By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
Ringing in the New Year is always a welcome reprieve for me—not just because I always take that week off work from the latte factory (in exchange for selling my soul the other ones), but because my friends Michael and Lane make their annual visit here from Fayetteville, Arkansas. It used to be Iowa, but they’ve upgraded. This is mostly noteworthy because, as Michael is fond of pointing out, he’s one of my last friends with whom I’ve never had a “break.” (Interpret that as you will.) No fights, no estrangement—it’s been a veritable long, happy marriage. Movies, Powell’s, fine dining—in that week, year in and year out, we live it up like the most active of retirees.
At our annual New Year’s Eve shindig (an evening where I may or may not have been in bed by midnight), a friend of mine asked how it is Michael and I remain so close with so much distance and time between us. (Lane and Michael moved away several years ago.) “For me, it’s so often out of sight, out of mind,” said friend commented. Michael and I looked at each other and shrugged. It’s hard to nail down the intangibles when it comes down to that sort of thing; it’s hard to explain why it’s easy breezy when some people come into town after a long hiatus and why it’s the opposite for others.
Certainly part of the reason is Michael often serves as my dating sounding board. Though he much prefers interrogating you with a researcher’s passion, he gladly offers a constant ear and mostly unbiased, detached advice. As he can tell you, my venting over winter break took on epic proportions because December was a fairly eventful month. A few declarations in honor of Michael’s unwavering ear:
Unless you explicitly declare your intentions that indicate otherwise, I think it’s fair to assume romantic intentions—maybe sex or something that lasts a bit longer—when you’re meeting someone from one of our many dating apps. Especially if you make aggressive electronic overtures. Late last month, I met a gentleman for cocktails, hoping to loosen up a bit before we made our way to dinner. (If I am anything, I am nervous like a virgin on her wedding night during these first-time-together scenarios.) I arrived, we chatted a bit, threw martinis down our throats, and after a bit he said, “Oh, you thought this was a date?” Dinner with his actual date was super fun (he invited him along), and did wonders for my first-time-together anxiety. (I’m not sure why I stuck it out.)
And sometimes you’re clearly on a date and you know it. A few Saturdays ago, on a particularly sunny weekend day, I had coffee in the Pearl with a tall, handsome, red-headed drink of water. Coffee turned into conversation, conversation eased into happy hour, and happy hour turned into an early dinner. It was one of those serendipitous blocks of time where you think you’ve possibly happened upon a goldmine. Dinner turned into an overnighter.
Morning came, and we went to breakfast before parting ways. Shockingly, all the chemistry from the day before evaporated, and our meal was long and quiet. I still haven’t figured out where the camaraderie goes, how we went from romantic comedy to sad documentary. We didn’t see each other again.
One of the most unpleasant things about using apps like Grindr—aside from the “no fems, masc only” type profile declarations—are the people who respond to greetings with “uh no thanks” or “God no.” I’m not sure there’s any need for that, simple lapses in response time (or none at all) will do. I am very middle-of-the-road in the looks department (and I’m OK with that), and not every single thing with a penis within 500 feet is my type. But I don’t rip into those I’m not interested in. I just don’t understand the point. Or the good it does. Same goes for using your device to say snarky things to your exes.
During one of our meals together, I grilled Michael about his successful, long-term relationship. (I already know Ryan’s advice by heart. “I think you just bring them out and introduce them too soon.” “Stop trying to make it something it isn’t.”)
“A successful relationship is more about acceptance than anything,” he said, noting there’s a distinction between accepting and settling. “Your other half is who he is, and you stop trying to change what you can’t.” You are not better or worse for your differences; they just are. (Perhaps that’s the key to enduring friendships, too.)
One of the best things about a long-lasting friendship—aside from being able to pick up where you left off virtually anytime, anyplace—is watching your friends’ relationships blossom. There’s something really special about seeing the beginning and being there for most of the ride. One of the first times I spent time with Michael’s now-partner, Lane, was at a tipsy group viewing of “Match Point,” wherein my friends and I offered Mystery-Science-Theater commentary throughout. Our behavior didn’t thrill Lane; we eventually hit it off; the rest is history. Now I can’t imagine Michael without him.
Which is why I will forever hold out hope, dating catastrophes be damned.
Email Daniel@PQMonthly.com with your dating tips! He loves advice.