Many of you have been asking what happened to Mr. Labrador, and I can’t believe an entire month has gone by since I’ve related the gossip. Partly, it’s because the story hasn’t been that juicy lately. The lack of oomph led to massive writer’s block. I began three different narratives, which are sitting in my ‘edit’ bin.
The big problem with my writer’s brain is I can envision myself almost anywhere. Does the guy like sailing? I’ve never been, but yet I could see myself lounging on deck while he takes us across the world. Is he an introvert who likes to stay home? We could cuddle on the couch and binge watch every episode of the old Twilight Zone. I have to be extremely careful I don’t become the chameleon for these guys, changing my skin to fit their environments. I have to show my bold colors as well as the dull ones and hope that eventually someone will climb up next to me.
My second date with Mr. Labrador was a quick lunch between our various appointments. But the third was most interesting. We met for dinner at a very good, very expensive place. We sat across from one another, which made me feel slightly as if I were at a job interview. We ordered our tapas-fusion and toasted with glasses of red wine. The conversation, as always, was interesting and flowed fairly well. Just as our beautiful entrees were served, he had a call from his daughter. I have a rule about phone calls on dates: if it’s from a kid, it’s okay.
He stepped outside to take the call, and I sat there for a minute, thinking it rude to eat without him. But I love to eat, so when one minute turned into five, I dug into my rapidly cooling risotto. I am a notoriously slow eater, but I was nearly finished by the time he came back. I was worried there was some kind of crisis, and he’d have to leave. It turns out, his nine year-old can’t sleep unless he prays with her before bed. Apparently on our first date, he’d missed her call, and she’d been distressed. I get it. Kids come first.
However, the more I thought about it, the more it concerned me. The girl was, after all, at her mother’s and not in the care of some stranger. While I was moved by how much he loved his kids, what concerned me was the fact that dating seemed so new to Mr. Labrador and his kids. And to be quite honest, the idea of religion brought up negative feelings in me. If religion or prayer calms you and helps you to be a better human being, that’s fine. It’s just not me anymore.
The more Mr. Labrador spoke about his ex during dinner, the more I realized he wasn’t quite ready for dating. His wounds seemed too fresh. I was just starting into my szechuan-eis when the restaurant, in a decidedly un-german way, brought us the bill without our beckoning, even though it was early for a Friday night. We stepped outside, had an awkward hug, and we parted ways. Third date. No kiss.
It left me wondering if this was cultural or if the chemistry just wasn’t there.
Either one of us could have suggested getting a drink someplace else, or because he lived nearby and his kids were gone, he could have invited me over. (Do Germans invite their dates over?) It was a pleasant time, but there was no flirting, no touching and no spark. I felt Mr. Labrador would be a nice friend or great colleague. He is on vacation with his kids as I write, and still checks in once in a while. But do I miss him or think about him? Not so much.
The Italian Stallion
For some reason, the Italian’s profile ended up in Germany. It was entirely plausible he had englarged his search radius to drum up business for his B&B. I was intrigued by him for a couple reasons. One was the photo of him in the clear blue water with the delectable Italian landscape behind. Two was his six-pack abs. A guy doesn’t need to be sculpted by Michelangelo to impress me, but I do admire a person who takes care of himself.
The Italian Stallion was seven years older than me, which considering I’ve been involved with men 10, 12 and 20 years my senior, isn’t such a big gap. Our conversations started out mild. He told me the history of his region and bombarded my phone with pictures, which reinforced the idea he was using the dating service for tourism (though he claimed innocence). I didn’t know it, but his region of Italy is the center of the world. It is where all things beautiful, including pizza, originated.
After a few weeks of enticing virtual tours, one night, me being a little drunk and revved up with no place to go, our conversation grew intimate. Let me tell you, the Italian is all passion. I have the photos to prove it.
I admit, it was an entertaining evening. But after the fireworks, the embers fell from the sky, leaving nothing more than a trail of smoke in the night. That particular discourse has likewise faded. On occasion I still receive bright landscape photos of Italy. The Italian has maintained a positive, happy spirit despite the devastating impact of Coronavirus on his tourism business. I wish him well.
Meanwhile, I had been messaging with a lawyer. He is a fairly recent transplant to Sachsen from Bavaria. When we met, I noticed him right away, pacing in front of a large fountain. He was tall and broad and carried a couple extra pounds, which is not necessarily a deal breaker. He looked nice in his suit, although maybe a little sweaty. His eyes lit up (much like Mr. Labrador’s had) when he saw me, and he said that I was more beautiful than in my pictures. Good start, counselor.
Quickly into the conversation we realized it was better if he spoke German and I spoke English. Because I understand about 90 percent of what a person says in German, it left me wondering how much he really understood of me. Is 80 or 90 percent enough? When there’s a language barrier, it’s easy to fill in the gaps with things you want to hear.You don’t always catch nuances of speech or humor. Could this man really get to know the real me? Could I really know him?
He is a funny guy (I‘m 90 percent sure), smart and also owns 6000 books. Yes, 6000. He is pretty much alone in the world. No siblings. No kids. Only one elderly parent who lives far away. My extended family lives far away, but at least I know they’re there. I can’t imagine what it must be like for him.
We started the date by eating ice cream while walking through the city. Afterwards, we went to a Greek restaurant, and he preferred to sit inside. It was quieter in there, as most of the patrons were outside enjoying the warm summer weather. I sat there sticking to the vinyl bench, trying to make myself stop sweating. We talked about books and movies and politics, and I could tell there was some passion in his eyes. Or, maybe it was just loneliness. He was a sympatheic person. He seemed to admire that I had written a manuscript and had all these kids, whereas he said he felt like he hadn’t really accomplished anything in his life. I suppose this is what you ponder at mid-age. Who am I? What have I done with my life? As we were walking back to the Straßenbahn, he saw his tram pulling up to the station, so he gave me a quick hug and literally ran to catch it. I briefly envisioned the entire scene as a cartoon, with his trail of dust clouding the air as he sprinted away from me.
