Hello, Handsome – Part II

 

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My first real cowboy hat!  2006

“Have you ever been to San Antonio?” Harry asked me on Tuesday during our nightly conversation.

“Why, yes.  Back in 2002 my friend Edward—the gorgeous black bodybuilder—took me to San Antonio to check out a club.  Turns out it was a swinger’s club.  I danced on a pole and chatted with a really cute, nice couple.  Edward sprang for a hotel room (for just the two of us; I don’t get into the swinger thing).”  That would have been the most honest answer, but may have been a little too much honesty, so I opted for a shorter answer.  “I’ve been there a couple of times, but haven’t been there for years.”

“Let’s go.  I’ll drive and get the hotel rooms.  What do you say?”

“Separate hotel rooms?” I was just seeking clarification; didn’t want him to think I was scared of him, but I didn’t want to make assumptions, either.

“Of course.  We can go this weekend if you like,” Harry said.

“Sounds great!” I answered.

I called Portia to let her know.  She was excited for me.  “If ya’ll are still dating in February,” She joked, “You’ll need to send candy to Dawn to say, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day and Thank you!’  What am I saying—ya’ll don’t need to send candy, Harry will!”

We giggled.

“I’ll be in Austin this weekend, too.  Ok if I stay at your house?”  Portia’s ex-husband still lived in Austin (she had just moved to San Angelo the year before) and so Portia dropped their son off every other weekend for visitation.  I had given Portia a key to my house long ago and told her that she was free to come and go as she pleased.

“Of course you’re welcome.  Mi casa es su casa,” I told her.

So Portia was there when Harry arrived.  I had her take pictures of us in front of Harry’s truck and the grin on my face was so goofy in love that it was my favorite picture for a long time after.

My house is about 1.5 hours from San Antonio, on the north side of Austin, which means that Harry and I had plenty of time to talk along the way.  I’ve never been shy, so I came right out with what was on my mind.

“What’s your definition of a girlfriend?  I mean, when can you call someone your girlfriend?”  I asked.

“I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it.”  He replied, pensively.  “What do you think?  Clearly you’ve had time to think about it.”

“Well, there are three main criteria,” I said.  “First, a couple has to agree to be exclusive, which means they aren’t dating anyone else.”

“Ok, I can agree to that.  I’m not dating anyone else; are you?”

“Nope,” I said, a little surprised that he was applying the list to us immediately.

“Ok, what else you got?”

“You’ve got to date a certain period of time.  I’m not sure how long—my friends and I talked about at least 2 dates, or at least a month, but we couldn’t really agree.  What do you think?”

“Well I think that if you like someone, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating,” Harry said, with conviction.  “What’s your third criteria?”

“That both people agree to use the titles.  I say that because I’ve known guys that just hate to be called ‘boyfriend.’ It scares them off, or they just don’t like titles.  What do you think?”

“I think,” Harry said, taking my hand while watching the road, and observing me with little glances to gage my mood, “That I know that I like you, I’m not dating anyone else, and I’m fine with calling you my girlfriend, if that’s what you want.”

I was a little surprised.  “Yes, of course!” I said.  Wow, what a great guy!

“Good.  Now that we’ve got that taken care of,” he said, “Do you want to stop at Cabella’s?”

Cabella’s is a new store located in Buda, just south of Austin.  It is a huge sports/hunting/fishing store featuring an indoor waterfall, stuffed animals (real ones, not the kids’ toys), and all the equipment a sports nut could dream up.  It was so huge that it had become a tourist attraction; the signs on the highway announced the exit.

“Sure,” I said.  Though not a hunter myself, I was curious to see this colossal superstore.  And it was everything that I expected it to be.  From the outside, it looked like a mall.  On the inside, it still reminded me of a mall; only, instead of stores, it had departments:   Fishing department, Gun department, Clothing department: different camouflage patterns, shirts with deer heads printed on them, hip waders, rubber boots, etc.  As we toured the testament to man’s love of nature, we chatted some more and held hands.

“Help me out here—I’m a little hazy on the dates.  When did you marry Jamie?” I asked.

“I knew this would come up,” Harry said, visibly nervous.  He looked around, trying to decide how to word his answer and said, “We got married in April 2003.  We were married just over two years.”

I tried to do the math in my head and it just didn’t sound right.  “That means you got divorced—when?”

“In May.”

“This past May?”  He nodded.  My mind was having trouble digesting this info.  That meant that he was married in April when we met.  Was he wearing a ring?  I couldn’t remember.  But it wouldn’t matter; lots of married people had bare hands.  The engineers that I worked with called rings a safety hazard.

Harry saw the confused look on my face and said, “I know you have a rule against dating guys within a year of their divorce,” Harry said, tensely, carefully, “That’s why I didn’t mention it before.”  Damn right, I have a rule, and for good reasons!  I’ve been bitten by this one before.  I struggled against the urge to run, scream, or both.  I took a deep breath.  I decided that given the opportunity to go home and wonder “What if” or spend the weekend in picturesque San Antonio with the handsome Mr. Handsome, I’d take the latter.

I smiled at him and said, “Well, we’re here now, I’ll take my chances.”  He let out the breath he’d been holding and smiled back at me.  We walked around for a while talking about the various equipment.  He carried around some ammo for a while, but then thought better of having to transport it all the way back to San Angelo, and put it back.

We were walking through the clothes—thermal underwear for the cold mornings tracking deer—when I asked Harry, “Where would you live if you could live anywhere?”

“My sister is in Tennessee, so maybe there,” he began.  “Or Fort Worth.  I’ve done some job shopping online—nothing serious, just seeing what’s out there—and FW has some ME jobs in the medical manufacturing industry; I could live there.  San Antonio’s nice, too.  I’m vested at J&J; if I stay two more years, then I’ll be fully vested.  So I’m going to try to stick around until then.  What about you?” he countered.

“I love Texas and I want my kids to be around family, where are here.  If I could have any job, it would be working for NASA.  But the jobs I wants are in California or Colorado.  Since I don’t want to leave the state, I’d rather live in Austin, San Antonio, or Fort Worth.  San Angelo is nice, too.”  I smiled at him.

“Did they tell you when you’d find out if you have the job?” Harry had insider knowledge yet pretended that he didn’t.  I respected his strong ethics; a lesser man would have told me what the interviewers decided.

“The HR rep said two weeks,” I replied, “Which was over last week. I sent an email to Kathy and she responded that I should hear back from them next week.”

Harry shook his head.  “That human resources department is so slow.”

We had walked around most the store (though not seen everything, I’m sure, since it is so huge), so Harry asked, “Ready to go?”

From there we went to San Marcos, which is the next major city on I-35.  San Marcos is known for its outlet malls.  Buses of Mexicans arrive every weekend, since the border is only a couple of hours away, and Texans drive for miles for the chance to get a name brand outfit for a good price.  Harry and I decided to look around.  I wanted some cute tops and Harry wanted some sunglasses.

Harry bought me three different tops from three different stores.  He’s a very patient shopper.  Maybe because has four sisters.  He pointed out shirts that he thought were cute.  We stopped in the Sunglasses Hut to get shades.  He tried on one wrap around pair and said, “Look!  McFly!”  He would have been happy to shop longer, but I felt like I was taking advantage as it were.  So we stopped for lunch.  I had seen a Schlotski’s Deli on the way in and suggested that, but when we started driving to it, we realized that it was on the other side of the interstate.  “Never mind,” I said, “We can eat at Applebee’s, right here.”

“If you want to eat at Schlotski’s, I don’t mind driving over there,” my ultra-sweet Boyfriend (!!) offered.  He was sincere in wanting to make me happy; there was no spite or frustration in his voice or eyes.  I didn’t really care; I could eat at either restaurant (they’re both franchises).  So we went to Applebee’s.

While we were sitting at the table, Harry said, “There’s this girl that I like…”  I stiffened up.  Was he dating someone else?  No, he told me in the car that he wasn’t.  “I’m taking her to San Antonio.”  OH he was talking about ME!  Duh.  In third person, how cute!

“Yes?”  I encouraged him to continue.

