Monday, 28 January 2013

I Have Not Learned to Refuse

Hopeful 8   Hopeless  2

The title of this post is inspired by a quote from Margaret Hale in the BBC Miniseries North & South.  "I have not learned to refuse" is something she says to describe her struggle to decline a man's offer in such a way that it does not unduly hurt or offend him.  She does not succeed, unfortunately, in being diplomatic.  This skill, the ability to decline or refuse a guy is something that I expected to learn during my project with Plenty of Fish.  I expected that I would have the opportunity to practice and that I would get better at it.  Yet, like Margaret, I never really managed to do this quite right.

The day after I went out for hot chocolate with Amin, I received a curious e-mail.  It was from Paul.  For whatever strange reason, I did not expect a message from him.  I had put him out of mind and didn't expect him to crop up again.  He opened with, "There is a new revelation about the south Pole and north Pole ice diminishing, actually they say south Pole gained some this year (1%) of total.."  I was completely bewildered.  This was his opening to ask me out for coffee to "talk about it".  I suppose this is what people mean when they say that a guy is "using a line".  I guess I haven't really been subject to many in my life, even during my Plenty of Fish project.  That is why I was stunned.  The entire e-mail gave me a very bad vibe, just reconfirming all of my instincts again.

I had decided after meeting Paul that I would not go out with him again.  My opinion was unchanged and rather reinforced by this e-mail.  Anyone I showed it too also found it really weird.  That is when it came time to answer and refuse.  I waited a day, hoping that would help me collect my thoughts.  All I came out with was a few brief lines about being busy and that I would "let him know".  So I did not directly say "no thank you; not interested".  I just put him off.  I was stuck in his paradigm about not corresponding unless I had time in my schedule to see him.  I thought it would be clear that I didn't have time for him if I didn't write.  It was probably not very generous of me and it completely side-stepped practicing how to let a guy down gently.

I received a reply the same day.  That one also made me shudder because I was uncomfortable with the manner in which he complimented me (see Perplexing Paul for more details).  He was putting me in all sorts of boxes again and repeating the same words.  He claimed he understood about my being busy.  I took a deep breath and hoped that that was the very last e-mail I would receive from him.

The other e-mail dilemma I needed to solve was for Patrick.  That day I sat down at my computer and worked out something that I hoped sounded not as unsettled as I felt.  I told him a bit about my classes and then tackled the question of the blog.  We had been considering another outing, but I suggested that we go for another tea to have the opportunity to talk, given that he had found my blog and possibly also had read it.  I added that in the meantime, I would be grateful if he didn't read.  By this, I wanted to get a chance to sit down with him and explain to him how my project came about and answer any questions he might have.  If he had indeed read my entire blog (which I was by no means certain of, given how vague he was) without hearing any explanations from me personally, I thought that he could quite possibly wish to reject me simply based on some of the things I wrote.  His reply to my e-mail came over a week later and I will discuss it in an upcoming post.

Two Chocoholics

Hopeful  8   Hopeless  2

Amin was pleasantly surprised when I found him a spot in my schedule that second week of October.  My comfort level with him was such that I felt, though our first dates were spectacular in nature, we didn't need to stand on ceremony and could plan something more casual.  I thought it would be good to sit down across from him at a table since neither of our meetings had yet taken this format.  There were a couple of serious subjects I needed to sit him down and talk about in person (they had been touched upon in certain online chats, but never directly).  Since discovering that he was also a chocoholic, I had made up my mind that we should go to the Starbucks at Chapters for hot chocolate, to which Amin heartily agreed.

It was not all that easy to meet him on that day.  Like I mentioned in some earlier posts, it felt strange to let him push ahead to a third date ahead of the others.  I had also been up late the night before rather agitated and upset and some of that concerned him directly (see Busted for more details).  I was trying to breathe as much as possible and put all the concerns from the night before out of my mind.  I couldn't help but feel nervous, though, especially since on top of that, I had a difficult conversation to have with Amin.

I met him after my afternoon class on October 11th.  We both expected that he would probably arrive first.  I was still, however, glancing nervously at my watch, because I was later than I'd hoped.  Amin knew that I had given him an approximate time, but I still hate to keep people waiting.  When I got to the second floor, though, I didn't see him.  I was stunned.  I could not possibly have arrived first.  I looked again.  I checked to see if he had grabbed us a spot.  Still nothing.  I thought I was going a little crazy.  He HAD to be there...

