Wednesday, 24 October 2012

First Second Date

Hopeful 7  Hopeless  3

Since Sia didn't take me up on a second date, that privilege went to Amin.  We had been in better touch by e-mail and he had asked to see me after my exams.  I thought this was a great idea, because I was sure to be more relaxed and rested.  Amin added that if I could see him before September 30th, we could use these free passes for the Biodome and the Botanical Gardens that he had been given.  I realized that it was the time of year for the Magic of the Lanterns at the Botanical Gardens and thought that would be really interesting to see.  I had never been during the festival and, as it turns out, neither had Amin.

We exchanged a few e-mails during the week finalizing details.  It made me feel very comfortable when Amin told me that we would adjust and readjust as needed based on my energy level that day.  I hardly needed to ask any questions about how we should organize the outing because pretty much everything that occurred to me, he anticipated.  It was amazing just how much he was on the same page as me and how well he understood my limitations and concerns without my even having to explain anything.  It was extremely thoughtful and quasi-telepathic.  All he kept saying was that he wanted a "good companion" to go on this outing with, that is, someone who would be good company, which is not possible when that person is tired or otherwise unwell.  He wanted to ensure that the outing was pleasant for both of us by adjusting according to "our mutual energy level". 

We met at Berri, which is probably the worst sort of place to meet someone.  We had agreed on exactly where, but something got lost in translation.  In any case, Amin figured out the mix-up and found me about ten minutes later and shook my hand as agreed.  I was grateful to no longer have to stand.  About an hour before leaving home, I had started not feeling all that well.  I was tired, but then I had started getting a bit weak and shaky.  So we sat while waiting for the metro.  I brought him up to speed on how I was feeling.  I was the one that was quiet; when I get tired, I am generally less talkative but also have difficulty generating ideas to lead a conversation.

We arrived at the Biodome and Amin marvelled at how quickly I was walking.  Sometimes I don't realize how fast I am going because I have been trained on a treadmill to go up to four miles an hour while walking.  I'm glad he said something about it, because it allowed me to think about slowing down and conserving energy.  I was feeling a bit better, but I wanted to be safe.  I found myself nervous in the Biodome a little and not really knowing what to say.  I felt I should remark on a certain amount of things, comment on what we were seeing.  I thought it must sound stiff or awkward, but I couldn't stop myself from saying something about almost everything.  Otherwise, I figured we'd both be observing silently and for whatever the reason, that didn't sit well with me.  We didn't see the golden lion tamarin monkeys, which are one of my favourite things to see.  But we were certainly in luck that day, because we saw the beaver.  I have not seen the beaver since the first time I went to the Biodome when I was 11.  Amin had never seen him, so we watched him breaking off some wood and swimming with it in its teeth and all the way through to the dam where we saw him shaking himself dry and bringing his wood inside.  Although, we had to go back and see the beaver for all of that; I got distracted by one of the employees who said that we should come see something if we had time.  I translated for Amin and we followed.  It was the lynx enclosure just next door.  I thought I had seen a poster in the lobby about it, but seeing it in person was just incredible.  The lynx had given birth to a kitten about four months prior.  We got to see him out and about.  It was so adorable!  I love cats, so I was just thrilled.  I rarely ever see the lynx when I go, but here not only was Mom, but baby too!  She was calling him from up on high and he was trying to get up, but having some difficulty and otherwise being distracted by sand running down the rocks which he thought would be fun to pounce.  Finally he figured out that climbing the tree might be easier for him to get to the top ledge and that's what he did.  It was incredible.  I continued translating for Amin what the employee was saying about the kitten.  It was incredible to think that he had been the only one of the litter to survive and that none had made it from the previous litter.  For everyone who says that the Biodome is repetitive and is always the same, I say to you that there is always something new to see.  Amin and I were just exceptionally lucky that day.

Official advertizement for the litle guy
taken from the Biodome website

We sat for awhile on two occasions going through the Biodome.  Once was with the view of the fish in the St. Lawrence habitat and the other with a view of the penguins.  I was feeling much better, but again, I wanted to make sure that I was going to have sufficient energy for later.  Here the conversation began to be a bit more relaxed.  When a little boy had started calling the fish sharks, I told Amin that I used to think that they could live in swimming pools when I was little.  As we talked, we found that we both are uneasy about swimming in lakes or rivers because of whatever could be living in there.  While watching the penguins, I was feeling increasingly comfortable and that is when I told him my name.  I had planned to that day, but I think I was looking for a better moment.  Sitting beside him, I couldn't really see his facial expressions or his reaction.  I got the impression it went well enough at the time.  Though he didn't say much, Amin thanked me for telling him.  He has since told me that it was one of the highlights of the day for him.  I'm glad; I had been wanting to tell him for awhile, but I really wanted to wait to tell him in person.  I also wanted him to be the first person to know my name.

