Tuesday, 25 September 2012

I'm Single

Hopeful  6   Hopeless   4

This is something I found floating around my facebook homepage.  It was posted to a friend's wall, but I am sure it has been circulating in cyberspace for awhile.  I just thought it was worth sharing!

I have been thinking a lot about being single lately.  Sometimes I feel a bit sad about being single, but lately I have realized how much it has become my norm over the past few years.  Though it does have some drawbacks, being single has become familiar and somewhat comfortable.  I knew the Plenty of Fish experiment would shake me out of my comfort zone, but sometimes I think I underestimated just how much.  Those feelings I described at the beginning of my project about wanting to give up entirely have not gone away.  I have been thinking a lot lately about not dating any of the Plenty of Fish guys.  I wonder what it would be to actually be in a relationship.  It has been so long for me that I can't even picture it.  And just thinking about it makes me feel a bit warbly.

Being single is never a bad thing.  I am thinking perhaps now is the not the time for me to be dating.  My life is just starting to come together, what with the improvements in my health and my nearing the completion of my first university degree.  I am just starting to have a little extra energy and am wondering where I should truly be investing it.  Should I really be investing it in a romantic relationship?  Sometimes I think I should be spending it building a better social life, seeing my friends more often.  I don't want to be the kind of person who gets a boyfriend and then suddenly falls off the face of the earth, is completely unavailable to family and friends due to being conjoined at the hip with a guy.  It is not in my nature to do such a thing, but I have to be careful, given that I don't have a lot of energy to go around in the first place. 

This dating business has been causing me a fair amount of stress.  It is difficult to try to be fair and nice and polite to all these guys.  It is sometimes ridiculously difficult for me to try to fit them into my schedule and not make them wait an eternity to meet me.  I am so afraid sometimes of hurting their feelings, I forget what the cost is to me.  I was talking to Mom about some of my difficulties and apprehensions the other day and she gave me some good advice.  She told me that I should really not be doing anything that is remotely unpleasant.  My life is hard enough, she reminded me, most of the time.  The rest of the time, I need to do things that make me happy, not that cause me undue grief or stress.  She may indeed be right.

I had not intended for this post to turn into such a huge reflection!  I had merely wanted to share this photo that I thought was funny and interesting.  It is also true.  It means that being single can be a very good thing and that you can be entirely happy being single, which I truly believe.  It is also saying that you shouldn't just be in a relationship for the sake of being in one.  It takes someone special.  I didn't want it to sound like I am overly picky, so I didn't repost this picture myself on facebook.  You do, however, have to choose with care and I do think that it will take someone very special to help me envision being in a romantic relationship.

Perhaps that someone is one of the Plenty of Fish guys.  I'll have to see...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Hopeful Romantic Meets Romantic

Hopeful 8   Hopeless 2

The hopeful-hopeless count once again indicates how I felt after my date with Huiqi.  I had been feeling a little less hopeful overall, but after meeting him, I felt more encouraged.  He exceeded my expectations, to be sure!

Huiqi had asked to meet me about a month ago.  I had to put him off because of my school work just like the others.  I wrote him about a week ago to tell him I had some time to meet.  When we discussed where we should meet, it came up that we both like tea.  He suggested, though, that we go for bubble tea.  That is not really my idea of going for tea, but I thought it would be good to do something different.  He told me we should meet at Cactus and suggested that I look it up on Google maps to make sure that I didn't get lost.  I didn't know whether I thought that was funny or insulting...

Well, I certainly was not lost and I arrived on time.  I got there before he did and the place was entirely empty.  It was good, because I had my choice of where to sit, could consult the menu in advance and could see him right away when he came in.  It was nevertheless a bit eerie to be there entirely on my own.  When Huiqi arrived, he shook my hand, much to my relief.  He scarce had time to mention something about where he parked when the waitress came by to take our order.  I was still a little lost trying to distinguish which teas were bubble teas, which were regular hot teas and which were milk teas (I didn't even know what that meant!).  The first one I asked for was unavailable, so I opted for green lychee bubble tea, because lychee is not a flavour you see just any day!  Huiqi went for a milk tea without bubbles.

