulating”, which threw him for a second. He’s hardly the only one who pictures a peaceful library instead of a night of secretarial work, in-depth research, information technology, education, babysitting, customer service, and the occasional call to the police. The difference is, he asks and listens. He processes what I’m telling him and believes me.

As an engineer, Jake has a very stressful job, sometimes working for 24 hours at a time, in a hole in the ground. Never once, though, has he responded to my exhaustion with a comparison to his own. He respects my field and my stress level for what they are, even if he doesn’t fully understand. Not only that, but when I excitedly told him I’d applied for a full time position at a library in a dangerous part of the city, he didn’t imply that he didn’t want me to take it… just that I needed to stop defending it with stories of how all libraries are sketchy and telling him about the bullet holes in the window next door. He knows my job isn’t just important to me, but part of who I am as a person.

I don’t know where things are going to ultimately go with Jake. In two years, I could be blogging about my new boyfriend or my new baby. It’s really too soon to tell. If this doesn’t work out, though? I feel like I know a lot more about what actually matters and what just… doesn’t.



Birthdays and Boyfriends: Meeting the Parents… and Best Friend

So, I celebrated my 28th birthday last week and I did so with such enthusiasm, I’m going to have to have that Logan’s Run themed 30th birthday party I keep talking about… and that city-wide lantern release.

Remember, Gail. This one’s on you.

As I mentioned last week, in my brief Blogiversary post, two of the most significant celebrations I had planned for my birthday were the introduction of Jake to Gail and Terry and his introduction to my dad and Lena. After my late evening at the grown-up arcade with my work friends, on Wednesday night (my actual birthday), I went home to get ready for Jake’s arrival on Thursday morning at nine, as we’d planned. In fact, the previous week, when I’d driven to Wellston and Jake had made me dinner, we discussed this plan, in depth. I told Jake that I intended to take a half day substituting job if I could find one, assuming he’d arrive in Shetland around noon, as he usually does when coming from his family’s cattle ranch.

Jake: “Well, I’ll be there at 9:00.”
Me: “You will? I thought you were leaving that morning.”
Jake: “Yeah, but I’ll leave early.”
Me: “Okay. Are you sure? I don’t mind taking the day off, as long as it’s to spend time together, but otherwise, I need to work.”
Jake: “I’m sure. I’ll be there at 9:00.”

I wasn’t just being pushy, here. While the only times Jake has ever postponed plans have been when he’s driving back from his family’s ranch, it’s also been every time he’s driving back from his family’s ranch. That’s why I was just short of nagging when I asked. So, imagine my frustration to receive this text at 7:00 on Thursday morning.

I’ll be there around lunch.

Even know that three months is too soon to threaten to throat punch the boy, but I was just so frustrated. I could have been working. I haven’t subbed all summer and I could have really used a half day’s pay. Jake, though… well, Jake’s in oil. We have substantially different incomes and likely always will. Half a day’s pay means very little to him and I’m not super eager to admit how difficult September has been, especially with the Gardasil vaccine that I’m getting, at least partly, because of him. I tried to look at things a little differently. Now I had a whole morning to finish sewing my flannel Star Trek pants… for which no one would be paying me. Nope. I just couldn’t get over it, so I kept my texting brief, for fear of sounding bitchy. Verbal and textual chatterbox that I usually am, Jake noticed and called. He said he wanted to make sure the plans were still the same, that we’d be going to the botanical gardens and to the outdoor store. He clearly wanted to see if I was mad and I’m just not all that great at hiding emotions, but I was polite, if brief. When he arrived around noon, I was still a little reserved. Jake actually had to stop me and ask to see the Spock shirt I’d raved about getting with my birthday money: “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Ultimately, I decided the best bet was just to say something to him, rather than let it stew.

Me: “I’d have worked this morning if I’d known you’d be late.”
Jake: “Ugh. Yeah. My brother was being a dick, so I didn’t get out until later.”

He clearly didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to pry, but I quadruple checked that he’d be there early in the morning! Still annoyed, I set it aside and we started our day with lunch. Midway through our meal, I’d forgotten all about my frustrations with Jake and was just so glad to be with him. I always convince myself in our time apart that he’s not as great as I remember and I’m always wrong.

We had a great time. I stole my country boy’s new phone and changed his theme to pink and his ringtone to Turn Down for What, the latter of which I’m still not sure he’s been able to fix. We joked and talked about politics and I, again, took his phone and pretended to change his Facebook relationship status (he doesn’t Facebook at all), only to have him tell me to go ahead. After lunch, we went to the gardens, which were, quite honestly, boring. Did you know that botanical gardens just equals “trees and bushes”? When we’d gone to the zoo, Jake had been strangely gifted at naming the plants, so I’d thought it would be a fun activity, but I was wrong… except for the Jake part. That part was nice.

After the gardens, we went to the outdoor store and Jake asked if I wanted him to buy pretty much everything I touched. While it’s sweet that he wanted to get me a birthday gift, that’s not really how that’s done, so I declined everything but a bag of cotton candy jelly beans. We played a shooting game and Jake told me the official names of the fish in the tank. As much of a city girl as I can be, there’s something so… familiar about Jake’s country roots. All my life, I’ve grown up around men who hunt and fish. My ex-husband wasn’t into any of those things at all and there’s something almost… comforting in Jake’s down home side. He’s so friendly and laid-back, but at the same time, he can argue Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter (he’s wrong). Ultimately, you’d think I’d find discussing types of fish dull, but it’s almost… soothing.