We checked the time and decided to head to the Japanese garden.  There was enough time to see it before it got dark and the lanterns would be lit.  It was my first time there, so I was drinking everything in.  It was interesting to see the exhibit all about paper in the pavilion: lanterns, fans, origami...  We spent quite awhile looking at the Bonsai trees.  It was funny to see that the Japanese maples had their tiny leaves starting to turn red.  We marvelled at the artistry of sculpting each tree.  The conversation was beginning to flow more and more comfortably.  We walked along the water and saw regular sized trees starting to change colours too.  We watched the bright coloured fish in the koi pond.  The feeling of serenity there was just incredible.  I couldn't stop thinking of my friend Crush, who would've loved to see all of that.  I am going to have to take her some time.

We had pretty much gone all around by that point, so we ambled over to the Chinese garden.  We read a few signs about the lanterns and the theme for this year's display.  I noticed that there was a tour scheduled for 6:30 in English.  I asked Amin if he was interested and we decided on that.  We thought we could listen to the guide and then go around on our own afterwards.  In the meantime, we figured it was time to reenergize with something to eat.  As established during the week, we had brought a sandwich.  I had been so impressed by that.  I am a sandwich person and I am not too keen on eating out and I didn't even have to state my preference, because Amin had anticipated me once again!  So we left the Chinese garden in search of a bench to sit and have our sandwiches.  That of course put us in the rose garden.  I had no idea that there would be any roses at that time of year.  I thought it was too cold.  It struck me a couple of minutes later that sitting in a rose garden on a bench could certainly be considered as something rather romantic.  So I took a deep breath and tried my hardest not to notice.  However, one of the best parts of the date from where I was sitting took place right there.  Amin told me that he had made some banana bread and wanted to know if I would like to try it.  Who am I to say no to baking?  It looked like it had some nuts, an ingredient my Mom never puts in hers, so I was intrigued.  I broke myself off a small piece and tried it.  I soon discovered that there were walnuts in this bread: my favourite!  I checked to be sure, but they were definitely walnuts.  And... I could scarcely catch my breath.  I was sure I tasted chocolate.  So I asked about that too and Amin said yes.  I couldn't believe it: chocolate and walnuts in the same recipe!  It was, in a word, divine.  He told me that no one but his roommates had ever sampled his baking and that he was nervous about sharing it with others, lest they wouldn't like it.  I was so glad he had made an exception for me.  I was trying to tell him how good it was, but trying to contain my exuberance at the same time.  I asked if I could have a whole slice to myself and he gave it to me.  This is when we both discovered that the other was a chocoholic.  Yet one more thing we have in common.  It was so good, I was over the moon and trying not to melt on the spot.  It occurred to me that this is kind of the opposite of the stories I'd heard.  I always hear the ones where the girl bakes for the guy and wins his affections.  But here was Amin giving me banana bread and melting me.

Picture of the 2012 lanterns from the
Botanical Gardens website
We headed back to the Chinese garden just in time for the tour.  Our guide didn't speak very loud, but we managed for the most part to stay near the front, so we heard all right.  We learned about all the mythology surrounding this year's display.  It was the legend of the Monkey King crashing the Celestial banquet, at which the peaches of immortality were being served.  I had heard this story on Wishbone! as a kid, so I was a bit familiar with it.  Go figure, the one Taoist story I actually knew.  It was Amin's first time hearing the story.  He was watching out for me and trying to make sure that I could see (this is oftentimes a problem for me in crowds, because I am so short!).  The tour was thus very short, but nevertheless interesting.  Then we went to explore the garden and see the lanterns a little more close up.  Most of the lanterns were in the lake (like in the picture), which was itself lit-up by a soft aqua glow, which made it look rather magical.  The stone paths led all the way around the lake and the waterfall, so that you could see the illuminated characters from different angles and proximities.  Amin regretted not bringing his camera at that point.  I was rather surprised that he hadn't because he had linked me to some pictures on his facebook page that he had taken while traveling and it was not only evident that he was skilled at getting good shots, but that it was also a hobby he enjoyed.  He told me that he sometimes doesn't like to bring his camera when he goes somewhere with someone, because he doesn't want to make them wait while he's snapping away.  I told him that it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest and that he should feel free to bring it along in future.

We walked on the paths all around the water and explored the inside of the buildings, one of which featured tea and the other, the descriptions and names of the characters present at the celestial banquet.  I began experiencing some difficulty because the paths were mostly made of large stones, which were a challenge to navigate, particularly going up steps in the darkening twilight.  I felt unsteady on my feet and let Amin know so that he didn't wonder at my pitching around.  I said, to make light of it, "As long as I don't end up in the lake, I'm good!"  So I felt that what happened next was entirely my fault.  If I had not been explaining my occasional spatial disorientation, surely it should not have prompted him to ask to hold my hand.  I felt like I was frozen for a moment.  I was calm, which was good for me and for Amin.  I hesitated, because there was internal dialogue erupting.  I wanted to be amenable, yet at the same time I did not think it was very prudent to hold hands.  I reminded myself that I didn't hold hands unless I was dating a guy, which I was not prepared to do; I was not prepared to commit to him right then and there.  But that part of my brain shut off and I heard myself saying "sure".  It seems that in that moment, what was more powerful was my desire to do something nice for Amin.  He had worked up the courage to ask me and had asked me very nicely.  I did not have the heart to say "no".  So I extended my left hand without looking and he took it.