He asked me if I'd ever been to Cactus and if I'd had bubble tea before.  I admitted that I had only had bubble tea once before and that it was my first time at Cactus.  From there, the conversation was pleasant.  I had been expecting him to be as exuberant and high-energy as his e-mails, but he wasn't.  Reading his messages, I felt he was like the energizer bunny lithium, so I was convinced that inside of an hour he would have thoroughly exhausted me because my poor brain often cannot keep up at high speeds.  Yet Huiqi was so calm!  I could hardly believe it.  I really appreciated his calm and positive energy for a couple of hours.  For those of you reading out there that find a British accent charming, add that to the equation!  I think some girls would've killed to be in my place just to listen to him speak! 

We talked about a variety of subjects.  I found myself mostly answering his questions and not getting to ask many of my own; he was rather inquisitive.  For example, I was dismayed to find that I never managed to ask how to pronounce his name correctly, something that came up a great deal in our first messages.  He touched on past relationships a little, but not in a negative way.  For instance, he explained that his last relationship ended because of the very limited time his girlfriend had available to him.  He was not openly showing frustration or criticism, merely stating that it was not a formula that worked for him.  It occurred to me that I might present him with the same problem, but he further specified why it was a deal breaker for him and that left me in the clear.  He said that seeing her once a week was not in itself a problem, but that coupled with not being able to call or e-mail or have contact of any kind in between because she was too "busy" was too difficult for him.  That is exactly what I do to compromise: because my in-person time is limited, I supplement with electronic time.  He assured me that that was just fine.

This topic morphed into a discussion about fate.  Huiqi had told me in one of his messages that he didn't adhere to any religion, so of course he didn't approach the question at all in the same way that I did.  His comment had been that "fate had cheated him" because he experienced moments that he was certain were signs that it was "meant to be", but that things had not worked out in the end.  I expressed my opinion that perhaps he had been meant to have those experiences to learn something valuable from them and used the saying "everything happens for a reason".  That may seem simplistic or not of sound logic, but I do believe it and, would venture to say, am not alone in this conviction.  Huiqi listened, but did not react really one way or another, so I could not gauge whether or not he thought what I said was credible or not.  He did, however, expand on the idea of the "magic moment" and told me the story of his latest one.  He ran into a crush from Cégep after not seeing her for quite some time and, as it so happened, he ran into her on Valentine's Day.  He thought this was a sign and all of his friends were very excited to hear whether or not he had managed to get in touch with her after this chance meeting.  It took him a very long time and he had to go to great lengths to reach her, but he finally did.  Unfortunately for him, she had a boyfriend.  For whatever reason, this endearing anecdote made me recount my last "magic moment", which was with Giles on a rainy October afternoon (a story I will tell here another time).  I had never expected to talk about him with any of the Plenty of Fish guys.  It kind of just came spilling out.  I did not speak about him afterwards or reveal any particular details; I just described the one afternoon.  Curious as he was, Huiqi asked me in earnest if I still had feelings for him and why I shouldn't date him.  I made as little reply as I could, putting the question to rest quickly.      