“How do I know that she likes me?”  He asked.

I laughed.  I couldn’t help it!  Here I was, all goofy over this guy, and he wasn’t sure that I liked him?!  I began in a Socratic way.

“She agreed to go with you to San Antonio?”

“Yes,” he responded.

“Does she ever hold your hand?” like in Cabella’s, surrounded by stuffed dead things, while pretending to enjoy the scenery?

“Yes.”

“Then she likes you,” I concluded.  Maybe not the best or well-thought out argument, but it worked.  Harry beamed a pleased, slightly embarrassed smile.  He looked so boyish and young, he was just too adorable!

“What about you?  You seeing anyone?”  He prompted.

“Sure, I’m dating this guy,” I responded.  “But I’m not sure about when we should—you know—be physically intimate.  In my experience, guys quit liking a girl afterward.”

He looked confused.  “I think physical intimacy should bring two people closer together,” he said.

“Well it seems to me that beforehand, there’s romantic dinners and flowers and such, and none of that afterward.”

“I think there should be more romance after,” he said, confidently.  I hoped that he was right (despite my experience to the contrary).  I smiled flirtatiously.

The rest of the weekend was like a dream: so perfect.  We checked into the hotel, which was the Hilton on the Riverwalk.  Our rooms were on one of the high floors and were gorgeous; the hotel had recently renovated, so the paint was fresh and carpet was new.  The rooms were spacious, too.  From that and the location, I could tell that Harry had spent some cash and I appreciated it.

After checking in, we went down to the Riverwalk.  It is beautiful.  It’s below street level, with lots of trees and plants, so that its mostly cool and shady.  (Texas is hot, even in October.)  Restaurants and shops line the river and at one end there’s a mall.  The river is only four feet deep in most places.  Harry and I walked and talked and ducked into a few art shops just off the Riverwalk.

That night we had dinner at a great TexMex restaurant.  At least, I think it was great; the margarita certainly was!  Then we walked over to Howl at the Moon, a piano bar.  We had fun watching the Aggie vs. UT Fight Song war!  He’s an Aggie (graduated from Texas A&M) and I’m a Longhorn (I attend the University of Texas at Austin.)  One piano player would start playing the A&M fight song, then someone would tip the other piano player and he would play the Longhorn’s Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.  This would go back and forth, as the crowd got more worked up and the tips piled up, until finally a winner was pronounced to much cheering and booing.  This night, the Longhorns were more generous than the Aggies.

We stayed for a couple of hours watching the piano players perform, then walked back to the hotel.  Harry was a perfect gentleman.

I was not the perfect lady.  I kissed him, letting him know that I wanted more.  We really could have gotten just one hotel room; but I’m glad that it was a choice.

Cheers!

********

This was part II of the story of Harry and I dating.  We were together for another month before it ended; that story isn’t as fun.  If you missed Part I, it’s here.

Come back next week; I hope to share some life-altering good news with you.

May your dates be hot, if you want them to be 😉

Cheers!

 

Hello, Handsome

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Jules & Portia, 2004

San Angelo is a typical west Texas town: dry, dusty, small.  Most of the occupants work for Johnson & Johnson, like Portia.  They hang out at the bar, church, or go to San Antonio (the closest big city) for fun.  So special events are exciting and get big crowds.

The Texas Wine & Food Festival was at the Coliseum, which was an all-purpose building; even the rodeo was held there.  The vendors set up along the perimeter of the oval and tables filled the middle.  The dirt floor was uncovered.

*************

This story is set in 2005, the last semester of my undergrad degree.  I needed to find a job before I graduated, because I had two little mouths to feed (well, three if you count mine).  I couldn’t afford time to look around for a job.  I didn’t expect to find a lover, too.

*************

As we walked in, Portia remarked, “They have a live band!”

“Of course, this is Austin, Texas—Live Music Capitol of the World.”  I looked at Portia’s questioning face and burst out laughing.  “I’m not in Austin, am I?!”

“Nope.”

“Well, I have my best friend from Austin with me, so I feel at home, I guess!” I told her.  She smiled at the compliment.

As we walked around, Portia introduced me to the people she knew.  Which meant that every three feet we stopped to say hello to one of her coworkers.  I didn’t mind; they were all friendly Texans.

At the Capstone Wine booth, one of her friends begged her to help.  “Just for an hour, then Jamie will be here,” the woman said.

Portia apologized to me, “Sorry.  I volunteered to help with this a month ago, and then they said that they had it covered; anyway, I need to help them.”

“No worries, I can amuse myself,” I said.

Harry

I wandered over to the cars that were parked nearby.  A car salesman was getting people to register for a drawing and advertising the cars at the same time.

A handsome man about my age was looking the cars over, too.  I said, “Yep, looks like a car.”

He replied, “Four doors, windshield, tires…yep, looks like the cars that I’ve seen, too.  What a coincidence!”

I laughed and introduced myself.  “I’m Jules.  I’m a friend of Portia,” I pointed at Portia, who was pouring wine about 20 feet away.  “I’m from Austin.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he said, “I’m Harry Handsome. I work with Portia.”

Yes, you are, I thought, and shook his hand.  “Everyone here works with Portia.”

He returned the smile and nodded, “This is J&J Country.”

We continued our perusal of the vehicles.  Harry is about 5’7”, brown hair, brown eyes, and a wedding ring on his left hand.  Sigh.  He’s married.  Oh, well, at least I had someone to laugh with for a little while.  I almost wish that I didn’t have a date; I could hang with him all night.

Harry and I joked around some more, then he wandered off to get some food.  I wouldn’t see him again until October; but that’s another story for another time.

Girl Talk

“Dawn said that Harry really liked you,” Portia told me.  Dawn is her best friend in San Angelo.

“How does she know?  Did he tell her?”

“No, Dawn said that she could tell by the way he looked at you at the Texas Wine and Food Festival.”  I thought back to April and the funny guy that I enjoyed talking to by the car on display.

“I liked him, too.  Tell me about him.”

“Harry is about Pirate Boy’s height and build.”  Pirate Boy is 5’7” and petite (that’s a nice way of saying he’s skinny and small for a guy).  Since I dated him for over two years, Portia knew that I didn’t need a tall guy.  “Brown hair, brown eyes.  He’s a mechanical engineer and well liked.”

“And single, right?”  I asked.

“As far as I know.  Since you’re interested, I’ll make sure.”

I was visiting San Angelo for a job interview with Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon), the company that Portia worked for.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live in West Texas, but since Portia was like a sister to me, I’d have “family” there.  Also, Austin (my current hometown) was only 4 hours away.  That’s close enough for a weekend visit.  With nothing to lose, I accepted the interview.  At worst, I’d get an all-expenses-paid visit to see Portia.  At best, I’d get a job, and not have to worry about interviewing/job hunting –I could concentrate on finishing school.

I didn’t know that Harry was going to be one of my interviewers.  I was a little taken aback when I saw his name on the agenda that Kathy, the Human Resources (HR) representative, handed me the morning of my interview.  My mind raced; I could tell Portia not to invite him out with us.  ‘Cause I didn’t want him to think that I was hitting on him to get the job.  Then again, he was one of a dozen people that I talked to that day, and they all voted on whether to extend a job offer; so he didn’t have much pull as to whether I got hired.  Jeez, I hate being in this situation!

I put it out of my mind and concentrated on the interviews.  The whole day was packed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Harry was part of my second interview, along with Ed, the HR manager.  When Harry shook my hand, he said, “Good to see you again.”  Shocked, I was momentarily at a loss for words.  He remembered meeting me in April, 6 months ago?  Cool!

I pulled it together and smiled at my interviewers.  Now was not the time to flirt, it was time to be charming, intelligent, and dazzling.

Harry said, “One of the advantages of working with J&J, is that they have different locations.  I could transfer to Tennessee if I wanted.”

I hope he didn’t want to move; I was looking forward to getting to know him.  Shifting my focus, I concentrated on the human resources rep, because my thought about Harry were too distracting.

After the interview was over (I nailed it, btw), Harry walked me to the next interviewer.  At the door, he shook my hand formally, but smiled warmly and winked.  I blushed and totally wished that it was time for happy hour.

