Utes, maths and a rooftop pash

Dear Readers,

I’m sitting in the mezzanine/loft/second level of the North Fitzroy Library. The sun is occasionally poking it’s head through the clouds and through the metal grill outside the window that artfully designed to keep some of it out. Trams and cars and bikes go by below. A girl in high waisted orange corduroy pants and an oversized rainbow striped tshirt is doing her maths homework next to me. An assortment of hipster babes of various genders and ages fill every Scandi/Kmart designed chair, all writing things in notebooks or typing or scrolling. A grey haired man with a tweed peaked cap slowly types something into one of the library computers behind me. I’m sitting here listening to a recording of myself telling a story.

This is an old story for me, but it’s new for you! In 2017 I hardly posted at all. I had just moved to Melbourne from Tassie – which meant moving interstate, moving in with new housemates, stopping full time work and starting my teaching studies. I didn’t make much time for dating, until summer came and December saw me making up for ‘lost time’ by ambitiously dating maybe 14 men in 12 days. That year I did have a brief fling around the middle of the year, around the same time as that ute story from a few years ago reared it’s ugly mug again for round two, and I had a maths test. Serendipitous! I did make time for telling stories live, which is where most of my writing and creative energy went. The creative challenge of having to write to constraints (5 mins, no notes, on theme), to a monthly deadline and for a live audience (the sheer thrill of getting a laugh!) was new and exciting. 

So my Dear Readers, I hope you’ll become Dear Listeners temporarily! For your listening pleasure – please enjoy this story on the theme of ‘Tests’. Don’t worry there’s a pash in there. On the roof! A view of which you can see in the picture! Oh, I kept in the awkward bit at the start where I forgot how the story starts so this recording should feel JUST LIKE YOU’RE REALLY THERE! If you don’t press anything afterwards it should automatically play the other story up there, about that ambitious summer dating spree...

Lemme know what ya reckon, and a very happy Sunday to all of you in this timezone! 

Fond Regards,

-DD

Advertisements

10 Things I Know About Dating

Dear Readers,

I’m sitting out the front of the terrace in the inner-northern Melbourne suburb where I’ve lived for more than two years now. Daylight savings has just ended and the sun is hanging lower in the sky a little earlier every day. The blue into orange like the gradient tool in Photoshop, or for those of a similar vintage to me – Microsoft WordArt. More on WordArt later, but for now let me just say: I am living a fabulous Melbourne life. I don’t always notice just how bloody great it is, but right here and right now, with my feet up and a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream I got in a box from Coles, with my cup of very expensive social enterprise eucalyptus tea, with many moments of contentment and joy behind me and with many things to look forward to in front of me, I can categorically state for the record, in the words of the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut, “Well if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” 

It’s been a long time between drinks Dear Readers – I will be very grateful if any of you are still around and reading. I hope you have all been well. I’ve been finishing my masters, working, grieving, telling stories on stages, changing career, travelling, changing lifestyle and as a result most things now seem less urgent. I am in a good place, and sometimes, I know it. 

I pressed snooze on my phone alarm three times this morning, imagining what it would be like to wake up and snuggle and snooze with someone else. I had a few different men I was imagining doing this delightfully lazy daydream with. None of whom I’ve pashed or even dated, but men I have actually met, had chats with (potentially flirted with but it’s so hard to tell when that’s actually happening innit?) and will see again in the near future. My very Dearest Readers – welcome to my brave new world of the Slow Burn Strategy (SBS).  Of all the things I’ve learnt about dating, SBS is so far working the best. More on that later. 

I’ve got a few other stories in the pipeline for y’all. For now, please enjoy this story I told last night, to a room that may or may not have included a few delightful gentlemen. Well, it was supposed to be a ten minute story on the theme of ‘teaching’, but I turned it into ten x one minute stories with an accompanying powerpoint presentation that would teach people something. So meta! Such semi-ironic use of WordArt for the viewing pleasure of woke hipsters seemingly obsessed with anything 90s! I am poking fun of them because I am one of them, or I want to be anyway!

Some of these you’ve read before, but the ending is different this time.  

It’s good to be back. 

With much love

-DD

IMG_1157

 

TEN THINGS I KNOW ABOUT DATING

Lesson 1: Be picky

When I first tried online dating I was being open minded. Caring about grammar was too uptight! Caring about spelling was classist! I didn’t want to be too elitist by judging people on their careers! My first date was therefore with a prison warden who’s first words to me were ‘So what do you do for work, just art n shit!’ After denigrating my entire career and passion with ‘n shit’ he proceeded to monologue about dirt bikes and beer for 25 minutes! No second date.

Lesson 2: Distance + gender ≠ a match

In Tassie my main search criteria included males within a certain kilometre radius. I therefore would only find matches if I happened to be in Hobart and thus ended up regularly driving four hours down south for dirty weekends with a bloke with whom I shared two common interests – one of which was hiking, the other will go unmentioned in case one of my current students stumbles upon this here blog and joins a few dots. But join the dots. It also ends in ‘king’. One weekend this Hobart fella and I walked around Lake St Clair. It was beautiful weather and scenery and the chats were both deep and hilarious. That evening in the spa cottage we’d splashed out, reclining in the spa drinking cheap whisky, I revealed I’d never actually taken any recreational drugs. He revealed that he used to sell drugs, but now he does people to do that for him. No more dates.