By the time we were supposed to meet Gail and Terry at the bar, I was pretty tired, but Jake had other ideas, which made us later than a nap would have. Regardless, everyone seemed to hit it off quite well. Terry and Jake are both from small towns, with farmer/ranchers for parents. The conversation was easy and fun and my three margaritas put me so far over the limit, by the end of the night, that I jokingly programmed a sex shop into Jake’s GPS… and he drove there, when I refused to tell him what it was.

Finally, we went home and crashed for the night. The next morning, we woke up late for Jake and at normal human hours for Belle.

Jake: “It’s 8:00. We’ve wasted half the day.”
Me: “Shut up. It’s like the middle of the night.”

I made breakfast and somehow, the topic of my taking a job the day before came up again.

Me: “I was just frustrated because I asked for that very reason. I could’ve worked a half day. I don’t even know if one would’ve been available, but I couldn’t look because you said you’d be here at 9:00 and I blocked out the day.”
Jake: “I can like… give you money if it’s that big of a deal.”

Me: “Duuude. Noooo. I’m pretty sure that’s prostitution, so let’s not.”

I’m pretty sure that is the boyest thing he has ever said and that’s saying something. Ultimately, however, he got my point and understood the level of frustration I felt, so I feel the communication was successful. It wasn’t a fight, but it was our first disagreement and I think it was a productive one.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to see The Gift and then to meet my parents. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make Jake more nervous by admitting so.

Jake: “I can’t believe I forgot my beard trimmer.”
Me: “It’s not that bad. Besides, I set the bar really low. They’ll love you.”

That’s me… being supportive.

I was right, though. Lena enthusiastically talked about my steps and both she and my dad told stories of their numerous trips to Mexico. My dad was thrilled to have a cattle/hunting/camping conversational companion and Lena and I bonded over how awful all of those things sound. Both of them loved when Jake told them how he doesn’t care for tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair.

Dad: “Are you going to go to the rodeo with him?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sure I will. His whole family is into rodeos. His dad was a rodeo clown.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not true.”
Lena: “You’ll learn that Belle is her father’s daughter. They’re both dramatic story tellers.”
Jake: “Oh, I got that one a while ago.”
Me: “Hey. The difference is, want you to realize I’m being dramatic. My dad wants you to believe that he saw a cricket the size of a pony.”

It was great. They liked him. He liked them. It was a little loud with the live music and that was a damned shame, but it was just… fun. No one liked my ex-husband, so this is new and I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. I’ve always hated the idea of being with someone who doesn’t click with my family again and I’m pretty sure Jake with his stuffed deer head (who he’s refusing to let me a) decorate for Christmas or b) name Buzz) fit in better than me with my Ravenclaw Quidditch sweatshirt.

So that was my birthday and Jake’s introduction to some of the most important people in my life. I’m not sure it could’ve gone better, either. My daddy likes him. My stepmomma likes him. My Gaily likes him. Perhaps most amazingly, after three months, still like him.

Toothbrushes, Insecurities, and Meeting the Family

Me: “So, I bought you a toothbrush on clearance, since you didn’t have one the last time you stayed over… unless that freaks you out, in which case I already had it, cuz of all the men I sleep with.”

Me: “So, can I call you my boyfriend now or is that question crossing some kind of boundary?”


:: 6:00 am and completely incapable of early morning thought processes ::
Jake: “Is this your baby blanket?”
Me: “No. It’s… something very mature.”
Jake: “Is it like your teddy bear?”
Me: “No. It’s nothing.”
Jake: “It’s obviously not nothing, since you brought it with you.”
Me: “I didn’t. You already had it here. Don’t worry about it.”
Jake: “What is it?”
Me: ::speaking into pillow:: “It’s the remnant of a baby blanket. The rest was lost in the fire.”
Jake: “Why are you so embarrassed? That’s not weird.”
Me: ::incredulous:: “It’s not weird that I hold it when I suck my thumb?”
Jake: “Okay. The thumb sucking is a little weird, but it doesn’t bug me. It’s not like I don’t have quirks.”

Me, playing it cool.

Things have been going really well with Jake. He’s mostly been commuting to me from Wellston, which is about an hour away, in part because there’s more to do in my area, but also cuz he’s just super. I’m so dedicated to keeping this blog anonymous, while also allowing for proper spatial visualization, that I created a map for you. Y’all, I am no cartographer and this was a bitch to do in Microsoft Paint.

Anonymous State SmallerWho relocates if and when that becomes an issue? That sounds like a problem for… FUTURE BELLE!

Two weeks ago, Jake came to Shetland with no firm plans. We were just going to spend the day together and I was going to make him dinner. I bought all the fixins for meatloaf, one of the few main courses I can cook that wouldn’t be pure experimentation. I live alone, folks. I consider it cooking when I throw things in EasyMac. I’m sort of kidding. My bachelor’s degree was in Home Ec. I know how to cook… in theory. Jake and I started the day with lunch out, though. We had sushi and, as per usual, redheaded Jake paid.

Me: “Ew. I hate the ginger… the pickled ginger, not you.”
Jake: “I was gonna say, I hope you brought your wallet, then.”

I love that our dry humor meshes so well.

When we got back to my apartment, we watched Logan’s Run and I had my first genuine faux pas of the day. You knew it was coming.

Me: “Is she naked?!?
Jake: “Isn’t this one of your favorite movies? Haven’t you seen it like a hundred times? How did you not notice that?”

No really. HOW? Those people were wearing see-though clothing through most of that movie.

After Logan’s Run, Jake put on Flight of the Navigator… which we ignored.

Finally, I made dinner, which turned out great and we decided to go to the drive-in… which we ignored.