The rest of the interviews went well.  The last interview was the most challenging.  Three interviewers (two engineers and one HR rep) sat with me in a small room and asked me more behavioral questions.  The last question they asked was, “Describe a time where you failed and how you handled it.”

I said the only thing that came to mind.  “My divorce signaled the failure of my marriage.  The root cause, I believe, was communication.  So after the divorce, I studied communicating.  The most helpful books were How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber.  The last is a parenting book, but it helped me to talk to other adults as well.”

The interviewers seemed to appreciate my answer and thanked me whole-heartedly for my time.  A couple looked like they wanted to hug me.

I was done and thoroughly exhausted at 2 p.m.  Went to the library to check email, called Mom.  I told her, “They have some cool machines, but I don’t want to work there.  Manufacturing is not what I want to do.”

Mom said, “That’s why you do these on-site interviews, to find out that you don’t want to work there.  That’s not a wasted trip.”

“You’re right,” I said, because Mom usually is.  “Still, I felt guilty, especially because Portia was so excited about the possibility of us being neighbors and coworkers.  We wouldn’t work directly together, we’d be in different departments in different parts of the complex, but we could still have lunch together.”

Mom sympathized with me, “Yes, that would’ve been fun, but you’ll find friends to have lunch with, at a job that you like better.”

“I guess.  Thanks, Mom.  I love you,” I said.  She echoed the phrase and we ended the call.

Happy Hour

The pool hall was the next stop.  Portia said that she invited several people, including Harry.  We drank, played pool.

An old man flirted with me, half-heartedly.  “We don’t see too many pretty women in here,” he said.  “You must be new in town.”

I laughed.  “You may be old enough to be my grandfather, but you just made my night!  Thank you!”

Harry showed up with two friends (Jeff and Mack).  Jeff was a hunk: tall (~6’0”, muscular (obviously worked out).  I was tempted, but stayed focused on Harry.  After all, Jeff wasn’t an engineer.  I’ve dated guys without college degrees and they just don’t understand my nerdiness.  I couldn’t talk to Mike the Plumber about physics class and the disparity in our educations made him a little defensive.  So now I’m looking for a guy as nerdy as me.  With a little sigh of regret, I tore my eyes away from Jeff’s pectorals and concentrated on Harry.

He seemed surprised by the attention.

Jeff was miffed that I wasn’t more interested, evidenced by how much he teased Harry.  “Come on, Harry!  Have a drink!”  Then to me he said, “Harry gets drunk after 2 beers.  Once, we drove to the edge of town and drank in the park.  He was falling down after 2 and a half cold ones!”

I just rolled my eyes; like I cared whether a man could hold his liquor.

Portia let her boyfriend Frank lead her onto the dance floor (the open area by the juke box).

“Wanna?” I asked, and nodded in that direction.

“Nope, I don’t dance,” Harry answered.  “But I like watching.”

So I went on the floor by myself.  I’ve never been very shy, and I love to dance, and so I did.

Later, we exchanged numbers and hugged goodnight.  I didn’t have a good read on how well the night had gone.  Sure, he had stuck around until Portia and I said it was time to go; but was he just being a gentleman, so that I wouldn’t be a third wheel?

Saturday

I didn’t have long to wonder.  The next morning, Harry called me about 9 a.m.  I took it as a good sign that he didn’t wait a day or two to call me.  I agreed to lunch and he picked me up promptly at 11:30 a.m.

After the usual, “Where do you want to go,” conversation, we wound up at Chili’s.

“I love Chili’s,” I told him, “It’s a good, American restaurant with a variety of foods.  You can a hamburger or fajitas, a salad or flatbread pizza – which means that you can decide while you look at the menu.  It’s a great place to bring kids, too.”

“So you have kids,” he said.

“Yes.  Jack is 11 and Sally is 8.  They are blonde-haired, blue-eyed little angels—though I may be a little biased,” I said, and we laughed.

“When did you get divorced?” he asked.

“We separated in August 2000 and our divorce was official in October 2001.  We waited over a year to give the kids time to get used to the idea.  What about you, ever been married?”  I always hold my breath when waiting for someone to answer that question, ever since one guy told me that marriage was forever and he was only doing it once.  Well, duh, don’t we all hope for that?!

“Yes, I was married for just over two years.  She was young and we rushed into it.  We just weren’t compatible,” he said, then quickly changed the subject.  I’m glad; I didn’t want to spend the entire meal commiserating about failed marriages.  “So you went out with Joe back in April, is that right?” he asked.

“Yes.  We got along fine, had a good time.  Talked on the phone once or twice since then.  Guess we just didn’t like each other well enough to have a long distance relationship.”

“That happens,” Harry acknowledged.

“We’re friends now.  Had dinner last night, even.  It was nice.”  I paused, not really knowing where to go from there.  So I did what I always do when I’m nervous and don’t know what to say: I babbled.  “Portia set me up a couple of times before that.  Once was a plumber who left me on my 30th birthday.”

“No!  On your birthday?!” Harry exclaimed, shocked.  He was so animated that, had it been anyone else, I would’ve thought that he was being sarcastic.

“Ya.  And then there was the guy that bought me jewelry and poetry after our first date.”

“What?!”

“I know I’m beautiful, but he went a little overboard.” I rolled my eyes.  “Of course, I was the first person that he dated after his divorce.  Now I have a rule that I don’t date a guy within a year of his divorce.”

“Really?” Harry seemed interested.  I swear his ears perked up.

“Ya.  Guys—girls, too—go a little crazy after a divorce.  They aren’t centered.  Even people like me, who were separated for a long time before the actual divorce, need time to get their heads together.  You know Portia; she really went wild.  She hadn’t been with anyone but her husband, and was kinda of a prude.  Since the divorce, she’s been with three different guys.  She’s like a new person.  I’m ready for her to calm down and go back to normal!”

“You’re right, she has been different since her divorce.  I didn’t know that she was that wild.”

We paused for a minute while he struggled with what to say next.  He surprised me by changing the subject entirely.  “What do you think about San Angelo?”

“Well, I like what I’ve seen so far, which isn’t much!  Are there any parks where we can go hiking?  Or at least go for a walk?”

“Parks, yes—but they’re not big enough for hiking.  I can show you, if you like.”

The park was representative of domestic West Texas: mostly grass, some trees, with an unexpected garden oasis.  We talked and walked for a couple of hours.  The flowers delighted us, we swung on the swings, and in a magical moment under a canopy of green trees, he kissed me.  It was a perfect moment.

“What do you think about joint checking accounts?” Harry asked.

“I had one when I was married.  Not at first; in the beginning, I was writing checks out of two checkbooks and balancing two checkbooks.  That seemed silly; it was just extra work; so we combined our accounts.  Why do you ask?”

“When I got married, I wanted to keep our accounts separate, but Dad said that married people should have joint accounts.  He talked me into it.”  Harry made a face like he just tasted a sour pickle.

“What about the kids?” he asked.

“What about them?  They have a father and a father figure (in my father).  I’m their mother.  They’re good.”

He thought about that for a moment.

“I’m not looking for a dad for them.  I’m looking for a partner for me.”  He accepted that and looked a bit relieved.  I can only imagine that going from single with no kids to being a step dad of two half-grown children would be intimidating.

That night he had a prior engagement and invited me along.  His friend Tanya was in a beauty pageant.  Tanya is a beautiful 20-year-old college student intern at J&J.  She’s about 5’6” with shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes, and dark that skin implied a Mexican ancestry so common to Texas.

The pageant was interesting: besides Tanya, the contestants included a large girl who barely concealed her nervousness as her family and friends cheered her on and a couple of professional contestants who (we later learned from Tanya) traveled to different pageants.  One of these last women won.  She was a bleached blonde, tanned beauty who looked more like Ms. Santa Monica than Ms. San Angelo.  Afterward we went to a restaurant for dinner with Harry’s family and friends.  She confided how the new Ms. SA had stretch marks and cottage cheese fat that looked awful up close, but weren’t visible in the audience.  Plus it didn’t seem fair that residency wasn’t a requirement; the winner was from Houston, an 8-hour drive away!