So I decided to browse, or at least look like I was actually browsing until I ran into him.  Inside, I was still a little flipped out.  Where on earth could he be?  I was in the bargain books... hmmmmm... nothing interesting.  Then I went, as per my habit, to scan the philosophy section for Blaise Pascal's Pensées.  As usual, they had lots of Plato, but no Pascal.  Then I tried History.  Still no Amin.  Good grief, where was he?!  If I thought I was out of my tree before arriving, I certainly was by then.

By that time, I was back at the Starbucks, which means I had covered the entire floor.  I didn't know what else to do.  Suddenly, there he was, saying "Hi".  Still surprised, I found myself giving him a hug, which was now officially our greeting.  I didn't beleive it.  I had seen him without knowing it.  I hadn't recognized him in this red, black and white plaid shirt from behind.  He confirmed it by telling me that he had been browsing in the religion section: I had certainly seen him.  I simply told him that he had been in one of the best sections in Chapters; it was entirely true and I must confess that I was impressed.

We got into the Starbucks line.  Just as we were approaching the counter, Amin turned to me and asked me if he could get me my hot chocolate, on the occasion of it being my birthday that week.  I knew that it was important to him to take a girl out, so I thought he might play the birthday card to that end.  I had thus decided in advance what my answer would be should he do that.  I had decided to let him have a turn doing what was comfortable for him, as he had let me do what was comfortable for me.  I also reasoned that if he was at the friendship level in my book, it was totally legitimate for him to get me my hot chocolate, because friends can do that sometimes, particularly if it is your birthday.  Seeing it in that light made it easier for me to accept and be gracious.  I hope I pulled that off.

We got a seat near the window looking out over Saint Catherine street.  Instead of sitting across from me, he pulled his chair up right next to me.  He said that it was so that he could hear me clearly, differentiate my voice from the background noise.  Normally that Starbucks is rather on the quiet side, but I could not successfully argue that on that day; it was rather noisier than usual.  Amin added, "I need to hear every word because every word you use is important."  I clearly knew too many guys whose philosophy was that women say too many inanities.  Even some of the people closest to me kindly remind me sometimes when I am redundant or long-winded.  I could hardly believe it: here was someone who was hanging on my every word!  Talk about validating.  He seemed to understand the concept that each word has meaning and importance and reveals something about the personality of the speaker or writer.  I don't know many people who believe this.  I was amazed.  I would later discover that Amin is not only attentive to such details, but also has a phenomenal memory for them!  Stop the press: a guy who actually remembers things!  In fact, he remembers so faithfully that his recall exceeds mine at times (and I have always had a very long and accurate memory).

We talked for a few minutes on general subjects.  I felt the need to warm up a bit before plunging right into serious ones.  However, I also did not have unlimited time, due to another commitment.  So I soon began with, "I said I had a few things to tell you..."  I knew that I could not wait any longer to tell him about my problematic relationship with my father.  From the very first, Amin had referred to me as a "family-oriented person".  I felt I really needed to correct this impression.  I have family values, but I am not tight with my whole family.  It was important for me to say because he very well could have been looking for a girl from a solid family, brought up with good values and who also got along well with each member of her family.  It is really important to some people and that is kind of how Amin read to me.  So I strongly felt the need to dispel the myth I thought he must believe about my familial relationships.  It was also a big piece of the puzzle to understanding my personality and my general feelings towards men, in essence, something that a friend should probably know and that a potential date should definitely know.

I think I was too nervous to be particularly articulate that day.  I remember having difficulty explaining myself and often stopping abruptly trying to find words or link to the next idea.  Amin was patient and mostly just listened.  Finally, he told me that the family dynamics I was describing to him were not unfamiliar and were in fact much like his own.  It was such a relief to know that he understood from personal experience what my family situation is like.  He was pretty quiet talking about it and his calmness was transferring to me a little.  I thought right then that he probably had the potential to teach me how to be calmer about my relationship with my Dad.  I was starting to feel less nervous as the conversation continued.  Amin reassured me that when he had said "family-oriented", he did not mean that he expected I necessarily had a perfect relationship with all the members of my family.  So despite what I told him that day, he still considered me family-oriented.  He reminded me of something he had said about my facebook pictures; he had remarked that I was a caring sister, because it was plain to see from any pictures of the two of us.  So I passed on this count.

