(Probably) Bad Choices

I’m a big believer in the old phrase “don’t shit where you eat,” or, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the idiom, not dating your co-workers.  At my old corporate job on the East Coast, a girl I worked with for a few weeks on a project seemed to develop feelings for me (or at least seemed to be flirting with me — though I could be mistaken) and at the time I worked very hard to rebuke her invitations to hang out outside the office as politely as I could.  That’s usually a very good move especially in a formal office environment where tact and cordiality is critical to your career path and keeping a genuine reputation.

I moved out to the West Coast and now work for a small (though growing extremely quickly) tech company where I get to wear jeans to work.  Most people in the office are also very friendly with each other, frequently hanging out outside the office.  And, as is an office tradition, we often have several rounds of drinks in the office on Friday afternoons while catching up with outside teams.  It’s actually a really fun way to work, especially when you work really long hours and weekends, it’s nice to work out with the people you also like to spend time with.

So since I’ve started, the office has grown to nearly 400 people — like I said, we’re growing from a small tech start-up to a pretty good size now.  So there are a good amount of people I don’t see very regularly.  To be fair, there are now more people in the office than there were in my high school class.  A few weeks ago, I ran in to a girl on our HR team and we ended up running out for a drink to kill time until we met up with others from our office for a co-worker’s birthday party.  I learned a lot about her background.  She’s very smart (which I like), artistic (which I like), thoughtful (which I like) and very cute (which I like, but I’m going to pretend I always look for inner beauty first, regardless of whether or not it’s true).   She has great taste in music and occasionally laughs at my terrible jokes.

We ended up spending a long time together that night.  In fact I think we probably hung out alone for a good 4-5 hours before meeting up with a crowd from the office and sticking close to each others sides throughout the rest of the night.  Of course, after hanging out for what was then 6 or 7 hours, we had a lot to drink.  And, on impulse, I kissed her.  She didn’t exactly resist, in fact she seemed to encourage it.  We were both drunk, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t developed something of a major crush on her throughout the night.  Moreover, I can’t deny my heart wasn’t absolutely racing the entire time I spent with her after getting to know her.

I walked her home and we kissed several more times on the way to her place.  To be honest, I think partially (or perhaps entirely) due to her drunken state I think we could have gone “all the way” that night.  But I was sober enough to push back a little bit.  I don’t like having one night stands, especially when a girl is drunk and possibly making a decision she wouldn’t want to make when she was sober.  I’d rather “earn” that with a girl through trust and hopefully mutual feelings.  I walked her to her apartment, said goodnight and literally ran home out of excitement.

That was actually three weeks ago.  Two weeks ago, we hung out again a little bit but we were both exhausted.  Though we did end the night with a kiss again.  Last week she was busy.  Now it’s Friday and I’m not sure if I should ask her out after work again or not.  If this wasn’t a girl from my office, I’d schedule something on Wednesday.  But because I work with her, I have no idea how to handle it.  Perhaps luckily perhaps not, I rarely see her at work — she’s in HR and I’m in marketing, so there’s rarely a reason for us to cross paths.

I get the feeling that this is still a bad idea.  But I really like her.  Anyone ever had a positive experience dating in the office?  A recent study showed that 31% of office romances develop into marriages, so it can’t always be bad, right?

Needless to say I’ll be aggressively cleaning my apartment this morning.  Just in case.

Lists, Prerequisites and the Burden of High Standards

I think we all have standards and a list of basic requirements for a potential Ms. or Mr. Right, or at least for Ms. or Mr. Right Now.  For example, most people probably would prefer to date someone who is at least “nice” or “not a complete asshole.”  Most of us probably also have hygiene rules: we want someone who brushes their teeth, showers at least once a day and wears some form of deodorant.  Basic qualities.  Beyond that, specific preferences of Ms/Mr. Right (Now) are certainly up to the individual, but there are likely still common traits we’re all looking for.