Harry dropped me off at Portia’s house with a kiss good night.  I floated in with hearts in my eyes.  I might have to rethink whether I’d accept the job, if I were offered it; San Angelo just got a lot more attractive.

**************

What a great memory!  Come back next week for the second half of this flashback.

Cheers!

Conner the Computer Geek, Part 2

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Notice that Gina’s cigarette (left) looks like it’s about to burn some girl’s crotch.

GNO

That Friday Lisa, her friend Gina, and I went on a Girl’s Night Out (GNO).  I was a bit unsettled when I realized that if I said or did anything stupid, which I sometimes do when I drink, Conner would hear about it, because Lisa was Conner’s best friend.  But Gina & Lisa were so easy to get along with that I soon forgot my fears.  We talked about Gina’s husband, my two kids, and everything else.  Lisa had also dated Mike, for 2-3 months, so we had that in common.

GNO started out at Saba’s (a bar) and moved to Malaga’s (another bar) where we ordered Portobello mushrooms and artichoke heart dip on crostini.  The fact that we all loved these foods brought us closer together and we drank and giggled over more life stories.  Polly Ester’s was our next stop: an 80’s themed night club where the hardcore dress the part.  We danced, played Ms. Pac Man, and sang Karaoke.  Our song was “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

“I’ve got friends in low places, where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away.  Ya, I’ll be ok.  I’m not big on social graces, think I’ll slip on down—to the O-asis!  Oh ya, I’ve got Friends!  In low places!”

I thought it was fitting.  Lisa had a sore throat, so she didn’t sing, and Gina didn’t know the song too well, but we had fun.

*****************************

This is part 2 of the Conner story.  I wrote most of it in 2002, while in the thrall of infatuation.  OMG I’m such a dork when I’m in love!  Enjoy!

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Conner called to check on us (what a sweetie!).  Well, actually he called Lisa.  Gina pointed out that they had been friends for six years.  After Lisa talked for a few minutes, she passed me the phone.

I told him, “I miss you terribly.”  I couldn’t believe how true that was.  I had seen him the morning before, but I still missed him.  The feeling was made worse by the realization that I didn’t know when we’d see each other again.  He was working all weekend.

He said, “I miss you, too.”  We discussed his visit and soon said goodbye.

I went back to the girls and had a few sips of my drink, then excused myself.  The margaritas were hitting me hard.  I called Conner back and said, “I still miss you.”

He said, “I miss you, too.  Tell you what, we’ll do something tomorrow night, okay?”

Okay?!  I was overjoyed!  I meekly answered, “Okay.  Sweet dreams.”  I was smiling as I rejoined my friends.

Later Gina went home, but that didn’t faze Lisa or me.  We continued dancing.  Since none of the guys were approaching us, I asked Lisa if she wanted to attract some attention.  She said, “Yea!” so I dirty danced with her.  She happens to be a very good dancer.  The guys were all over us in two seconds flat.  Lisa met James, and I tried dancing with his friend Arnold, but the guy kept getting too close.  I brushed him off and went to get another drink.  I had to let down five more guys on the way to the bar!

I knew beyond a doubt that I liked Conner.  Even when I was married, I’d flirt with the guys and even get their numbers.  I never called them, but it was fun to pretend.  If I was unwilling to play that game, I must really like my guy!

I was finally able to drag Lisa out the door.  We went through the Whataburger drive thru (yep, I was drunk enough that I ate a burger AND fries).  Then I crashed in her bed for a few hours before driving myself home.

After waking up early Saturday afternoon, I called Conner to see what time he was coming over.

“When do you want me?” he asked.

It was about 2 p.m.  “Right now,” I said playfully.

He said, “I’m going to take a shower & I’ll be right over.”

“I was joking! Don’t you have work to do?” I said, laughing.

“It can wait until Monday,” he replied.

“Alright, then, can you be here at 4?” I said.  I needed to shower, change, and make a mad dash around the living room picking up kids’ toys and laundry.

He said he’d try.  He was here at 3:40; he was eager to see me!  And he had grabbed McDonald’s hamburgers on the way over.  He remembered that I didn’t eat fried foods, but everything at Mickey Dees is fried, so he took a chance and got me a cheeseburger.  It was so sweet of him that I hated to admit that I hated ALL fast food!  I ate part of one anyway, and promised myself that I’d run an extra mile or two the next day.

We snuggled up on my couch to watch movies.  I had been watching “Hercules” and sang along to Meg’s “No chance, no way, I won’t say it, no, no; it’s too cliché, I won’t say I’m in love.”  Then I turned it off so that we could watch an adult movie.  “Monkey Bone” was funny and sweet.

Afterward I announced that I was hungry, so I took Conner to the Texas Land & Cattle Company.   I wore a little hot pink tank top dress and we were very affectionate with each other in the car: stroking each other’s thighs, kissing at red lights.  I popped in my Garth Brook’s CD and sang “Wrapped up in you” to him.  He smiled at my animated singing and was even bopping along with me by the end of it.

At the restaurant I told Conner about my academic history.  “I attended a high school for gifted and talented students in Louisiana; THE state school for the gifted.  There I earned a full scholarship to LSU, but instead accepted a partial academic scholarship to TCU.  I attended TCU for only a year before meeting and falling in love with my first husband.”  Since my relationship wasn’t the point of the conversation, I kept talking.  “I didn’t return to school for two years, and that was only to take some secretarial classes.  After another marriage, baby, and divorce, I returned to school.  I’ve been in school part-time for a year and a half now, working toward a degree in engineering.”

“Why?” Conner asked.

“Because I can, because I am capable of so much more.  Secretarial duties are boring, repetitive.”  I answered.

“Engineering can be, too!” Conner said.

I was shocked.  I didn’t know what he based his answer on, but I didn’t ask.  “Engineering also pays more.  I’d rather be bored making twice as much money.”  I said, disappointed that he didn’t admire or support that goal.  “But if I decide that it takes too long to get an engineering degree, time spent away from my kids, I can take two classes and have a ‘consolation prize’ of an associate degree in foreign languages (French).  I signed up for the classes and planned to go to school half-days, but that was while I working at my last job, where my boss was understanding and flexible with my schedule.  I may have to drop the classes so that I can work a full-time job.  I don’t know if another employer would let me go to school half-days.”  I had mixed feeling about this; I really wanted a degree, but I needed to provide for my family, too.  “An associate degree isn’t going to help me get a job, but after going to school for so long, I want a diploma.”

Conner was obviously uncomfortable with the discussion.  He changed the subject.  “If this deal goes through, my business can put some money in the bank—to fall back on—and reinvest the other half into equipment.”

While I was interested in his business and appreciated the fact that he confided in me, I felt like we missed something.  He hadn’t appreciated my feelings about school and hadn’t really understood the depth of my feelings.  He didn’t care enough to give me advice or offer support; he just changed the subject.  I felt deflated.  Suddenly, my food lost its taste, and I picked at it as Conner continued to share his business plan.

After dinner we returned to my house and started another movie.

He told me, out of the blue, “I decided where to put ALF.”

“Oh really?  Where?”

“On top of my desk hutch, so I can see him all the time while I work.”  He smiled at me, pleased as can be.  I was thrilled that he liked that old puppet so much!

I asked him his middle name, to which he replied, “Conner.”

“Well then what is your first name?”  I asked.

He hesitated.  It was obvious that he didn’t care for it, but he begrudgingly said, “Charles.”  What a fine name!  Charles Conner Jeffers.

“My brother’s middle name was Conner.  As a matter of fact, you and he have similar noses & face shapes & body types (tall & skinny) & both wear glasses,” I said, surprised that I was just now realizing this.

“Oh really?  So you’re telling me that I remind you of your BROTHER?!” Conner asked, amused.

“Uh, not really.  My brother is an officer in the Air Force, extremely quiet, and very pure.  He speaks Spanish, some German, and Russian; he doesn’t want anyone to understand him.  You, on the other hand, are very communicative, which was one of the many things I love about you,” said, kissing him.