That's when we entered the realm of feelings.  I have to say that holding his hand, I felt worried still about the repercussions.  But there were other feelings quickly overtaking anxiety.  This was the first time I had held a guy's hand in seven years.  It had been so long, I had forgotten what it felt like.  I felt warm.  I think I felt a bit of a tingle too.  I don't remember the sensation very clearly; it's a bit blurry, I suspect, from my brain trying to ignore it and shut it out.  It was an "unquantifiable, indescribable feeling" as I later said.  A good feeling.  Amin held my hand the way I like to hold hands: he wrapped his hand around mine only with his thumb apart from his other fingers, as though he were wearing mittens.  My ex always insisted on holding hands with interlaced fingers, which was not my favourite; he never wanted to alternate to please me.  Yet Amin had guessed instinctively my exact preference.  That felt very nice.

It was a warm feeling, though both of us had cold hands!  We argued briefly as to whose hands were colder, each convinced that ours was colder than the other's.  At that point, I actually had gloves on, the kind with the fingertips uncovered.  I thought it was good if my gloved hand could warm up his even if only a very little.  And I can't imagine what it would've been like to have had full contact with a bare hand.  Lightly touching, it gave me such a sensation.  Fully touching, I think I should've been quite overwhelmed.

We did not hold hands very long before we had finished going around the Chinese garden and it was time for another rest.  I don't know who let go first.  We sat for awhile on another bench before heading back (we had decided not to stay out late so that I wouldn't get too tired).  This is when the conversation became the most comfortable and the most open.  I asked Amin about something he had written about in one of his messages and had said was important to him.  He explained it more fully to me and here we began to broach the subject of cultural and religious differences.  I made sure he was clear on my not having bad opinions about or prejudices against Muslims.  He said he already knew as much.  I then wanted to talk to him about where he stood with me.  I related, in as few details as possible, my Plenty of Fish experience.  I explained that, though I am the kind of girl that dates only one guy at a time, I now found myself in a situation where I was trying to give each guy a fair and equal opportunity (much as, as I was saying this, I was becoming biased in favour of one of them!).  I told him that I couldn't decide very quickly because I had made that mistake with Frédéric.  Had I taken the time to get to know him properly, I would have decided rather differently.  I told Amin that I could guarantee him a friendship, because it was clear to me that we get along well and are very alike.  More than that, I could not promise him.  Here I related the story of Kyle (which I should probably write about in my blog at some point), a good friend that I lost because he got a crush on me but whose feelings I couldn't reciprocate.  I told Amin this to convey that I understood that friendship is not always possible in a context where one person is hoping to date the other and to show how much it pained me to hurt Kyle.  Amin's response to this was very reassuring.  He told me that he was okay with being friends if I did not feel more for him.  He wanted to be in my life in whatever capacity I was comfortable with.  Truly, he considers a guy a "jerk" if he is unable to be friends with a girl he likes (an opinion that I find too strong).  This conversation reinforced for me that Amin and I really are on the same page for this matter as well as so many other things.

As I was sitting with him, I felt an incredible amount of emotional closeness.  Finding a kindred spirit is not something that happens every day and it truly gives you a wonderful feeling.  I wonder which came first in this case: the physical closeness or the emotional closeness?  I would tend to say that the emotional closeness came first, then came the hand-holding.  The feeling of closeness just kept deepening as we were talking, so much so that I had a sudden impulse to lean over and kiss him.  My self-restraint was back, though and I managed to contain myself.  I simply do not kiss guys I am not dating.  It is a rule I adhere to in order to make life much simpler and avoid major problems or heartbreak.  I think I did, however, once or twice, give him a light touch on the arm to show emotional support when he was speaking.  The touch was not reciprocated, so I knew I had surely done right by him by not trying to kiss him.