I don’t remember kissing being so much fun. I think my ex-husband must have been really bad at it. Eventually, though, I fell asleep lying on Jake’s chest while he watched the ending to Mission Impossible. When I crawled over the seat for the ride home, I promptly fell asleep again, waking briefly to hear Jake order something at McDonald’s and ask his phone for directions back to my apartment instead of waking me up. Awwww.

Jake: “You were asleep in your little dress over there and I’m pretty sure the people at McDonald’s thought I’d drugged you.”
Me: ::droswily:: “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Sigh. Again, with the semi-conscious date rape jokes. It’s a good thing he thinks I’m funny.

When we got back to my apartment, Jake carried all of the blankets and pillows upstairs and I asked if he wanted to just stay over, since Wellston is an hour’s drive and it was 2:00 in the morning. He’d made the same offer the first time I’d driven to him a week before, when we had our Gardasil talk, but I declined for canine reasons. He accepted and I learned that Jake’s a cuddler, which I surprisingly love. I’ve always wanted my space in the past, but curling up with Jake felt very comfortable and natural. I also learned that he’ll be a morning sex guy when we get to that point. It’s not a bad way to wake up and I did what I could to give as good as I got without making the vaccine wait obselete. Then he left… and the crazy kicked in.

This is why I didn’t write last week. Jake has a crappy phone, hasn’t been in a serious relationship in five years, and is a boy, so he doesn’t overthink things. However, I was getting shockingly little response, less than I ever had. If I didn’t text first, he might ask how my day was, but even then, I’d mostly get one word answers in return. By Thursday, when I texted to see if he still wanted to come over Friday, which he planned, I was convinced he was coming to Shetland to tell me he was over it. That’s how rarely I was hearing from him. I even called him to ask if everything was okay and make sure he still wanted to come. In typical boy fashion, he had no idea anything was wrong and assured me he’d be over the next day. I vowed not to bring it up, unless he did first.

:: two girly beers into Blazing Saddles ::
Me: “So, you should text me a little more this week. I kind of thought you were coming here to tell me you didn’t want to see me anymore. That’s actually why I called last night. I figured if that was the case, you didn’t need to make the drive. I’m not trying to be crazy or clingy, but you kind of just left and barely talked to me all week. It doesn’t have to be constant, but I wouldn’t mind hearing from you a little more. I even thought maybe I did something wrong when we were fooling around.”
Jake: “What? Why? Because of something I said?”
Me: “No. I just… I dunno. Maybe I give really bad over-the-pants handjobs or something and you didn’t want to see me again, because of it. I don’t know how this crap works.”
Jake: ::laughing:: 

Zetus lapetus. Someone shut me up.

So, after that fucking eloquent speech, we sort of dropped the subject, finished the movie, watched Back to the Future, and went to dinner. Being Friday night, Chili’s was packed, so we had a drink in the bar while we waited for our table. I am a total lightweight, y’all. After two margaritas, I could barely get into Jake’s truck for the ride home and kept giggling uncontrollably and calling him keen. When we got back to my apartment, I put on Back to the Future II… which we ignored.

Things ended up a lot more R rated this time, so I’m gonna spare you that GIF. I asked Jake to stay the night again, told him about his toothbrush, and asked if he was my boyfriend.

in a relationshipThe answer was yes, which has renewed my ability to hide any and all insecurities.

I made him breakfast the next morning and he told me he had a bachelor party float trip planned for this weekend, so we wouldn’t be able to see each other for a while. We were both disappointed, so I offered to make the trip to Wellston on Sunday, after church, allowing him to get his work done that day. That, my dear readers, is how I ended up driving to Wellston, beagle in tow, and meeting Jake’s family… or at least his sister, the only family that lives locally. Still, it was a pretty big deal and Jake initiated it, so he must like me.

Me: “They live on a farm. I look ridiculous. I’m wearing a fucking prom dress.”
Jake: “It’s not a prom dress. It’s like… an Easter dress.”
Me: “Oh, thank you. That doesn’t make me look like an asshole.”
Jake: “You did come from church.”
Me: “Who are you kidding? I would have been wearing this anyway. Dude, I don’t own pants.”

Fortunately, the beagle was chilling out on Jake’s couch (where he was not supposed to be, the little rebel) while we were at dinner. After chatting for a bit, Jake declared that we should go get Jude, so he could play with his sister’s dogs. Planning for a possible overnight stay, I’d brought a change of clothes and jumped at the opportunity to take off the dress and don some leggings and a t-shirt.

Me: “Ugh. I didn’t think this through. Now your sister knows I brought a change of clothes. She’s going to think I’m a total whore.”
Jake: ::fucking laughed at me::


By the grace of God, I did not embarrass myself in front of Jake’s sister, brother-in-law, or nieces. Jude didn’t make the best first impression, when he got a single sticker, lay down in the field for 10 minutes, and waited for his mommy to rescue him, but I felt like I came off just fine, and Jake’s sister gave me some free cucumbers. It was still pretty early when we got back to Jake’s duplex, so we watched a couple of horror movies, which we both enjoy, but find no pleasure in watching alone.

Me: “Do you mind if I stay the night? I have horrible night vision and I’d rather drive back when the sun is rising.”
Jake: “You can stay, if you let me sleep. I have to be up by 6:00.”
Me: ::deepened voice, imitating Jake:: “You can stay, if you can quell your insatiable craving for my dick.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not what I said.”
Me: “Dude, it was verbatim.