I’m admittedly not a Reddit user, though I do often get pointed in the direction of Reddit posts that manage to get a fair amount of traffic — don’t we all?  Yesterday, user unreal5 submitted an interesting picture, her friend’s list of qualities her future husband must have.  Let’s ignore the fact that this is a girl who is not yet married, but speaks of her husband in the present tense.  We’ll let that slide.  Here’s a transcribed copy of her list:

Qualities I love about my husband

  • Thinks I’m beautiful!!
  • Considerate
  • Sensitive
  • Intelligent
  • Humble
  • Great (“innocent”) sense of humor
  • multi-lingual/facility to pick up languages
  • kind
  • romantic
  • loving
  • Ever faithful
  • loves to travel
  • Generous
  • patient
  • calm/even tempered
  • compassionate
  • musically inclined
  • adventurous
  • ambitious
  • loves children (family oriented)
  • Enjoys all foods!!
  • educated
  • polite
  • cultured
  • healthy/physically fit
  • fun/fun loving
  • makes me laugh… from the gut
  • positive/happy
  • passionate
  • great amazing lover
  • likes animals (especially cats)

She also writes next to the list:

“The man who has me, deserves me”

My initial reaction is actually fairly positive.  Good for her to know what she’s looking for.  Of course, I would be very impressed if she actually found a man who exhibits all of these qualities and is attracted to her (keep in mind, he might have a list of his own) without one hell of a search.  Further, none of these qualities seem that unusual, though I’m a little unsure of what an “innocent” sense of humor is.

None of the items on her checklist are really that unusual qualities or extreme qualities — he doesn’t have to be captain of a sports team, a master French chef and play no less than four string instruments.  In fact, I can think of two or three guys who probably meet most of her requirements (I can’t guarantee they think she’s beautiful, that’s tough to know up front).  Also, I think some of these are qualities that I imagine most women probably look for (kind, romantic, loving, amazing lover, compassionate, fun loving) and a number of these I think are qualities that a majority of people, not just women are interested in: educated, intelligent, likes to travel, great sense of humor, thinks I’m beautiful, etc.

So let’s get to a broader question here: is it okay to have lists and requirements for our partners?  Personally, I don’t keep a very specific list of requirements.  Rather, I have a list of deal breakers: smoking, unintelligent, inability to handle social situations, etc.  and I have a list of qualities that I’m attracted to, though I don’t necessarily absolutely demand: ambitious, smart, liberal, cultured and compassionate.  Beyond that I like to consider myself open minded and again, the list of qualities I’m attracted is not a checklist, I’ve dated girls who didn’t exhibit all or most of them.

Isn’t the number one quality you should seek in someone just simple chemistry?  I for one have found that my best relationships, whether two months or five years, were built on a foundation of just this: they make me feel special, I think I make them feel special and I love spending time with them.  The ultimate goal of dating is generally to find someone to spend the rest of your life with.  While I would like my wife to have a beautiful singing voice, I don’t think her lack of one would make my life with her less enjoyable — why include it on a checklist?

We all have a list of qualities, regardless of whether it’s written down or not, that we’re seeking in potential mates.  But the fact is, it’s unlikely we’ll know what we truly want until we stumble upon it.  The Reddit girl’s future husband’s ability to speak multiple languages is unlikely going to be a major contributor to ensuring that he makes her happy for the rest of their lives.  While it may make him attractive to her, attraction like that tends to only lead you towards your partner and not necessarily keep you together.

So best of luck in finding your perfect man.  I truly hope he has all the qualities on your list.  But, while the attraction may certainly be there, the chemistry certainly isn’t guaranteed.

[via Reddit]

An Introduction

I moved 2,565 miles because of “the actress.”  I call her “the actress” not out of a sense of bitterness, but more to protect her and ideally decrease the odds that she’ll ever find this blog.  I’ve actually blogged a lot in the past, but usually with visibility set to maximize my privacy.  So, in my first attempt to blog publicly in some time, I’ll call her “the actress.”

It was September 24, 2011 on what seemed to be a lazy Saturday morning.  We had morning sex and I was laying half asleep in my bed naked next to her.  She gradually brought up a subject that I had been dreading for some time.

Early in the course of our nearly five and a half years of dating we had both agreed that we had both had images in the back of our minds of being single and in our 20’s and in New York.  Here we were five years, five months and twenty-three days later and we were both very attached to each other.  Or, at least, I was attached to her.

