Saturday, 8 June 2013

My True Love's Kiss

Hopeful 2     Hopeless 8

"I've been dreaming of a True Love's Kiss", sings Giselle right at the beginning of the movie Enchanted.  This is how I felt for the longest time.  Unlike Giselle, I did not live in a little cottage in woods waiting for "a prince I'm hoping comes with this".  I did, however, have a wonderful dream in my head of the magic which is a great kiss.  I had not yet experienced one and was yearning for this True Love's Kiss.

What I had difficulty understanding was how this dream didn't transform into reality.  In my mind, I was comfortable with kissing.  I wanted to kiss Amin as early as the Gardens date.  In my imagination, it felt natural and blissful.  I didn't understand why there was such a disconnect with reality.  When I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and Amin's lips touched mine, why then did the experience become terrifying?  I couldn't account for the intense fear.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, it was not the first time I had had this problem.  I even became mysteriously feverish the day that I kissed Frédéric for the first time.  I thought maybe the trouble was going from essentially nothing (no hand holding or hugging, etc.) straight to kissing.  So for a couple of weeks, I asked if we could transition like that.  He agreed.  I was so over the moon, cooing about how "understanding" and "respectful" he was.  Again, simply the idea of that and of the way I was back then makes me queasy.  After the two weeks were up, we tried again.  Frédéric was happy.  I, however, was not really any more advanced.  I didn't have extreme terror anymore.  I had some anxiety, perhaps.  The rest was completely indifferent.  I couldn't understand how I could have romantic feelings for him, yet feel absolutely nothing when we kissed.  I felt very warm and fuzzy holding his hand or hugging or cuddling.  There was literally nothing, though, when we kissed.  Not even once.
Yup, Edward... we're not feeling it...
I wanted to write this entry to elaborate, to go beyond the general concepts I laid out in my last post.  It is all well and good to say that True Love's Kiss isn't necessarily the first kiss or that it requires some time or effort but that you will get there.  How?  How do you get there?  I wish I'd had a roadmap or someone to explain this to me.  Like I said, I'd have spent a lot less time feeling awkward or abnormal.

I had hoped that choosing a better person than Frédéric (which was not hard to do, as it turns out!) would do the trick.  I chose Amin, but my heart sank when this did not instantly solve my problem with kissing.  He knew something was up and he prompted me a lot to tell him what I was thinking and how I was feeling.  Like I wrote in my entry "First Days", he got me to admit that public displays of affection are not really my thing.  It took me a little longer than that to talk about the kissing issue.  Not only did I feel abnormal and embarrassed, but I most emphatically did not want him to take it as a reflection on him.  I did not want him to think that I was not into him or that he wasn't a good kisser or something like that.  Again, October 25th was such a spectacular night for him that I didn't want anything to kill the magic for him.

Much quicker than I would've liked, Amin had me telling him everything.  He had me admitting to the whole of my history with Frédéric in regards to kissing.  I remember that I felt terrible confessing this.  Thank God we were having this conversation online!  This is the point, however, where I discovered true understanding and respect.  Though I was not immediately reassured, Amin said everything to reassure me.  He started off with normalizing my feelings, being careful not to invalidate them.  He told me that I was not so strange and that in fact not everyone likes to French kiss.  I could hardly believe him.  He also came out with a list of reasons why I could possibly be feeling anxious about kissing.  He followed it up with a solemn promise that we didn't have to kiss at all.  This surprised me most of all, I think.  He told me that though he liked kissing, if it really made me feel so uncomfortable and so upset, we would simply not kiss.  That phrase came up again about my comfort level being the most important thing.

While that was all very nice, it was not what I wanted.  I believe that relationships are about compromise and balance.  I was not going to let him give up kissing for me.  Besides, it's not that I didn't want to kiss.  In fact, I think kissing is an important part of a romantic relationship.  To console myself when I was with Frédéric, I had said that "kissing is just one facet of the relationship and certainly not the most important one".  I had underestimated its importance and I was not about to make the same mistake.  I told Amin that I wanted to work on it.  He agreed as long as it wasn't purely for his enjoyment, as he put it.  He consented on the condition that I would eventually feel good about kissing and enjoy it too. 

I realized that my strategy had to be different from the last time.  I had asked Frédéric to take a break from kissing for the first two weeks.  This did not help in the slightest.  I understood that avoiding kissing was not effective, nor was what I did after that, which was to simply expect that it would "sort itself out".  It wasn't going to happen by magic.  I knew that it would require effort.

I just didn't know at all how to go about it.  There was so much, actually, that I simply didn't know.  Amin had asked me right away what was making me so nervous about kissing (and had come up with some possible answers).  I had no idea.  Again, in my head, I was perfectly at ease with kissing.  In reality I was not.  It was puzzling for me.  Amin was very eager to do anything he could to help, but he could hardly do anything when I was so unclear in my own mind.  How could I tell him what I did not know myself?

Yet, he's the one that came up with the solution.  Unknowingly, from the very first, he did all of the right things.  Along with all the other things I quoted him on above, he told me that I was good at kissing.  I was floored.  The sincerity with which he said it made me realize that he was not just trying to reassure me; he really really meant it.  I could not integrate this fully at the time, but Amin kept on telling me.  Just that praise, that positive reinforcement, made a huge difference.  In fact, the whole solution really was communication.  I know I mentioned in an earlier entry that he liked to go over details of time we spent together, revisit the memory and give his feedback.  Well, that is what we did about kissing.  We talked about it.  That may seem strange to many of you as you read this, but it was so effective.  Amin's natural instinct was a good one.

I think it actually started from a desire to have me believe that I was good at kissing.  I remember he said on more than one occasion about our first kisses: "I felt so much passion from you".  Well, that was news to me.  I had no awareness whatsoever.  I could feel nothing.  I couldn't tell how he was feeling or even how I was feeling as we kissed.  So at first, he told me.  He had to tell me, because I couldn't tell for myself.  I couldn't understand how I could be so blocked off from feeling anything.  Clearly there was some kind of obstacle there.  Amin wanted so much for me to know how good I was and how great I made him feel that that is how these conversations got started.  He was very happy to literally deconstruct each kiss, tell me what I did, what he did, how he felt and how he felt I felt (even though I couldn't feel it myself).  At first, it was so foreign to me.  Little by little, though, things began to change.

On November 6th, after practicing kissing a lot one afternoon in a quiet spot at university, I had a breakthrough.  As usual, when I was back home, Amin and I were chatting online.  He talked about the kisses, which were certainly good that day.  I listened like usual, not adding too much.  I slipped in, right before saying good night, that for the first time, I had felt something.  I was so ecstatic.  It was such a small thing, but it was so huge for me.  After we parted ways to go back home, I could feel some tingles on my lips.  I had kissing after-effects.  "Now you know how I feel all the time!" Amin said excitedly.  All that was left was for me to feel something while we kissed. 

Slowly, over the course of the first month, that is exactly what we achieved.  I can't pinpoint exactly which kiss was "the one".  I just know that gradually, I began to feel more and more.  I felt tingles after kissing, then I began to feel as we kissed.  I even started to pick up on his feelings.  The first sign I got was when I discovered that he liked it when I touched his upper lip.  I remember one day in November, he actually exclaimed, "OH my God!"  I remarked on that and he told me that it was not the first time; he had already said it in Farsi on a number of occasions which had obviously escaped my notice.  I was finally starting to be in tune with him.  I can't say exactly when all of this happened or exactly how.  I just know that Amin made me feel comfortable and reassured.  I know that the communication, true open communication helped so very much. 