It was becoming clear to me as I continued talking to him that he really is a romantic.  This whole talk about fate and meeting on Valentine's Day gave me an inkling, but then he said it directly: I am a romantic.  Huiqi talked about liking to give a girl flowers and chocolates.  I remembered that he had sent me an electronic rose on Plenty of Fish and that he had sent me an e-mail I'd forgotten to reply to saying "should I bring a box of chocolates?"  I am glad he didn't, because I am not sure how I would've reacted; I think I would've been a bit overwhelmed at receiving a gift of any kind at a first meeting.  He explained that he likes to give such tokens of affection and appreciation, that it is really who he is and how he treats a girl.  This might seem over the top or artificial to some people, but I felt it very genuinely from him.  In some of his messages, I had felt that he was eager to please and perhaps rather too eager to please, to which my friend Crush (so called by people at her work because she is not one to mess with!) said that guys are just like little puppy dogs, always coming back ready to do anything for you if you just scratch them, even just a very little bit (thank you, Crush, for always knowing exactly what to say to make me laugh!).  However, I saw no symptoms of anything that was not genuine sitting across from him in person.  It had also already come up in an e-mail about how we should have separate bills on this outing to retain equality, but he insisted on paying for my tea too.  Since I realized it was such a big part of who he is and I have been told repeatedly not to wound the guy's pride and because he told me he wished to do so particularly in the light of my being unemployed, I let him.  Other signs of his romantic nature were the compliments he showered on me, the main ones being "pretty" and "intelligent".  I defy any of you to try not to melt when a guy says that you are "pretty" with a British accent!  The highest praise he bestowed on me was to say that I am a "gem in the dirt" (I think he was looking for "diamond in the rough").  He said that when he had asked me whether or not I had dated Chinese guys before or whether I had a physical type (which was obviously an important preoccupation for him).  I told him that I don't have an "ideal type" or a preference, that for me the most attractive aspect is the personality.  I explained to him how I look past all the physical features directly inside to the person.  I don't see Caucasian or Muslim or tall or slim or anything of that nature; I see the person.  I told him that someone is Beautiful Because I Love Them.  I gave him the example of a high school crush, a loner from an underprivileged family, completely rejected and ignored by others, who was rather scruffy in appearance and had a long rattail that descended in a small braid all the way down his back; he became handsomer and handsomer the more I liked him.  That answer was beyond his expectations and he said how very rare that is.  It was validating for someone to notice that I do have some rare qualities.  

His other main preoccupation was a deal-breaker that I did not pass.  He asked, like pretty much everyone does, about why I chose Plenty of Fish.  Then, however, he wanted me to be explicit about my experience with the dating.  He wanted to know how many dates I had been on already, so I told him.  He wanted a report on how they had all gone, so I explained to him that the first date had not worked out, but that the others went just fine.  This is the point when I found out that he is much more decisive than me.  He usually filtered through his messages and decided not to meet certain girls based on his criteria.  I explained to him my method, which was a herculean effort to be fair to everyone and give everyone a chance.  Had I been more like him, I said further, I should probably have eliminated the possibility of meeting him simply based on my preconceived notion that he was an energizer bunny, which was, as it turns out, not even accurate.  Huiqi said that it had happened once or twice that he had gone a first date with two girls around the same time, but that he had been immediately been able to determine which of the two was better and that he wanted to pursue.  So he understood that I am not as discerning as him.  This is when he told me that he is not all that comfortable with my meeting other guys as well as him.  He said that he did not want to see me again until I had come to a decision about the other guys.  At first I was surprised, but I understood where he was coming from.  My Mom was not sure that it sat well with her and warned me against someone who wanted to be controlling, like an abuser.  However, I was really not getting that impression, because after all, he didn't tell me to stop meeting them or to pick him.  He told me that he enjoyed my company (a sentiment which I assured him was mutual) and that he would certainly like to date me, or failing that, perhaps to be friends with me.  He just did not want to see me again with the uncertainly still looming, but encouraged me to keep in touch.  He was expressing his feeling and his standards for dating, which I think is totally reasonable.  Also, exclusivity is something I value, so I was with him on that.  I hate being in this impossible scenario with many potentials or "suitors" as Thomas would call them.  I much prefer dating one person at a time; that fits more with my personality.  So not only did I understand and respect this, I expressed my regret that I was not operating as I normally would because of the online dating experience.  Huiqi left it entirely open, but he hinted that he did hope that I would go down my list and eventually come back to him.  So we parted entirely amicably with another handshake.     

So Huiqi has temporarily withdrawn himself from my list.  I have not removed him, however, from my estimation or consideration.  Now all that's left to see is whether the next time we meet it will be as friends or for a second date...

Monday, 17 September 2012

Knight in Shining Armour

Hopeful 9   Hopeless 1

The Hopeful-Hopeless count reflects how I was feeling on August 27th.  It was officially my first day back to class, resuming an as of yet unfinished Winter 2012 term.  A classroom is the last place you would expect a Knight in Shining Armour to show up, but he arrived that day, much to my astonishment!