Yet the question of physical contact came up again on our way back to the metro.  Amin asked me how my balance was.  From a friend, I would consider this thoughtful.  In this context, there was no other way to interpret it than as an indirect way of asking to hold my hand again.  The question was not posed the same way and the answer could not be interpreted in the same way either, even if I assented.  Saying "yes" a second time would send an ever stronger message, be an even more conscious choice.  I could not pretend anymore that the question caught me by surprise and that I didn't know what to say.  This, if any, would've been the time to say "no", but I still found that I couldn't.  So if I agreed, it needed to be prefaced.  This conscious choice had to be explained so that there could be no misinterpretation as to its meaning.  So I brought out my right hand which was again clasped without my turning to look since I was concentrating on talking about how he had no gloves and how his hands must be cold.  Since I didn't have a spare pair of gloves handy, I added, I should do the next best thing: hold his hand.  I told him it was my policy not to hold a guy's hand unless I was dating him.  I had learnt in psychology class that guys experience an intense and overpowering chemical reaction from physical contact, something I shamelessly repeated to Amin.  I finished it up with, "But I know you can handle it."  This contradicts what I believe, but it was in line with the strong intuition I had about him in that moment.  I impressed upon him that I was making an exception due to extraordinary circumstances.  The phrase I repeated was "because your hands are cold".  That was my justification, is my justification and I am sticking with it!

While I was holding his hand on the way back to the metro, Amin requested that I send him an e-mail to let him know that I arrived home safely.  "I'll do one better than that," I announced.  I told him I would go home and add him on facebook, if of course he found that I was admissible as a facebook friend (this comment referred back to a a discussion we'd had earlier in the day about having too many facebook friends as well as the feeling of obligation about adding certain people that you would prefer not to have access to your facebook page).  At this, he exclaimed, "Am I allowed to be happy?"  To which I assured him that he certainly was.  I was glad to make him happy in this small way.  He was very happy that I had told him my real name and had in turn given him facebook permission; this meant so much to him because of the level of trust in him that it showed.

Amin also asked if he could travel with me by metro all the way to my stop.  He again insisted that he didn't want to pressure or me or appear creepy in any way.  It is not something I like to allow because I view it as an inconvenience to the other person and an otherwise completely unnecessary gesture.  I knew it was important to him, so in the interest of being amenable, I made no objections.  He later asked how I perceived it, so I ventured an opinion.  I told him that I found it a bit old-fashioned, that indeed in the 21st century a girl does not need to be accompanied for her protection.  I felt that was why he asked, because he does have some old-fashioned notions and that he may have felt responsible for my safety, since he was the one that was out with me.  To this, he simply said, in a very quiet sort of way, "Think about it this way: it's a way to spend more time with you..."  I was silenced rather effectively with that.  The thought had not occurred to me.  Then I remembered: that is what it is like when someone likes you.  They search for any excuse to spend more time with you.

When it was finally time for us to go our separate ways, I thanked Amin for inviting me on the outing.  I told him that it was nice to have something fun to do on a Friday night for a change.  "In fact," I added, "this was the funnest outing I've had in a long time."  He seemed a bit flustered and was thanking me for going with him.  I was again feeling that extreme closeness and really felt I wanted to hug him.  I love hugs and am truly a hug person, but I don't hug just anyone.  I am selective about who I hug and it actually serves as a good indicator that you are one of my very favourite people if I just skip the kiss-kiss  greeting and give you a hug instead.  I considered that Amin deserved it and that he had gained that status.  This had a bit of forethought, but not a lot.  I suddenly found myself saying, "My friends get a hug."  I didn't give him much warning, which I fretted over later because I know that he doesn't just let anyone into his personal space (like me).  I was worried that I didn't give him enough time to react and that I may have made him uncomfortable.  He assured me not long afterwards that it was totally okay, that it had actually been a very nice surprise.  This hug was so nice, he implored me not to apologize or take it back.  He said it was one of the nicest parts of the entire outing.  I felt it was a bit rushed and thus an inferior hug in terms of quality.  My mind blurred it out again, like it did for most of the hand-holding.  Luckily, it did produce the desired effect anyways.

I have been using the word "outing" in this entry, but it occurs to me that the word "date" is actually much more appropriate for how it felt.  It was and still is, the best date I have ever gone on in my entire life.      

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Fish

Hopeful 6 Hopeless 3 

I thought I should take this time in a sort of mid-way phase to write up a list of the Plenty of Fish guys and write a little description about each. Many people have been asking, "So how many are you dating?" I have been using the number of nine for some time now, which seems to have some people confused. Let me clarify by laying out the specimens before you: 

Alexandre - He is the 26 year old guy I always introduce as the History student with particular interest in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: the historian, musician and writer. He is also the first guy I told about my illness and the only one who asked me for a supplementary picture of myself. Since I transferred him to my pseudonym e-mail, he has only been corresponding through MSN. Although we have common interests, I haven't had much of an opportunity to explore that since I have not been online at the same time as him very much. When we have talked, he has sounded very serious about dating and at first it was a bit intimidating for me. It makes me wonder if he would want to move more quickly than I would be comfortable with. 

Amin (met) - He is the 29 year old student on exchange for his PhD and is also the guy I went to see the fireworks with. His messages are always pleasant to receive and they make me smile. We share so many of the same values, interests and ideas. He is very respectful and always makes me feel comfortable, which is quite the feat. I definitely like him and can certainly sustain a good friendship with him at the very least. The challenge with Amin is the cultural and religious differences, which could be enriching or could make it impossible to sustain a romantic relationship. 

