Oct 2012 17

by Symbol

[Morgan in In A Crowd]

This is the longest period I’ve been single in my adult life. I’m dating, but as I alluded to in my last article, I’ve only met people who aren’t ready for any kind of serious relationship…and for the right now, that’s perfectly fine with me too.

I’m meeting more and more people who are only interested in open or poly-amorous relationships. Perhaps people are finally coming to realize that the monogamous relationship, which has been a cornerstone of our society for generations, just doesn’t work for everyone.

I think, in part, one of the reasons people seem to enjoy open relationships so much is because of how much fun getting to meet new people can be. To be clear, I’m not one of those people who have shunned monogamy. I’ve tried the poly thing, and that green-eyed monster called jealousy just shuts me down every time – but at least I know my limits. So it boils down to where and how you meet people, and what do you do once you’ve met someone? 

I seem to have always met women in one of two places – on campus or in bars. Sometimes those bars were on campus, which just compounds the fact that I’m used to meeting women in a certain setting. A fairly formulaic ritual seems to have formed there too. I’d hang out somewhere, occasionally make eye contact, smile, and see if I could get a conversation going. It’s the conservative Canadian way of doing things, apparently, but it’s been quite successful for most of my life.

I tend to use humor extensively when getting to know women. The self-deprecating kind, especially if I’ve been drinking, or I’m nervous – though it takes quite a lot to make me nervous in front of anyone. If the attraction doesn’t seem to be mutual, I’m never the kind who pushes – I always back off right away. I respect women (and myself) far too much to be that guy.

What I have noticed though is that I’ve rarely (if ever) been what I’d call the pursuer when it comes to romance. I seem to attract strong, outgoing women who know what they want. Honestly, this suits me just fine – in fact when it comes to character traits, the stronger the woman the more attracted I usually am. If a woman knows what she wants and comes after it, that’s entirely all right in my books.

That’s not to say that I’m unfamiliar with how to meet and speak to people, quite the opposite. I’m definitely what you’d call an extrovert, it’s just that meeting new people seems to come much more easily to some than the rest of us. And truth be told, I think my most recent break-up mostly left me lacking one important thing: Confidence.

I spent the second week of October this year visiting Austin, Texas. I was down there for a work-related conference, and had the chance to meet up with some fantastic people – including someone who has been a professional idol of mine for many years. 

I’d been speaking with him via email for a few weeks, putting together notes and chatting about what we’d be talking about at the conference, and when I finally got to meet him in person he just casually walked up and offered his hand.

“Hi, I’m Chris.”

I think I must have heard him say those exact words at least a hundred times throughout the week. The reasoning for this is simple: I’ve never met anyone who makes friends quite so easily in my life as Chris, and he proved that time and time again.

Without running the risk of getting all fanboy, let me just say this: I could easily see how many people would be threatened by Chris. He’s a good looking, articulate, smart, successful guy and he charms his way into people’s hearts and minds. That might threaten some people, as I said, but I found something I’d not been expecting to find – my missing confidence.

Chris introduced me to another fantastically awesome guy, Jim. They’re both from California, and it makes me wonder if people aren’t just different out there. These two certainly have something in common when it comes to making new friends, and it appears to have rubbed off on me ever so slightly. 

They just walk up to people, without fear, and put themselves out there. Hands are extended, introductions are made, and smiles are exchanged. It all sounds really simple, but the teenager inside me, the one who grew up watching John Hughes films, refuses to believe it can be that easy.

So I mostly just sat back, like one of those crew members on a reality TV show about off-shore fishing, watching the guys who know what they were doing reel people in. I don’t want to make it sound like there was some sort of commercial girl-farming operation going on, quite the opposite. All kinds of people joined our little outings and they were always interesting and welcome additions to the conversations we were having. (As an aside, if you’ve never played giant 2×4 Jenga, you really should!)

We stayed together, pretty much, from Monday afternoon until Thursday evening – looking out for each other, keeping tabs on each other, and having a good time. Wednesday evening was the real acid test though, and a true testament to the quality and caliber of the two men I’m now proud to call friends.

One of the people we’d met while down there was a woman whose work I’ve followed now for a few years. I’ve always thought she was whip-smart when it comes to her writing, and a keen mind is a huge attraction for me. It doesn’t hurt that this woman is also staggeringly good-looking; I had a little bit of a crush.

She’s very much an out there kind of gal; it’s easy to be bowled over by her presence, her personality and her looks. She’s loud, shiny, funny and opinionated. If you’re following along you can see where this is going.

We spent the night at a bar on 6th Street – it was some sort of official party with an open bar – but more importantly, the New York Yankees were battling the Baltimore Orioles in the play-off’s and this girl is definitely a Yankees fan. I’ve never actually met someone who was so very passionate about a sporting team, and considering I’ve lived in the three biggest hockey towns in Canada, that’s saying something.

I must have met thirty to forty people that night – I held their presence, shook hands, smiled, made some small talk, but my attention always drifted back to the exuberant Yankees fan that was rarely more than a few inches away from me for the better part of the entire evening. The vexing thing about her, the thing that perplexed me the most, was simply this…

I can’t read her.

I mean, I can. Obviously she was interested in talking to me and we talked about a great number of things. We took some cute Instagram photos, we flirted most of the night until we left that bar for a second destination, walking arm in arm, belting out songs from Les Mis together. 

At some point in there she mentioned she’d be up in Montreal in November – to which I gleefully responded:

“You’ll have to let me take you out for dinner!”

She agreed, I smiled. But I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was a “We’re having a fun time, you’re a lot of laughs, let’s hang out again” kind of acceptance, or a “Sure! And I’ll bring all these other people I know along too and it will be great!” kind of deal. I’m not struggling over an existential crisis here, but I do find it kind of funny that mixed signals could mean the difference between this turning out like a John Hughes film or a Ben Stiller one.

So how does all of this tie back into Chris and Jim? Well, it was pretty evident to me that Chris also found her pretty attractive – and I have no doubt that if he’d wanted to, he could have held her interest in conversation effortlessly. But I think it was pretty obvious I was interested in her. (I may be pretty easy to read in that regard, and I seem to recall telling him I had a tiny crush on her, once or twice, after a few drinks.) So the four of us just spent the night sitting by a window, chatting about things we could all discuss. Conversation flowed easily, and everyone had a good time.

I rarely make meaningful, adult relationships with men, and the ones I have made tend to be permanent. I’ve always had a much easier time making friends with women. Where I’m going with all of this boils down to how two remarkable people shared with me something that I’d never experienced before in an adult relationship – quick and genuine friendship, the likes of which I’ve only ever really seen other people have.

We all had a great time; I got to meet some fantastic people, people that – if things were different – I’d rather spend a lot more time with than what I’ll be able too. I’m also going to start saving my pennies up for a visit to California, whenever that becomes a possibility. I’d hate to go into Big Jim withdrawal. 

I met some remarkable people, who I’m looking forward to getting to know in whichever ways become available. If being friends on Facebook is all that the future holds, then I’m just as happy to take that as I would be with dinner, drinks, or a walk in the park.

I’m not holding my breath that I’ll be standing in the rain at some point holding a boom-box, playing Peter Gabriel.

Not that the idea doesn’t have a certain appeal to it.

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