I was rather nervous that morning because I didn't know what the classroom atmosphere was going to be like.  There had been some hard feelings about the student strike because I didn't share my classmates' view on it.  In a class of only seven students, you stand out a lot more when your opinion is different.  Tensions are all the greater in such a small group.  I had tried not to reveal my stance for as long as possible, but it eventually came out in a very public manner.  Consequently, I became the victim of harassment, insults and intimidation.  Out of six students, one was Steven whose ambiguous attitude I have already mentioned, two were my chief attackers, another two had not spoken to me at all about this issue and then there was Louis.

I mentioned Louis early in my blog without naming him.  He was the other guy I said "noticed" me.  At first, I thought he may have had a romantic interest in me.  Occasionally I still wonder a little.  During my difficulties with my classmates about the strike, he offered me unconditional acceptance, regardless of my opinions and actions.  That is pretty rare and thus extremely valuable.  I was really relieved when he told me that we were friends no matter what I thought about the strike.  He said that his friends having a different opinion from his was not a problem and that life would be exceedingly boring if his friends always thought the same way and always agreed with him.  What really made me feel good is how he said that he didn't think any less of me and that "appreciated me".  His show of support at such a critical time, for lack of better words, was very appreciated (and I told him so).

I was feeling nervous about that Monday morning class because I imagined that I would take my usual seat and that one of my severest critics would sit directly behind me, as he had those many months ago.  I had run into him at the general assembly meeting the week prior and he had been rather cold towards me.  Anticipating feeling rather uncomfortable, I decided to ask Louis if he would sit beside me.  That would provide a buffer between me and the other student.  I sent my request shortly before the technological difficulties that tied up the internal server the entire weekend.  In short, when I got to class that morning, I had no idea whether or not my e-mail had even reached him.

The layout of the new classroom was not the same as the old one.  The room was rather small, so I ended up sitting near one of my neutral classmates.  He greeted me much more warmly than I had expected.  The other person who had not talked to me about the student strike was also there, but had gone downstairs to get a coffee.  I was beginning to feel more confident about the class dynamic.  I thought perhaps it was not necessary for Louis to sit with me after all.

That is when he arrived.  He was wearing black pants and a white shirt that gave me the mental image of a white horse.  He came in smiling and said "Hi", before settling himself in between me and the other student.  He might as well have been shining!  His positive presence made me feel calmer and more secure.  I am not the kind of girl to wait around for a knight to show up on a white horse and shining armour to rescue me.  I am always independent and usually brave.  When my courage falters a little, I look for the support of friends and family.  That is exactly that Louis did for me: he showed up.  I asked him to and he showed.  That counts for a lot with me.

I felt a little dazzled during class about the white horse scenario.  He felt like a knight in shining armour, though his services had not been required that day since neither of my attackers showed to class (as for Steven, he dropped the class some time ago).  I felt like I was glowing, overflowing with affection for Louis.  He was a loving presence sitting beside me and I felt enveloped in positive energy.  It wore off towards the end of class and then I recollected myself.  I realized that it was his gesture of friendship, rather than any shining armour or white horse that I was truly pleased with.  I realized that these funny fuzzy feelings I had been getting all class were fondness.  It takes a lot for me to be fond of someone.  It is not a romantic feeling, but one of deep friendship and closeness.  I felt close to Louis during that class.  I still don't know him all that well, but I was reminded that day how warm and valuable his friendship is.

I was so glad to see him, in fact, that I was hoping we could go for lunch after class.  He had to stop by the library and it so happens I did too, so we went together.  Then we grabbed lunch.  The conversation was the best one I've had so far with Louis; we were actually talking about something!  Though, I find sometimes we don't have to say very much at all.  I was reminded that day what a laid-back person Louis is.  I thanked him for sitting next to me and explained to him a little why I had been feeling apprehensive.  His attitude, without being overly dismissive of my feelings, was that I shouldn't feel so worked about it.  These things happen, but you shouldn't harbour any hard feelings; people move on, life moves on.  Usually this sort of speech would irritate me, but as I said, he was not saying it in a way that was entirely discounting my feelings, so I was able to take some of it in.  Again, I think some of his calmness rubbed off on me.  But I think he is entirely too laid-back for my taste.  You have to care about some things.  You have to care and you have to worry and you have to plan and move.  Besides, as I said, he already has a perfect match; he is entirely devoted to his girlfriend, who I was able to get a glimpse of when Louis sat beside me and opened up his laptop, for his desktop is a picture of the two of them.  I look nothing like her, which was further reassuring that I am not his "romantic type".  When he said to me all those months ago, "Je veux qu'on soit de bons amis", it is clear he truly meant it.