Dylan - He is the 24 year old Chemistry student I impressed when I correctly understood that Nanochemistry is related to Quantum Physics. Since I transferred him to my pseudonym e-mail, he has only sent me one message, about being under the wire for his thesis submission. I at the time had my fair share of school work to attend to, so I wrote him back saying that I could relate and to drop me a line after his big submission date. I haven't heard back... 

Huiqi (met) - He is the 23 year old History student I have so often described as over-exuberant. His messages had sounded rather high-energy and perhaps a little too eager to please. In person, he was surprisingly calm and he read as very genuine. He withdrew himself from consideration because he was not comfortable with my meeting other guys. He discovered that the online dating formula was not for him, as evidenced by this sentiment! However, I have not withdrawn him from my consideration nor from my estimation. 

Patrick (met) - He is the 27 year old kinesthesiologist. He hasn't corresponded a lot, but we do have a fair amount in common. A few of the things he's said, such as recounting his participation in his niece’s fourth birthday, lead me to believe he's a very loving person. I did enjoy meeting him and talking with him. He earned points when he spoke some English with me; it was very nice of him. His main disadvantage is the similarities he has to my ex. I would have to see just how much like him Patrick actually is. 

Paul (met) - He is the law student of undetermined age. He certainly has some qualities and definitely showed an interest in me. However, for the reasons enumerated in my entry "Perplexing Paul", I would not go on a second date with him. As per his request (see "First Ultimatum"), I have not e-mailed him, since I am not looking to schedule him again. 

Seb - He is the 23 year old who initially impressed me by opening with a linguistics discussion. I spoke to him a few times online, but I began to feel that our conversations were going nowhere. I think in a way his life is also going nowhere right now; he gives the impression of being at a standstill. I would prefer to date someone who at least has a goal in mind to work towards. Now when we are both online at the same time, we do not talk to each other. I figure this one just fizzled all on its own. 

Sia (met) - He is the 27 year old PhD student I had a pleasant meeting with. He was nice and we had an enjoyable conversation. He was a sympathetic and attentive listener, a very important quality to possess. He, however, was eager for a second date. Anytime he e-mailed, he always referred to it. He always entreated me to let him know when I was available. So as soon as I got my school work back under control and had obliged Huiqi and Paul's requests for a first meeting, I offered Sia my next available spot. I wanted a second coffee date, because on that particular day, I did not have a lot of time and was certain to be tired after my morning exam. He wanted to go out for dinner, though, and be like a "real couple". Since he is direct and values honesty, I wrote him back and was completely open with him. I explained that I felt I did not know him sufficiently as of yet for us to be a couple and then explained the kind of date that I could manage that afternoon. He never replied, so I can only guess that was a deal-breaker for him. 

Thomas (met) - He is a 26 year old student just back to University this fall. He has had some challenges, but is now pursuing his true passion. He says a lot of things that are familiar to me because our cultural background is so close. We share a few common interests, particularly all things Irish. Thomas also has his own rather specific taste in certain things, which I often don't share. He is particular, but he definitely knows what he likes and what he wants. We have chatted a lot on MSN, more than I have with anyone else. This is an advantage, because he has heard me in different moods and energy levels. However, I have misgivings as to whether our compatibility will extend beyond friendship. I will be posting an entry about our meeting as soon as I am able. 

That is my list. I had selected ten to keep in touch with, but J, mentioned earlier in my blog, had already stopped messaging me on Plenty of Fish. He had not responded after I had told him that I did not cook very much, though the interest is there. I think that must've been a deal-breaker for him, given the high importance cooking and travelling had on his profile. I then went out with Brian to see if he would be the tenth, but he did not fill the bill. So that is how I came out with nine and why I have often quoted that number to anyone who asked. Recently, I have noticed how that number has been reducing itself gradually. Dylan and Seb can't have truly been in the running for awhile now. Paul was not compatible and eliminated himself after I met him. Sia did the same after I expressed that I felt we could not yet be a couple. Huiqi does not want to be considered unless everyone else is off the list. So theoretically, that leaves only four: Alexandre, Amin, Patrick and Thomas. That certainly sounds so very much more manageable!

Now, to close, I would just like to get all the fish puns out of my system once and for all! There may be Plenty of Fish in the sea, but there are truly not all that many that are actually good for you. If you go looking for plenty of fish, you will end up having to throw many of them back in the sea. I have thrown a few back and may indeed end up throwing them all back. However, one of my fish may be a catch. It is difficult to tell at the present time. One of them, I can say for certain, is definitely hooked, entirely unintentionally. I truly do not wish to leave him dangling, but I am uncertain whether or not I should reel him in. When fishing, one must always exercise caution: it is much more complicated than it looks!