Charles Conner and I were back at the house attempting to watch “Training Day,” a movie that wasn’t very good, when we paused it so that he could take a smoke break.  I called Lisa to check on her first date with James, the guy we had met the night before.  She said it was okay, then asked us to meet them for drinks.

We were the first to arrive at the dive bar near Conner’s house.  One of the waitresses, Holly, was way drunk and regaled us with stories about her and her boyfriend Ray.  “He doesn’t treat me right,” was the summary.

After she left, Conner confided, “Ray is married; Holly is his mistress.”

I replied, “If (heaven forbid) if doesn’t work out between you and me, I’m not dating one of your friends.”

“Thank goodness; we have enough soap opera drama around here,” he said.

Lisa showed up first, wearing a sexy short black skirt.  We had a few minutes to catch up before her date arrived.  James brought his friend Arnold Johnson.  James called him “Johnson,” but the man introduced himself as “Arnold.”  That didn’t faze James a bit; he still called him Johnson all night.  I recognized the man, but he didn’t seem to recognize me; he was one of the guys I had rejected at Polly Esters!

James talked about himself, the police academy, and his future as a small-town police officer the whole time.  Lisa was not impressed.  She and I had some side conversations while the boys talked.  At the end of the night (she later told us) James expected to go home with her.  She set him straight.

Jules Rules: If a girl invites her friends to join you on a first date, it’s probably not going well.  If she talks to her girlfriend more than she talks to you, then it’s REALLY not going well!

Back at my house that night, Conner and I snuggled.  We can never get enough of touching each other.

He looked at me seriously and said, “I want something serious.  I enjoy the sex, but I want more.”

I was very touched, because the implication was that he wanted something serious with me.   I answered, “Just take it slow, okay?”  I was surprised, nervous, excited.  I had just finalized my divorce in October; I wasn’t sure if I ready for a really serious relationship.  Not sure how to verbalize my complex feelings, I changed the subject.  “You’re so handsome,” I said.

“You think I’m handsome?” he asked, rather taken aback.

“Yes.”  He eyed me skeptically, then thoughtfully.  Apparently the thought had never occurred to him before.  Maybe he was realizing just how nearsighted I really was.

Cheers!

Click here for part 3, the last part of the Conner story, where I leave some crazy voicemails and I have a great non-date with a married man.  Expect to see a lot more of Lisa!

Cheers!

Conner the Computer Geek, Part 1

 

2001_halloween_shedevil

Halloween 2001.  This picture has nothing to do with the blog, I just love it.  Call me She Devil!

Every time the phone rings, I hope it’s him.  Every time there’s a knock on the door, I’m hoping that it’s Conner making a surprise visit.  Every time I kiss him, I get a warm feeling, and I just want to tell him, “I love you.”

My friends haven’t met him yet, but they already like him.  When I told Renee that he’s a bit goofy, she pointed out that goofy was just what I needed.  Jose said that he sounds like a bad ass.  Lee gave him the greatest compliment of all.  She said, “Julie, you sound happy.  I haven’t heard you sound this happy in a long time, especially where guys are concerned.  I’m happy for you, I really am.”  And she’s right; in spite of the fact that I’m unemployed, broke, and just had the worst month of my life, Conner makes me happy.  I giggled out loud in the shower the other day, just thinking about how happy I am.

***********************************************************

Originally Written August 4, 2002, this is total cheese!  I wanted to share what I’m like when I’m completely into a guy.  I giggle when I read this, because the 2002-me is so dreamy-eyed and wistful.  The hopeless romantic in me wants this again.

***********************************************************

But let me start at the beginning.  I was dating his roommate Mike when we meet.  Mike was a quiet man; I found it difficult to get close to him because his thoughts were so closely guarded.  My friend Jose told me that all things happen for a reason.  Perhaps I dated Mike so that I would meet and get to know Conner.

One day while Mike prepping his boat to go to the lake, he told me to make myself comfortable in the living room.  Conner kept me company.  Mike was such a quiet man that it’s hard to know what he’s thinking.  Conner, however, was refreshingly gregarious.  As we talked, I put my suntan lotion on my body.  At one point I dropped my shorts to put lotion on my hips.  (I was wearing a bikini, of course.)  He did a good job of keeping eye contact, though he later admitted that it was difficult!

We discussed Conner’s business, my kids, and other things; we got along like old friends.  When Mike told me he was ready, I glanced at my watch and was shocked to discover that Conner & I had talked for a full 30 minutes!  I felt that we had shared a lot in those 30 minutes.  I wanted to hug him, and he seemed to want to hug me; but I wasn’t sure how Mike would react, so I didn’t.  I told him that I regretted that he wouldn’t join us and waved goodbye.

Later I told my friend Renee that I liked Conner.  She told me that I had a good thing going with Mike and warned me that the grass is always greener on the other side.  She even said that she had had similar feelings about friends of her boyfriends, but after she got to know the guys, she thought, “What was I thinking?!  This guy is a dork!”  I heeded her advice and tried to keep my mind on Mike.  It wasn’t easy, especially when Mike admitted that Conner thought I was cute!  I told Mike that I liked him, too.  I couldn’t read Mike’s expression, so I changed the subject.

First Date

Mike and I dated for a month.  We just weren’t compatible and parted as friends.  Conner waited two days before asking me out, under the guise of a business lunch.  He could do that because he worked for my company as a contractor.  The conversation rapidly degenerated to raunchy jokes and sexual innuendoes.  At one point he admitted that he wasn’t wearing any underwear; I told him that we had that in common.  He blushed prettily.

I told him a joke about a young virgin who didn’t know how to wear a condom, and he told me that he detested the things.  He admitted that he preferred a fuck buddy; someone who could be a casual friend.  One of my friends said that she would have slapped him and walked off.  I was honest with myself: I had had one or two fuck buddies in the past.  But I’d outgrown that practice.  I wanted a boyfriend.  My heart sank.

He dropped me off in front of my work in full view of my coworkers, which made a goodbye kiss inadvisable, so instead I promised to call him.  The words stuck in my throat; as much as I liked him, I didn’t want to be anyone’s fuck toy.

My friends & I discussed how awkward it would be for me to date my ex-lover’s roommate.  But it had been a short relationship with Mike, and one should find happiness where one could; so I decided to take a chance and emailed Conner.

He made me smile, laugh, and feel pretty.  We emailed.  We talked about everything.  I even had the balls to email him, “Are you looking for a girlfriend or a fuck buddy?”  He emailed me back, “Your choice.”  Then he thought better of his answer and sent back, “That wasn’t a fair answer to a fair question.  I’ve never been good at one-night stands.  I’d really like a relationship.”  I smiled when I read the words; that was the answer I had hoped to receive.

Less than a week later, I was fired from my job as an office manager.  Conner was familiar with the office politics and I should have seen it coming, but it was still a shock to both of us.  The same day I was diagnosed with a heart condition, bigeminal premature ventrical contractions (PVCs).  My family physician referred me to a cardiologist for further tests, to see how serious it was.  A week later I found out that it wasn’t serious and I could continue to run and exercise.  “The diagnosis is on the same level as a heart murmur,” the doctor told me, “Avoid stress and caffeine.”

HA!  As if I could!  I’m a single mom with two kids, and unemployed on top of that!

However ridiculous the doctor’s advice was, knowing that I was fine a big relief.  That week of waiting, however, was very stressful.  Conner was very supportive, though, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend during that difficult time.  I had already fallen for him before that, but I fell even more deeply as he held my hand and offered comfort.  It’s hard to communicate how much his support meant to me and how much he helped me through that time.  To go back to what Jose said, perhaps I was meant to meet Conner for this reason.

In an email, I asked if Mike was cool with us dating.  I didn’t want to come between two good friends.  Conner said that Mike encouraged it; apparently he was already dating someone else.  I asked Conner, “Didn’t he tell you what a nut I am?  And you still want to date me?!”

Conner replied, “Yes, but he calls me a fruitcake, too.  I figure that since we’re both fruitcakes, we should get along.”  I couldn’t argue with that logic.