Lesson 3: Be quick

In Melbourne I tried out the Happn app, where you match people who frequent the same locations you do. I was so sick of online ‘banter’ that eventually lead nowhere that after matching with this babe and talking a bit about the Akubra I was sporting in my profile pic we arranged to meet up for a whisky that night – in only an hour’s time! At the bar I was met by a babe in a mullet wig and cowboy boots, who joked that he thought we were dressing up. I matched that spontaneity by heading back to his house – where he was very attentive and very complimentary. Three more dates then he stood me up, made a mediocre attempt to make up for it and then I called it off.

Lesson 4: Be bold

At the Emerging Writers Festival I spied a head of babin’ wavy black hair sitting on top of broad shoulders in a brown leather jacket sitting on his own watching a panel session. I sat next to him, chatted to him afterwards and was swept along to drinks with a bunch of other writers afterwards. Everyone dwindled away and we headed to a rooftop bar, a novelty for him as a Townsvillian. We held hands in the elevator. “Look,” I said, “we could go to this bar and have a few more drinks and then pash, or we could just pash right here right now. That’s what I want to do, what about you?” We pashed. Several more dates. An interstate week away together then he licked a plate once at a restaurant and revealed he was probably a mens rights activist.

Lesson 5: Peter Piper Picked A Public Place 

Back in Alice Springs when I was being non judgemental I matched with a truckie. HAV U EVA BIN 2 THE ROCK? He typed. IM GOIN NEXT WEEKEND WANNA COME CUD BE GOOD WAY 2 GET 2 NO EACH OTHER BUT UD HAV 2 GET UR OWN WAY BACK. Maaaaaate. I’m not gunna come to work with you! On a 5 hour date! In a truck! With a stranger! Then hitchhike back! No date.

Lesson 6: Be Equidistant 

In the Pilbara I arranged a date with an Italian Engineer. Unlike other miners I’d met online he had a car so didn’t have to rely on the Rio Tinto bus schedule. But the very fact that he drove 40 minutes to meet me, meant I felt the date should go for at least 40 minutes. Which is a really long time. When it’s a lunch date and he’s already eaten so he just watches me eat and gives short answers to my excellent prompting conversational questions. For example: what would you do with a million dollars. “Nothing,” he said. “You can’t do anything for that much. Ask me what I’d do with a hundred million then I’d have to think.” No second date.

Lesson 7: No dinner dates. 

Self explanatory. Insert your own horrifically boring story about how you were stuck directly across from someone, making forced eye contact for as long as it takes to order, receive, eat and pay for a meal. Oh and inevitably spill food on yourself or eat too loudly.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.18.15 pm

Lesson 8: Be real and break up

Some of my best writing and most honest communication has been in break up texts. See examples below and please get in touch if this is a service that may be of use to you.

Exhibit A:                                                              Exhibit B:

IMG_1151IMG_1152

Lesson 9: Date yourself

Go camping in the Grampians with whisky and a campfire and a full moon. Take a paperback to a cosy restaurant. Go see a show on your own. Watch Netflix and chill with fancy ice cream or pseudo-healthy treats you made with organic nuts and dates from the health food shop you smug legend you!

Lesson 10: Slow Burn Strategy

I haven’t been on any dating apps this year. This whole year! A personal best. Instead of seeking quick sparks in short dates and finding flames online, I’ve started going to things I like doing in the hope that I will meet people with similar values and have something that brings us together gradually instead of our distance, gender and profile pictures. My psychologist and my mum have both been suggesting this slow burn strategy for years. But to start a slow burning fire you need time and you need air. You need space in your head and a lightness in your heart. Not a naive weightlessness – we all carry things, but not to let those things weigh heavily upon you. I’m labouring this metaphor, but you need more than kindling. You more solid stuff that’ll take longer to catch, but will burn brighter for longer, eventually settling into softly glowing goals, still good for toasting marshmallows and for keeping you warm while you look at the stars.

I just give less of a shit you guys. In a good way. About dumb shit. About what I wear. About my work. About romantic love needing to happen in my life in the ways I expected it to. I’m not giving up on it happening, I just no longer feel this need for it to happen NOW. I trust that it will. I trust that I’m not missing out on anything by patiently letting things unfold while still proactively trying to meet and get to know people in a less contrived and less urgent way.

I went to a cooking class. Didn’t meet anyone but now I know how to make some kick ass salad dressings. I’ve been on some bloody great hikes I’d never have done on my own. I’ve seen a few comedy shows with a bloke I met at a philosophical discussion group (!). I sung at an open mic night and the babe sitting next to me called me a ‘badass lady’.

If I see a babe at a storytelling night (which btw I totally did) (there were a few and I made sure to make eye contact as I said the next bit) maybe they’ll be bold and buy me a drink (which they totally did), maybe we’ll talk about the stories we both just told or ones we want to tell. Or maybe we won’t talk at all this time, which is totally fine, because I know I’ll probably see them next time.

(I can hardly bloody wait!)