The other thing I wanted to discuss with Amin was vibes.  Both he and I had gotten rather agitated while chatting on October 4th upon the discovery that we had both felt the same energy during our first date.  He was rather more unsettled, because it was the first time he had had an experience like that.  For me it was not the first time and I had vaguely typed something like this once or twice.  So I thought I should sit him down and explain to him what that meant and tell him what I had experienced in the past.  Doing this could have had one of several outcomes, mainly revolving around whether or not he believed what I had to say.  So, at the risk of sounding like I was making something up, or that I was a bit nutty, I told him about my past experience.  My goal had been to give him information and explanations to hopefully put his mind at ease.  Well, at least as much "at ease" as you can feel when you are experiencing this kind of vibes.

I talk generally sometimes about "getting vibes" from people.  This is something that many people experience; they have an instinct or unexplained "feeling" about someone or something.  Sometimes, for example, when you first meet someone, you get "good vibes", because you are sensing positive energy from that person, without your even knowing them that well.  Conversely, you can also feel strange or have other forms of negative energy when you are around a person, or are in a particular place or situation.  Some people argue that these sorts of feelings arise from causes you are not aware of, such as subconscious observation of body language or facial expressions, the tone of someone's voice or their choice of words, etc.  I believe, though, that you can get a sense of someone or of their feelings without many or occasionally any such cues.  When I was dating Frédérick, I had moments when I could sense energy from him devoid of any cues.  I could be at home alone, not hearing his voice on the phone, not reading an e-mail he sent me or anything like that, and yet, I seemed to know what he was thinking about or what he was feeling at that precise moment.  This kind of vibe intensified a lot when he broke up with me.  I would feel some of his emotions very strongly, so strongly, in fact, that sometimes the sheer intensity would leave me shaking for hours afterwards.  When you feel someone else's emotions in this capacity, this is when you cross over to empathing.  I do not consider myself an empath, because I do not feel different people's emotions; I only ever received some of Frédérick's.  It was extremely unsettling for me, because I never knew when these feelings that were not mine would come and disrupt my day.  I sought some advice to at least shield my sleep, so that I didn't have to feel worried about my dreams being invaded.  It was not a fool-proof system, but it helped a lot.  It took years for these stray vibes to subside.

Amin didn't react too much when I told him the whole of this history.  I therefore couldn't gauge too much what he thought.  He seemed to be searching for the meaning of exchanging energy or vibes with me.  I wished I had a clear answer for him.  It is the very question that had been continuously coming back to my mind.  The most I could say was that it made me feel that we had met for a reason.  What we decided after that was entirely up to us.  Our meeting, however, seemed significant and doubtless, I imagined, we were supposed to learn something important from one another.  I said something similar as we parted ways that day: that I knew I liked him, but just not how much yet.  I didn't know whether these vibes were indicating we were supposed to meet and be good friends, or whether it meant that we were supposed to date.  That was a decision I was unsure of. 

As you can imagine, such discussions were fairly lengthy and I ended up staying longer than I had hoped.  As I mentioned I should head home, Amin surprised me with a birthday present.  It was my first and only early birthday present.  It was a book entitled Empire of the Mind, A History of Iran.  It was just what I needed, because I really knew nothing about Iran and was interested to learn so that I could understand Amin better.  I was delighted because it was so very thoughtful of him.  It was the nicest early birthday present I had received in a very long time.      

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Hopeful 7   Hopeless  3

When Patrick e-mailed me the second week of October, like I said, he wrote that we should "get back to each other" about details for a second date.  It was really the postscript of that e-mail that stuck with me.  He said, "P.S. Je suis resté très surpris quand je suis tombé par hasard sur ton blogue !!"  He just dropped a bomb on me!

I was totally busted!  One of the nine had found my blog.  Thomas and Amin knew about the blog, but they discovered this because I told them and because I was comfortable telling them.  Besides, Amin did not read my blog and Thomas only had some vague curiosity about it.  Patrick on the other hand had found it himself.  I had not had the chance to explain anything to him.  "What must he think of me!" I wondered.  It was not possible to tell, since all he wrote was that he had found my blog "by chance".

I knew that when I put this blog online, this was a distinct possibility.  So when I chose to post, I chose to assume the consequences of having this content online, consequences such as Plenty of Fish guys reading it.  I just had not really expected it to happen.  That is why I was shocked when it did.  I was especially surprised that Patrick should say that he found it "by chance".  That did not seem right to me.  I had checked myself to see how easy it was to Google my blog.  It was not that easy when I tried it.  He had also mentioned to me during our first date that if you put your real name on your Plenty of Fish profile, people can Google you.  That made it sound like he was accustomed to Googling himself.  I Googled my pseudonym and was pleased to find that there was an actress and also a singer by that name.  That added strength to my case that it was highly unlikely for any of the Plenty of Fish guys to find my blog.  So in my mind, Patrick had to have been Googling and trying pretty hard to find it.