After watching both Clown and Annabelle, we went to bed and not only did I keep my hands to myself, but I also kept to myself how much I cannot sleep without white noise. Jake had to work in the morning. All I had to do was drive to Shetland and pass out, so I lay awake in bed, only falling asleep when the air conditioner kicked on and ultimately waking up to Jake cuddling up to me with clear intentions. That boy makes for the best good mornings, but I’m buying him a fucking fan.

After we got out of bed and Jake quizzed me about the “something very mature” baby blanket I brought with me, he took Jude outside while I dressed. He carried my bag to my car and I drove home. Later, I met Gaily for grocery shopping and gossip.

Gail: “So, have you said it, yet?”
Me: “What? You mean out loud?!? He might hear me!”

Um… yeah. I totally care who knows it.

In actuality, I don’t think I’m quite to the “I love you” point yet. It’s still early and I’d like to make sure this isn’t just infatuation. I’d also like to wait a bit longer to see if Jake is going to come to the realization that I’m both awkward and loud and get out while he still can. He’s mentioned the future quite a few times, though. For instance, he joked about dressing as an astronaut for my high school reunion in May, forbade me to participate in No Shave November, and has mentioned the point when my vaccine is up a few times. He doesn’t seem afraid to imply that we’ll be together in six months. He’s talked about his mother asking where exactly Shetland is, in relation to Wellston. His family and friends know about me and now his sister, brother-in-law, and nieces have met me. He’s even made a clear effort to text me more this week, despite his busy schedule with work and his weekend trip. Best of all, he’s agreed to go to Disney on Ice for my birthday, assuming he can get off work!

I still think he’s pretty danged keen and I’m hopeful that the feeling is mutual.

Fluid Engineer Gets a Name and I Get a Mild Concussion

Last week, I had my first ever fourth date with Fluid Engineer, who will now be known as Jake Granger. That’s right, folks. He gets a name.

Me: “His last name is essentially a Harry Potter reference.
Gail: “Oh, my God. This guy isn’t even real! His last name is Ravenclaw! You’re completely delusional!”

I didn’t report on date four, not because it didn’t go wonderfully, but because I was in the middle of an internal battle against my tendencies toward self-sabotage.

Date four was great. I had the idea to go to the science museum, not thinking about the fact that it’s summer and it’s far more directed at children this time of year. When I realized my mistake, I felt awful, because Jake had spent $30 for the two of us to get in and it was my idea. I apologized a couple of times, but he genuinely didn’t seem to mind. We enjoyed the exhibits as best we could, as adults, laughing at the earthquake generator that’s been in place since I was a little kid. It felt like standing on top of a Mack Truck engine and I cackled like a mad woman about how it was exactly like an earthquake. We had time to see a planetarium show and Jake made up for my numerous faux pas with one of his own.

Jake: “Do you speak Latin?”
Me: “No. Why would I speak Latin?”
Jake: “Because you’re Catholic.”

I did not handle my amusement with grace. To be fair, Catholics in the south are few and far between, unless you’re near Mexico.

After the science museum, Jake clearly wanted to continue spending time together, because he suggested a movie and dinner. There are a lot of experiences that tell you a great deal about someone’s character, such as an accidental trip to a pricey children’s center, but I think one of the most telling is how someone reacts to a bad movie. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I get genuine joy out of mockery. I mock things I like, so when we saw Self/Less, I got a pretty fair glimpse into Jake’s sense of humor, as he laughed right along with me at the nonsensical plot. We hadn’t kissed yet, but when I started to shiver, he put his arm around me and I pulled away to lift the armrest between our seats and make things less awkward. It was nice, without going too far. I know, I know. It was the fourth date, but I’ve kissed like two people ever.

Dana: “You haven’t kissed him yet? You’re gonna lose him.”
::one week later::
Dana: “So how’s your beau?”
Me: “Oh, I’m not telling you anything else about him.”
Dan: “What?!? Why not?”
Me: “Because you told me he was going to lose interest, unless I put out.”
Dana: “No, I didn’t.”
Me: “Come on. That was hardly even an exaggeration. That was practically verbatim.”

We ended the date, still with no kiss, but we talked in his truck and in front of my apartment door for ages. He never hinted at wanting to be invited in and we just continued to enjoy each other’s company. I had a great time.

Y’all, I don’t even know what was going through my head, but two days later, I was looking for every reason to blow this guy off. I’ve never been on a fourth date and Jake still hadn’t kissed me, so maybe I was worried that we were moving along too far without discovering whether or not we had any chemistry. Maybe I felt self-conscious, because I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I internalized my frustrations with myself (because no matter how I tried, I still couldn’t find anything wrong with Jake) and checked out a couple of really harsh dating books about how I’m going to die alone, because I’m a bitch. I even tried to tell myself that I was really 33 and had traveled back in time for a second chance with this great guy. Finally, I had some time with Gaily, who I can’t seem to avoid telling everything.

Me: “I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me. It’s not that I’m convinced that this is the last guy on the planet that could be compatible with me, but there’s just nothing wrong with him and I still want to sabotage things, because I’m a stupid cunt! He opens doors for me, pays for everything, laughs at my jokes; I liked being with him and enjoyed having his arm around me and I’m going to be eaten by house cats!

Aside from just verbalizing all of the wonderful qualities Jake had, I also asked Gail if she’d ever had the inclination to bolt in her early days with Terry.

Gail: “Well, you know that I’m a first date kisser…”
Me: “So they say, you whore.”
Gail: “Well, we were on our third date and Terry still hadn’t kissed me. It was starting to make me really self-conscious. I got to the point where I felt like I was done if he didn’t kiss me soon. I think that was the only problem, though.