 

IMG_1158

 

Winter

Dear Readers,

Remember that fella I got all excited about earlier this year? Who I walked around the park with and talked philosophically and then finally pashed on a bushwalk on our sixth date and who made me feel like I was falling in a really great way? Well, here is the end of that story. You asked for it. 

See you on the other side,

-DD

frosty morning

Again, not a photograph from where this story is actually set. This is where I spent last winter – working on the Monaro Plains, which I’m sure we can all agree looks devastatingly cold and lonely but also devastatingly beautiful.

 

It was winter Wednesday when I felt the fizzle. It was May, in the middle of my final teaching placement. I liked the school and I wanted a job there so I went above and beyond. All my housemates were away that week. I didn’t realise how much I had got used to having people around: the companionable sharing of space – preparing separate meals in the same kitchen, watching telly together, just knowing someone else was around even if they’re in another room doing their own thang. I got sick of sitting alone in my kitchen.

That Wednesday was the second night in a row I’d stayed in the teachers’ staffroom until the cleaners vacuumed around my feet at around 7.30pm, planning highly detailed lesson plans and fiddly learning activities that I’d inevitably deem inappropriate in the moment in class or forget or run out of time for. On the way home in the car Triple R was playing some beautiful but mournful live acoustic set from some sad blues bloke, so I switched to SmoothFM 91.5. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Easy listening. Not offensive. But so many songs are love songs. And so many love songs are sad songs.

As soon as I switched the radio over, it was as if the universe knew that actually what I needed was to weep for minimum 4 minutes to one of the most tragic pop songs of all time. That deceptively upbeat 80s synth! Those Gibb brothers and their falsetto harmonies that render most of the lyrics inaudible except for the devastatingly simple “And I don’t wanna be alone!” Could the epic daginess make this scene any more tragic? A 32 year old single student driving home to an empty house in her grandmother’s old purple Honda Jazz, bawling her eyes out to the fucking Beegees, then eating microwaved leftovers whilst continuing aforementioned fiddly high school lesson plans on her fluro-lit kitchen table? Trying to push the fact that the flame she’s been stoking for two months is maybe fizzling out? This was some bleak as fuck Bridget Jones’ Diary bullshit right here. I cried, then I cried because I was crying to the BeeGees, then I laughed because it all seemed so ridiculous, then cried again.

Before placement, the flame had instigated a ‘chat about our expectations.’ He worked two jobs, was studying full time, lived an hour away, was separated but not yet divorced and still learning how to co-parent his young child. He wanted a relationship but did not know if he had time for one. It seemed that he wasn’t as ready as I was, and I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I wanted to be part of his life and for him to be part of mine, but fear held me back from really asking how to do that. All these things could have been fine. We could have made it work. Perhaps neither of us were really in the right place to ask for what we needed from each other, to give what we really wanted to give, or to receive it. We tried. We decided to see each other once a fortnight until the uni holidays, but after three weeks it seemed that we were fizzling. So I texted and asked if we were fizzling out. We were.

Wrong place. Wrong time. Not enough time. Not ready.

And so it goes.

It wasn’t our season.

 

I was stressed and sad and lonely. But these feelings look different in the city. You can just call in the cavalry. Fire off a few SOS texts to a few friends and within a few hours you’re invited to comedy gigs in the city or around for dinner in front of the telly or to plan lessons together in a warm loungeroom or sent encouraging WhatsApp messages. You can walk around the corner to the gym. You can ride your bike to placement in the morning and notice clouds and weather and as you wait at the lights you can feel part of an active community of fit hipsters. You can go to the shops at any hour and buy the exact brand of the exact things you need to cook dinner and lunch for the next few days. It’s easier to look after yourself.

I finished placement. I learnt a lot about teaching and about my ego. I still had a lot to learn, but teaching did seem like a decent way to spend time and earn money. I went back to uni for some final classes and to finish off assignments that loomed larger than they probably were. I went speed dating and told a Moth story. My great uncle died. On the day he was cremated I learnt that a young woman I knew from Tasmania had died. Three of the student films I had to mark for one assignment were about suicide. I got some extensions then submitted the final assignments the night before I got on the boat to Tassie to do some work with my old job. The boat was rocky. I breathed in the beauty of the wild beaches, spent time with good friends and went to a memorial service. Drove around and dined solo in Hobart and felt good about it, forgetting I had friends there. Did a reunion dinner with most of the young women I used to work with and did the work and did it well and it seemed like a decent way to merge my great joy with one of the world’s deep needs and my colleague asked me to do some more work down there for a month or two and then some work back in Melbourne for a year or two. On my way to a punk gig in a shed my Dad sent me a message outlining where all their passwords and keys were hidden in case anything happened when he flew into Istanbul on the day of the election.

I felt a lot of feelings and thought of things. Back in Melbourne I spent a week spinning out about my post-uni career. I went to Sydney to scatter my great uncle’s ashes and spend not enough time in Canberra with my young cousin, my old friends, their big stories and their babies. I went to church and wept and said the words I knew from childhood and lit two candles.

 

There are so many stories from this winter that I don’t know yet how to tell.

 

A friend told me life is a series of separations.

