Friday, 5 October 2012

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.    

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