I definitely realized a few things on a conscious level.  I remember him telling me once that I was thinking too much while kissing him.  People tell me all the time that my brain never shuts off and I own that to a certain degree.  Amin went on to say, though, that I was thinking too much about pleasing him while kissing him, so of course under those circumstances, I couldn't enjoy the kiss for myself.  "I never told you that," I said.  "How did you know?"  I've since learned that I can't hide anything from Amin, even when I want to.  What he helped me realize is that seeking to please him was a barrier to being in touch with my feelings and with his.  This was a definite factor in my trouble with kissing.  Him saying this also made me realize that this was a pattern I was repeating.  I came to understand that I'd had the same dynamic with Frédéric, that kissing him equated to trying to please him.  Kissing in public made me uncomfortable, but he expected me to do so anyways (ironically, I later learned that I was not sufficiently affectionate in public to suit him despite my efforts).  In fact, any time we kissed, it was because he wanted to.  He expected it and I obliged.  The first time I got to thinking about it that way was when Amin commented on my use of tongue while kissing.  I told him that Frédéric always expected it.  He didn't really want my lips so much as my tongue.  If I had described this kissing dynamic with Frédéric to myself before I met Amin, there is no way I would've believed it.  I would've objected strongly to simply catering to my boyfriend's wishes and expectations.  That is not the kind of person I am and such a description is frankly an insult to my independent spirit.  Yet, it is all true.  It took me awhile to unravel, but I figured out that was exactly the way it was.  It had been so subtle, because Frédéric was not openly demanding or controlling, nor was it his intention to be anything remotely like that.  The result, however, was that he was calling the shots when it came to kissing.  No wonder the kissing had been one-sided!  Looking back, it was even built directly into the phrasing I used right from the start: "his kiss".  This epiphany helped me to take some of my power back and have a better balance with Amin.  I began to initiate kissing, for example, much to his delight!  

Because Amin is so loving, he allowed me to learn and grow.  He gave me the patience, respect and understanding I needed.  In fact, what took place was a lot like healing.  He helped me release things that I didn't even know I was carrying.  I couldn't have achieved all of that by sitting back and hoping for the best.  This kind of situation is one you have to work at, you and your partner.  Most people figure that kisses should be effortless.  If you experience any trouble or fear like I did, though, it requires conscious effort to turn around.  That is what Amin and I did and we were successful. 

You need to have someone who cares about you enough to work with you.  That is what I found in Amin.  That is when, I think, you really find the "true love" part of True Love's Kiss.  Beyond finally having a great kiss, you know that your partner truly loves you.  

True Love's Kiss ♥

Friday, 31 May 2013

True Love's Kiss

Hopeful 4    Hopeless  6

I have read more than once that the overwhelming majority of women believe that the first kiss will tell them a lot about a relationship's potential.  Many women will decide whether or not to date a man based on this one factor.  While I would agree that kissing is an important element in any romantic relationship, what is so important about the very first one?

I have been reflecting on this question for a little while and frankly the only explanation I came up with was the fairy tale one.  We've been brought up with this idea of "true love's kiss", that magical moment where the world stops turning.  The kiss that can solve all your problems (or curses) and inevitably lead to Happily Ever After.  Yet, if you asked the average person, they would tell you that they do not subscribe to such fantastical notions.  However, I don't see how else you could explain the attitude about the first kiss...

It's great if that is the way it turns out for you, a first kiss with fireworks and symphonies.  You have the fairy tale and you are lucky; a few of us get to glimpse such moments.  For the rest of us, there is what happens in real life, or shall we say, what happens for most people.  The first kiss is timid, or exploratory.  The first kiss is out of balance or out of synch with your partner.  The first kiss is just the tip of the iceberg with so much more to discover.  It is not necessarily representative of all future kisses or possibilities.

My very first kiss was in fact one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

Frédéric and I had taken a walk in the park.  We sat down for a rest on a bench and were talking about many things.  I kicked myself for realizing too late that he had asked me out on a date and I had declined.  I was not available on the day in question, but also did not add anything encouraging like "perhaps another time".  The conversation continued on to horoscopes and astrological signs and we were in agreement that these things should not be taken too seriously.  Yet, he had said, "Maybe I should pay more attention to them."  So a couple of minutes later, I asked what he had meant and he explained that on the compatibility chart, Libra (my sign) and Gemini (his) had "a big heart".  I forced myself to remain calm and neutral, "Oh really?  I didn't know that..."  That is when he looked at me seriously and asked if I liked him.  I took a very big deep breath and said, "I am very interested in you; I have to be honest."  And I held that breath, waiting for his reply.  He said, "Je suis soulagé," and it was very visible: a wave of relief washed over his entire body.  Then he proceeded to say that he had felt like kissing me a few moments earlier.  Since that feeling was mutual and he obtained my permission, he leaned over and kissed me.  Back then, I thought this was quite romantic.  When I think about it now, I get queasy.

I thought it was the perfect moment.  Except for the kiss.  The idea of the moment finishing in a kiss was blissful.  The actual kiss had me freaked out.  Frédéric was saying that he hadn't dated in a couple of years and apologizing for being rusty.  I couldn't tell.  I couldn't think about what he was saying.  I had just hit extreme fear instead of ecstasy and was confused as to how that could happen.  I seemed to be aware that you could be nervous during a first kiss, but I was way beyond that.  I was shaking and had lain my head on his shoulder, apologizing before he did, saying I had "not been ready for that".  I was very happy to have shared my feelings for him and to have heard that they were reciprocated, so I was content while talking with him and walking back.  When we parted that day, though, he pulled me in for a second kiss and all of my severe anxiety returned.  I realized I had a serious problem.  I even spiked a mysterious fever that day, after seeing Frédéric.  I felt so terrified, I felt sick.  I had no other symptoms and it disappeared by the next day.  Clearly kissing disagreed with me.  Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't my warning not to date him.  In any case, to my way of thinking, it was a pretty extreme reaction and it made me feel completely abnormal.   

Now I know better.  It took me awhile to figure this out, but feeling strange or even not so great about the first kiss is normal enough.  And it is okay.  I thought, again erroneously, that I had perhaps picked the wrong guy and that is why the kiss didn't feel good.  While it is true that I didn't make a good pick with Frédéric, that is not why kissing him was a problem.  I hoped that the next guy I kissed would change all of that.  As I have hinted, though, my first kiss with Amin also threw me.  All of those familiar feelings of acute anxiety returned.  I was doubly scared this time in a way, because I had hoped for something magical to happen.  I had hoped not only not to feel terrified, but to feel good.  I didn't have high hopes or expectations; I didn't require spectacular.  I just didn't want to feel bad.  I was not so lucky.  What Amin allowed me to learn, though, is that it is normal and it is okay to feel the way that I did. 

So the next time you are thinking about the first kiss or you are about to experience one, try not to set your expectations at spectacular.  It's great for you if you have that perfect moment.  It is also okay if you don't.  My mother told me when the subject came up in my first weeks of dating Amin that experiencing a great kiss for a girl depends on so many factors: the guy, the atmosphere, the way you are sitting or standing, your hormones, your stress level, etc.  If only I had discovered this secret years ago!  I would not have spent such a long time feeling bad and abnormal.  Go on dreaming of a True Love's Kiss.  You will get there, on the first kiss, or the third one, or... the number is not important.  You may indeed have met a charming prince, even if the first kiss didn't spell out Happily Ever After instantaneously.  The important thing really is how you feel about him and how he feels about you: that is what leads to a True Love's Kiss.   

"Anyone could see that the prince was charming: the only one for me..."