I was starting to think that German men are quite reserved. It’s almost as if they have a checklist of things they want in partner, and so the date is a sort of interview. I kept thinking of Michaela Boehm’s advice, “Don’t date potential.” Does this apply to cultural differences? Maybe it just takes a while to bring the simmer to a boil.
The next week, the Lawyer asked if I’d like to come to his place for dinner, and of course I said yes. I wanted to see those six thousand books. I discovered that his apartment was within walking distance of where I was staying downtown, so I began the trek. It was my first day back in the city, so I immediately went in the wrong direction. I got my bearings at the tram stop where I’d last seen the lawyer, so I hopped on.
His apartment was in an old building that had been completely remodeled inside. His kitchen was sleek and modern (and as he told me later, cost 53,000 euros — yikes!), and shelves of books lined the walls of his living room and study. The majority of them were non-fiction, but there were some classics. He made pizza for us from scratch, and we chatted a little. He doesn’t drink alcohol, which I find an impressive feat for someone coming from Bavaria. I had water, and he had a soda. I only drink soda in dire emergencies, like when I was making the five hour drive home from Disneyland late at night and needed the sugar rush.
If this all sounds boring, it’s probably because I wasn’t really into the date. I enjoyed his company, but I wasn’t feeling “it,” whatever “it” actually is. The highlight was our conversation about online dating, and how you end up messaging all these people and maybe see a few in person, which is not really how people my age are used to doing things. He called it parallel dating. The lawyer was currently dating one other woman and messaging two. I told him about Mr. Labrador and also that I’d been in contact with three other men who wanted to meet me as soon as I moved. The Lawyer asked me, “How do you know when there is just one you want to be with?”
I assumed when I met the right guy, I’d lose all desire to be with anyone else. He would be so fatefully perfect for me I’d think of him constantly, or, as the romantic movies claim, I would “just know.” I would have the desire to invest in him whole-heartedly. But those are movies. Fiction. That doesn’t happen in real life, does it?
I was bored.
So, I perused the newest releases on my dating app when I saw this guy had liked my profile. As I read through his profile, several things caught my eye. First, he was from Canada. Second, one of his favorite movies is the Big Lewboski. Third, he actually listed some of his favorite books (which most guys don’t). It also didn’t hurt that he was handsome, had a beard (I have a thing for beards), and kept himself in shape. He also can play the drums, and drums are sexy as hell (all that rhythm and pounding).
I compared our personality profiles and found we scored exactly the same in many areas. I assumed because this guy was Canadian (and younger than me), he probably wouldn’t be interested in some random American expat. I mean, we live in Germany, we should get involved with the culture, right?
Then I did something I never do: I messaged him first. I told him my son is in Canada. I mentioned how I thought the Big Lebowski was a classic, and I told him if I wasn’t his type, I understand, but I wanted to reach out because he seemed like an interesting guy.
This began a series of messages that uncovered some eery similarities. I briefly wondered if he was one of my exes in disguise. He makes pancakes for his kids on Sundays (I make ours on Saturdays). He’s from a place outside of Toronto (my oldest is also in Ontario). He’s a terrible loser when it comes to Monopoly (like me). He’s into fitness AND reads books before bed. My heart began to fluter. We took our conversation to WhatsApp, and on one night we messaged for three hours. It was exactly the right balance of deep and playful.
Then the phone conversations began, and I wanted to melt into his arms. It’s adorable every time he says “about.” But more than his comforting voice, I felt completely, utterly at ease being myself. I even said the word “fuck.”
The conversations are daily now. We talk about everything, and I don’t feel like I’m applying for a job. He makes me feel more like myself than with anyone I’ve met. I smile when I hear his ringtone (yes, he has his own chime). I walk around bubbly, my heart bursting with happiness. The shocker is: he’s as into me as I am to him. The things he says are exactly what I’m feeling. We are on the same page as far as relationships go, and we’ve never met in person.
I will meet the Lumberjack for the first time this weekend, and I’m not nervous. I’m just excited. It’s like meeting someone I’ve known forever. I don’t even worry if the spark will be there when we meet because there is such a connectedness when we talk. I get butterflies when I hear his voice. Hell, I hear his voice in my head when he sends a message.
At this point, you’re cautioning me to “go slow,” but this feels like something unique. Unless there is a major political dealbreaker or he’s some narcissistic stalker, I have fallen for the Lumberjack. It’s hard to explain. It’s not some explosive chemical combination that makes me think I’ve fallen for him. When he first spoke to me something just clicked into place.
Of course, I know to be careful. The world is full of con-artists and Don Juans. But the logic there’s nobody good on a dating site isn’t accurate — if I’m online, there must be another person like me there too! (And I’m amazing!)
At some point the Lumberjack will have to face the judgment of my kids and friends, because they tend to see red flags I don’t when I don my rose-colored glasses. It’s not all sticky-sweet talk though. We’ve been honest about our feelings (good and bad) and can talk to each other about anything without judgement. If I say something that pushes him away, then clearly, the alignment isn’t actually there.
For now, I am enjoying this amazing sensation of being seen for the person I am and cherished for it. He amplifies my best possible self. I don’t feel the need to perform or to censor myself. I don’t feel insecure. I feel empowered by his presence in my life. The Lumberjack is really special, and there’s no one I’d rather be with.
It’s scary to write that. My heart is open. Open for joy and for hurt. But that’s life. And I have a life I love.
My only regret is signing up for a year membership to the dating site. I don’t think I’m going to need it anymore.