Over the past five years, I had actually realized that I was more than content with what I had in my relationship with the Actress.  I felt happy, confident, supported and connected than I had ever before in my life — I was in love.  However, simultaneously her feelings for me seemed to fade.  Actually, they hadn’t faded, according to the Actress, rather she had doubts.  She refused to clarify what the “doubts” were, she said they’re undefinable but they were growing.

We had actually had a similar conversation twice before, about our earlier images of being single in our 20s in New York.  She summarized both times before that at some point she would want to take “a break” from our relationship.  I was vehemently against this as a break to me was a stepping stone to a break up.  Of course, call it “a break” would be a decent way to soften the blow rather than outright dumping me.  Both times we had this conversation, I convinced her to stay together.  The fact was (and she seemed to agree) that we were really happy together.  We never had any major fights, we had stuck it out together during rough times in our careers and there were numerous romantic occasions that I still can close my eyes and relish in today.

But on September 24, 2011, she didn’t want a break.  She explicitly wanted to end our relationship.  She was dumping me while I was lying naked in my bed.  As she explained to me her reasoning, she kept waiting for me to acknowledge what she was telling me with some form of positivity.  She refused to say that she wanted to end the relationship, she kept putting it forward as the best option for her happiness and wanted me to support her in her decision to end five and a half years of what I considered the best part of my life.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to be very supportive.  I said, “it sounds like you’ve already made a decision.”  She gave me a sugar coated response.  “If that’s your decision, then I think you should leave,” I said.  I didn’t actually want her to leave.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind I was hoping that she wouldn’t have the gumption to leave.  But, despite the fact that she was crying more than I had ever seen her cry, she grabbed her things and left.  I couldn’t believe it.

Recovering from a breakup after five and a half years of a seemingly strong relationship is difficult.  I spent the next week drinking heavily and not eating.  I lost about 6 pounds in eight days.  Because most my friends were friends I mutually shared with the Actress, I felt at a complete loss as to who to reach out to.  I know she had a bunch of her girlfriends at her apartment within the hour after she ended things, I spent the next day alone.  My sister came over the next day, but she wasn’t really much help.  Would anybody really be helpful?  I was 100% blindsided by the breakup and all her presence did was it unlikely that I wouldn’t kill myself.

The next night a friend dropped by though he was not someone I wanted to see as he was spending the next few weeks sleeping at the Actress’s apartment.  The fact that he was staying in her apartment and had spent several weeks staying in mine had put minor tension on our relationship — it was difficult to get privacy.  In a conversation with her sometime later she told me she was thankful for that — because otherwise she may not have had the ability to end things with me.  To this day, 18 months later, I can’t forgive him that.  I can’t ever trust him again.  So he’s the last person I wanted to see during the breakup.

I spent the next month trying very hard to keep up a social circle.  Because my social life was very much wound together with The Actress’s, I felt a need to try to reach out to as many people as possible to establish single-guy friendships with them.  Unfortunately, all I wanted to talk about was the breakup.  But I’m fairly attuned to the fact that nobody really wants to hear my whining.  So, unfortunately, I fell into a state of quiet — I just had nothing to talk about.  “What are you up to?” “Besides crying myself to sleep?  Not much.”

I spent the next 8 weeks in a very deep depression.  I couldn’t find joy in anything.  I couldn’t pay attention to even the simplest of TV shows or motivate myself to exercise and I had to stay off of my computer to make sure I didn’t Facebook stalk the Actress.  One or two friends were nice enough to invite me out to a few minor events, but after a while that stopped.  I tried to work long hours so I wouldn’t sit alone in my apartment.  I had lived “alone” for three years with no roommate, but this was my first time being truly alone.  No one to talk to.

I decided I need to take some type of action to stop thinking about The Actress.  Literally not a day was going by when I was thinking about her and it was rare that a day went by when I didn’t seriously think it might be best to kill myself to alleviate the suffering.  I figured that perhaps the best way to get over her would be to replace her in my mind.  I could remember being single and finding lots of girls that I liked and my thoughts could dwell on them and the potential of dating them sometimes for days.  Over the past five years I had emotionally developed to a point where not only was I not interested in dating any girl besides the Actress, but I had lost my ability to even feel attracted to other women.  I’ve read that this is actually a somewhat common attribute among happily married men.