Monday, 27 May 2013

First Days

Hopeful 3     Hopeless  8

There weren't many days left to October after Amin and I started dating, so I figured that an October entry would not be necessary.  In any case, the feeling that I had in the first days continued into November.  It was an important period of adjustment for me.  I realize that in my latest entry, I gave the impression that my feelings were clearer than they actually were at the time.  It took me much longer than I indicated to feel secure in my choice.  Most of me anyways had decided that I wanted to try dating Amin, that I liked him a lot and that I was ready to take a leap, despite what my fears were telling me.  The transition was not all that smooth or that simple, however.

I remember that everything felt surreal for a while.  As far as I know, a lot of people experience that, the feeling of "I can't believe this actually happened!"  It did happen: I had a boyfriend.  That word seemed so foreign to me.  In December, a full two months later, I recall telling someone and still hesitating as I said it, or taking a really big deep breath: "Amin... my boyfriend".  I could hardly believe it at first.  I knew I was going to have to get used to it.

I felt silly: how romantic is it to think that you have to get "used" to having a boyfriend?  I wanted to share my life with someone in that way, yet it seemed that I wasn't accustomed to sharing like that.  Everything felt strange.  I remember sitting down with my Mom and my sister the next morning, on October 26th.  They asked me how the evening had gone with Amin and so I announced that we were dating, to which my mother said, "excellent" (my sister was also quite pleased about my news).  I continued talking with my Mom after that, saying that I still had a lot of fears.  I was terrified that I was making a mistake.  I doubted my feelings and that I had made the right decision.  What felt abnormal to me was also the feeling of confusion about my identity.  Who was Elise if she was not single?  Who was Elise with a boyfriend?  One of my defining and steadfast qualities for the longest time had been the fact that I was single.  I was not a commitment-phobe, nor am I one.  But I experienced vertigo at the thought of being someone's girlfriend.  I wondered if I was still me. 

I felt absurd or abnormal or immature or something for having all of these crazy thoughts and feelings.  Mom told me that it was all normal.  I was not all that convinced by her attempts to reassure me that other people did experience such feelings while dating.  I still didn't like that feeling of perturbation.  I always thought of myself as someone sure of herself and here I was having all kinds of strange doubts and countless other emotions.  It is really difficult to put into words the uncertainty and uneasiness that I felt.  Despite this, I was determined to try, to give my absolute best effort.  To do that, I needed to breathe and let these feelings subside or resolve themselves.  I had to believe that they would, given time.

Through it all, Amin was very understanding.  He was very eager to help me to feel at ease, yet very patient to let my feelings come around in their own time.  He always told me that my comfort level and my happiness were a priority.  He implored me to talk about how I was feeling and to tell him what he could do to help me feel better.  I wanted to work through the majority of these things on my own, but it was so wonderful to know that I had his full support.  I knew I could lean on him if needed, but that he would also give me the independence to sort things out on my own.  He let me know that since we were a team, we could each make efforts on our own, but that some of those efforts would also be together to move forward and achieve common goals. 

What I did in those first days was really try to be calmer, to talk myself out of some of my fears and strange feelings.  I also let Amin in on some of my feelings where I felt I could use his help.  The first thing I discussed with him was my feelings about public displays of affection.  I had been nervous about bringing the subject up, but I am really glad that his encouragement led me to talk about it earlier than I had planned to.  It turns out that I had nothing to worry about, because we were quite of the same opinion on the matter.  We decided on what we were both comfortable expressing in public, which was a hug hello and a hug goodbye (accompanied by a kiss on the cheek in less crowded places) as well as holding hands.  I had not predicted such a simple and favourable outcome to that discussion, but I was greatly relieved to obtain it. 

Those first days were filled with taking deep breaths and working at not having strange feelings over very normal things.  I was learning to grow accustomed to words like "boyfriend", but also to terms of endearment, which surfaced very quickly.  Amin had just barely been holding back feelings before we began dating.  He had begun complimenting me more than I would allow a friend to, so I had to tell him to refrain from voicing most of them.  As soon as we started dating, though, he was no longer limited.  I was more ready to hear such sentiments from him, but there was still a certain amount of adjusting to do.  I am glad most of this happened online.  We were still chatting every day, so the first time that he called me "sweetheart", for example, was on my screen.  Some of these things were comfortable and others less.  I liked being called "sweetheart", but I still struggled with some compliments.  Through the computer screen, Amin could hardly tell the difference.  It allowed me to respond well or to give the impression of a little more than I felt while I waited for my feelings to catch up.  This is another point that I talked to him about right away.  I had mentioned it on October 25th, that he had liked me for a long time, but that my feelings were newer and thus not as strong as his; consequently, I had some catching up to do to reach his level. 

That is why Amin was quite ready to say "I love you" and talk about how much he loved me right from the beginning.  I had to be careful how I reciprocated on this.  I could not let on too much more than I felt, but I could hardly let too many of those go by without reciprocating.  I realized that, though I may not have loved Amin as much as he did me at that point, there were feelings there.  I was very fond of him as a friend, which, one could argue, could justify using the word "love" on its own.  I had some romantic feelings to back that up, so I figured there was no reason not to say "I love you" in a way.  I knew that when I said it, it would not mean exactly what he meant when he said it.  I hoped that soon they would mean exactly the same thing.  I titled the conversation file in my computer for the day that I said it the first time: "I love you too".  It was October 31st, the first time I had seen Amin in person since we had started dating.  I am glad it had been nearly a week.  I had had some time to collect myself and we had settled matters such as public displays of affection.  We had talked about doing something for Halloween, but had never finished that discussion.  It so happened that I had an important assignment due the next day for my Methodology class, so I had to be in the library after class for awhile.  He joined me and brought some work of his own.  It was hardly romantic, but that is one of the things I love about Amin: he, like me, doesn't require everything to be spectacular all the time, but can appreciate simple moments like sitting working in the library next to each other.  Such is the life of the dating student: study dates.  He and I were also on the same page about not letting our relationship jeopardize our school work.  It was a low-pressure meeting for me, which really helped.  I felt distracted like I had the last two times I had seen him, but I managed to come out with a sufficient amount for my preliminary bibliography.  I know that Amin was distracted too because he freely admitted to it while chatting when I got home.  I had been wearing a medieval vest that day to feel a bit dressed up for Halloween.  The vest is something done up a lot tighter than anything I would normally wear.  He was trying his best not to look at me to avoid kissing me in the middle of the library.  I sensed that and tried to limit my eye contact and things like that to make it easier on him.  Later in that online conversation, when he made one of his favourite exclamations, "I really love you", that is when I answered, "I love you too".         

Amin's understanding, respect, patience and support was exactly as I could've wished.  Given time, it allowed me to not only become comfortable as his girlfriend, but very happy.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Catching Up

Hopeful 4   Hopeless 8

I realize that I have been neglectful of my blog of late.  I noticed the other day that I didn't write any entries for the month of April, which is a first for me; normally I have at least one post per month!  I have been sincerely wanting to update.  My workload this past school term has been considerable and has preventing me from posting on a regular basis.  My health has also not been very good lately, so I have needed to focus more on feeling better than on other things.  I hope to be able to catch up entirely in the next few weeks.  Again, my apologies to readers who have been left in suspense!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The End of One Story, The Beginning of Another

Hopeful  6  Hopeless  4

So now you know how Amin and I started dating.  I wish I had been able to get to the end of my story a lot faster!  I didn't meant to keep people in suspense for such a long time.  There were just so many details to write and I thought it was important to explain the entire process really well.  That helps give people the most accurate idea of what it is like to take on online dating as possible.  It also helped show my thought process and how I arrived at Amin, rather than just saying out of the blue: "So I'm dating him now...".