Blogging at the Lake

Hopeful 6   Hopeless  3

I had hoped to update much before this; my apologies for the delays.  As usual, it is my school work that has prevented me from blogging more regularly.  I wanted to write this post shortly after the Thanksgiving Weekend, which I spent at the Lake.  This special place has been called thus in our family for generations and is a lovely get-away in the Eastern Townships.  It is very peaceful and often wonderful for inspiration.

I did do some blogging there.  You might wonder how this is possible on holiday without Internet access.  The truth is that some of my posts I type directly, but others I write by hand first.  Inspiration flows better when I take up pencil and put it to paper.  It is also a more portable method, making it such that I am not forced to only blog when I am at a computer.  You can see me blogging away by hand at school, in public transit or at a place like the Lake.  When I come home, I simply type up what I've got and post it.

So this is the view I had when I was at the Lake creating my next entry.  I find it has marvellous scope for the imagination and I am always very happy to write something while I am there.  I finished an entry called "The Fish" and began another.  I hope to post this one shortly and get the rest of everything up to date very soon (because there have been developments!).  Again, I'm sorry to be behind in my posts; please be patient! 

Friday, 5 October 2012


Hopeful 7    Hopeless 2

I would just like to write a little note here to announce a change.  I have been remiss in sufficiently protecting the identity of the Plenty of Fish guys.  Here on out, if you find a name that previously did not appear, this is not an error.  This is a modification that I have made to protect someone's privacy.  Scroll back in the blog and you will understand who I am talking about, as the new name will appear everywhere.

The first person's name I have changed is Amin.  He is Amin and will continue to be Amin as the blog moves forward.  So now you would scroll back and see that Amin is a guy who made a good first impression and is the one I went to the fireworks with.  Now you know who he is and can continue following the blog without any problems.

Thanks for being patient & understanding in regards to this


Hopeful  7 Hopeless  2

** This post was finished last week, but not published to keep my experiences in chronological order.  I thought this was too good to modify, so please forgive the inconsistencies related to the calendar dates.**

The subject of my true name came up again with Thomas this week.  Like I already said, I feel I am not ready to tell him yet, so I had to disappoint him yet again.  However, I thought I might try to lighten the mood and came up with this solution.  It may be entirely silly, ridiculous or otherwise ill-adapted.  I hardly know.  This is how I answered him:

I suggested we might try a challenge.  That, like the story of Rumpelstiltskin, he might try to guess my name.  However, unlike the story, there would be no dire punishment if he could not guess correctly.  He was willing to give it a try, so we set the amount of guesses at five for each time we talk.  I promised Thomas that if he didn't guess, I would tell him when we met.  But, if he could guess before we were scheduled to meet, then I would take him out for coffee.  He found these terms fair and accepted.  He added, though, that he should like to have access to my facebook page if he guessed right.  There I had pause, because, like I mentioned in a previous entry, giving someone that privilege is letting them in a lot and giving my friends the opportunity to ogle.  I was unsure how to answer this proposed amendment, so I told him I would consider it.

So it began.  Thomas made his first five guesses, but did not get the right name.  We had a freak power outage that lasted just a few minutes right after I talked to him, so I lost the entire conversation.  I really like to keep files of these things and this one would've been a very interesting one to have on record.  Alas, he does not have conversation history, so I could not recover it.  Sadly, that meant that I lost track of his guesses!  I remembered three out of the five, though, so it was pretty good considering.  His first try was Lisa.  I could not believe it.  LISA?!  I so do not look like a Lisa.  Sarah was more flattering; it means "Princess".  He also tried Emily and I think I could pass as an Emily.

Mom says I am going to drive him crazy.  Maybe so. That was not my goal.  I was trying to help him feel better and help pass the time until we meet.  Somehow I think it unlikely, given the vast amount of names out there, that he will pick mine.  My name is not all that uncommon, though, so it not an impossible task.

Good luck, Thomas - keep guessing!
and P.S. My name is not Rumpelstiltskin!

Perplexing Paul

Hopeful 4  Hopeless 6

This is how I felt coming away from my date with Paul on Tuesday, September 18th, exactly one day after I met Huiqi.  It was not nearly as bad as I had imagined it could be.  My mood was definitely off the day I met him, so that didn't help.  The bad feeling I had described in my previous entry returned, but mostly for my way back home.  During the date itself, the worst I felt was uncomfortable at certain points.

It was raining, so I was glad I didn't have far to go.  I exited the Berri metro, crossed the street and stood on the corner of Saint-Denis and de Maisonneuve.  It was not an ideal meeting place because it did not enable me to stay dry and I did not find it the safest.  I remained ultra-vigilant as I waited, because I had not seen him when I arrived.  I am glad I didn't have to wait long, but I got a bit of a shock when Paul showed up.  I did not see him, so he took me by surprise.  He was saying my name and had moved in for a kiss greeting before I knew what was happening.  There was a strange face so very close to mine, for indeed he was unrecognizable.  I stared at him in disbelief.  He looked so unlike his picture, I actually wondered at that point whether or not he had posted a picture of himself on his profile.