Then we discussed our relationship rules.  His were simple: don’t lie and don’t cheat on me.  I respected those; they were two of my own.  Also on my list were “don’t belittle my feelings” and “don’t ignore me.”  I explained to Conner that Justin (the guy I dated in November) was a workaholic.  He would ignore me for days at a time.  Conner assured me that he’d call me and that I’d always know where he was.

“I don’t want to have you on a leash,” I said, “because I wouldn’t want to be on a leash either.  But if I call you, please take the time to call me back.”  He agreed wholeheartedly.

Second Date

Our second date was a week after our first, on a Friday night.  We ate dinner at a nice restaurant then went to see a band and get some drinks at Cool River Cafe.  We didn’t pay much attention to the band; we were too busy talking.   Conner is so easy to talk to, and we have lots in common.

Conner is 6’7” tall.  I’m 5’4” and a size 4.  Conner tells me all the time how small I am!  I love to hear it, because most of my life I was an average height, average size 9, with average brown hair.  Working out (running) has helped me slim down, but the compliments are still wonderful to hear.

Somehow we started talking about Office Space, a movie that played three years ago.  Conner claimed that the machine the characters beat up was a printer, while I claimed it was a fax.  [After watching the movie again, I’m still not sure; it seems to be a combination printer/fax machine!]  He asked how sure I was, and I bet him $10.  He told me that he wouldn’t have bet money; I asked for his suggestion.

He said, “Oral sex, all night.”

I told him, “All night is too open to interpretation.  A better choice would be oral sex to climax.”  He was slightly surprised that I had taken his suggestion seriously, but he agreed.

That three-year-old movie was pretty popular still.  Both the VHS and DVD versions had been checked out of the local Blockbuster.  Rather than traveling around town trying to find it, we went back to my place and consummated our relationship.  Conner later described the event as “Olympic.”

I asked him, “Does that mean that it only happens every four years?”

He smiled, and instead described our time together as “wild circus sex.”

That night was incredible.  We clicked together in so many ways: talking, kissing, etc.  I hated that he smoked, but with a guy this wonderful, I can overlook a flaw or two.

On the phone the next day, he asked me awkwardly about the kids.  He said, “I don’t know the rules, I’ve never dated anyone who had kids.”

“Let me worry about them.  If there’s a problem, I’ll let you know.”  Later I regretted my quick answer and sent him an email explaining that their father (Allen) and I have a pact.  The pact is simply that we won’t introduce the kids to our dates until we’ve been dating over 6 months. This is to protect the kids.  I also pointed out “Jerry McGuire” (the movie) as a bad example: Jerry seemed to fall in love with the kid before falling for his mom.  I don’t want that to happen.  Conner understood, said that he knew people (his sister-in-law?) that had similar pacts.  He assured me, though, that he liked me for me.  He is so sweet!

He loves kids, too.  I can tell by the way he talks about his friends’ kids and his nephews.  He was determined to keep a dinner date with a friend, in part, to keep from disappointing his kids.  That is so sweet.  I missed him that night, but I respected his dedication and thoughtfulness.

Third Date

We didn’t wait another week to see each other.   The following Tuesday I invited him out for lunch.  After we ate, we ended up at an empty building (his company’s former location), locked in a small office, pleasuring each other.  That was the first time I’d gotten carpet burn in years; I had it on my knees and elbows!

He called me the next day and said, “Hello, Monkey!”

“I’m not a monkey!  I’m a Gobo.”  I replied.

“A WHAT?”

I explained that in high school, I was named after a character in the children’s show Fraggle Rock.  I even sung the theme song for him, “Dance your cares away! Worries for another day; let the music play/down in Fraggle Rock (clap, clap) Down in Fraggle Rock.”  I don’t think he understood, but he rolled with it.  After that he called me Gobo.

gobo

Gobo

On Sunday Conner helped his friend work on a roof.  When he told me, I laughed and told him that my sister’s boyfriend, also named Conner, had owned a roofing company!  My sister and I had dated guys named Randy & Brett at the same time (in first & third grades), and later Greg and Craig!  Conner thought that was just too much.

Fourth Date

The next day (Wednesday) we met his friends at happy hour.  I was nervous; what if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like them?  Would we have anything to talk about?  I wasn’t even sure what to wear.

The last one was easy enough: I put on a sexy top and a pair of blue jean short shorts and asked Conner what he thought.  The shirt was cut low, so he loved it.

I presented him with a gift bag with several goodies inside:  cookies that I had made, a note that I had written, and a sketch of my Gobo character.  I had also sketched a quick likeness of him; little more than a stick figure, really; I told him that it was just a scribble.  He told me, “That’s a better scribble than I could have done.”  I was pleased with the compliment.

The part that he may have enjoyed the most was an ALF puppet.  ALF (Alien Life Form) was a Muppet that had a TV series in the 80s.  He had recently shown up on a TV commercial and Conner & I had discussed how cool it was to see him.  Conner loved ALF and said that he was going to put him in the kitchen.  He enjoyed the thought of his roommate’s face when he saw ALF!

alf

ALF

His friends were easy going and I enjoyed talking to them.  When they asked, I was pleased to tell them that Conner and I had been together two weeks.  He was surprised that it had been that long.  Time flies when you’re having fun, I said, and kissed him.

Happy hour was fun.  It was Linda’s going away party, and she was so sweet that even I was sorry to say goodbye, even though I had just met her!  I almost hyperventilated when his best friend Lisa showed up: if Lisa didn’t like me, chances were that Conner & I wouldn’t last.  But Lisa was great (if a bit distant; I could tell that she had something—possibly work—on her mind).   She & I got along like old friends.

Conner told everyone about ALF!  He was as pleased as a kid with a new toy.  In a way, he was just a big kid with a new toy!  He told the group that I had bought ALF in the 80s, which made the puppet even more special to him.

Conner was so comfortable with his friends that he told them about our nooner.  Even he was shocked when I added that we were in the room for an hour and a half!  I apologized for keeping him so long, but he reassured me with, “Honey, I’m self-employed.  I can take as long a lunch as I want!”  We kissed (not for the first time that night).  We were told (by his friends, no less!) more than once to get a room.

One of Conner’s asked me if I had any cute friends and I told him about my friend Karen.  He gave me his phone & told me to call her, so I did.  My honey made it hard for me to speak: he kissed the back of my neck so gently that I could feel his lips on every inch of my skin.  I was finally able to explain to Karen the reason for my call, but she couldn’t join us.  Just remembering those kisses on my neck warms me.  It’s hard to explain how sweet and sensual they were.

At the end of the evening we all hugged friends goodbye; I felt they had become my friends, too.  Linda told me privately, “Stretch—oh, I call him my son, always have—he’s a good guy.  Take good care of him.  I’ll see you when you two come up to visit.”  She said it with conviction, as if she knew that the two of us would stay together.  She’s a sweet, warm woman.  Even though I had just met her, I hated to see her go!

That night Conner and I had more Wild Circus Sex.  I asked him if all his relationships were so fun.  He answered honestly, “No, usually by this time, we’ve had a fight.”

His candid reply emboldened me, so I stated, “I’ve had more sex with you these last two weeks than I’ve had the whole rest of the year put together.”

He replied, “Honey, I haven’t had this much sex since,” he thought for a minute, “three years ago.”  He kissed me.  “When you’re good together, you’re good together!”

“You are too perfect.  What are your flaws?”  I asked.  “I suppose one would be that you smoke, two would be that you’re not financial stable.”

“That’s true, but once my business is up & running, that’ll change.”  He considered for a moment, then answered me quite seriously, “I have a temper.”

“I do, too.  Sometimes I can be mad for a couple of weeks.”

“Mine is usually over in a couple of hours.”

“Mine can be, depends on the offense,” I replied.  “What else?”

He named off a couple more inconsequential things, which I can’t even remember.  I truly liked the guy.

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There’s your dose of cheese for the day!  Click here for part II of the story, including a girl’s night out with Conner’s best friend Lisa.  Will she like me?  Or will she tell Conner to dump me?  Tune in to find out!