It is the end of a story and yet it is only the beginning of another.  I don't know about you, but when the words "Happily Ever After" flash across the screen at the end of the movie, I only find it satisfying to a certain extent.  It always begs the question: what happened after? what were those happy days like? how did they work things out? did they really make it?  Yet, these questions are never answered.

It was never the point of my blog to write only when I was single and to stop when I found someone to date.  There are still many things to write about and express even when you have your "happily ever after".  There is the whole rest of the story, or if you will, the beginning of a new one.  I will not, however, go through every small detail as I have been so far.  It would make for an interminable task for me and would certainly bore anyone reading!  What I would like to do, is write an entry for each month to relate certain events and perhaps add one or two extra if there is a theme entry that suggests itself.

I keep this blog because it always reminds me to stay Hopeful.  That is something that I firmly believe you need when you are single and also when you are dating.  "Happily Ever After" is never quite so smooth in real life as in fairy tales; it comes with joy but also with trials.  That is where the Hope comes in and becomes crucial.  It, along with diligent effort, is what helps you to surmount all the odds.

Thank you, Amin, for giving me extra reasons to be Hopeful.  I love you     

Just Stop Your Whining

Hopeful 6   Hopeless 4

On Thursday, October 25th, I met Amin after school.  We had agreed on a place that was public but not too public.  He had asked that it be a bit quieter, so that if he had any strong feelings, it would not be so embarrassing.  Yet, there was also an advantage to being in a busy place; people are less likely to notice you in the crowd.  I forget exactly how we came up with this, but we settled on the food court of the Complexe Desjardins.

We met first in the metro and headed there together.  My stomach had been doing somersaults all day.  The conversation I'd had with Amin the night before had made me feel a bit more cheerful and more hopeful.  I had to at least try to see if he would date me.  I had thought to just skip to the part about not being able to date him, but I managed to convince myself to give him all the information.  My fears screamed at me all day that I should not admit to having any feelings for him and that I was better off staying single.  I kept swallowing hard and pushing them down as best as I could.  They were truly in full force that day even as Amin and I were making our way to the Complexe.

We both got some tea at the Café Dépôt in the food court.  We had quickly learned that not only were we both chocoholics, but also tea drinkers.  He went for black tea, which would normally have been my choice.  Seeing as I was rattled, though, I knew I had to have something herbal to calm my nerves.  We surveyed the food court and found that one of the least crowded areas was actually the section called The Gazebo.  It is usually my preferred place to sit, because the painted scene on the ceiling makes for a nicer atmosphere.  Amin pulled his chair up next to me again, to hear well.  I don't know whether sitting across from me or beside me would've created more tension.  I just sipped some of my mint tea and tried to breathe.

He had asked me to be as direct as possible for what I had to say.  I tried my best, but people who know me well know that it is difficult for me to be succinct most of the time.  I also wanted to be as diplomatic as possible in such a conversation, which usually requires more words rather than less words.  Amin, however, doesn't like to be in suspense for any length of time on such matters and also finds it less than genuine to say things such as: "I like you, you're a really nice guy (etc., etc., listing personal qualities), but..."  He believes you should skip this unnecessary and possibly insincere flattery and just get to the point.  I couldn't.  I had to preamble.  I couldn't help myself.  I apologized for it, saying that it was too ingrained in my personality, but that I would be as brief as possible.  I explained to him that I had thought about what I wanted to say, but that expressing it was difficult.  I entreated him not to interrupt me, even if I was pausing a lot.  It was simply my trying to get out what I wanted to say.  I said something like, "If you see me waving my hand like this, it is because I am still trying to talk."  I said that I would like his input, but to please let me finish first.  I told him to let me talk first and that I promised I would invite him to share his thoughts afterwards.  

He agreed.  I took a few deep breaths.  Despite my preamble aimed at calming myself down and easing us into this difficult conversation, I was still really worked up.  Amin noticed.  He could see how nervous I was, because my hands had started shaking.  He took them in his.  He hadn't held my hand since September 28th and this time, I made no objections.  "Hey... your hands are shaking," he said, as though he were saying "shhhhhhhh".  It had a very calming effect.  It also had a distracting affect.  I had to focus on what I was saying, because it was too important.

I told him that, though I "liked him so much" (I was quoting one of his favourite phrases), it was not possible for me to date him, because it had come to my attention that I had one of his deal-breakers.  I took a deep breath and recalled what he had said about the girl he chose needing to accept the two years of absence for the military service and be willing to stay with him through that separation.  I explained to him that I couldn't promise him that kind of commitment, particularly since I had no idea what the military service entailed (here, my diplomacy lapsed and I found myself blurting: "I don't know if they expect you to kill people!").  I reminded him that my life was not fixed at this point either, because I was still studying and may well end up in Toronto within the next year or so to pursue my next degree.  I told him that I wanted to date him, but that I could only promise him what I had now, such as it was.  He was looking at me perplexed, which made me feel discouraged.  That had all been difficult enough to say once; I didn't want to have to repeat it.  I also didn't know how I could reformulate it to make it more comprehensible.  I rephrased a couple of things and Amin started catching on. 

He had been so convinced that I was going to tell him that I didn't want to date him, he was too stunned to understand what I had actually been saying.  He could hardly believe that I was sitting next to him telling him that I chose him.  He hardly thought it was possible.  Though we are both the type to make a serious commitment, we both found ourselves agreeing to a short-term relationship, a "see-where-it-goes" arrangement.  It was my turn to be surprised, that after all his pronouncements of the other night were not as serious as I'd thought and he further explained that the military service question might be mute anyways, as he had high hopes for an exemption.  He told me that he was content with my "best try".  My Mom said that it was just like a bad romance novel, where the characters don't know that their affection is mutual and assume that a romantic relationship would not be possible.  What struck me as "bad" was that it was one of the most unromantic speeches I had EVER made and in fact, probably one of the most unromantic speeches I had ever heard of!  I suppose this is more what it is like in real-life as opposed to the colourful stories we grow up with...

It was all Amin could to keep his emotions bottled up.  He had been trying with more or less success for some weeks and had been as calm as possible while I was talking.  He hit his breaking point, however, and when the subject of vibes and the Gardens date came up; he just reached over the table and kissed me.  I should've expected this, but I was nevertheless very surprised by the kiss.  It had been such a long time for me that my head was swimming; I had not been ready for that.  I could see how happy Amin was, so I decided on the spot not to say anything, so as not to upset such a special moment for him.

Given the hour, I was beginning to lose energy because I had not eaten since lunch.  Attentive as ever, he suggested we just stay put and get some supper.  I was really glad we did that; it helped normalize things for me.  It helped my anxiety start to come down.  I was once again able to simply enjoy spending time with him.  We continued talking after eating.  I am sure Amin felt like never letting that evening end.  He always insists, despite whatever I say about that day, that it was such a wonderful, happy day for him, one of the very best in his entire life.  I was thinking in more practical terms, about the necessity of getting home before I got too tired and things like that.  I didn't want to cut anything short, either, so it was a question of finding the right balance.  I think we achieved that.

Two more kisses, holding hands and sitting resting my head on his shoulder with his arm around me rounded off the evening.  He accompanied me half of the way home.  It was out of his way, but as he is fond of saying, it bought him more time to spend with me.  It was at that point that I had relaxed enough to start feeling happy too.  It was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.  It began to remind me what it was like to be in a relationship.  Yet, it was so different at the same time.  It was better.  Everything was better.  I couldn't help feeling that this was exactly what it was supposed to feel like when you have a boyfriend.  It was surreal for me, a feeling that persisted for awhile.