We just get better at grieving

At marking moments of loss

Discerning what to hold on to and when to let go

Finding how to forgive

How to live

With little deaths, with darkness, with winter

By not running from it, or lying down too long or falling into it, but by sitting with sadness, walking with it, carrying small pieces of darkness gently with you, holding on tightly to love and letting go of heaviness and fear

 

I know some of the strategies – some of the ways of doing this, some small daily choices

to rest in the night

then get up out of bed with the sun

to be still for long enough to listen deeply to whatever is being said – to be in conversation with your soul, your friends, the seasons, the small world around you and the big universe

then to move your muscles lest your bones rust

to be present in small moments that remind you that you exist in the world – to lovingly prepare a meal that only you will consume, to tend to pot plants, put flowers in a jar in your room, to dust your grandmother’s writing desk, and to make your small world a place of beauty that is worth being in, to wash and iron and mend your clothes and dress up for each day you are alive in the world

then to look at clouds and notice sunsets and pick up perfect autumn leaves and marvel at frost

to busy yourself with doing things with other people, for other people

then light some candles and burn some lavender oil and put on the Amelie soundtrack and weep softly and write

 

sit with your sadness

be not afraid of darkness

but always walk on

with a lightness in your heart

 

turn inwards in the winter

wait with hope for spring

 

There are so many stories I don’t yet know how to tell.

But now you know what happened with that bloke I fell for a few months ago.

 

 

Dearest Readers,

Well, the last few have been a bit dreary haven’t they? There are all sorts of defences I could make for this: that if ya want the warts and all account then you can’t shy away from the warts, that the lows make the highs even higher and ya can’t have comedy without tragedy etc.

Rest assured I am fine. This morning a date asked to reschedule for the second time. I shed a few frustrated tears on the floor in front of the fire then decided to go on a date tonight anyway. I got dressed up, grabbed my laptop and a novel. As I walked up Swanston to the State Library I put my headphones in and told Siri to ‘play music’. Say what you will about Spotify, but nothing is quite as satisfying as the complete randomness of iTunes on shuffle. All that music that you’ve ever consciously purchased for various reasons throughout the last decade, all those memories or feelings or lyrics or beats just lying in wait. It’s like playing roulette with the universe – what message is it trying to send through the medium of iTunes? When walking to a date once this classic track came on. This afternoon this classic track came on:

 

I let my hair out so I could feel it bouncing as I walked up towards where I could see the sun shining in a gap between the buildings. The wind was going in the right direction to emphasise the billowing hair behind me vibe.

I put one foot in front of the other. 

I had done this before. 

I could do it again. 

“I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
I’ll be looking everyday
I know I’m gonna find a way
Nothing’s gonna stop me now
I will find a way somehow”

With joyful hope, 
-DD

Down to the river (Part 2)

Ahhhhhhh my Dearest Readers!

Readers, Readers, Readers. Look at you all. So excited. So full of hope. So buoyed by one decent date. So electrified by one pash. Such a spring in your step now. It feels cruel and manipulative to raise your expectations so high, to fill you with a story so full of promise and potential.

Alas, Dear Readers. This aint no whimsical fantasy. Welcome to the emotional rollercoaster that is dating, that is the search for love and flesh and all that falls in between, that is adult human beings seeking to connect with one another through a variety of means including technology. You’ve got a lot of courage to go on all these dates, I’m often told. Nah. Anyone can go on a date. Talking to strangers is a skill you can learn. Listening and telling stories is mostly a joy. It’s the #emoroco between dates and after dates that takes courage to continue riding. It’s not that you need to be your best self to date – is anyone ever their best self, really? How do you know – is there some kind of pinnacle of selfdom you reach? You do need to be in tune with your instinct, to be strong enough to be vulnerable, to feel things deeply and still be ok, even when you’re not ok.

And with that foreboding sense of dramatic irony, I present this tragic sequel to ‘Down to the river’ (although honestly, surely I gave you a bit of a hint in that title, have y’all never listened to the Springsteen song of the same name?). 

Yours realistically, 

-DD

 

rainforest wooden bridge

Once again, not actually Berri Creek. Taken on a solo car camping adventure somewhere in Victoria last year.

 

A few days later I texted to see if he’d like to get icecream later that night. I had dinner plans. I had chicken I needed to cook before it went off. He wasn’t available, but he would have liked to talk with me. I half sensed that a gentle let down might await me, but he didn’t want to discuss anything specific and it could wait until the next time we saw each other. Phew! Potential crisis averted! Everything would be totally fine, he’d probably just thought of something witty to say, or some insightful question about my very interesting life he wanted to ask me, or a philosophical dilemma he couldn’t wait to hear my opinion on! I could go back to eagerly anticipating Date #2!

The morning of our second riverside saunter I of course tried on several different outfits in order to A) stave off the cold whilst still B) looking cute af without C) wearing the exact same thing as Date #1. I settled on two pairs of leggings and a spencer under a woollen dress, woollen jumper and denim jacket under a cute af blue poncho with a faux fur lining. And Blunnies. Obvs. I dunno why I outline my outfits for you guys – does it help paint a picture, set the scene, illuminate the protagonist, or just weird? Anyway. We kept our hands in our pockets. Fair enough – perhaps given the intensity of Date #1 it was ok to take it a bit slower this time. I excitedly prattled on about my trip to Sydney and Canberra. We spoke about funerals and elders and families. We were walking along my usual running route. He stopped as we walked over a bridge and I thought perhaps it was pash time but we continued on. After we’d been walking for half an hour I asked him what it was he wanted to talk to me about.