After lunch, we parted ways.  He had to go see his thesis supervisor and I had to head back home to get some school work done.  I found myself smiling the entire way home.  Louis by his service reminded me that good people in the world in general exist and also that good guys exist.  He restored my faith and made my hopeful count overflow.  That, I think, is exactly what a knight really is.

Louis, you are such a sweetheart- Thank you! 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

All On Account of My Name

Hopeful 7    Hopeless  2

As you might have noticed, I often think in song.  So when I was thinking of what to title this blog entry about using a pseudonym, I had several songs run through my head.  The one that seemed to stick was from the musical Oliver!, sung by the character of ... Bill Sykes!  Now, I am not the sort of person who want men to "tremble when they hear it", but I had a bit of a hiccup that was "all on account of" my pseudonym.

I have not told any of these guys my real name.  Once or twice I think I have almost fired off an e-mail with my real name signed at the bottom, but so far so good.  I have begun to wonder at what point I will be comfortable enough to divulge to one of them what my name is.  The first person I admitted this to was Amin, that evening we went to see the fireworks.  He thought it was very sensible and wise that I had not given out my real name on the Internet.  He seemed somewhat impressed by it, actually!  I told him that when I got to know him better, I would tell him.

He seemed entirely satisfied with that.  It came about, though, that I got on the subject with Thomas and he was not satisfied.  He didn't react favourably at all!  I try to be as open and honest as possible when I correspond with these guys so that everyone gets as clear of an idea as possible as to who I am and whether or not that is compatible.  So, seeing that honesty was very important to Thomas, I had an opening to tell him that I had not been completely honest in my profile.  I explained that it had just been on the two points - my town and my name - simply to protect myself.  Everything else, I assured him, was very accurate.  He seemed to understand this logic, but he was nevertheless not very happy about it.  He wanted me to tell him right away who I am.  I, however, was not ready.  He felt this was because I am keeping him at arm's length or not trusting him enough.  So of course in that light it seems hurtful.  I told him to think of it as more of a reflection on me than on him, but I am sure that was of little comfort.  Thomas seems to be a really sensitive guy.

Perhaps I am keeping them from getting entirely in by using a pseudonym.  I think, though, that it is my right to do so, given the extraordinary circumstances of relationships formed online.  I don't want to keep this a secret indefinitely, but I certainly do not want to reveal my name before I am comfortable doing so.  I think the determining factor is going to be my decisions about these guys.  Once I have worked out for myself where they stand for me, what box they fit into, then I should have no problem telling them.  For example, if I figure out that Thomas and I could not go beyond friendship, I will talk this over with him (and I somehow don't expect it will go over that well).  In any case, I will give him the option of occupying that place in my life and with that, I will tell him my name and unlock for him my actual e-mail address, my facebook page, etc.  This will be the same for if I decide I want to date him.  It's the uncertainty that makes me hesitate.  I don't want to add someone on facebook who I may or may not want to date, who may not take it well if I don't want to date him... and I don't want my friends ogling at them!  I want to be sure and I want to decide before I let them access that part of my life.  I don't think that's unreasonable.

That being sad, I felt really bad that evening while speaking with Thomas.  For some days after that, we didn't have a chance to chat and I thought he must've still been upset with me.  I wished that the choice I'd made was not so hurtful.  I truly don't like to hurt people.  He explained to me that his Internet was on the fritz, so it appears he was not avoiding me.  We have chatted once or twice since and the atmosphere has been upbeat.  I hope he is not still all busted up about it and that he will come to understand my decision better.  I hope he will forgive me.