I was glad that I managed to find the courage to tell Amin how I felt.  It really reminded me of the song by the Ennis Sisters that I used for the title of this entry.  The chorus says: "Kiss him, Go ahead and say how you feel, You've just got to show him your heart, You've just gotta tell him what's real, 'Cause girl you're gonna miss him, If you let him slip on through, Go ahead and kiss him".  They say in their album that they hope people not only have the courage to kiss someone, but to do take on many other things in life, to speak their mind and fight for what they believe in.  The line from the title of my post is from the last verse: "Just stop your whining, Somewhere the sun is shining, You never know till you try, I don't give advice but, You wouldn't have to tell me twice".  Normally I would encourage my friends to give it a shot with a guy they really liked, so I was not about to not follow my own advice.  I took "just stop your whining" as: stop worrying and fussing, don't let your fears control you.  I gave it a try, and I found a spot where the sun was shining brightly.  

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Coming to a Head

Hopeful 7     Hopeless   3

During the week I was waiting to tell Amin that I wanted to date him, several things occurred.  Something I didn't mention in my entry "The Fight" was that Amin had been a front-runner amongst the Plenty of Fish guys for awhile.  At that point, I had still had Patrick and Alexandre on my list.  Alexandre simply never got back to me about meeting, so I didn't chase after him.  Patrick, however, e-mailed during that week, which was a fresh reminder of this list I had made.

Patrick had discovered my blog.  I had not asked him what he had read (though I had been dying to), but prayed him not to read further.  Originally I had asked him if he wanted to see the Impressionist exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  I had begun slowly to feel differently and to regret proposing that we go, because all I could think is how I should much rather go with Amin.  I went back on it by offering a tea date to explain myself and my blog.  Patrick, in his response in that last week of October, did not bite.  He preferred to keep the museum date or suggested going for Indian food or something.  He had plenty to say, though, about the blog.  He admitted to having read the entry about his date and also the one I had with Huiqi.  He said that my assessment of the date we had had pretty much reflected what he had observed and felt.  What he elaborated on was what I had to say about Huiqi.  He felt it was his duty to warn me that Huiqi did not sound "romantic" at all and that I should be careful of insecure guys like him.  Patrick said that he did not wish for his advice to be intrusive.  I am not sure that I felt so much that he was overstepping his bounds; he was simply expressing a frank opinion.  However, it is the tone he used, not just in that section, but throughout the e-mail, that gave me a bad feeling.  It made me feel like he considered me younger, less experienced and perhaps inferior to him in some way.  I re-read it a lot, but I always got the same impression.  Almost all the guys I had corresponded with on Plenty of Fish had been older than me, but none of them had made me to feel it.  Patrick did.  I did not like that feeling, so I went with my instincts.  Patrick and I had talked about being open to the possibility of friendship if we didn't want to date, but that email really didn't make me feel very good, so I didn't make that overture in the response.

Though I had already chosen Amin in my mind, it just went to show that none of the other guys had been suitable enough.  Patrick confirmed that for me in that last week of October.  And little did he know that I had ceased to consider Huiqi after awhile.  Poor Patrick!  If only he had known that by that time, I had determined that even if I didn't want to date any other of the Plenty of Fish guys, I could not date Huiqi.  I had not received a lot of news from Huiqi, but one of the e-mails I did get talked about how I was "lucky" to have my illness because it gave me occasion to sleep more than most other people for my health and that sleep literally made you "beautiful" (as in "beauty-sleep"!).  This basic lack of understanding of my illness and what I have to manage on a daily basis I knew would not fly.  People like this I can keep as acquaintances and perhaps as friends sometimes, but they are not boyfriend material.

It reaffirmed for me that Amin was my choice.  There were truly no other possibilities but him.  He beat out all of the Plenty of Fish guys.  More importantly, he was my choice out of all the other guys on the planet.  I became surer and surer all the time that he was the person I wanted to date.

However, Amin and I had a conversation that week that further complicated matters.  One thing that he had been very up-front about from the start was that all Iranian men have compulsory military service to complete and that he had not done this yet.  He was slated to go back to Iran in 2014 after getting his PhD to fulfil this obligation to his country.  What he told me, though, on October 22nd, was that the girl he chose would have to be okay with a separation of 2 years.  That was not a commitment I could possibly make at that stage.  I knew he was a very monogamous person, but I could not promise him forever when that amount of time can change a person so much.  It can certainly change a person if they are in any kind of combat or other traumatic kind of situation.  The truth was, I didn't know much about what the military service entailed, so I couldn't say for certain that any feelings for him could withstand that kind of obstacle.  Yet, it was very important to him.  Horrified, I realized that it was a deal-breaker for him.  I had one of his deal-breakers.

After we said good night in Farsi (the one thing he had taught me to say), I cried myself to sleep.  It was a wretched feeling.  I had finally managed to figure out that I liked Amin, only to discover that it was not possible to date him.  I would have to seriously modify what I had planned to say to him that Friday.  I had a miserable next day.  I did not want to talk to him.  I felt I couldn't bring myself to pretend that everything was okay when it was not.  Something prompted me to chat with him anyways that evening.  It cheered me up slightly.

While I was chatting with him, I was finishing up my blog entry about the Gardens date.  Amin was really eager to see what I thought about it.  We had talked about it a little, but I had not told him everything and promised that all the details would be in the entry.  He was so happy with that post that he read it several times.  He was completely floored when he read the part about my feeling like kissing him.  He was surprised, agitated and ecstatic all at once because at the very exact same moment I had felt this, he had too.  He had not wanted to admit as much, because he thought I would find him too forward.  That is the point where I went berserk.  I felt I could not wait any longer, because it was simply torturous.  We had this good connection, which was evidenced by these further vibes which had just been revealed due, once again, to comparing notes with my blog (though I did not mention it in my entry "The Fight", the vibes I'd experienced played a major role in my decision process as well).  I knew, however, that we couldn't date, despite this amazing bond.  Amin knew that I was going to give him my answer on Friday and after this conversation, I was convinced he was going to think that I was ready to date him.  I couldn't stand it anymore.  I had to get that painful conversation over with as fast as possible.  I didn't want him to entertain any false hope any longer than necessary.  I asked if we could move up the meeting to the next day, Thursday, instead.  He agreed.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Fight

Hopeful  8  Hopeless 3

After seeing Amin unexpectedly on that Thursday, I was really starting to think.  I had been thinking throughout this project and particularly about Amin because it was abundantly evident by that time that he liked me a lot, so I really felt the need to give him an answer as quickly as possible.  If only I could make up my mind in a timely fashion as to whether or not I wanted to date him.  My reflections increased after seeing him on October 18th because additional questions resulted from that meeting.

As I think back on them now, these reflections were so complex that I hardly remember all of the things I was thinking!  I will endeavour to write here a sampling of what was running through my mind.  I was thinking that I certainly liked Amin, but more importantly: did I like him that way?  Other times, I felt the internal struggle about wanting to be single versus wanting to date; apparently that fight was still active.  I had to make sure that I didn't start dating Amin just because I wanted to date.  The phrase "I don't have a good reason not to date him" kept coming back, but I quickly answered that with, "But not having a good reason not to doesn't mean that you have a good reason to".  It is so important to date a person for the right reasons, to have legitimate reasons for entering into a relationship with someone.  Otherwise you are deceiving yourself and the other person and you are sure to end up in disappointment and heartbreak (as Frédérick had taught me well).  I reminded myself that I was under no obligation to choose any of the guys I had corresponded with on Plenty of Fish.  I am embarrassed to admit that I voiced some of these thoughts to Amin; his response was: "That is why I like you so much; you think about every single detail of making any type of relationship.  You care about others' thoughts and feelings and everything and the consequences of each action!"  That perhaps was the flattering way of putting it.  The truth is, I am obsessed about not repeating past mistakes, which is one of the main reasons I was not only cautious, but becoming confused and somewhat stuck in the decision process.  It was an intricate web in my head and I was in danger of becoming trapped in it.

