When I returned home I was on cloud nine. I had six months ahead of me. Six months to do whatever I wanted (as long as I felt ok). I could train for a race, take a trip, save some money, maybe do yoga to try and lower my stress level. I could breathe. I was also a little curious about that guy Sean I had met. I wonder what he’s up to?
I was not surprised that after the night we worked out together and realized how much we had in common that Sean asked me out. I was surprised in how it happened. I came home one night and had a message from him on facebook which read,
“Hey I have no clue if you have a bf or not or even if you would like to, but would you like to grab some ice cream or something after class Thursday? I would man up and ask you in person but getting rejected in front of Don and Noelle isn’t something I would like to go through. You seem like a really great person and I would just like to get to know you a little. Let me know”
I smiled and chuckled under my breath. Boys today. I had been on enough dates in college to know that there were no more white horses or knights in shining armor who would implore you from the ground below to descend the tower and ride off into the sunset. Sometimes you couldn’t even get them to walk from the car to the front door. But I also didn’t blame him for not wanting to ask me out at a place where we both work in front of our boss and another member of my village you will meet later named Don (who can be an intimidating fellow). He needn’t have worried about it though. I was excited to see and talk to him more. I wrote back what I thought was a classy and clever reply in the affirmative. And that Thursday night we had our first date.
Now ladies, if any of you are like me, before you go on a date with someone that you don’t know a great deal about you do your homework. I like to pride myself on my aptitude for reconnaissance. As I said in my previous post there are not many real people left but there are tons out there selling a version of themselves that is not necessarily the truth. I normally ask around to find out what other people think of this guy I’ve consented to spend time with, and then do a quick flip through his pictures on facebook to see how he likes to portray himself to the public. Are there pictures of him from his most recent mission trip to Africa or are they all from bars and parties? How many different girls are in all the photos. Is he a member of groups like “beer pong is awesome” or does he find “relay for life” more his crowd? Gentlemen you may scoff at what is now known as “creeping on my facebook page” but you put the information up there, why wouldn’t we look at it?
Thankfully Sean’s page did not raise any red flags. His pictures were mostly of him running track and a few from parties and concerts.
With my curiosity quelled I hopped in the car with tall guy and we went up the street to grab ice cream. We sat down outside and it turned into your typical great first date. We both talked about our families and home, triathlons and training, and what we liked to do with the few spare hours that were not filled at the gym. We took turns asking each other questions from “What’s your favorite color” to “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” When the ice cream ran out we walked across the street to a local bar for something stronger.
Don’t you love first dates? When everything that you tell that person is new information and you catch yourself staring at them wondering what else they are going to tell you? It’s so intriguing. Especially when you find out things that you would not have expected….
Now previously I mentioned that I pride myself on my skills at recon. When looking through his pictures I had noticed that there were plenty of “college” pictures. I knew that he was younger than me so I figured that he was probably in his mid-to-late-twenties and had maybe taken an extra year to graduate. I’m not sure how we got on the topic that night but as we drank our beers the conversations had led to school.
“Ugh. I cannot wait to finally be finished with school!”
Oh. Well that explains everything,
“The last semester is always brutal. Are you working on a Masters or a Phd?”
“Well actually I’m finishing up my bachelors. It has taken me a little longer to finish than I had anticipated.”
I froze at the word Bachelor’s. How old were you when they gave you one of those? I had been out of school for so long I couldn’t remember. 22? But he had said it had taken him longer. That meant he was older than 22. Good. Older. That was good. But how much older? For him to be 25 it would have had to take him 3 extra years to get to this point. Maybe he was 24. That would put us 5 years apart. I could do that couldn’t I? Yes, yes I can do that. I took a deep breath, I had to know for sure.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Exactly how old are you?”
I set my beer down on the table. Hard. I was not expecting that one.
My mind can sometimes move way too quickly when it processes and analyzes information. Let’s just say the number 23 put it into a tailspin.
Was he even born in the 80s then?
Sad, he probably never fell asleep hugging a glow worm or a cabbage patch kid.
Oh god. My baby brother is 25.
What was I like when I was 23?
Whoa don’t go there.