Since we were in the middle of the sidewalk and in the rain, we began walking on Saint-Denis right away.  After a few paces, I realized that we had still not discussed where we were going.  Paul had already thought of somewhere and as it turned out, it was very closeby.  He mentioned that La brioche lyonnaise had good coffee.  I asked if they also had tea.  I have no idea why I vocalized that question; it was absurd.  Of course they would have tea.  Even if they didn't, they would surely have something I could drink.  It made me sound picky or immature or both.  In any case, it sent Paul scrambling, because he didn't have a definite answer.  He offered to go a block further, but I declined, quickly surmising that he was referring to Camelia Sinesis.  I went back to being amenable and laid-back, saying that the place he'd chosen would be just fine and that it would be nice to try somewhere new.

We were able to seat ourselves at La brioche lyonnaise.  I looked to Paul to see if he had a preference.  He did.  At first, I thought he had indicated the one table, only to find him redirecting me to another, claiming it was "more cozy".  So we were sitting right along the brick wall just under a small niche just big enough for a decorative picture in a gold frame, but I would've used "noisy" to characterize the spot.  Though I am not sure we could really have found a quieter table in the whole place.  The coffee making and the conversation made it difficult for me to hear everything he said.

I experienced a variety of emotions over the next couple of hours.  There were some things about him that were rather sweet.  He ordered a large pastry and offered to share (that had clearly been his object).  That could, however, be construed as presumptuous, since he would be imagining he knew my taste in pastries. As a matter of fact, he did not.  I do not care for palm tree pastries.  If he had ordered something chocolate, I'm sure we would've gotten on much better.  It was nice of him all the same; after all, as they say, it's the thought that counts.  There were other things he said that gave me the impression that he's a nice person, though I can't think of a specific example right at the moment.  So this felt positive, yet also uncomfortable at the same time, since I had been so convinced I would find him otherwise.  So the internal struggle began: could I really flush him based on some bad vibes from e-mails when he was turning out to be just fine in person, if not perhaps somewhat interesting?

I would have to say that it felt split pretty much down the middle for the entire date.  Was he a keeper or not?  He was nice, but then he was a myriad of other things.  He was slightly random: for example, he remarked on my earrings.  I have never heard a guy talk about a girl's earrings before and certainly not at length!  I have been called pretty by some of these Plenty of Fish guys, but I have never been told I had pretty earrings.  The kicker is that these earrings were a plastic accessory that I chose based on colour; I was wearing a kelly green t-shirt with a long and open white and green striped shirt on top, to which the earrings were a match.  He wanted to know if I had made them myself.  My crafting ability stops at scrapbooking, which you can argue I do more or less successfully (but which I immensely enjoy).  I simply answered him that I had not made the earrings and, to make conversation, I added that my grandmother liked making jewellery.

Then there were some things that made me uncomfortable.  I am not a touchy-feely person by nature.  I understand that in society, there are a certain amount of niceties that you have to perform.  I have already discussed my dislike of the kiss-on-each-cheek greeting.  However, refusing to greet someone in that way can not only seem impolite, but as downright snubbing.  At that point, it has to become more about the other person than about me.  I put my personal feelings aside for those few seconds and make sure that the other person does not feel cruelly rejected by me.  I can deal with physical contact when it is someone I know better.  I suppose I am just careful about who I let inside my box.  People who know me well know that I am a hug person.  You can tell if you are one of my favourite people if I just skip the kisses and give you a nice hug.  Again, I think this a privilege that needs to be earned.  I do not expect on a first date that you want to get into my space.  I have read that it occurs, so I was not altogether surprised, but I still didn't like it.  Paul put his hand on my arm a few times as we talked.  I know that is about showing emotional support and signaling that you want to become closer emotionally.  But each time he touched me, in my head, I was screaming: DON'T TOUCH ME!  I was trying to keep my cool on the outside, though.  I could have put my arms in my lap, out of his reach.  I kept them on the edge of the table just as they were.  I did not reciprocate the touch, but I did not recoil out of consideration for his feelings.  Another thing that bothered me was his compliments.  So I am trying to tell myself to "grow up" a little bit in this process and try to be better at receiving compliments (because these guys seem to want to make them).  It was different, with Paul, though.  It was more like labelling, seeing what box I fit into.  He told me I was "intelligent", "interesting" (several times: "Elise, you are a very interesting individual") and "brave".  It was as though he thought he understood my entire character from a single meeting.  I think it takes much more time than that to get to know someone.  There was a little bit of this with Huiqi the day before, who told me to make teaching my profession and that I look prettier without makeup (how would he know that when he has never seen me wear any?).  I find it presumptuous of these guys to think that they know exactly what I'm like right away and that they are ready to put me in all sorts of boxes with labels that may or may not be applicable.  I don't know if I fit in the brave box.  Frankly, in a way, I don't think I fit in any box.  I'm unique and you shouldn't try to shove me into some box. 

