A few weeks ago, I went out for coffee with a man. This was not in itself a noteworthy activity. Not because I have coffee with a lot of men, but rather because “coffee with a man” does not itself, as an activity, lend to essay writing under normal circumstances. Yet here I am, so something about this was worth remembering.
I was away from California, on a trip exploring the possibility of moving to a new city. I was going to a lot of meetings, interviews, and mixer-type events, plus fitting in as many coffees and dinners and drinks and outings with friends as humanly possible. Coffee with this man was in there, too.
“Away from California” is fraught for me, never more so than after the past year or so. Somehow, in the past two years, California planted itself in my heart as home, like a little seedling wending its way up through cracked plaster. Funny, because I’ve lived in California a long time, have loved and hated it in equal measures, but never had I felt like maybe it could be home. But I went on this trip, delightedly looking into leaving what currently passes as home, at least for a time. Away from my parents, away from a vastly expanded and strengthened root system, away from a sense of place. From California itself. What sane person would leave beautiful California?
There I was, not in California, seeing friends and meeting new people, feeling a type of freedom and happiness I haven’t experienced in a long time. Not the typical relaxed “I’m on vacation” happiness, and not simply the energy of a new city. It was different, and the words I can think of to describe this feeling are two terribly California words, which tell me just how much I need to take a break from this place: centered and grounded. I’d also tell you I felt a glow-y vibrancy and an inner strength, but I’d like you to keep reading, so I won’t.
In the middle of all this, I made plans to have coffee with this man. He was a friend I’d met on Twitter through friendly conversation; I’d read one of his articles and loved it, so I followed him without knowing much else and that’s sometimes how those friendships start, isn’t it? But of course, I wouldn’t be writing about this if it were just a bit of nothing, and the truth is I’d developed a little crush on this man.
Once upon a time, I developed crushes as easily as stepping off a curb. Sidewalk’s ending—there’s a new one! The world was full of possible love interests, and I possibly loved so many of them. Then as I got older and grew to understand a thing or two, I folded in around myself. I might like someone, I might respond to them, might even say yes to a date, but to become becrushed of my own accord? It requires a certain type of bewitching, to be sure.
The secret of the central crush is very basic, but it’s not so simple. It’s not necessarily a romantic crush; it applies to both men and women in very non-romantic ways. A romantic crush is a separate piece that may or may not complicate matters. The crush is this: Are you particularly brilliant in a way I most certainly am not? Do you possess in spades a talent I lack? Is your well of knowledge so crazy deep that I have to secretly Google every other reference when we email, and I’m a little nervous to have spend time with you because what if you realize I can’t keep up?
The man with whom I had coffee is a writer, and he’s a writer whose writing I enjoy very much. He has a wonderful turn of phrase. More than that, a conversation with him is a heady bricolage, a steady beat of historical, literary, political references.
I delight in people whose brains work differently than mine. I love to listen to them, to watch them at work, to see them in action. When I find someone like this, that rare sense of wonder overtakes me and I want to sit and be delighted with them as much and as long as possible. My god. Who doesn’t want to sit and be delighted?
So, coffee: An hour of excellent conversation passed. Then a second. Then we cheerfully parted ways.
As I left, it occurred to me: I’m in town a few more days and while there are so many things I want to do, this – this! – is conversation I’d like to have more of. I couldn’t honestly tell you if I had a strong romantic interest in him because I was a little enchanted with how smart he was. I liked it, being around his smartness, and I wanted to keep being delighted. Okay, I admit, he was also nice looking and had a wonderful smile. So I emailed him straight away and told him that with my limited time left in his city, before returning to my city, I would like to go out again and continue to be charmed.
And? Nothing. Silence.
I was mortified. Absolutely horrified. I felt stupid in a way I can’t describe. I mean, I know, sometimes people are busy and totally distracted by their lives and their work, and some people get freaked out by your friendliness and your forwardness, and some people are not polite enough to respond like adults—oh god, who knew what some people did, because I was too busy turning scarlet and wanting to die inside whenever I checked my email and turned scarlet all over again.
So I did what I always do in these situations: I conducted research. Using the details of the story, such as the wording of my email, but revealing no confidential information about the gentleman in question, I went to work to discover, in the least scientific and most anecdotal way possible: In 2012, can a woman ask out a man? Should she? Is it the last of our gendered hurdles we have yet to address? If we are addressing it, then how? What the hell does all this mean?
Anecdotally, I can tell you at least one thing: Every single married man who was involved in any of these conversations (and thanks to the various dinners and mixers I went to, more than you’d think) was completely gung-ho about women asking men out. More so than any other group. Which makes me wonder: Marriage changes your perspective? Your insecurities? Your wishful thinking?
Single guys were a little more divided: At least one told me I needed to (and I quote) “NEVER EVER AGAIN” say anything like that to a guy. One female friend told me I’d “crossed the guy boundary” by asking him to do something with me. Other female friends were much more in the “you must be fucking joking, what YEAR is it” camp. And some male friends were mostly curious: “Why haven’t you asked ME out?”
A lot of people, bless their hearts, thought the man was a fool. They also wanted to know what kind of person can’t even respond to a nice email from a nice lady.
It’s a funny, isn’t it? Maybe it’s not about gender so much, at least not with everyone. We all want to chase and be chased a little. We want things to be easy but not too easy, to be interesting but not crazy, to be just right but not a fairytale. We want what we want and we’ll know it when we see it and maybe we’re screwed up but we’re not nuts like that one person who sure was horrible, and how could you have dated them anyway?
I imagine if I’d sent a series of increasingly hysterical emails that said things like “Our children will have brown hair! Why aren’t you emailing me?????” and “I’ve come up with the names for four of our imaginary kids but name number five is super hard and I can’t do it without you ps coffee makes you pregnant” and “Been emailing with your mom, we’re having dinner on Thursday! Are you coming?” then that would be, you know, fucking weird. But saying, “let’s go out again” isn’t weird. It’s not stepping over any boundaries. It’s not even necessarily romantic. If there’s anything I’ve learned, not just from my “research” but from the growing older and a little wiser and folding in on myself, it’s this:
Seriously, all these gender rules in dating are the worst. Be less afraid of asking men out. Be less afraid of being asked out, men. Be less insecure, all of us. “Men like to do the chasing” and “You’ll upset the power balance” and “You should wait x number of days”? Just go be you. Ask someone out for coffee if it feels right, if talking to them is the most delightful thing you’ve experienced in so long you can’t imagine not wanting to have that experience all over again. They might ignore you. Trust me, you won’t die. The one who responds to you? That person gets you, and when they do, the rules won’t matter one tiny bit.
Source: Flickr / ohheygreat
101 Notes/ Hide
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- ecantwell said: So so true. I really do think that any man who’d be threatened (?) by a woman asking him out is Not Worth Your Time. But it’s so sad when it’s the ones who seem so very worth your time that act like that.
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- erikonymous said: This is just lovely. Thanks for sharing. Also, for the record, I’m a dude who strongly supports nonromantic dates.
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- steampoweredmedia said: I like you so much. This was great. And thank you for still being you.
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- dreamersawake said: Great post. Everybody who told you not to ask men out is wrong.
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- do-over said: I happen to think he’s a damn fool, and rude to boot.
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- angelablack said: I think you are lovely. I do not think he is a fool. He is as entitled to see or not see you in all your loveliness as you would be in the reverse. The good news is that chemistry is meant for someone else entirely. Good luck. <3
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- episodesandaccidents said: If he’s a writer he’s probably still working on the reply and won’t send it until it’s just perfect, deadlines be damned.
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