Oh Readers.

For the next 45 minutes, I essentially youth-worked him through his feelings. Which were about me. And our first date. I wasn’t probing him because I’m a compassionate soul with some professional experience in having conversations with confused or hurt people in a way that respects their self-determination. I was probing because I didn’t know what the fuck was going on and because he was talking about ME. I was confused. Was he trying to let me down easy, that’s why he wouldn’t just come out and say it? Or was he genuinely unsure of what he wanted and needed someone to soundboard some ideas with? He used the word friend a lot. Are you friendzoning me? I joked. Which led to a lengthy discussion about what the term meant. He was physically attracted to me, he liked talking to me, he found me funny and interesting. Yet he felt that something wasn’t right when we kissed. So that’s what you were feeling while we were together, what about now? I asked, then when that failed to yield a conclusive response: So just to clarify, you don’t want to pursue any kind of relationship with me, that isn’t a friendship? That’s your gut feeling? He agreed. Then asked me if I had any questions or comments.

Questions or comments.

Like I’d just been taking notes at a lecture.

I’m all up for integrity and being real and having hard chats but this didn’t feel like a dialogue.

He then asked me if I thought that perhaps on a metaphysical level it wasn’t meant to work between us because there was someone better out there for me. I told him I thought the heart of question was a deterministic perspective on fate or destiny. Rather than taking that enticing philosophical bait I told him that I wasn’t quite ready to have a metaphysical conversation with him at that moment, because I was still emotionally responding to the fact that he didn’t see any romantic potential between us and I did, so I was still dealing with a little bit of disappointment there.

He apologised for not being more eloquent. He apologised for not apologising earlier.

We were still at least 20 minutes walk from our cars.

I wanted to run away. Just jog the fuck on.

I also simultaneously wanted to sit down and cry or go to the gym and box the punching bag or sleep for a really long time.

I mostly wanted to be anywhere other than walking alongside this man.

With a higher pitched voice I said so what are you up to for the rest of the weekend. We just filled the air with noises we made with our mouths that essentially meant nothing and had no purpose other than to squash any potentially heavy silence that might spring up.

At our cars, we said: have a good afternoon and enjoy the sunshine. Not: see you later.

 

I cried in my car the entire short distance home. In the kitchen I told my housemate that half an hour of the date had been lovely, then I’d spent 45 minutes being dumped and then bantered awkwardly for 20 minutes as if nothing had happened. I told her I was going on a dating hiatus, going to exclusively date myself for a while. I want to get off the emoroco. But first I was going upstairs to nap in my room. She was supportive of this excellent plan.

 

I’d just nodded off when I heard my phone vibrate.

Unable to resist the temptation I rolled over and checked who it was from.

“Hey stranger…”

It was from the enigmatic Number 11, who I still hadn’t met, nor heard from for months.

My housemate reckoned that maaaaaybe, just maybe, before I hibernated, I should just explore this one a little, see where it goes eh?

 

I agreed with this excellent plan.

 

Down to the river

It’s 9.55am on a Tuesday. I clomp down the stairs unshowered and bleary eyed into the kitchen. “I’m going on a date,” I tell my housemate, who squeals with supportive enthusiasm. “I slept in and now I’m woozy and don’t feel like my best self,” I moan. “This is perfect,” she replies, “your expectations are lowered, now you can just be pleasantly surprised.” I grunt and send my date one of the old ‘I’m running 5 mins behind sorry’ texts as I am wont to do. ‘All good,’ he shoots back, ‘I’m at the nursery buying some plants.’

Yes, Dear Readers, I was about to go on the most inner northern suburbs hipster date of all time. A walk along the creek, let’s call it Berri Creek, starting at that infamous environmental education park/nursery/community garden/café that we’ll just call BERES. I’d met this bloke on Tinder. We had some interesting things to say and when I told him it was his turn to ask questions now, he told me he had heaps and suggested a phone conversation. I’d never spoken to a potential date before the date before. I was nervous. What if the timbre of his voice was a total boner killer? How are you supposed to suss out a spark aurally? I guess you just suss out the conversational chaps enough to reassure you both that it won’t be a dud date? It was my last week polishing off assignments at uni so I took a study break and sat in a patch of sun in a nearby park. We spoke for a good half hour about books and philosophy and Tinder and why we’re on it and his voice did not annoy me. Ticketyboo.

My ideal first date is a walk in a (very public) park. You don’t have to make heaps of eye contact if you’re not feeling it, you can leave at any time, there’s plenty of stimulating stuff around to talk about, trees are inherently relaxing to be around and if it’s going great you can sit on a bench and make all the eye contact your little heart desires.