After talking things through, I felt a lot better about the whole thing and was thrilled that I had continued responding to Jake’s texts and made plans with him for Wednesday night: date five. We were going to dinner and to see Ant-Man. Once again, I was excited to see how things went. The moment of truth rolled around and…

I can’t figure it out. I don’t know what was wrong with me, because I really like this guy. He’s funny, intelligent, and quietly chivalrous. He humors my weird exaggerative rants and my Family Guy-esque breakaway side stories. He seems to really enjoy being around me and find me attractive and he’s really pretty cute. He took the wrong turn four times and never showed any truly scary road rage. At the movie, he raised the armrest himself, much earlier in the show, and we sat with his arm around me through the majority of it. He didn’t even mock me when I buried my face in his chest and covered my ears, because I knew the lamb wasn’t gonna make it. It was just comfortable and I can honestly say that a lot of that getting-to-know-you awkwardness has faded. All we had left was the kiss.

Jake drove me home, we talked in his truck for awhile, and once again, we stood by my door and talked for ages. He never asked to come in and we even commented on how bad we are at ending things at a decent hour, but how that’s a good sign. Jake had his arm against the door by my head and I was sure he would kiss me… when I started to get really, really dizzy.

I gave blood the other day. It’s been really hot in the South this week. I had deliberately been trying to drink less liquid that day, because it’s embarrassing to pee 13 times on a date. You know what else is embarrassing?

Me: “I’m really… I feel really light-headed all of the sudden. I think I need to go inside.”
Jake: “Okay. Are you alright?”
Me: “Yeah. I jus-”

… and I woke up on the concrete to Jake asking if I was okay and telling me he was going to call 911.

Me: “Nope. I’m good. Don’t call 911.”
Jake: “You’re good? You just passed out. You hit your head pretty hard.”
Me: “Don’t call 911.”
Jake: “Well, I’m not going to now that you’re talking to me. You wanna sit up?”
Me: “You know… actually, I think I’m good here for a second.”
Jake: “Okay, no rush.”
Me: “I’m really sorry. This is super embarrassing. This is awful.”
Jake: “Don’t apologize. It’s fine.”
Me: “Wow. If we hadn’t been talking for two hours, this would look really bad for you.”

Oh, yeah. I made a date rape joke.

Me: “I don’t just like… do this. This isn’t like… a thing.
:: in hindsight, this was a lie, cuz this shit happens to me constantly ::
Jake: “Well, that’s good to hear.”
Me: “Did I fall on my hand?”
Jake: “I don’t think so, why?”


Jake helped me up and watched to make sure I got up the stairs safely. I calmly and rationally got a glass of water and texted Gail.

7-23-15 2

I’m pretty sure Jake took the date rape joke more seriously than I intended. Who’d have thought, right? I’m certain he’d have come up with me to make sure I was alright, had he ever been in my apartment. He did offer, but I was too embarrassed to accept. Apparently I scared him pretty badly, but I don’t think he wanted to risk it appearing as if he were taking advantage of the situation, based on his morning text to see if I was okay.

7-23-15 1On the bright side, it appears he still wants to see me, so my awkwardness at least brings this boy to yard.

I need to be crystal clear, here. At no point did I actually fear that Jake had drugged me. For one, while I wouldn’t trust the man with my PIN just yet, I do pretty much trust him not to rape me, or I wouldn’t be letting him drive me places. Two, it had been hours since I’d eaten or had anything to drink and at no point was Jake alone with any of it. Three, I’m no Olivia Benson, but I’m pretty sure that men who do drug women don’t wake them fully clothed on their front porch by gently patting their cheek and insisting they’re going to call 911. Finally, that’s not how date rape drugs work, because I felt completely fine five minutes later (aside from the head trauma). No. Jake is not a sexual predator. These things just happen to me. I am just a dork… with a mild concussion, busted knuckles, a bruised shoulder, and still no kiss.

Gramma: “Maybe you can just tell him you swooned.”

Yeah. I’m a fucking Disney princess.

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.

Could we maybe go out when I’m ovulating?

Stephen King does this thing where he talks about a feeling or thought process as if it were commonplace and his readers totally get where he’s coming from, when in reality, we’re all left a touch scarred just from reading it.

It’s possible that absolutely no one will relate to this post but, like King, I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t think anyone would understand.

This past week, Fluid Engineer and I have been trading messages, trying to find a time to get together again. He asked on Monday, but didn’t say anything more about meeting Wednesday until literally less than 12 hours from when we would’ve had to get together. He’s not from the ‘burbs, so I’m fine with a touch of the back and forth discussion of what to do, but not at the last minute. Had he texted with an actual suggestion, I’d have been game, but we didn’t have time for the “I don’t care, what do you want to do?” bit, so I politely declined until next week. I was a little disappointed, though, because this is the time of the month that I am most likely to… well, like him. 

One reason I knew Fluid Engineer was worth my time was that I still wanted to see him after our first date, despite the fact that I was just about to… how to put this delicately… curl into the fetal position for a day and bleed like a stuck pig.

Okay, okay, I promised I’d try not to be too detailed in this post, so I’ll just say that I am physically ill for a couple of days out of the month. I’ve missed work before and I cannot eat. The second I get me some of that elusive health insurance, I’m going to see a doctor who doesn’t call me a liar or shame me for not sleeping with every man I meet, because it wasn’t like this before my miscarriage. I may be dying.