There was certainly an internal struggle going on for me as I tried to decide whether or not dating him would be viable.  As I began adding up the positive and negative aspects, I found my answer.  My sister chastised me a little bit, accusing me of being discriminatory about Paul.  She said that I should not have discounted him so quickly based on his personal background (which I will not get into here for the sake of his privacy).  Suffice it to say that it was not a small thing he told me.  I agree with my sister; someone with his background could be a great boyfriend.  Then again, he could also be pretty confused and damaged.  To me it was a red flag.  My sister was also annoyed with me about another of my concerns: communication.  I had heard Paul speak both French and English.  His French I found nearly incomprehensible (and I was not the only one who had trouble with it: so did all the employees he spoke to).  His English was also a challenge; he seemed to have difficulty expressing what he wanted to say.  A few times, I had no idea what he was saying.  He also misunderstood me, despite my being very clear.  I had gotten an inkling from this in his e-mail about setting a meeting time.  I asked him if he was available in the afternoon and he made a whole drama about that not working for him.  Then he said he was available in the morning until 3:00.  I have never met someone who does not understand that afternoon is everything that comes After the hour of Noon.  I don't have anything against people who have a different mother tongue than me, but I think understanding each other is very basic.  There are enough communication difficulties between the sexes without there being a serious language barrier there.  If you have major communication problems from the start, to me your relationship isn't going to get anywhere.  My sister said that you can learn to understand one another, but I think this one was beyond my capacities.  

She conceded, however, that, based on the other things I told her, I was right in my decision.  The main problem I was having with Paul was honesty.  There were some inconsistencies in his personal history.  I did not press him, for the subject matter was sensitive.  I did, however, choose to pose one question at one point to help clarify something for me; for indeed, I thought the inconsistencies mostly stemmed from a lack of comprehension on my part.  He did not give me a direct answer and seemed rather to avoid the question altogether.  He had also mentioned that he had switched into law, but when he said that he was at the PhD level beforehand, I was then certain he could not be twenty.  When I'd first seen him, he did not look that young to me, but since I am such a poor judge of age, I did not make any immediate assumptions.  So I asked the question I consider most impolite: his age.  I tried the most diplomatic and low-pressure way I could think of: "So, remind me... what is your age?"  To this, I received the strangest and most baffling reply I have ever heard.  "27, 28," he answered.  I could not speak because I was incredulous.  It was not noticeable, though, because he asked my age and I told him.  Inside meanwhile, I was still exclaiming: What on earth does that mean?!  Is he 27, or is he 28?  Then I doubted the accuracy of either of those ages.  Based on the details of his life as narrated by himself and his tone of voice which sounded a little like "Will she buy this?", I questioned the veracity of his statement.  When I got home, I checked his Plenty of Fish profile to make sure I was not imagining anything.  I was right: his profile clearly said that he's twenty and his picture did look absolutely nothing like him.  I can possibly understand fudging certain aspects of the profile, as I was myself guilty of that.  However, I had just given him the opportunity to be straight with me and he wasn't.  There isn't much to be done about that.  Fundamental dishonesty is a deal-breaker.  I was actually kinder than Stella was when I told her about Paul.  She flat-out called him a liar.  It had not even occurred to me to call into question everything that he had said to me.  But perhaps she is right.  The whole scenario was fishy (no pun intended), including the fact that his Plenty of Fish profile no longer existed.  In any case, I'll certainly never know. 

I felt terrible on my way home.  I know my mood was not great that week, but I was completely deflated after that date.  I think I was more upset with myself than anything else.  I had been altogether too friendly with Paul when I did not intend to go on a second date with him.  Some guys tend to have this effect on me, to pull information out of me that I would not normally wish to share.  Paul had managed to extract things like my troubled relationship with my father and my personal therapy sessions.  He had even almost induced me to tell him my real name; I just managed to stop myself at its meaning.  It makes me really uncomfortable when I am around a guy like that, because I feel like I can have no secrets or privacy, something that is essential to retain.  I was upset with myself for just spilling all of these details and especially to someone I was not going to see again.  It helps make the other person feel emotional closeness and gives them the expectation that you are interested in them and potentially in a romantic relationship with them.  I also felt bad because, for the second day in a row, I did not settle my own bill, and on top of it, that I said, "Maybe I'll take it next time."  The last thing I want to do ever is lead someone on.  I don't understand what happened, but there was no excuse for that.  I felt like a horrible person for not keeping that in check and giving him undue hope for another date and for building a relationship.  I was thoroughly demoralized and stayed that way for awhile (which is partly why it has taken me awhile to make this post).

The whole experience left me perplexed.  I felt I hardly knew what had transpired.  I still do not understand it very well.  I was hoping and am still hoping that I do not have to live through any other dates that are that strange.