Cheers!

 

Sassy Sally proposes to Pretty Penny

 

Sally_Penny_daisies

Sally bent down on one knee, holding up the ring box.  Her blue eyes were glowing sapphires in the shade under the trees.

Penny’s mouth gaped for a moment, taking in the scene.  Hot and sweaty from the hike up the mountain, she had stopped to take a break and gaze out over the beautiful view; she had not anticipated this.

Wordlessly, she reached into her pocket, pulling out a similar ring box.  She fell to one knee and held it up, imitating Sally’s posture.

They looked into each other’s eyes, matching sapphires frozen for a moment in time.  Then they started laughing.

“I’m asking you to marry me!” Sally said.

“Well, I’m asking you, too!” Penny answered.

“I asked first, so you answer first!” Sally insisted.

Penny rolled her eyes and leaned over to kiss her girlfriend.

“No!  Answer me first!” Sally again insisted.

“Um, don’t ya think it’s pretty obvious?” Penny replied.

“Say it!” Sassy Sally said saucily.

“Yes!  Alright?  Yes, I want to marry you!” Penny said, exasperated.

Sally rewarded her fiancée with a kiss.  “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?  And I say, ‘yes’ to you, too!”

The Real Story

That’s not how it really happened, but that’s how I had envisioned it.  After all, Sally had teased Penny for months, letting her know that she (Sally) was ready for a ring.

For example, at the mall, Sally said, “Oh look!  There’s a jewelry store!  Let’s go look at rings.”

Penny would look the other way and pretend not to hear, or point at something in another store.  “Oh look, shirts!”

Penny always wore solid color, basic button ups or t-shirts.  It’s safe to say that she isn’t a big shopper.  Sally actually forced her to try on some shirts which had patterns on them, which was way outside Penny’s comfort zone, but she dutifully tried on the shirts, anyway.

Another time, when we were chilling at home, this convo happened.

“I have a Pinterest with all my wedding ideas,” Sally had told me.

“WTF?!  I don’t even have a Pinterest account,” I answered.  “Does Penny know about this?”

“Yes,” Sally said.  “I started it so that she’d pick out the right ring, when the time came.  It also has bridesmaid dresses, and my wedding colors, and…”

I stared at the alien sitting next to me, the alien who had almost certainly taken over my daughter’s body.  Unless it was a doppelganger, and my daughter’s real body was locked in a closet somewhere.  Although some myths state that the doppelganger uses the bones of the person, in which case there wouldn’t be a body to find.

Later, I casually questioned Penny about her feelings on the topic.  “Are you going to pop the question?  Are you even gonna ask her parents’ permission first?”  (For the record, I think asking the parents is old fashioned and I didn’t really expect to be asked.  I was just giving Penny shit.)

“I’ve told Sally,” she said, with what sounded like long-suffering patience, “that when the time is right, it will be a surprise.  But it has to be a surprise.

My daughter is a lot like her mother (and yes, that’s me), in that patience is not her strongest virtue.  So I wasn’t extremely surprised when we had this phone conversation.

“Mom, I spent a little money—not too much, I promise—and I bought Penny a ring.  I’m going to propose to her when we’re on our romantic vacation in Colorado in two weeks!” Sally said, bursting with excitement.  I could see her big grin and how she jumped up and down, even over the phone.

How it went down

Sally and Penny spent the morning hiking around Engineer Mountain, until they were tuckered out.  They drove to lunch, then back to the hotel to wash the mountain dust and sweat away.

“What do you want to do?” Sally asked.

“I dunno, I don’t want to move very much, I’m sore!” Penny said.

“Ok, I know what to do!” Sally said.  See, Sally (like her mother), is a planner.  Plus, she’d been on enough hiking trips with me to know that this moment would arrive, so she pulled a wrapped box out of a drawer in the dresser where she had hidden it.  “Open your present!”

“What’s this?” Penny said, opening it to find the Lego tie fighter kit.  “This is great!”

The ladies took turns putting the pieces together, following the instructions, until they were down to the last piece: the windshield.

“Where is it?” Sally asked innocently, hiding it in her pocket.  “Oh, here it is, under the bed!”  She pulled out a ring box, and told Penny, “You’re my missing piece!”

And she said yes!

Summary

Congratulations to the newly engaged couple, Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple!  They plan to be engaged for three years, allowing Sally time to graduate with her undergrad degree.  Since both ladies are so very patient and…

I can’t even finish that sentence.

Cheers!

Shy Guy, Part II

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“Happy Valentine’s Day!” I say to Samuel after he opens the door, and I hand him a gift bag.

Gala Pear and I had gone back and forth over the contents of that bag.  What do you buy for a guy that you’ve only been out with twice?  I mean, he had bought me flowers, which were appropriate, but it would have been weird for me to turn around and buy some for him.  Jewelry was too much of an investment too soon.  Lingerie would have been jumping the gun, since we’d barely kissed.  So I settled for a small stuffed animal and a hand-made card, which was a little cheesy, but Hallmark just doesn’t have a card section for, “We just started dating, so I need something that isn’t too mushy, but which doesn’t say that we’re Just Friends.”

Samuel lets me hug him and then points at the bag, saying, “Now?”

“Yes,” I say in response to my man-of-few-words.

He pulls out the stuffed animal and gives me a look.

What do I say?  Do I explain how Gala and I agonized over what to get him?  Instead, I say, “I thought it was cute.  If you don’t like it, one of your daughters might.”

He nods and puts the stuffed animal and card on his desk, a built-in just to the left of the door.  Then he turns back to the kitchen.

“What’s for dinner?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“Since you nixed the garlic shrimp pasta—which is my specialty—I went online and found how to modify the recipe to make it gluten free,” Samuel says.

Two things hit me at once, “You were serious about that?  I thought you were making a joke,” and, “Thank you, that was very thoughtful of you to accommodate my food allergies.”

He handed up gluten free angel-hair pasta and started shelling the shrimp.

“Can I help?  What would you like me to do?” I ask.

He shrugs.

“I can open the wine,” I say, because that’s my fav part of making dinner.   After that, I slice lemons, help cook the shrimp, and even help wash dishes while the mean is cooking.

When we sit down to eat, I ask him, “So, you live here with your sister?”

He nods.  “My brother is going to move into this apartment complex soon.  He’s just waiting for an apartment to open up.”

“Oh, how old is your brother?  What does he do?” I ask.

With a smirk, Samuel answers, “He’s the same age as me—we’re twins.”

Shocked, I think, I would have mentioned that sooner.  But then, I’ve dated a twin before.  “Identical?” I ask.  “I’ve known fraternal twins before, a woman and her brother, who looked nothing alike.”

“Identical,” he confirms.

It’s weird to think of someone who looks like my date but is another person entirely.  “There’s a waiting list to get into this apartment complex?”  It was nice, but there were lots of apartments in the area, some nicer; I had a hard time believing there was a waiting list at any of them.

“He needs a 3 or 4 bedroom, because he and his wife have 4 kids,” Samuel explained.

“Wouldn’t they be better off renting a house?  I looked into apartments when I moved to Dallas from Austin, and the monthly rent payment is as much as a house payment,” I said.  “Plus, a house gives kids a backyard to play in and a street to ride bikes.”

He gave me a look, which I didn’t understand until he said, “Their credit isn’t good enough.”

Ah, ok, I hadn’t thought of that.  “Where do they live now?”

“They rent a house from my mom, across the street from her.  It used to be hers, but she married the guy across the street and moved in with him,” Samuel said matter-of-factly.

“Wait, run that by me again?  Your mom married the neighbor and moved in with him, so now your brother rents her house?” I ask.

Samuel nods.

“That reminds me a little of my family.  My grandmother bought the land next door to her daughter, my Aunt Nan.  Years later, Aunt Nan moved and her son and his wife moved into the house.  He used to have coffee with his grandma every morning, unless he was out of town on the oil rig where he worked.  My toothless redneck uncles liked to hang out at Grandma’s house, too, where they’d sit on the back porch and smoke, sitting in the rocking chairs.  So they noticed when a little red pickup truck would show up next door, when the man of the house was out of town.  That’s how my cousin’s wife got caught cheating,” I tell him.