Fortunately, I met Fluid Engineer literally hours before I got sick, but I was at a point where I kind of only want to speak to people if I’m required. Even the most well adjusted woman can’t possibly want to have an online date at this point in her cycle. I’ve had to plan enough dates around such a busy schedule that I’ve realized the odds of my wanting to see a man again are substantially lower if I feel like my body is metabolizing itself. It’s not that I’m an intensely difficult person to deal with for a week out of the month. In fact, I think this is a terrible excuse to treat anyone with disrespect and uttering it pretty much disgraces all women everywhere. No, this isn’t some kind of bait and switch where a guy meets me and I’m smiling and pleasant and then sees me two weeks later and I go all velociraptor on him.

As a person, even on my worst day, I’m just more likely to burst into tears because a dog died in a book and that’s sort of the only time I cry anyway. For realz, I had to concentrate to not tear up on my second date with Fluid Engineer, because we saw Jurassic World and those poor dinosaurs died because the uber dinosaur was killing them for sport and they looked so sad…

… yeah. I didn’t shed a tear when Dumbledore died, but they stopped drawing the dinosaur and it broke my heart.

I control myself because I’m an adult and I acknowledge that other people have feelings, especially the ones I love. That doesn’t mean I want to try with a stranger, when I don’t feel well. The reverse is true, also, though. I’ll give a guy a second date, despite his having 40 pounds on his profile picture, just because my ovaries are doing gumball machine cosplay. I’m not even kidding, y’all. The men I’ll give a chance when I’m ovulating… it’s worse than doing shots. Fortunately, most of these encounters occur online and by the time we start discussing meeting, I’ve come down from my cursed natural high and realized that I can’t date a man without a job, the ability to wear a ball cap without a flat bill, or who happens to be closer to my dad’s age than mine.

On an average date, however, I have to fight my natural instincts to be a judgmental cunt. His voice is too high, or his fingers are too short, or his eyes are too close together, or he squints too much or I’M GOING TO DIE ALONE. So, I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to fit a date in during the time of the month that I’m guaranteed not to convince myself never to speak to Fluid Engineer again because I think his walk is too jaunty. I just want to fall in love, but it’s so hard to do when I’m such a hopelessly self-sabotaging bitch!

My Secret Dates with Fluid Engineer

I used to follow these two dating bloggers. They weren’t dating bloggers in the sense that I’m a dating blogger, sharing a bad date one week, a funeral the next, a rant on gender equality after that, and eventually another bad date. They specifically started their blogs to discuss their dating lives, their search for love. Regardless, I enjoyed reading them. I wanted to read about that date that didn’t end in disaster and finally led to a second date, a third, an “I love you.” They stopped writing, though. Maybe they’re busy with wedding plans. Maybe they gave up the search and are focusing on their careers and friendships. Maybe they’re still going on bad dates. I felt cheated, though. I was a loyal follower, reading each post, writing comments and giving advice when they asked for it. I was happy for them when they had a good time with a man and frustrated for them when they never got a call back. I promised myself that I’d never do that to my readers.

Today, I have 1,352 followers on this blog. I don’t know how many people are actually reading, sharing in my joys and pain, my laughter and frustration. I don’t get a lot of feedback, but that’s okay. I’ve had this blog for nearly three years and I’ve written consistently, because I enjoy writing. I’ve had a blog, in some sense, for the last… 12 years? Before that, it was paper journals. No. I’m not going anywhere. Y’all will likely read about my wedding, my first child, my family vacations. So, I’ve never really felt in danger of breaking the above promise. I won’t just disappear on you. But… I’ll apparently keep those good dates from you.

I suppose it started with Engineer 114. He was out of town a lot and we were just texting, but I was hopeful. Politician came next. I liked him well enough. There was a possibility for a second date. Then there was Oil, who I really did like. Finally, there was Dell, who I didn’t find attractive, which made me feel guilty and judgmental. I didn’t share about any of these men until after the fact, though. Week after week, I brainstormed for writing topics, even when I’d just been on a date. I’ve been doing exactly what I resented from my dating bloggers. So… I haven’t written about Fluid Engineer.

Fluid Engineer is 30, never married, no kids. He turns 31 on October 14, which he only told me once and I remembered, because Gaily is right and it’s weird that I text her every September 14 to remind her to wish her first ever boyfriend a happy birthday. But, that means he’s a Libra to my Virgo, like Gail and we seem to get along mighty fine. He lives about an hour away, but he’s not especially attached to his location, since he’s originally from Texas. We didn’t text long before our first meeting, which is how I prefer it.

My first date with Fluid Engineer was lunch and it was just… nice. He drove to me and he paid. In regards to appearance, he just looks like a guy. I likely wouldn’t notice him on the street, one way or another. He told me I was the first woman he’d met who actually looked like her picture. I may have called his family racist.

FE: “We play Chinese Christmas every year.”
Me: “Chinese Christmas?”
FE. “Yeah. Haven’t you heard of Dirty Santa? It’s like that.”
Me: “… just racist.”

Fortunately, he laughed. He walked me to my car, where he very sweetly tried to open my door for me, before I’d unlocked it. Naturally, I narrated the awkwardness.

Me: “That’s still locked, but that’s very sweet of you.”

We made plans for a second date pretty immediately, texting over his six days on and planning to get together on one of his three days off. He seemed interested, but not creepily so. I looked forward to our second date, which ended up being Jurassic World in 3D at the mall. We walked around the mall and talked. He bought chocolate Swiss Army knives for his niece’s birthday and I teased him about his first time in the Big City. He sounds like a bit of a redneck, so I’m glad we never talked on the phone and I couldn’t be a judgmental cow, because he’s really quite intelligent. He’s nice and was chivalrous enough to pay for lunch and we talked until I realized I was going to be late for work if I didn’t call my Gramma and ask her to take the dog out so I could go straight to the library. Fluid Engineer even wanted to see each other again, before he started his next six days on, but I felt like that might be a bit much a bit soon, so I asked if we could do something next week. Since then, we’ve been texting and he’s still pretty keen.