I signed up for okcupid and wrote a profile.  I wasn’t planning on really pursuing anything with anyone, I just needed to prove to myself that there are options — other fish in the sea.  I was planning on lurking.  I’ve heard that most women on okcupid are inundated with messages constantly and it’s fairly rare for a guy to receive unprompted messages.  But surprisingly, a lot of girls messaged me, perhaps because of the female to male ratio in New York (slim pickings for the ladies).   My profile was honest — I’m a hopeless romantic who likes wine bars, Nora Ephron movies, theatre and had was on a quickly advancing career path.  I don’t consider myself handsome, but I’m not terrible looking.  In summary, I’m not every girl’s dream man, but I like to think I’m something of a catch — or at least I don’t treat women like objects or objects like women, which gives me a leg up based on what I’ve heard of the dating scene.

I never pushed things with the girls that messaged me.  I responded to a select few of the girls in the most friendly and positive way possible — even though I wash hiding a deep depression that constantly burdened me.  I never asked her out, I always let her ask me out.  While I do like the prospect of “romancing” a girl by asking her out, picking up the check, etc, I’m all for a girl who wants to ask me out or split the check (though I’d prefer to pay anyway, even if she’s making tons of money, it just makes me feel good — I do this for friends too, not just dates).

The first girl was Rachel.  I liked Rachel. She was short with red hair, which isn’t necessarily my “type,” but I’m always open minded.  She was in publishing and was very intelligent, already sporting a masters degree.  I like smart girls and girls that intellectually challenge me and she did those things.  But I was still thinking of the Actress.  She was somewhat aggressive.  I paid for drinks our first time out, but after walking her back to the subway she said “you should kiss me.”  This wasn’t after a long awkward pause or me missing signs, she just outright asked for it.  So I did.  This was the third girl I’ve ever kissed in my life.  And I felt nothing.  I missed the Actress.  I decided to try to stay charming and texted her frequently after that and went out with her the next Friday.  And the Friday after that.  Each time kissing her when we departed, but I felt nothing.  I didn’t want to pursue things further and I feel like there’s pressure after a third date to enter a relationship, which I didn’t want with any girl besides the Actress. Eventually, I just let the text messaging pace dwindle to nothing.  It was over and I was back to exactly where I was: depressed, missing the Actress and on okcupid

Leonore messaged me.  Leonore, like Rachel, was in publishing.  Again, I let her push things forward arranging to meet up with her at my favorite wine bar, a spot I had been to with the Actress.  It happened to be close to Leonore’s office, so it worked.  It was an awkward date.  I asked tons of questions and acted perky and friendly, but I let her do 99% of the talking, I just asked tons of questions.  I’ve never asked so many questions and not been asked one back.  At the end of the date, we parted ways and texted a few times.  During the week she texted to the point where I think she was hoping I would ask her on another date.  I really wasn’t interested.  I missed the Actress and I was depressed.  I just, again, let the text messages fade.

I really hate being that guy.  I don’t know how to turn down a girl in this modern age.  Text messaging a breakup seems impersonal and a cop out, inviting them on a date specifically to reject them seems mean (the prospect of the date leads them on, right?), and a phone call is rare when dealing with 23 year olds in New York City.  I always hear girls upset that a guy doesn’t text or call after a date, but if they’re not interested, what are they supposed to do besides not text or call? How do you end things properly?

Then there was Becky.  Becky was a composer for musical theatre.  I find that extremely attractive.  I didn’t find Becky visually attractive, but as I said, I wasn’t finding any girl attractive besides the Actress.  I went on three full fledged dates with Becky, primarily because we had similar interests.  I didn’t really have feelings for Becky, but I thought I should because of said similar interests.  I kissed her on the third date — unlike Rachel, she didn’t ask for it, I just decided I should.  I didn’t feel anything during the kiss or after it.  I just thought she was nice and had similar interests; maybe if I kiss her the feelings would develop.  They didn’t.

I saw Becky on and off for a month and a half.  I never felt anything for her.  But she seemed to like me a lot and her friends liked me a lot.  And I could see myself being excellent friends with Becky — she was talented, smart and goofy, which are all good things in my book.  But all I could think about was the Actress and how I was attracted to Becky.  I felt terrible for leading her on.  In January I ended things before I dug myself in too deep and really crushed her feelings.  I dumped her in person, broke her heart and I feel awful about it until this day.