Samuel gave me an incredulous look.

“Oh wait!  There’s more!!  My cousin took his wife back, and she cheated AGAIN, getting caught the same way.  So my cousin said, ‘I’m not only going to divorce you, but I’ll show you that we’re not getting back together,’ and he went and married someone else.  His ex-wife, not be outdone, said, ‘Two can play that game!’  She tracked down the ex-husband of my cousin’s new wife, and married him,” I say.

Samuel just stared.

“AND THEN,” I continue, “The ex-wife and her new husband move in down the street from my cousin and grandma.  There are five kids between the two couples, so they can spend the night at either house and still catch the bus at the same bus stop in the morning.”

He shakes his head.

After dinner, we continued to drink wine, and he busts out the ultimate Valentine’s Day activity: Wii.  He shows me how to play Wii tennis and Wii bowling, and I’m terrible at it.

Laughing, I say, “I’m terrible at sports when I’m sober, but now I’m drunk and it’s late and I’m just terrible at this!”

“What?!  This is easy!” he says, using his controller to show me how it’s done.  “The kids love this game!”

I laugh some more, and think about going home.  Only, somehow it got very very late, and I was very very drunk, so I really shouldn’t drive.  As I half-sat, half-lay on the couch puzzling out what to do, Samuel plopped down next to me and said, “Don’t go.”

Then we had our first kiss.  And another.  And…I didn’t go home until much later, when the sun had started to rise.

****

This throwback to 2013 is part of a new series of Dates That Went Well, which is part of my campaign against cynicism.  I’m a hopeless romantic, and choose to stay one.  Check back next Monday for the next installment.

Cheers!  Happy Independence Day!

Jules

PS If you want to know more of Samuel’s story, check out Norms, Quelf, and Romantic Vacation.

Shy Guy

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“Some of us are going to the Lion and Crown for a drink after work, do you want to go?” I ask Samuel.

Then I realize that it sounds like I am asking him out on a DATE!  I didn’t intend to, not really.  I simply wanted to extend the invitation to my shy coworker, a guy who seemed nice enough but rarely spoke.

“Um, uh, where’s that?” he asks.

“In Addison, on the circle,” I explain, “I can draw you a map.  Or you can look it up on Google.  It’s only about 20 or 30 minutes from here…” I trail off, as I realize that I’m babbling.

“I’m from Dallas,” he says with a smirk.

“Oh,” I say.  “I thought you were from New York.”

He rolls his eyes, speaking volumes.  He says, “I worked in New York for a year and a half, living in a hotel room.  My home is here.”

“Oh,” I say again, ever the master of wit and articulation.  “Well, do you want to come?  I don’t know how many of us are going, but it may be a dozen of us, I think.”

“Um, this is a lot to process, can I think about it?” he says.

“Of course.  I’ll email you the details,” I say, and turn to leave his cube, practically running back to my cube, around the corner and up the aisle.  It was only 5’ from his cube, as the crow flies, but since I don’t (fly, that is), I had to walk down the aisle and back up the next one.  Seriously, I could hear people talk in his cube; so I suppose he could hear me talk in mine.  If I were to stand up on my tippy toes, I might be able to see over the cube, across the aisle, and into Samuel’s cube.

And now, I hope that he doesn’t want to come to happy hour.  Because, really, I just wanted to invite him with the group; not ask him out on a date!  But…he is kinda cute.  I think he’s a little younger than me, but not by much.  Plus, I think someone mentioned that he has a daughter, so he might not want more kids, so we might get along on that point…

Urgh.  This is way too complicated!

I sit down and forward the happy hour email with the words, “Samuel, here is the invite, let me know if you can make it.  Like I said, should be about a dozen of our coworkers there.”

Then I tried to work for the two hours until it was time to go.  Really, would this day just end already?  I need a drink!

“I’ll go,” Samuel says, making me jump.  He looks briefly at me, then at his phone (as though he was texting someone), then walks off.

Damn, that guy is introverted!

Lion and Crown

I sit on the patio of the bar with my friends and a glass of wine, nervously looking around for him.  Then I smile at my friend and ask her how she’s been, trying really hard to listen to her answer.  For half an hour, I smile and laugh and try to pretend like I’m not watching the door.

FINALLY Samuel sits down next to me.  I jump again; I didn’t see him walk up.  But then, I really do like my friends, and they really are interesting, so I guess it’s not all that surprising that I wasn’t watching the door.

“Oh, hello!  Have you met…” I say, making introductions.

Samuel waves rather say anything.  I smile; it’s kinda cute how shy he is.  And he came out for me, because I invited him.

He orders a beer and carrot cake.

“Dessert, really?” I ask, shoving another cheese-covered chip into my mouth.  I love ordering chicken nachos when I’m at a bar; they are gluten-free and delicious!

“Why not?  I’m an adult!” he tells me with a smile.

I laugh.  Over the next couple of hours, we get to know each other.  He is 30 years old, divorced with two little girls, ages 8 and 13.  He’s not fazed by the fact that I’m older than him by 5 years.  Ok, it’s really 7 years, but who’s counting?

Buzzing on wine, happy that I spent time with friends and a handsome man, I practically skipped out of the bar at the end of the night.  Samuel walks beside me, silently, as we cross to the center of the Addison Circle.  He looks up at the sculpture there and remarks, “There’s a bike.”

I look up and see it.  “And it’s blue,” I answer.

We stand there like that, for a moment, thinking our own thoughts.  As I’m wondering what the meaning is, “Is this an ode to the flying ET?  Or does the sculptor just like bikes?” I realize that Samuel has started walking away.  I call out to him, “Good night!”

He waves.

Well, I guess it isn’t a date.  If it were, he would walk me to my car, and/or try to kiss me.  And yet…I had felt a spark.  I sensed that we weren’t done yet.

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The Following Week

“Wanna go to lunch?” Samuel emailed.  “Chipotle?”

I said yes, he paid for my food, we had a perfectly polite conversation, and then we went back to work.

Was that a date?

The Week After That

Same story, only dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  I met him there, he paid.

After dinner, standing in the parking lot, I think, “Screw it!  One of us has to make the first move!”  I leaned over and kissed him, a quick peck on the lips, then walk off.  That will either give him the courage to make the first move next time, or he’ll quit asking me out.  Either way, we’ll be out of Dating Limbo.

“Night!” he says to me.

Valentine’s Day

And the next week the week of Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t expect anything,” I told Gala Pear.  “We’ve only been seeing each other for three weeks, if you can call it that.  I mean, we haven’t properly kissed.”

“He’ll get you something,” she said.  “Just wait and see.”

The flowers arrived just before lunch.  I was over the moon!  YAY!  Almost every woman loves to get flowers at work, and I must admit that I fall into that category.  Every time that the secretary tells met that I have a package up front, I hope that it’s flowers.  It’s usually a sample from a vendor, or worse, a catalog.  But SOMETIMES, just SOMETIMES, it really is flowers.  And today is one of those days!

I text Samuel, “Thanks for the flowers.  They’re lovely!”

He texts back, “Good.  Dinner, Friday, my place, 7 p.m.?  I’ll cook.”

I hesitate.  OMG I hate coming off as a high maintenance person, but I really do have food allergies.  Usually I would say, “Let’s just go out,” but it’s a holiday and the restaurants will be packed (and expensive).  I don’t want to turn around and say, “No, I’ll cook,” because that’s rude.  So, ultimately—after consulting with Gala Pear and Naughty Nadia—I answer, “Yes J  Remember that I’m allergic to gluten, garlic, and soy.”  Then I hold my breath, waiting to see how he’ll react to my list of demands.  Some people ask me to choose a recipe; others suggest I cook; one guy said he’d get gluten free noodles and make spaghetti.

He texts back, “Oh, I guess shrimp garlic pasta is out, then.”

I laugh.  Good reply!  Whew, he’s not accusing me of being difficult.  “Definitely!” I reply.

To be Continued.  I’ll share the rest next week.

Cheers!