So… why the secrecy?

Well, I suppose I’m embarrassed to tell y’all about my eventual possible rejection. That’s second only to admitting that I sabotaged things with a perfectly nice guy. I mean, statistically speaking, it’ll be one or the other. It’s not like any of my previous dates haven’t ended poorly. That’s the point of this blog, though… to chronicle my life. I want to look back and read my first impression when it does go well. I want to remember it all. I want to share it all. I also do so anonymously, so I really have nothing to fear.

Disastrous Dates with Dell: the Importance of Honesty and Attraction

There was a time, when a truly awful date for me was a delightful blog post. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a shift in my thinking. I suppose it started with Engineer 114, around the New Year. After he bailed on me for no reason, after weeks of texting while he was out of the country, I was both furious and completely done with him. So, I got back on PoF and, by chance, reconnected with Politician, who I happened to have just begun messaging before I got involved with 114.

Politician and I met after a few weeks of messaging He was 35, had never been married, worked at the state capitol, was protestant and didn’t appear to take issue with my Catholicism. But… he was 35 and unmarried and he hadn’t been engaged, or in extensive schooling, or serving his country. When he talked about settling down, it was in a vague sense, like a man 10 years younger. “One day”, he might like to get married and have children. I’m sorry dude, but if you’re from a small town in the South and you’re saying “one day” at 35, it’s just not something you want. That’s cool and all, but don’t date the gal who’s aiming for that. Perhaps he realized this mistake, though, because I never heard from him after our date. We didn’t have a bad time. We talked. It was nice. I left on the thought that I’d be willing to go on another date, if he asked, but knew I wouldn’t be disappointed if he didn’t. I was right. I wasn’t.

After Politician came Oil. Oil and I had chatted on Tinder last fall. We’d been texting and I dropped off the face of the earth, because seriously, dude, it’s Tinder. I recently found him on Match, and although he looked familiar, I couldn’t recall where I’d seen him and sent a message. When Oil explained that we’d talked before, we quickly set a date to meet. This time, I thought things went really well. We met for coffee at the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble and walked around talking and looking at books. He’d gained some weight since his pictures were taken, but he wore it well. We laughed and seemed to get along. I left with a good feeling about the whole thing. Then, he began the Fade Away. For realz, yo, if you don’t intend to see someone after a first meeting, just shut the hell up. Don’t string them along. It’s worse than just never talking to them again. I quickly realized what he was doing and responded just enough that he could build on it and sent no more when he didn’t. If a man’s not interested in me, I’m sure as hell not chasing after him. I was disappointed, though. I mean, he’d gained at least 20 pounds, so any issues with my appearance would’ve been downright hypocritical. The conversation flowed. Why was that not at least worth a second meeting?

…. aaaaaand there it is. I’ve officially reached the point I’ve been trying to force myself to reach for the last year. I am finally to a place where I’m willing to go on a second date with anyone who wasn’t a mountain troll or a complete ass. Therefore, when someone else isn’t, that’s a bad date, because what could he possibly be seeking, beyond laughter and surprisingly few awkward pauses? Did we just not have that “spark”? Because that’s bullshit. The “spark” is another word for Love at First Sight or Soulmates. It’s pretend. It was crafted to sell YA novels about teenagers dying of cancer. The only real connection one can hope to have with a stranger is conversational. If that exists and you aren’t willing to pursue it, then have fun dying alone… which is exactly the sentiment that lead me to the other extreme in my absolutely disastrous dates with Dell.

Dell was 33 years old and not very attractive in his photos. He was successful and had a lot of nerdy hobbies mixed with a lot of country hobbies. He was sociable and seemed to be putting in a real effort. I told myself that appearance was secondary to these characteristics and I still feel that that was correct. The man wasn’t hideous in his photos. He was shorter than I’d prefer, but taller than I am, at 5’7″. He was stocky and appeared to be a little heavy, but mentioned a lot of active hobbies. Almost every photo had his niece in it, so he was clearly close to his family and liked kids. I had high hopes that personality would ultimately take over and then I would find him attractive.

Dell and I first met for dinner at the same restaurant where I met Politician. I got out of the car, headed for the door, and my first thought was that it couldn’t be him.

Y’all, there have not been a lot of dates where I’ve considered just turning around and leaving. This was probably only the second… because this man was not “a little heavy.” He was easily 40 pounds heavier than his least flattering photo… at 5’7″. I’m 5’6″, so 40 pounds on him is the equivalent to 40 pounds on me, and it was all in his belly. I wasn’t going to be shallow, though. It wasn’t even Gaily’s voice this time that asked me if I was really going to write this guy off over something trivial. I mean, clearly, I was just focused on appearance because it was our first meeting. If I wasn’t going to give him a chance, then I needed to leave right then and not let him buy me dinner.

As we took our seats and I fervently told myself that I was being too critical, Dell struggled to slide into the booth and, I am ashamed to admit, the first thing that popped into my mind was…

I wonder if his erect penis even clears his belly.

I felt horrible for even thinking that, but my ex-husband was morbidly obese and it’s a thing, folks. I spent four years with someone who had to ask to be seated at a table every time we went out and that’s all I could think about for the first 10 minutes of our conversation as I distractedly answered so many questions it felt like I was being quizzed. Finally, I realized that Dell wouldn’t be playing Quizmaster if I’d join the fucking conversation and I pulled my irreparably damaged by divorce head out of my ass. From that point on, I was a delight. I asked questions about his life and his former career as a policeman. I told him about my career and was pleased that he was respectful and interested. The conversation felt a little forced, but I blamed my lack of physical attraction. We talked about our hobbies and ironically, staying in shape came up.