I knew I had to, for my own mental health and also to not try Amin's patience indefinitely, make up my mind once and for all.  Other than simple indecision, my greatest difficulty was in getting past my fears, which were speaking quite loudly.  I knew that it was not reasonable for them to have such a big voice.  Of course caution needed to be exercised, but I could not let my fears control my decisions.  If you do that, you miss out on so many opportunities.  If I really wanted to date, I had to loosen the grip of my fears and allow myself to choose a relationship, including all the potential risks, but also all the potential benefits that came with it.  All that left was to determine how I truly felt about Amin.  

It sounds like a simple question, but the answer was still elusive for me.  I kept looking for the typical symptoms I get when I have a crush and they seemed to be absent.  I didn't feel all fluttery inside and wasn't thinking incessantly about him.  My tell-tale sign is always thinking a lot about the person, if not incessantly.  I wasn't getting that.  It also didn't feel that yearning to date him.  I still felt good being single and didn't feel like my life was lacking something.  Finally, though, something Amin said to me began to percolate.  He said that I kept making exceptions for him.  The more and more we talked, the clearer it was for him that I had given him special treatment.  I began to realize that he was right.  From the very first time I met him, I granted him more than the usual coffee date: we went to see the fireworks.  I had let him hold my hand in the Gardens, which I had assured him and myself was a big exception.  I had invited him to my birthday celebration.  I had seen him three times within the space of a week: when we went for hot chocolate, then for my birthday and finally on the Thursday I was having a bad day.  He was very conscious of the fact that I did not normally schedule more than two social activities in the same week to be able to maintain the balance between my health, my school work and my social time and that furthermore I did not ordinarily see the same person more than once in the same week.  He marvelled at how I should bend my rules for him.  It began to dawn on me too: I had changed the rules when it came to Amin.  This really crystallized for me when I thought about how I had asked him to come and see me when I was having a bad day.  I wasn't acting as I normally would.  Even if my emotions did not allow themselves to surface entirely, my behaviour had clearly betrayed me.

There was only one conclusion to this: I liked him.  I liked Amin.  What had been obvious to a few people for a little while (like my mother, my sister and Stella) finally hit me.  I could give up the fight; I had my answer.  I liked Amin and I wanted to date him.  He and I were well matched in so many ways; we had so many of the same feelings and opinions.  Yet we also had enough to make us different, to permit us to have enriching exchanges.  He was one of the nicest guys I had ever met: so caring, respectful, understanding and supportive.  I was an idiot if I was going to let an opportunity like that slip through my fingers.  Such opportunities don't arrive every day; in fact, they are very rare and precious.  When you find a guy like that and you like him, you should certainly seize the chance to date.  I could've told him right away, but I thought it would be best to wait until the next time I saw him in person; to me, these are just not things you say online.  We had agreed to meet on the coming Friday, so everything was set.  

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Unexpected Date

Hopeful 7   Hopeless  2

The same week I had my rather discouraging and upsetting conversation with Thomas, I was very busy.  I had decided that I did not have time to go on any dates.  I intended to resume the following week, which promised to be less hectic.  That is not exactly how the week turned out after all, though.

That Thursday, October 18th, I had class in the afternoon.  It just so happened that Steven was in this class.  I had seen him the week before and chatted with him briefly after class; it had been the first time since the day that our student association voted to end their strike.  Our conversation had been okay, but I was still a bit nervous.  In an attempt to normalize the situation on that Thursday, I tried to casually integrate into a conversation Steven was having with a friend of his.  "Did you go to the conference?" Steven asked.  "I was really interested; was it any good?"  When his friend responded affirmatively, I chimed in, "Listening to M Cartier is always good."  I had assumed wrongly that they were referring to one of the conferences in our department that week, that several people including me were just coming from (hence why I was sitting near him in the first place; seat selection was limited when you arrived late).  Steven's friend corrected me, but not in a polite or friendly manner, rather with a condescending tone and energy that I didn't appreciate.  Steven didn't say anything to this or say anything else that could help me integrate into the conversation, so I simply turned around in my seat and looked straight ahead of me.

I was mildly embarrassed.  That was nothing compared to what happened next.  Someone passing by my seat in this very cramped classroom knocked over my water bottle.  It was so quick, I didn't realize what had happened for a few seconds.  I don't even know if it was him or his schoolbag that knocked my water bottle over.  In my confusion, I didn't react very quickly and therefore was not effective at preventing the water from going everywhere.  I was most concerned about my loose leaf.  It was all wet, some sheets more or less.  Then I saw that some water had splashed into my lap.  My sweatshirt, which had been in my lap since there was no space on the backs of the chairs in this classroom, was soaked.  I quickly put it in the compartment under the chair.  I was surprised to find that my pants were a bit wet, but since they were black, it didn't really show.  Then I looked down to find the puddle under my chair.  Still a bit dazed, I mumbled something out loud about probably needing to find a washroom for paper towel.  Meanwhile, Steven and his friend did not react at all.  The only thing I heard was Steven's friend make some sort of "oops" noise.  There were about forty people in this class.  Not one of them got up to help me.  I had to make two or three trips to the bathroom to clean up the mess all over my desk while Steven and his friend watched.  I was embarrassed and mildly offended besides.

That, unfortunately was not the end of my embarrassment.  It was bad enough to be sitting in class wet trying to take notes on damp or crinkly loose-leaf.  The first twenty minutes of methodology class was reserved for questions aimed at research trouble-shooting.  I raised my hand and asked a question that I should've spoken to the professor about after class.  He was just usually so swamped with students after class, that I decided to ask during the question period instead.  Big mistake.  I asked if he could give me direction for my subject, narrow it down a little and if indeed that was the appropriate time to ask.  This was supposed to be an any-question-goes zone, a class where there were no "stupid questions".  Yet the professor looked at me and said, "But that's not your subject."  I was stunned.  How could I not know my own research topic?  He made a slight correction to one of the words in my topic and that radically changed my research.  It was important to ask before I got much further in my work, but I wish I had not done it in front of the class, because at the teacher's reaction, my classmates burst out laughing.  I just wanted to disappear.

So as soon as we had a break, I left the classroom as quickly as I could.  I felt the need to get out of there.  Usually I sit quietly during the break and often eat a snack to replenish my energy.  Since I had been wanting to disappear for about an hour and a half, I could not fling myself out of the room fast enough.  I wanted to put space between me and that class so I could clear my head.  My concentration had not been very good because my embarrassment had really affected my mood.  Normally I am able to put feelings aside when I am in class and focus on the lecture.  For whatever reason, that day, I was not really able to do so.  I went and found a computer, though I didn't have a lot of time before I had to be back in class.  I had gotten an idea that I couldn't shake.  It was crazy.  It was also very unlike me.

I took Amin's advice for reaching him.  I sent him an e-mail, which he was certain to see on his phone.  He said it was always an effective way of getting him to sign in to chat if he was not already online.  Sure enough, scarce a few minutes had gone by and there he was.  So I told him I was having a bad day and that for whatever reason I just couldn't shake off the bad feelings.  I didn't understand why, but I was really not coping that day.  I couldn't roll with anything; everything was affecting me and I was having great difficulty getting through the rest of the day.  I had to stay after class for an activity for the mentoring program I had joined at school.  I couldn't imagine myself doing so.  In fact, I had wanted so badly not to sit through any of the class even.  I felt sorely lacking in courage.  I wasn't able to help myself, so I decided it was time to ask for help.  I needed some support that day.  Amin was ready to offer it, very ready and willing.  He cancelled a meeting with his PhD supervisor; he rearranged his entire schedule just to meet me after class.  His assurance that he would spend some time with me got me through the second half of my class and the activity I had to attend afterwards.