Why hadn’t I looked at his birthday on facebook to see how old he was? He had prom pictures on there, probably taken on an iphone and uploaded, why had that not set off red flags in my brain? My prom pictures were not on facebook because they had been taken with a disposable camera. I hadn’t owned a cell phone when I was a teen, I had carried quarters in my clutch purse to use at the pay phone if I needed a ride.
Even if I had scanned those pictures onto my computer I still couldn’t have put them on facebook because there was no facebook when I was in high school. Mark Zuckerberg launched the sight when he was a college sophomore at Harvard
I joined the sight that same year…when I was a college sophomore at Vanderbilt.
Oh God, what was that term that they called women who dated younger men? I had heard the bus boys use it a thousand times when I used to bartend at Malone’s. It was some type of jungle cat. Panther? No. Cheetah? No. Cougar, that was it. They always said that about the older women who would sit at the end of the bar alone, draped in their luxurious faux furs, dripping with costume jewelry and sipping on White Zinfandel. Their dark red lipstick always stained the edges of the wine glass making it difficult for me to clean and polish.
The tune, “Here’s to You Mrs. Robinson” began playing in my head and I had to take a deep breath and grip the table.
Was he even old enough to be holding that beer?
Good lord we set this date up on the internet. All that was missing was me holding a six pack of wine coolers striding up to his place in the suburbs. I looked around wildly for the hidden cameras and Chris Hansen from To Catch a Predator to come striding into the bar with a microphone and ask me how it felt to prey on innocent younger men.
Tall guy who looks older than he really is must have noticed my distress. “Well how old are you?”
Now his face looked very similar to mine.
“How old did you think I was?”
“I don’t know. I just figured you were my age.”
Then our perfect first date got a little awkward.
I could tell he was still processing what it meant for him that I grew up before Al Gore invented the internet which only made me feel even more uncomfortable. I had switched from my relaxed and open posture where I cross my legs to the side of the chair, rest one elbow on the table and cock my head to the side resting my cheek in my hand to my job interview pose with both feet on the ground, shoulders square and my hands in my lap. I suddenly had nothing to talk about. This guy probably had never felt how heavy an actual encyclopedia is when you get if off the shelf at the library for a project or known what it was like to have to wait for a modem to dial up a connection. How could we possibly bridge the age gap between us.
I began to talk about the weather. I saw him jerk his head towards me and what looked like frustration flash across his face. Evidently whatever qualms he was feeling about our difference in age had not affected his attitude toward our date. I however was still thinking about the fact that when he was going through middle school I was going on college visits. I continued to talk about the unusually mild winter we were having when he leaned forward and interrupted me.
“Steph, you’re still going to give me a chance aren’t you?”
I continued to look down at my hands.
I don’t think I had given him permission to use the shortened version of my name yet which is reserved for close friends and my brother but I liked his initiative. It was a bold move, so I looked up from inspecting my nonexistent manicure and into his eyes.
When I did I remembered why I had agreed to come on this date in the first place. I remembered our conversation from a few nights ago where I had discovered yet again that I was not alone. I remembered that I had met someone who was the same in so many ways and that could also understand me and who I had become after living in a pressure cooker for almost a year. I had met someone real. Did I really want to give that up because he had grown up on “Family Matters” instead of the “Cosby Show”?
I realized that I had survived three skull base tumors, I had been forced to plan for the possibility of losing my job, financial stability, my significant other, my health insurance, and perhaps my life.
And I had done it.
I had survived.
But I was forever changed.
For better and for worse, I no longer fit into the conventional stereotype of a female in her late twenties. So why did I think that my personal relationship needed to? Was I going to walk away from something truly good simply because it did not fit into the social mores that I had been brought up to believe were somehow mandatory? I had faced the possibility of being forced to lose everything that was important to me. Why then was I now voluntarily throwing tall sweet guys with amazing blue eyes out the window?
I sighed, he was still sitting there, waiting for an answer. As I exhaled I crossed my legs to the side of the chair, leaned my elbow on the table top, cocked my head to the side and rested my cheek on my hand.
“Hard is the heart that feels no fear
Bc without the bad the good disappears
Long is the road that leads me home
And longer still when I walk alone
Many are the days I’ve wanted to cease
Lay myself down and find some relief
Steady is the hand that’s come to terms
With the lessons it has had to learn
I’ve seen the things that I must do
But Lord this road is meant for two.” ~The Oh Hellos