My bike feels a little unsafe to ride since it broke during my final teaching placement (luckily I was on my way home from placement not the way there) and still sounds like a small aircraft taking off. So I drove the ridiculously short distance there and the usual traffic and lack of nearby parking reminded me why I love riding and sent me into even more of a groggy morning fluster. I anticipated he’d probably not wear the right clothes for a stroll through this blustering winter wind and that we’d end up getting a coffee instead, but I grabbed my beanie outta the car just in case. I took a few deep breaths, attempting to muster the stamina and patience for another inevitably dull date with a boring drongo when I’d much rather be at the definitely bonza 10am gym class with the ever enthusiastic three Margarets (aged 60, 74 and 81 respectively).

I hunted through the natives and herbs at the nursery and on the other side of the veggies I spied a man on his own looking at his phone. Bingo! Jeans, woollen jumper, scarf, puffy jacket, sunnies, 5 o’clock shadow. You little ripper! Standing before me was not only another follower of Practical Fashion (#pracfash4lyf) but a very handsome one at that. It had been a while since I’d met someone on a date who I was immediately physically attracted to.

We walked alongside the creek. We talked about our careers. There was nervous energy zapping through the air all over the place. From both of us. We relaxed a little and warmed to each other and laughed and just said things that came into our heads and out of our mouths. We hugged briefly and somewhat awkwardly under a bridge. At one point he said “Sorry, I feel like I’m not myself. Whenever I’m around someone I’m attracted to, I just turn into a complete muppet.” “I didn’t go to the gym this morning,” I said, “so I’m not my best self either.” “You mean it gets better than this?” he replied, which was cheesy but I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind when he put his arm around my shoulders either. “This is nice,” he said, “even if it’s just this, if this is all that happens and if we never see each other again.” I mumbled, “Well you’re really lowering my expectations there.” He asked me what I meant.

“Well you know,” I said, “sometimes you meet someone and you find them attractive and you turn into a bit of a muppet too and you are kind of too scared to look at their face for too long because you just want to kiss it? And then they put their arm around your shoulder and you’re kind of wondering where the ideal place and time is to pash but maybe there’s no ideal and it should just happen?”

We kept wandering around arm in arm, mumbling cute and awkward shit until we stopped walking and kissed quickly and chastely, our lips meeting for only a moment before we started off walking again. We had arrived back at the community garden at this point, an hour later. There were people around so we wandered until we found somewhere slightly more private. A small corrugated iron shed. A bike shed. We walked behind it. We pashed. WE PASHED BEHIND THE BLOODY BIKE SHED. Like teenagers who’d been eyeing each other off all school term! Like a 32 and a 39 year old who’d just met an hour ago and were kinda tripping out on the fact that they were pashing behind a bike shed on a Tuesday morning!

His hands on my hips.

His lips on my neck.

Our puffer jackets squelching together sounding like someone rolling over in a sleeping bag.

Our fingers fumbling to get under each others’ singlets but not venturing past the smalls of our backs.

He held my hand as he walked back to the car.

We made plans to go for another stroll a few days later.

I smiled the whole way home.

And for most of the afternoon.

.

Dear Readers,

Part 2 of this story is TOTALLY in the pipeline! Meantime if you’re keen to read more dating stories, check out my mate from Adelaide’s blog ‘‘Unleashing the Cougar’ which is much more regularly updated, super insightful and brilliantly written. There are a few other blogs I’ll be sharing over the weeks to both assuage my guilt at irregular posting and to highlight some of the wonderful women who I’ve felt such solidarity with online.  

I’ve been thinking more and more making this blog private and getting rid of the linked Facebook page, just so I can be even more anonymous and write even more freely without self-censoring. So if you’d like to make sure you never miss a post please do consider subscribing by email – there should be a button around here somewhere on this page! You’ll only ever receive posts by me – no spam or nuthin.

I hope this finds you all well and please enjoy this photograph I took of the Franklin River in the always delightfully wild Tasmania, which is definitely much nicer than Berri Creek in the very suburban inner-north of Melbourne. 

Fondest of Regards,

-DD

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 8.58.07 pm

Trying too hard

He was wearing a suit like the rest of them.

He was talking so animatedly with a total babe of a woman that I thought they must have known each other. She was laughing a lot. Turns out they’d just met earlier in their six minute ‘date’. We talked about the finger food and I slipped away to check my phone in the loo. The mingling at the start of speed dating is fine, you can just find another woman who has rocked up alone and talk about dating. But by intermission it seems everyone has found someone to yarn to and I just felt like a social break.

When I finally got to date him, I think I had just asked a few dudes what made them happy so to mix it up I asked what really pissed him off. Cue anecdote about noisy neighbours. Look, he didn’t ask me a great question, and it wasn’t an amazing story, but he did know how to tell it well and I laughed. Tick. He maintained eye contact and didn’t compliment me creepily. Tick tick. Even though I spent ages deciding what to wear (and modelling different options for my housemates) I’m always a bit turned off when one of the first things a dude says is about how I look. I don’t really understand how that works. Maybe it’s that I want them to notice, but I don’t want it to be the main thing they notice enough to compliment, within the first six minutes of meeting? The very first thing another guy earlier that night said was that I had a pretty smile, then that my dimples were cute, then a few minutes later that I had nice eyes. Maybe I am trying so hard to play it cool and pretend that we aren’t sussing out each other’s physical appearance and that we’re genuinely trying to determine the potential for a deeper connection, so when someone smashes that façade it’s a bit jarring. Maybe everyone is a bit weird about accepting compliments. Also – it’s not a conversation starter. All I can respond to “I really like your eyes” is “um, thanks.”

