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.