Friday, 14 September 2012

First Ultimatum

Hopeful 6    Hopeless  2

Since I have been so busy with my homework, I have not been on any dates since I went for tea with Steven (and then again, I am not sure that one counts!).  True to my word to everyone, no one was the exception to this rule.  My blog was not updated and no guys got special permission to see me while I was completing my term work.  However, a couple of things did transpire in the meantime and are worth noting here.

On August 11th, I got an e-mail from Paul.  I am just realizing now that he hasn't gotten a lot of space on my blog yet.  He is the only guy I'm corresponding with that is younger than me.  He is a law student who hopes to change the world when he becomes a lawyer (good luck!).  He e-mailed quite regularly and wrote fairly good-sized messages.  This e-mail in August was just on that subject: on how frequently he was corresponding.  He told me that he felt like we were pen-pals at that point.  He was writing to say that he is not looking for a pen-pal and that he was not really interested in continuing to correspond in that way.  He was looking to meet someone and wanted to know where I stood.

I remember feeling shocked when I got this message.  Here was someone who seemed to not mind corresponding at all and taking things at a moderate pace.  All of sudden, out of the blue, he was in a hurry and issuing an ultimatum.  He didn't want to keep up with me unless I was ready to meet him.  This e-mail actually made me feel bad.  There was nothing wrong with the way he wrote it.  He was being up front and stating what he was looking for, which is fine.  But for some reason, I felt bad, so I waited until the next day to answer him.  This is what I replied:

Hi Paul,

I can understand that corresponding by e-mail feels like being Pen pals. It is not for everyone, for sure. I did not start out on Plenty of Fish imaginging that there would be so much electronic correspondence; it kind of just happened!

I am certainly not opposed to meeting. Right now, I am just not available because of my school work. I am looking to date, but school is something that always comes first for me. It also takes up a lot of my time because my illness does not permit me to complete my work quickly. It takes a lot of my energy and doesn't leave much left over for other things.

So if you are okay to wait until September to meet me and understand that my social time is limited, then let me know.


He was quite satisfied with that answer and thanked me for offering to meet him.  I wrote him no further messages as per his preference, until this week.  I told him that I was finally through the bulk of my term work and that I could see him. He was still happy at the prospect of meeting me and we are in the process of setting a time for next week.

I suppose I had to expect sooner or later that one of these guys would feel like this.  It makes sense to me that they would not want to be "friends" or just write messages for long.  I guess I just didn't really expect it to come in the form of an (albeit politely worded) ultimatum.  I think I handled my first one pretty well.  So far, none of the others have made this kind of request.

I have some misgivings, however, about meeting Paul.  I don't get vibes from everyone and certainly not usually through a computer screen, but I have had some from Paul in the last couple of messages he's sent me.  Call it an instinct, perhaps.  I am keeping an open mind, but I am wary because these e-mails have made me feel bad.  The messages themselves are totally fine; they are not impolite or weird in any way.  I just got really bad vibes when I read them.  I will have to meet him and see how it goes in person.  I'll of course keep you posted!


Hopeful  6  Hopeless  2

Sorry this took me longer than expected!  I have had a busy week and this entry took me longer than expected to complete.  As promised, here is the account of the "date" with Steven:

After my date with Patrick, I just had one more that week.  I was due to see Steven on Tuesday.  Much as I didn't really want to go, I went.  I have wondered since why he wanted me to go have tea with him.  I still don't know what his motives were or whether it was a date.  Have a read and decide for yourselves if this was a date or not!

He had asked me to meet him at Berri in the metro, which is something I have never done before.  I had tried to read a bit in the bus, but to no avail; I couldn't seem to concentrate, so I didn't try while I was waiting.  I was early as I had miscalculated my transit time and Steven had not yet arrived.  I looked in the direction I thought he was likely to come from as well as one or two others because I desperately wanted to see him before he did me so that I could rearrange my facial expressions.  I was not so lucky: after about ten or fifteen minutes, he was suddenly standing right in front of me and talking to me without my having noticed whatsoever from where he issued.