 

But when I met The Suit again two week later for our first proper date, he complimented me in a totally smooth way. When I took my (ridiculous vintage fur) jacket off, he said “That is a fantastic jacket.” Good, something specific that I could respond to: “Oh yeah it was a hand-me-down from my godmother, I hardly ever wear it because it’s a bit OTT but I thought if I can’t dress up for a fancy dinner date, when can I?” Not smooth. In fact, verbal diarrhoea. To which he replied, “Of course! And you do look beautiful. Would you like a drink?” Smooth.

He had booked the arm chairs next to the fire at a fancy restaurant. When I apologised for my tardy responses and thanked him for waiting two weeks to catch up, he said ‘As if I wouldn’t, you’re great!’ He seemed into me. The last three guys I’d had a semi-serious series of dates or flings with were good dudes who I connected deeply with, but for a variety of reasons it wasn’t the right time (not into monogamy, not ready for a ‘relationship’ or still not divorced), or they just weren’t into me enough to make time. The Suit seemed into me and it was intoxicating. He had that twinkly look in his eyes. You know that look? When your eyes meet and they look deep into them and holds that gaze? When their eyes seem to smile? When without speaking their eyes seem to tell you they’re really there watching and listening and that they’re kinda really into being there too? When someone, a date, a partner, a friend, a family member or a colleague, looks at you with curiosity and respect and joy? I hope y’all have had someone look at you and listen like that. It’s pretty fucken ace.

We ate dinner, which I’m normally not into on a first date, but when you’re at a fancy joint in heels and fur and mascara that feels like you accidentally painted it onto one of your eyeballs, why the fuck not? This joint was normally definitely outta my price range but I’d budgeted for it that week. I went all out and ordered the lamb. It was bloody delicious.

There were so many things I liked about this bloke. He listened well, he told a good story, he didn’t shy away from real talk, he liked me and he wanted to move to the country once he’d found a job, a dog and a woman to move with. Despite all this, a strong desire to touch his face or kiss his lips did not manifest itself. He seemed a little stuck in his life. He did not especially like talking about his work. He was not looking forward to turning 40 soon. He said something I’ve heard a few fellas say who feel older or that they’ve been single for more than they’d like to be: I’ve just learnt that the harder you try to grasp something the harder it is to hold, you just have to let go and not try so hard.

I thought two things in response to this. One: letting go? Sounds like giving up! Laaaaame! This was an affront to my entire approach to dating – which is that it’s a numbers game that you have to be in it to win it even if you do probably end up bumping into your true love serendipitously in the line at Centrelink one wintry midweek morning.

Two: I heard so much yearning in that. Almost desperation. It sounded like as much as they were trying hard to let go, either they weren’t letting go or the fact remained that they were still trying hard. Fuck, aren’t we all? Trying hard? Wasn’t I? Otherwise why the fuck did I spend so long getting dressed and daydreaming about what this date would be like even though I couldn’t actually remember what his face looked like and had a sinking feeling that I may not want to kiss it? Why, despite knowing my gut wasn’t feeling any chemistry, did I blush when he said “I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’d like to see you again”? Why did I respond, “You’re great! This was great! Let’s do it again!” even though I had just made it pretty clear our kiss goodbye on the lips would remain a Church kiss and not a pash?

 

Maybe the things that annoy us or repel us in other people are the things that annoy us about ourselves. I realised what it looked like when someone comes on strong. Not overly strong, but makes their intentions clear, isn’t shy about their feelings. Maybe this is what I’d been doing to those last three blokes. Coming on strong. Trying too hard. Perhaps the force of my feelings feared them a little. I thought that was honesty and integrity – but maybe you can still be real and keep a few cards to your chest. I mean, I didn’t tell them I loved them or try to move in with them or suggest names for our firstborn but maybe that kind of desperation can be sensed. Maybe you can smell it. I was so scared of men smelling that yearning emanating from me, but I also was so sick of blokes not being ready to meet me where I’m at. Here was someone who was ready to meet me. Why wasn’t I running towards that?

Maybe – a desire to be with me is not the only quality I’m looking for in a potential romantic partner – maybe it’s the baseline.

Maybe – when someone is real with you about their feelings, it’s not a turn off, it just makes you super cautious about how you respond if you’re not feeling like you’re matching the intensity or surety – lest you hurt their feelings. “I don’t want to waste your time if we’re looking for different things” – I’ve been told that in the past and now it’s how I felt towards this man.

Maybe – when you can see what a future with someone would look like so clearly that it scares you a little bit and maybe you don’t feel as ready to jump into that as you thought you were.

Maybe – I just wasn’t super turned on and that felt shallow and lame because he was such a decent bloke. The kind of good guy who ticks boxes and who your mates and mum want you to end up with. Maybe I’d never experienced the ‘slow burn’ and spent enough time with someone who I wasn’t turned on by, for long enough for the other less obvious parts of them to emerge and turn me on. Maybe I was comparing him to the babin’ hipsters I’d met at another speed dating even the night before. Maybe I was a superficial bitch and that felt a bit shit.