I felt extremely strange making this request.  I later realized that it was okay for me to ask for help or support, certainly.  I asked the person whose schedule was most flexible and who was most likely to be available at the drop of a hat.  What felt strange, was that it was so uncharacteristic of me.  It was so unusual for me to essentially be falling apart based on such a slight thing as an embarrassment or two.  Normally I am tougher than that and it takes a lot to stop me from getting through my day well.  What was most certainly not like me was to ask someone else to help me in such circumstances, to feel that it was so very necessary.  It felt like I was asking to be rescued and though I realized that was not entirely true, it still did not sit well with me at all.  I despise the notion of the damsel in distress being rescued by the knight on the white horse.  I most emphatically do not want it to happen to me.  I want to be my own independent person, not requiring a man to save me.  My internal objections, however, did not stop me from asking Amin to meet me.

Those were not the only strange feelings that I had that day.  Amin didn't say a lot; he mostly listened to me recount the story of my multiple embarrassments.  He let me vent.  Just talking to him began to cheer me up.  While I was talking, though, all I could seem to think about was hugging him or putting a hand on his arm.  I know I touched his arm a couple of times, but in my mind, I was touching him frequently.  All I wanted to do was touch him.  I was surprised at myself.  I suppose it had been awhile since I had had such feelings and that is why they felt foreign.  It made me confused: Amin was my friend; why did I feel the need to touch him?  In fact, I am not even certain my reflection got that far.  I must've been too preoccupied with self-restraint that I couldn't sort out what those feelings actually meant. 

What did emerge clearly for me, was a further illustration of Amin's character.  This Thursday proved to me that he was dependable and supportive.  It confirmed to me that he was a good listener and also very thoughtful and caring.  He offered to stay till I was done my mentoring activity.  After the function, I brought him a piece of cake to share.  He was very happy with that.  I thought there should be some reward for waiting for me like that and certainly the mentorship program could spare the piece.  Then he accompanied me part of the way back home.

I called this entry "Unexpected Date".  It didn't have most classic elements of a date.  It was unexpected because I had not planned to see Amin that day and furthermore did not consider that I had time for any dates that week.  He just spent a couple of hours with me at school, which is hardly romantic.  Yet, other than feeling bad that day, I had some other feelings, which were quite unquantifiable... 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad

Hopeful 8   Hopeless 2

The title of this entry comes from how we were taught to say Happy Valentine's Day in Spanish in high school.  I thought it was a good idea to call the holiday "love and friendship day" and have become a particular fan of the expression in recent years.  It encapsulates what Valentine's Day is all about.

When we hear "Valentine's Day", we conjure up lots of images.  Many of these images are chocolates and flowers and big red hearts, but the rest of them tend to be of couples.  Our culture focuses on having a Valentine to spend the day with.  This is such a limited view of what the holiday is about.  Saint Valentine did marry couples against the edict of Emperor Claudius II, but the first Valentines were actually letters to his friends from jail.  So from the very beginning, this story has been about love, not just romantic love, but love in the greater sense.  In fact, the person of Saint Valentine shows all aspects of love: romance, friendship and devotion to God.  These are all things he lived and died for.  That is what Valentine's Day is supposed to be about.

Whatever happened to the days in elementary school when you would get a Valentine from every student in the class?  Am I the only one who grew up in a school like that?  I remember filling out 30 or more of these mini store-bought cards that had messages such as "Be mine" or "Happy Valentine's Day".  That made everyone feel special and included on that day.  It seems when we grow up, we lose that sense of the importance of spreading love to the people around us.  That is such a shame.

I have gotten trapped in the paradigm of needing a Valentine on February 14th.  It is difficult not to get sucked into that feeling.  I think it is understandable in the society we live in to feel lonely on Valentine's Day if you are single.  I would see so many girls going by in the metro or on the street with roses.  It made me feel sad that there was no one to get me flowers.  I realized, though, that that is completely the wrong way of looking at it.  I started getting flowers in the metro or on the street and bringing them home for my mother.  She loves flowers; they really cheer her up and are quasi-therapeutic for her.  If you are thinking about how you are not getting flowers, you are focusing too much on yourself.  Go and get flowers for someone else and I guarantee you will feel so much better.  My mother has been my Valentine since I was a little girl and she will be as long as I live, whether I am dating or whether I am not.  The best part is that you are not limited to just one Valentine; you can have as many Valentines as you like!        

So go out and find people today.  Take the time to send them a message and tell them that they are appreciated.  Organize something with your friends and family.  Make an occasion!  Valentine's Day is not just for couples, so get together with the most important people in your life and have a great time.

Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Vhat Vas Ve Qvestion?

Hopeful 1  Hopeless 9

This is how I felt on October 15th after a conversation I had with Thomas.  My mood turned abruptly while I was chatting with him online.  In my own words from after that conversation: "It's on days like this where I want to give up on men entirely and am inclined to believe that there is not one decent man on this planet" (hence the hopeful-hopeless count).  When I first wrote this entry on paper (most of the time, my ideas and emotions flow much better on paper, which was the case that day!), I had explained the context in which this question arose.  I realized later, that there was no context in which this question could be understandable or admissible whatsoever, making half of what I wrote completely irrelevant.  This is a question you never ask a girl.

There are a few questions that you never ask a girl.  The first one, I think, is her age.  This is something you learn if you have been brought up with proper manners.  The second, is her weight.  Beyond basic politeness, it is simply that women tend to be insecure about these two things.  It is difficult when media, society and a million other factors are constantly pressuring women to look younger and slimmer all the time.  Don't add to her potential self-esteem problems by asking her such questions.  The question Thomas asked me was right up there with these two.  I wrote on that day: "I nearly choked.  Since when is it okay to just ask that question?  I was so shocked.  The audacity!"

I don't care what times we live in or again under what circumstances this question comes up.  It is unacceptable to ask a girl, "Are you a virgin?"  It is rude and inappropriate to ask such a personal question.  In fact, that question is not only personal, it is rather private.  Normally that kind of information, any information regarding sexual contact or experience is for the girl to know and for her to share with her partner.  It is not for common knowledge, merely to satisfy someone's curiosity.  If indeed, she felt the need to share this kind of information with someone other than her partner, it would have to come from her.  She would have to open up to you about it and not because you asked her.

Furthermore, this information, though it can perhaps make people curious, should not be sought after in the first place.  You may have your own guess (Thomas' was instantly clear when he posed that question), but that is not something you should utter out loud.  If you could refrain from guessing and wondering altogether, that would be even better.  The question of whether or not someone you know is a virgin should not be relevant.  You should not have a different opinion of them based on that, just like you should not think differently of them based on their age, or their weight, or their religion or their ethnic background or a million other things.  Take those things out of the equation and look at the person and their qualities and form your opinion of them based on those things.  Use as few labels as possible, because they usually end up being harmful one way or another.