By this time, I was feeling dizzy.  The bright and funky coloured lights of the metro had gotten to my head.  I was concentrating on walking as straight as possible and not falling over in my heels.  I was trembling, though, and disoriented in space: Steven had to keep pointing me in the right direction.

We finally arrived at Camellia Sinesis.  If you have never been, it is quite an experience on the whole.  The word I think best describes the place is Zen.  There are wood tones everywhere in the décor and your waiter starts you off with a sample in a small handleless cup and gives you a little bell to ring when you are ready to place your order.  There are a few steeping methods and Steven encouraged me to try one I was not familiar with where you add boiling water into a small cup with your tea leaves, let it steep for only a few seconds, then pour the water through the leaves into the cup you drink out of.  No cell phone calls or text messages are permitted at Camellia Sinesis, something I had not been told when I answered my sister (it was also such a fluke that I was able to borrow my Mom's cell!).  I didn't get scolded, luckily, but my sister told me to hang up and call her later, so when I got off the phone, I was pretty sheepish.  They also have a gong to ring when the volume becomes too elevated!  It is an electronic-free environment where you can be peaceful and simply drink your tea.

The one time I had discussed tea with Steven, he had been a bit of a snob about it.  He again asked me what kind of tea I liked as we were perusing the menu and went on about why aged leaves are better, etc.  Seeing the vast selection and realizing that choosing could potentially be a complex process, I asked him what he would recommend.  He was flattered, naturally, to be deferred to.  I let him essentially make my selection for me.  I do not like to be led by others in that way; I much prefer to make my own choices.  I did it this once for simplicity's sake and also perhaps because I would thus not be judged based on my choice.  Again, this is not usually a preoccupation for me: I make my own choices based on what I prefer or what is best for me.  This may often set me apart or frankly make me unpopular, which is not always particularly pleasant, but my philosophy is that it is most important to be myself, let others think what they will.  With Steven, however, I felt there were enough negative judgments applied to me because of the strike issue.  I had told myself that one of my main missions on that outing was not to give him any more ammunition.

So I sat across from him sipping the tea he suggested (I can't even remember what it was called).  The day was warm, so I was wearing a sun dress, but the plainest one in my closet: a blue plaid.  I was trying to approximate a summer equivalent for the clothes I usually wear to school.  I am mindful what impression I give off to classmates, particularly guy classmates I don't want to encourage!  I made sure not to dress up and that I had something to throw over the small straps and cover my shoulders.  I sincerely hope the front of the dress didn't move too much while I sipped tea; I kept as tight a control on it as I could.  The only thing that was uncharacteristic was the heels.  I wore those for myself, because they are a really fun pair and don't go with many of my outfits, so here was a nice opportunity to get them out of my closet.  I knew I wasn't walking far, so I wouldn't get tired or sore.  I wanted them to say that I am capable of being cool and fun and not always so predictable!  I felt that every move had to be very calculated when it came to this afternoon tea.

I had thought that we would not have anything to talk about.  I am still convinced we don't really have anything to talk about.  I couldn't imagine that we could have a conversation in person when we hadn't been able to sustain one online in some time.  I had vowed not to stimulate the conversation or help it along in any way.  I had virtually no motivation whatsoever to talk to him.  It turns out that it was not a problem after all because Steven was in one of his excessively talkative moods.  He was rattling on endlessly and I heard a voice inside me screaming, "WHY AM I HERE?"  It was an outcry from being excessively bored, but also from exasperation from trying unsuccessfully to ascertain the goal of the outing. 

I reminded myself about my objectives and tried to regain some inner calm.  I had set out to maintain my acquaintance with Steven.  I wanted to be on satisfactory terms with him in case I ended up in another class with him.  In any case, I would certainly see him around in the next year or so.  His pivotal role in the student association was an especially important reason not to make an enemy of him.  Furthermore, there was a strategic advantage in being on his good side.  He is willing to share lots of course materials (he offered on that Tuesday, for example, to send me the readings in advance for the obligatory archaeology class).  He also often blabs his intentions for the general assembly meetings, which is useful intelligence.  I am often able to plan my next move based on what he says in passing conversation.  I have often likened social interactions to a reconnissance mission to my friends and this would certainly be the example par excellence.  I just told myself I had to get through that afternoon to maintain status quo.