During this time, I was applying for jobs.  I knew I needed to get away from New York because everything in the city reminded me of the Actress.  All my favorite places were places I went to with her.  I couldn’t see my friends because all I wanted to do was talk about her or ask if they’d been hanging out with her.  I was spending most of my time alone and needed a fresh start.  So I applied for jobs everywhere except New York.  But I was also excelling at my current job — they were promoting me and giving me raises.  At the very least, I was thinking about moving to Brooklyn, perhaps even buying a place.  The one benefit of being single was that I was suddenly cash-rich.  No companies were replying to my job applications.  It was a weak job market and I was primarily applying to tech companies, which were extremely competitive job openings.

Not long afterwards a mutual friend of the Actress and me was in town from Pittsburgh and we all went out for drinks near my apartment.  This was my first time seeing the Actress in person since she had dumped me three months earlier.  We had actually spoken once or twice before this as we were both on an alumni committee for the college we met at and I was helping her with a large project.  At face value, I was just being a very supportive helper.  On the inside, I was really just relishing the ability to talk to her and hear her voice.  Seeing each other in pubic was weird.  We still had an obvious connection, but I had no idea how to act around her.  She seemed extremely cheerful and I tried to act similarly but it was a miserable facade.  We parted ways awkwardly that night.

A week later, a different mutual friend was in town visiting from Pittsburgh and we all went out for drinks in Manhattan.  At some point during the second round of drinks, the Actress seemed off-kilter, got up and began to leave.  Concerned something was wrong I followed her and she suddenly got extremely mad at me.  Apparently she still had feelings for me and was angry at me that she still had them.  I obviously still had feelings for her — they were, in fact, 100% unchanged since we had dated regardless of my attempts to get over them.  I followed her all the way back from Manhattan to her apartment in Hoboken apologizing.  Yep, I was apologizing to her that she still had feelings for me even though she had dumped me three months earlier.

I don’t remember how it happened.  But after I got back to her building, she seemed to have settled down.  She invited me to stand in her doorway to get out of the rain that had begun falling.  And again, I have no idea how this happened, but she invited me into her apartment.  We slept together that night.  I was ecstatic to be with her again.  She claimed she was happy, but had absolutely no interest in getting back together.  We spent the entire next day together, but parted ways that night.  Despite the fact that I was still head over heels in love with her and she still had feelings for me, she had no interest in getting back together.

I spent February miserable again.  The remnants of my social circle fell apart and I was rarely going out with friends.  I decided to teach myself guitar and read more to fill up weekend after weekend I spent entirely alone in my apartment.  I was still pining for the Actress, deeply depressed and very much still considering suicide.

In March I was scheduled to go on Birthright.  For those of you playing the home game, Birthright is a free trip for all Jewish 18-26 year-olds to Israel.  I flew out of JFK and spent 14 days in Israel.  On the trip I met Leah.  Leah was very cute and very smart.  She was a third year law student at U Penn and had a job waiting for her at one of the most prominent law firms in the country.  I like smart girls.  I like ambitious girls.  Leah was smart and ambitious and seemed to be interested in me.  Unfortunately, I waited until our last night in Israel to kiss her.  Leah was against PDA and seemed to simultaneously push me away while also drawing me in.

I promised Leah I would reach out to her back in the States as she was spending another few nights in Israel after the trip was over.  I called her literally the moment I exited the airport on arriving in the US and left her a message.  She responded via text that I should come to U Penn for her birthday two weeks later.  I drove to Philly for the occasion, met several of her friends and spent the night with Leah.  I was a fun, albeit drunken time.  I was still in love with the Actress, but Leah seemed interesting.  I didn’t have major feelings for her, but she was like Becky — someone who I was certain I should be attracted to, but wasn’t.  I texted frequently with Leah from that point on, consistently asking when I could come visit again.  She kept pushing back — she didn’t want me to visit her at U Penn because she had finals coming up.  She then moved home to Boston for a few weeks to prepare for the Bar exam — but she didn’t want me to visit her there because she needed to study.  After a while, I got tired of maintaining a long distance relationship via text after only seeing a girl for the course of two weeks in a foreign country.  After a while, I just couldn’t think of things to text her.  The texts faded into nothingness after a while.  I put it on her plate to message me when she was making her planned move to New York and hoped we could resuscitate things at that point.