Dell: “I’ve actually gained 20 pounds in the last few months.”

Um… yeah. I noticed. Apparently, so did he. It, however, was still not only 20 pounds since his photos. I would not be surprised to discover that the man was just barely into the morbidly obese category. Now, I’ve been morbidly obese, y’all. A few years ago, I lost over 90 pounds. It’s not that I hate fat people. I’ve been fat people. I’m still not skinny people at a size 8/10. I have also never lied about it. He clearly knew that his photos were not an accurate representation of him. After all was said and done, I even showed Gail.

Gail: “Well, yeah. You can kind of tell he’s heavy in this one. He looks pretty big there.”
Me: “No, no, no. I saw that one. I was prepared for that one. It was that plus 40 pounds.”
Gail: “Oh. Wow.”

At this point, I was legitimately frustrated with him. I was in a really awkward place, because he wasn’t honest. I didn’t want to blow off what was otherwise a very nice guy just because of his size, though, so I agreed to a second date the following week.

Over the next week, I ended up convincing myself that I’d exaggerated the entire thing. It wouldn’t be the first time. I mean, the guy was nice and chivalrous and successful. Surely, I was just being a bitch and I’d realize the error of my ways when we met again. Spoiler alert: no.

We met last Friday at a local sushi restaurant and I was actually looking forward to realizing how wrong I was. Dell was going to walk up and I was going to see that, although he was slightly heavier than his photos depicted, it was nothing so drastic. Then, I saw him walking to the door and thought that his size just couldn’t be healthy. He looked physically uncomfortable and was visibly sweating. At 33 years old, I was already looking at this guy and worried about his physical well-being. It’s not just appearance. I want to be able to chase my children around the backyard. I want to be able to go to Disney World and not stop every 30 minutes for a rest, because the cardio of leisurely walking is just overwhelming. I know what that’s like, because I’ve fucking done it. I’m not going to lie, either. It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to explain to someone that your reasonably young husband is breathing so hard because of walking. It’s upsetting to never be able to go on a roller coaster because the belt won’t fit across his lap. It’s embarrassing to watch your date’s booth slide across the floor from the table as he sits, because the seat isn’t bolted down and he doesn’t fit.

This time, the conversation did not flow, at all. It was much more obvious that we were forcing it along. I wished I hadn’t come. I felt just as lied to as I did on the first date and I felt like a horrible person for the fact that this was such a deal breaker for me. I’m not delusional. I know that pretty much everyone looks better with clothes on. I even prefer a slightly overweight man to a slender one. I just wasn’t attracted to Dell at all and felt genuine resentment at his blatant dishonesty. Again, I was sociable and fun and polite. I tried. I really did try, but when Dell asked if I needed to get back to my niece (where I’d been before the date) or if I still wanted to go do something together, I bailed. I couldn’t let the man spend another dime on me, when I knew I was done. I told him I’d promised Catherine I’d meet her at the bar for her birthday. He walked me to my car and we talked about going minigolfing this week, as a third date. We made tentative plans. He leaned in for a hug….

… went to kiss me…

… I turned away…

… and it was the most uncomfortable thing that has ever happened in time. 

I went to the bar that night, where Catherine and our friend Laura both asked how the date went.

Me: “Um. It was fine.”
Laura: “Fine?”
Me: “He was really nice. There just isn’t really anything there. He wasn’t very honest in his photos and there’s really no physical attraction. I don’t know how important that is.”
Laura: “It’s important. It may not be the most important thing, but it is important.”

Dell didn’t message me after that.

Me: “He went in for a kiss and I… um… may have turned it into an awkward hug.”
Gail: “Yeah. THAT’S why he hasn’t messaged you.”

I told Gail about the guilt I felt over not continuing to see him.

Gail: “It’s not as if you were married to this man and then ditched him when he gained weight. You’re just not willing to date a man who lives an unhealthy lifestyle. You’re not willing to start a relationship with all of the problems that come with that and that’s okay. You don’t owe him anything after two dates.”

So, obviously he picked up on my lack of interest, which is most definitely for the best. I hope he realizes why, even subconsciously. I hope he gets the spontaneous urge to upload some honest and recent photos, so that the next date he goes on goes better. So many stereotypes about online dating focus on women lying about their weight, but never (straight) men. It is equally and quite fairly frustrating to a member of either gender, though, to be shown a picture of someone to whom they think they can develop an attraction and be faced with a completely different person. I stand by both the man and the woman who feels angry or misled, because it really is an awkward place to be. We insist that appearance doesn’t matter at all and while I do believe we over emphasize it, if you can’t imagine wanting to see someone naked at 33, it’s unlikely to be any better at 43. I don’t regret that second date, because I’m left with no doubts that there wasn’t anything there; but also because I realize that while it’s great to put aside aside the trivial and meet the guy who’s 5’7″ or losing his hair or doesn’t have model good looks, ultimately attraction cannot be forced. I maintain my policy of going on a second date unless absolutely certain it’s not happening. I just may need to be a little more accepting of the latter. There were certainly less substantial reasons not to consider him.

Me: “I know it’s stupid and I would never blow someone off for just this, but… he said he loves Christmas Vacation. You know how much I hate Christmas Vacation.”

If I’m gonna sit through that terrible fucking movie, he’d better be even the slightest bit attractive to me.