I was having an aneurism.  I was not only shocked, but also flipped out.  I was chatting with Thomas that evening and had already been agitated before finding this e-mail.  The conversation file, in fact, was later titled "On avoiding aneurisms".  "Aneurism" was the word that had come to mind that evening, when I was confiding in Thomas about something that was worrying me.  Directly related to what was worrying me was the matter of my feeling pressure from being the only candidate for him and Amin.  I may have had a few choices from Plenty of Fish, but both Amin and Thomas were not considering anyone but me.  I knew I could only choose them if they were right for me, but it was not the same as with the others, who also had other options.  I felt this was more delicate and that the chance of my hurting Amin or Thomas was greater under the circumstances.  As they both knew, because of Kyle, I was terrified of that.  For whatever reason, the pressure was really getting to me that day and I was having a meltdown.  Thomas was being a good and sympathetic listener as usual and was helping calm me down.  It was also memorable because that is officially the day that he removed himself from my list.  He told me to stop thinking in terms of potential.  He told me that he was comfortable getting to know me better, but that it was not a good time in his life to be dating anyone.  He seemed to think that this was sufficiently clear based on one or two previous conversations, but that is when it crystallized for me.  Up until that point, Thomas was a front-runner on my list.  So taking a step back felt a bit strange, but it was also a huge relief for me that evening.

Understandably I was already in a tumultuous emotional state that evening when Patrick's e-mail came in.  Thomas had been helpful to make me feel calmer, but that pushed me back over the edge.  Since we had agreed to talk about "lighter" things in order to feel better, I did not tell him until later about the e-mail.  I simply said that I was having a secondary aneurism, but that I was trying not to think about it.  That was true: I tried to put the e-mail out of my mind.  After all, it was not something that I could solve that night.  I would need to sleep on it, to be sure.  The earliest I could possibly reply was the next day.  I stayed up for awhile longer chatting and finally, when I felt calm enough, I went to bed.   

Round of Second Dates

Hopeful  7  Hopeless 3

After the Gardens date, I felt it necessary to even out the playing field.  I needed to meet the two I hadn't met yet (Thomas and Alexandre) and then begin the round of second dates.  As I mentioned in my post Born to Fly, it took me awhile to come back down after the Gardens and regain some objectivity.  The idea of going on dates with other guys made me feel strange at first, but by the time I met Thomas, I was back on track for my project.  I was more determined than ever to be fair and give each of them a chance to show me whether or not we were a good fit.

After meeting Thomas, I e-mailed Alexandre and Patrick.  I had started becoming accustomed to Patrick's rhythm in answering messages, which was moderate, and figured that he would probably not be ready by the second week of October, but perhaps the third.  Alexandre, however, I expected to fit in during the second week of October, because his quick reply had suggested we had the same lunch break two days a week.  I figured I would meet him and that since I was going out for my birthday with friends, my social calendar would be maxed out for that week. 

My plans shifted, though, as plans often do.  Patrick e-mailed mid-week with a non-committal sort of answer (I will talk about it in the next post).  Alexandre was finally not available due to all the rushing around that goes with the first weeks of a new university term.  By mid-week, Thomas asked if he could "get me a slice of cake" since it was my birthday.  I put him off because his offer was for the following week and I didn't know how it was shaping up. 

So the week turned out much different than I had anticipated.  At that point, I was faced with a decision: either to go out with no one, or to see Amin again.  His schedule allowed for the most flexibility out of the four, something that also explained his ability to chat with me every day.  We had one compatible spot in our schedules that week and I decided to take it.  There were a couple of important things I wanted to discuss with him in person, rather than online.  At the time, that seemed more pressing than worries about how that would mean a third date for Amin and thus be unfair for the others.  For whatever the reason, it truly felt like those subjects could simply not wait much longer. 

Happy New Year

Hopeful  7    Hopeless  3

Happy New Year to all of my readers!  Best wishes for health, prosperity and happiness in 2013.  I would like to send special wishes to my readers for love, lots of hope and the ability to see and appreciate beauty and love in the smallest of moments. 

This is the time of year for resolutions, so I am starting to think about what I would like to accomplish this year.  One I have already decided on is to keep my blog better up to date!  I hope to improve upon last year.  The other I have in mind for now is to stay Hopeful.

I hope you will also make staying Hopeful one of your resolutions.

~ Elise