In the meantime, I fell back into my state of depression.  Summer came and I was still head over heals for the Actress and exchanged the occasional email with her.   I was still in love with her, I have no idea how she felt about me. I considered trying to gather friends for my 26th birthday, but I realized that no one would show — my previous attempts to throw parties resulted in roughly 12 people attending.  I used to throw parties that could squeeze 45 people into my one bedroom apartment, but I was no longer a draw to have people gather.  It’s one thing when people don’t show up to your new years party — they might have other plans — it’s another when they don’t show up for you birthday.  That makes it personal.  I decided to skip my 26th birthday.

Then I got an email.  It was late August and a recruiter from a a tech company I had applied to months earlier in San Francisco was reaching out based on a resume I had sent in May.  Suddenly, I had an out: a fresh start in a new city 2,565 miles away from the Actress.  By the first week of October, I had an accepted an offer and was packing up my life on the East Coast.

I mentioned this to the Actress.  I thought she might want to know and we had exchanged the occasional email anyway.  She suggested we get a drink before I leave.  Being still madly in love with her, despite my attempts to get over, I agreed.  We went to a wine bar in Hoboken that I had wanted to try for several months but had no one to go there with.  We split a bottle of wine plus three glasses and got deliciously drunk.  We hung out from 10 pm until the bar closed at 3 am.  We continued to talk until 4 am outside her apartment.  I think she was drunk, but she asked for my shirt to have something to remember me buy.  I obliged, giving her my favorite base layer t-shirt which I had been wearing under a $120 button down that I wasn’t about to part with on a cold October night.  She kissed me before I left.  I walked home to fall asleep at 4:30 am, texting the Actress the entire way there.  I figured this would be the last time I would ever see her.

But it wasn’t.  Somehow we agreed to meet up one more time before I moved.  It was one week before the movers were coming to load all of my belongings onto a truck bound for San Francisco.  We met at 8 pm on a Saturday night.  She was working at a show and had two hours to spare during the show for a bite to eat.  Something we had always struggled with as a couple was being decisive.  We’re both very accommodating people and never wanted to push the other person into doing something that they might not want to do.  This used to lead to us being unable to decide what type of restaurant to go to, what movie to watch or whether or not to have a night out or stay in.  I decided that this time would be different, I picked three options for her — though I left them ambiguous “A Spanish fiesta, a Parisian feast or something unusual,” she eliminated one of the options and I opted for the Spanish fiesta.  Specifically, we went to a paella bar with a great wine selection — a fantastic place for a date night.

I met her at the theater and we dashed to the paella bar to make our reservation time.  We had a blast at dinner: reminiscing, joking and subtly flirting here and there.  We drank two glasses of wine each before I walked her back to the theater.  I went inside with her and agreed to go with her to a sort of after party (it was actually work for her, but I won’t go into details — it was pretty much a bar filled with theatergoers and she was required to schmooze with wealthy theater patrons in order to raise money).  We each had a glass of wine and talked with wealthy theater donors before things wrapped up fairly quickly.  It was 10:30 pm and I was still feeling somewhat energetic.  I recommended we go to The Tippler, a basement bar filled with a young crowd nearby.  She agreed to go.  We both got drunk drinking shots and champagne over the next two hours.  We ended up in the famous Tippler photo booth where we kissed — I still have the pictures.  After getting sufficiently hammered, we called it a night and headed for the train.  We spent the rest of the evening walking while holding hands and occasionally kissing. I was in heaven.  I wish I was more sober so I could have relished the moment more.  I was still in love with her.  Why was she willing to kiss me if she didn’t have feelings for me anymore?  I don’t know.  I never will know.  This was effectively the last time I spent any time with her.  It was four months ago.  I don’t think I’ll ever see the Actress again, outside the occasional email conversation.

I moved 2,565 miles to get away from her.  It took 3 months of living on the west coast to have my first day without thinking about her once.  It was a good day.  It took 16 months after she dumped me to get to that point.  16 months + 2,565 miles.