Maybe I was pretty tired from finishing an intense week of work back in Tassie immediately after finishing my masters and two people I knew had recently died and I was tired and wired and raw and my feelings were all over the place and I didn’t trust them.

 

Whatever the reason, when he texted the next day to say how he’d like to meet up but ‘totally fine if you don’t want to – you’re awesome in any event’ I jumped at the chance to exit and fired back a very complimentary goodbye text.

 

I still wonder if I did the right thing.

 

IMG_9343

Contemplative sunrise view from my bedroom door. It’s not as beautiful as Boat Harbour, and I still feel sad and lonely and confused sometimes, but this feels like the right place to feel those feelings.

 

Getting back on that (speed dating) horse

Dear Readers,

There’s so much to tell you.

That story I was so excited about a few months ago is indeed over. There’s part of me that thinks it’s just over for now and not forever and once the seasons change it might bloom again in spring. There are other parts of me that don’t believe that, or don’t want to wait anyway. Either way I’m back. Back in the dating scene. Back on the onlines. Back much more excitingly, writing to y’all! I’ve genuinely missed you. Processing things by writing them down with a pen and paper is one thing, mining them for something of value to share with others is another. I hope these months have been kind to you and thank you for your gentle patient support.

I have some more audio stories to share soon. Meantime, here are two stories I wrote on trams tonight.

With very fond regards,

-DD

I have mascara on, my hair down and the girls out. I’ve got a keepcup full of green tea in one hand and my phone with a ticket to speed dating in the other. I bought the ticket before I realised how many words I should instead be writing for my final uni assignment due next week. I’m wearing that dress from sportsgirl that I only seem to ever wear to shit like this, paired with these sensible teaching boots from Target via Savers because I know there’s standing up mingling time at these things and if I can’t be studying, I can at least be comfortable. It ain’t my first time at the rodeo. It would appear, Dear Readers, that I am indeed back.

There is nothing to differentiate this speed dating from others. I guess it’s 12 six minute dates instead of however many three minute dates like last time. There’s also a distinct lack of free cheap champagne so I order a tomato juice cos it’s cheap and I have a cold and I guess it’s a point of difference in this market.

My strategy is to bugger the small talk and go for “What makes you laugh/angry/relax/excited?” It mostly avoids discussion about work and weekends but this is the comfort zone for some peeps so I happily hang out there momentarily.

“The thing is,” I later say to a newbie, “by this stage of the night everyone’s already had the same conversations at least ten times. There was the initial excitement at the start but then the nervous energy wears off after the half time mingle and finger food sesh. So the trick is to ask an interesting question that people haven’t heard before.” He nods and smiles and compliments my dimples and tells me I’m not like the others he has met then asks about my hobbies. “Reading books, baking, talking to friends on the phone, walking in parks. But what really pisses you off, eh?” And so on.

A busker chick is wailing a mournful artsy jazz version of ‘Toxic’ near my tramstop afterwards as I munch on my Woolies dinner to compensate for the “substantial fingerfood”. As I should have anticipated, speed dating in the city was full of city people. I can say such things now that I’m a Melbournian of 18 months. Y’know, stereotype people by their suburb of residence or workplace or socialisation. Men mainly in suits and too tight muscle shirts tried to ask me about my day and my work and my weekend. To keep an open mind is an active choice. To remind yourself to be hopeful that most interactions can be salvaged into something. If not the spark then a decent yarn, if not that then something learnt about a profession, a culture, an observation, opinion- mining whatever snippets a stranger decides to reveal for some kind of value. If not a connection then a laugh or a lesson and if neither of those then for the time before that 6 minute bell rings to pass with dreary decency.

“It’s better than swiping on an app” he says and I politely agree even though I’d rather be casually scrolling intermittently whilst watching trash tv in my PJs with my housemates or taking a study break, switching from one screen to another. I wouldn’t have swiped you, is what I don’t say. I bet you are unsmiling in your photos which are all close ups from the same angle. I bet your ‘profile’ is a collection of emojis relating to sports you play or watch and food and drink you like and flags of countries you’ve travelled to. These things would have told me that you perhaps don’t want to ask or answer big questions or try to tie down big ideas into words or spend time in the same way I do or value the same things or strive towards the same virtues.

How can you reveal or uncover such things in six minutes or six photos and a few lines of words or emojis? It can’t be done. The level of written communication and interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence detective work is too extreme. Little snippets are the only clues we have. So is it discernment or patience that is required? Or both?

In conclusion: it wasn’t that bad I mean I felt proactive and like I was “actively working towards a goal” whilst also “not caring too much.” This love thing, it’s something I want to give and receive in a romantic way sure. This dating thing, it’s something that I do in a hobby kind of way, not investing too much too soon but slowly chipping away at it and doing something each week.

Look, there was one bloke with twinkly eyes, a cute smile and a pleasant vocal timbre and another who knew how to yarn. If they ticked me too I’ll get an email by 7pm tomorrow.

Bumble tells me 27 fellas think I’m a bit of alright. They won’t tell me who unless I pay or swipe for an undetermined amount of time. Tinder has presented a few vaguely promising options. Will keep youse in the loop. This was a bit rambly but please be patient, I’m just getting back on the horse.

It’s good to be back.