It had been occurring to me that Thomas and I were not well matched before that day.  A few days earlier, I had blurted during a conversation with him: "What is it about you that seems to bring out all my insecurities and apprehensions?"  This is very important also to consider when you are looking for a potential partner: does this person bring out the best in you?  I know from my experience with my Dad that a guy can bring out the worst in a girl.  I didn't always like who I was when I talked to Thomas.  He seemed to draw out more of my negative emotions.  He certainly did on that day, though I didn't let him have it like I should've.  I was just too shocked in that moment.  I felt betrayed too.  That is the sort of moment I regretted letting him get to know me better.  That is what I meant when I said that I didn't want just anyone to know my name and have access to my facebook page.  I had given him my trust and he screwed up.  He knew he screwed up too, even as he was asking that question.  He should've listened to his instincts and buttoned up.  Though you cannot presume to understand someone based on one thing they said or did, it was finally clear to me that Thomas and I were not compatible enough to date.  He had told me he did not want to date at the moment, but that day is when I realized that even if he wanted to date later and I was in fact available, it would not fly.  At that moment, I was thinking we might not even be compatible enough to be friends.  If Thomas wanted to be friends, he was going to have to make a serious effort to earn my trust back. 

My Birthday

Hopeful 7    Hopeless  3

That weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my friends.  It had taken me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do, so I think it didn't give people a lot of notice.  For that reason, I had a modest number to go for lunch at Cacao 70.  Our party comprised of Étienne, Stella and my sister.  Louis had said he might be able to come, so I wasn't sure if he was going to drop in as well.

What I shared with my sister
the first time I went to Cacao 70
I was really looking forward to going.  I had been to Cacao 70 once with my sister and really enjoyed it.  I was thinking about it a lot the day before.  That is when I started getting the idea that I should issue a supplementary invitation.  I kept turning it over and over in my mind and finally decided on it: I should ask Amin if he would like to join us.  It seemed so logical to me.  I was going out with my friends for chocolate.  He was both my friend and a fellow chocoholic.  He talked about not having a friend to go and have chocolate with, so he would certainly be glad for the opportunity and would be sure to enjoy the chocolate.  The direct consequence of doing this would be that it would also integrate him more into my life.  It would put him on an equal footing with my other friends and it would prove to him that I treated him just like I did them.  It would be elevating his status and I really wanted to give him higher status.  I felt that that is where he should be.

At first,  Amin was not biting.  I was stunned: how could he refuse chocolate?!  He said it was very thoughtful of me to invite him, but that he should not meet my friends at this time.  I had anticipated the possibility of him being nervous, but I did not expect it to stop him from going.  So I used my powers of persuasion, which seemed rather effective on him.  I talked to him about what would make him feel more comfortable.  I explained that it was going to be a small party, which is one of the reasons I thought it was more than acceptable to ask him along.  I knew he was a bit on the shy side, so I wasn't going to expose him to a lot of different people at once.  He was still hesitant.  Finally we got to the root of the matter: he was feeling a bit odd about what my friends would think, given that we had met online.  This is something I suppose I had thought about myself.  It is perhaps a bit awkward to admit to meeting someone online.  It is becoming more and more common, but I think it still feels a bit strange or embarrassing.  It was such an easy fix, though: no one had to know!  So we decided what our story should be.  It was nothing elaborate, but fun to concoct at the same time.  I suppose it is the writer in me that likes to create stories and make-believe like when I was a kid.  We settled on having met "at school".  It is simple to retain and not the sort of answer that usually brings on a lot of questions.  What made it exciting was that it was our secret.  It was also sufficient for Amin to feel comfortable and for him to agree to come. 

I had set the time for 1:00, but I had a hiccup that caused me to run late.  I was positively mortified: I was late for my own celebration!  My sister got on her cellphone and began texting to let Étienne and Amin know.  Stella was with us as we made our way to Cacao 70.  Amin replied and said that he had found Étienne and that they were waiting for us (it turns out that I had miscopied Étienne's number for some reason, so he never got the message; it was lucky indeed that he had collided with Amin!).  I was nearly dying, because it was such an odd scenario.  Here was the person who had encouraged me to go on Plenty of Fish, Étienne, sitting with one of the people I had met on the site, Amin.  I was positively squirming, because neither of them knew who exactly they were talking to!  I would've loved to be a fly on the wall at that point to see what on earth they were saying.

We arrived fashionably late; I suppose the only advantage was making an entrance at my own party.  I stood up on my tiptoes to give Étienne a hug and I went over to give Amin one.  I made a nervous joke about how they had obviously gotten along all right because they hadn't killed one another.  I slunk sheepishly into a chair as soon as possible.  Since Étienne was sitting beside him, I made sure to choose the seat in front of Amin, to make sure that I was nearby.  After all, I was the only person he knew there, so I had to make sure that he was comfortable.  Even later, when my sister and I needed to sit together to share our chocolate, I did not move from that spot.  I asked Stella and her if they could switch places instead.

It was a very pleasant outing.  Much was talked of, particularly Étienne's exciting job opportunities and Stella's upcoming trek to the base camp of Mount Everest to raise funds for cancer research.  The person who talked the most was undoubtedly my sister.  She had lots of energy that day, which will bring out her very sociable and bubbly personality.  She was the life of the party certainly that day and was the main reason (besides chocolate) that it was such a nice birthday celebration.  I have always been quieter than her by nature and sitting back listening to her talk that day, I was not feeling that she was stealing my spotlight or anything; I was just feeling that she had so many interesting and intelligent things to say and feeling very proud of her.  Amin had been self-conscious about being older than my friends, but here was the youngest out of everyone and she was just awesome.  

I had a good time and everyone else professed that they did also.  I received a small gift from Stella: a black and red necklace.  She said it was not a proper birthday gift, but I was happy for this thoughtful token of friendship.  When we left Cacao 70, it was raining a little.  None of us were really equipped except Amin.  He gallantly offered to share his umbrella with Stella (which would've been a challenge, since she is tall!), but she declined.  None of us seemed too worried about the rain, since it was so slight.  So Amin came over to me and asked.  I could hardly refuse such a kind gesture.  My sister and Étienne got ahead of us, then so did Stella.  Amin and I brought up the rear under his umbrella.  I was feeling a bit strange at that point, perhaps recalling that afternoon with Giles.  What I remember is that I could not look at Amin and consequently didn't stay under the umbrella very well.  I couldn't find much to say, but he wasn't very talkative in any case.  I had been a bit concerned about him.  I had expected he would mostly listen rather than talk, since he was unfamiliar with my friends and that he would probably be observing how I interacted with the others.  However, much as he was surrounded by lots of chocolate and a near infinite menu of delicious chocolate choices, he only had a milkshake.  That is what worried me; I could hardly reconcile that with the chocoholic I knew he was!  What I later discovered is that his meal times are different from the ones I keep, so it was simply a question of appetite.

I talked later with Amin and finally got to hear his enthusiasm about the outing.  He said that I had very nice friends and he was glad I invited him.  He was curious to know what my friends thought of him, but they could hardly give me feedback based on one such occasion.  Stella, however, had remembered Amin from my conversation with her after the Gardens date.  She asked me if I was dating him or not yet and how I felt about him.  I could not offer a clear-cut answer at that time, which she thought was strange.  She thought I should not be so confused about how I felt about Amin and where I wanted him to fit in my life.  I was glad to have the opportunity to ask her to shake his hand rather than kiss him as a greeting, which he greatly appreciated.  The one thing Stella did say afterwards, which I refused to repeat to Amin, was that we had chemistry.  I didn't understand how she could possibly tell something like that, based on an outing in a group setting where he and I didn't interact a lot.  She said she simply could not explain it, but that is exactly what she felt.  I take people's intuition seriously as well as the assessment of someone on the outside looking in on a scenario, so I kept what she said in mind.  What puzzled me, though, was how she had felt something, but I hadn't...