That is when something completely unexpected happened.  I got pretty much to my threshold as Steven wouldn't stop talking about the student strike and his radical political views.  I had practiced a phrase in case this occurred and I felt I had reached my absolute limit.  I finally said it: "You realize, Steven, that we will never agree on this subject."  He seemed surprised to hear me say that.  I explained to him that in English, we have a wonderful expression "agree to disagree".  Well, apparently in French culture, "debate" is very important; this is something I have heard again and again during the strike.  "No, we can't have an electronic vote because then there's no debate."  I was not there to debate with him and try as he might, he could not coax me to.  Why would I give up my tactical advantage?  He can't anticipate how I'm going to react if he doesn't know my opinion.  He can't fight me if he doesn't know what I think.  What was unexpected was that the phrase I practiced didn't put an end to that subject.  He told me that he was very open to opinions that were not his own and he got the shock of his life when I told him that it didn't come off that way at all.

We both were surprised, I think, at each other, him more so than me.  One of my first objectives had been to keep an open mind.  It came in handy.  He explained that it was not at all his intention to come off as close-minded or aggressive in any way.  He was rendered speechless when I told him that he had, in fact, presented that way more than once.  I didn't want to go into specifics and he didn't press for them.  He apologized a couple of times, which I think was very big of him.  It seemed like I gave him a bit of an eye-opener.  He was eager to hear my opinion, but I was not willing to give it.  I did not see the point in presenting my view, which he will never agree with (and which is why I found the debates in the general assembly meetings pointless after several months, because no one was going to be swayed at that point; their opinion was already formed).  I told him this and also that I had deliberately held back my opinion at times because I could not trust myself to be civil.  Everyone had times during the strike when they were frustrated and were not going to be respectful.  Rather than shoot my mouth off, I decided to remain silent.  I explained that I did not feel the need to get in people's faces and preach to them as though I were a religious zealot and tell them exactly what I thought.  In fact, I said, he didn't really want to know exactly what I thought.  I went further and explained that I had been insulted, harassed and intimidated when people did not know my opinion, so I couldn't imagine what they would do if they did know how I felt.  In short, I told him that this was an uncomfortable subject, that it was still uncomfortable and that it would probably be for some time and that I was not likely to want to discuss how I felt about it in the near future.

I had not planned to make such revelations and had tried to guard against it.  I think, though, that I didn't do anything serious or irreparable.  I had talked about the elephant in the room.  Well, perhaps Steven didn't think there was one, or perhaps anyways, he thought it was smaller than I did.  Saying it was there helped diffuse quite a bit of tension.  He said that next time we saw each other it should certainly be easier.  "Next time", I thought...

The next time we did see each other was a week later exactly at the general assembly meeting.  We were once again on opposite sides of the room and opposite sides of the strike issue.  As usual, I was proposing to stop the strike and he was encouraging the assembly to vote down my proposal.  I didn't get a chance to talk to him afterwards and that's often how I prefer it, because he can get pretty fired up in those meetings, which doesn't make for a good recipe for talking to me!  I particularly was unsure what his mood would be like given that we had just voted to come off strike to finish our winter term.   

I am uncertain as to what exactly transpired when I went for tea with Steven.  I walked away from it feeling perplexed.  I don't know how much Steven understood from what I explained to him, but he seemed to have come to some realization or other.  It helped me to know that, though this may not always be the result, his intentions are not generally bad.  As to whether it was a date, that would certainly have been a rough date by any standard.  His mentioning a "next time" could have meant something; then again, it could also have been a very casual sort of phrase.  For now, I think it is simply not possible to tell.      

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Back to Blogging

Hopeful 6   Hopeless 2

Just wanted to write a little note for people who have been checking in on my blog.  I know definitely some of my friends have been asking me about when I was going to update, so you'll be happy to know that I am finally done my big term paper.  Now I can breathe much easier and will have time (very soon I hope!) to get back to blogging. 

Thanks for reading & Stay Hopeful :)