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On Dating : Two Nights in a Row - kale & cigarettes
On Dating : Two Nights in a Row

On Dating : Two Nights in a Row

I’m on the couch listening to Bach on the stereo. Maddy is in bed sleeping. She woke up early (9:30am) with me yesterday and today I am giving her a break from such a demanding schedule. 

Last night marked two consecutive nights with her staying over.

“Do you feel weird about staying over again?” I asked her as we lied in a spoon after she had given me a spirited blowjob. 

She paused for a second and then responded, “No, I don’t actually. It’s easier when I know you’re leaving because I don’t feel as bad for wanting to hang out with you while you’re here.” 

Neither of us were quite sure how the pacing of a new and healthy relationship should be approached. I am still going off my golden rule of – does it make me feel sick and irresponsible? Which can be misleading because in the middle of a beautiful night walking and kissing and holding hands I can be pinged with a sensation of sheer chaos and displacement. Who am I and who is she and what are we doing together when we don’t even know each other? 

“Do you feel okay about it?” she asks in return. We are so fair at this stage. 

I suppose the mere fact that I posed the question would indicate some level of thought or uncertainty. 

“It’s new for me so I definitely think about it, probably more than I should. But I like having you here.”

“Yeah, I like being here. I got back to my place yesterday and did my things and normally I would just lay in bed and not want to see anyone for a while but I actually felt like coming back over here. So I take that as an indication that we are okay.” 

“Wow. I’ve broken through your threshold. I did enjoy having a little time to myself in the afternoon. I think as long as I always know I can have that then I feel good.” 

It’s not that I need time to play games or live a totally different life. It takes me time to process things. And I do a better job of it from the outside. I can be on the best vacation of my life and not realize it until I’m on the flight home. I don’t always feel things as they are happening. My mind is occupied with counting my foot tapping on the floor or thinking about untangling a knotted hair hanging on her shoulder. I might want to vacuum or readjust the chairs. Or think of how many more times we can sit on the couch before it gets a worn-in look that will make it harder to resell. What happens if the music is too loud but when I lower it five decibels it is too quiet and splitting the difference would mean the volume rests on a number that isn’t a multiple of five and I can’t relax? I am compulsively overanalyzing, which prevents me from ever really being in a moment.

This can all disappear for a while in the beginning. When the connection is strong. I open up and things flow and I’m not getting caught on every irregularity. Part of me thinks that’s why I’ve gone so hard with women in the first few months in the past. It gives me a break from myself. 

Maddy has made it easier to communicate these things. She has capacity and she finds these nuances more interesting than scary. And she seems to be independent. She will tell me she wants to have gym time on Tuesday so the soonest she can see me again is Wed or Thur. I’ll sit and think about how I could never in the past imagine myself choosing a solo activity over being with a new person I liked. 

Transitioning from being together to not being together is hard. And from not being together to being together is hard too. Even when I start to get the feeling that I want some time to myself to write or take a walk I get another feeling that misses her and is scared to be alone. And when I’ve been alone and getting into a solo rhythm the thought of her coming and interrupting that gives me a similar fear and resistance. And then enough time in either scenario smooths out the objections and becomes the moment I am in and erases the thoughts from before. I go back and forth like this between resistance and acceptance, from missing her to missing me, and as long as I don’t get locked in preference or comparison I can enjoy this lush spectrum of emotion and intimacy. 

“You and Ang are the only people I can be around for an entire long weekend literally every second and never get sick of,” I tell Ashley on the phone as I walk up my three, unrelenting flights of stairs.

“Because we don’t have to act like anything. We don’t change who we are at all,” she says. 

“It’s like being alone but we’re all together,” I conclude.

I’ve never had that with a partner. There’s always some expectation I’ve put on myself to behave a certain way. Mostly insecurities. I need to be smart or strong or working or providing or cooking or cleaning or reorganizing my things to be in 90 degree angles. It’s a controlled appearance and having someone in my space is, in many ways, an invasion. With Ashley and Ang I don’t hold anything back – not the sick Russian voices, the inside jokes we share from growing up in the Midwest, my horrible gas after consuming popcorn, manic bursts of energy where I hit myself over the head with everything, watching The Office, watching The Bachelor (dear god help me). Nothing is off limits and I harbor not a single worry of whether or not they’ll still like me. We’ve already established that. It’s the only unconditional relationship I’ve ever known and I’m not sure if it’s them, me, us, or the course of the fifteen years we’ve spent working towards this point. Whatever it is, I’m lucky to know it. 

And now I’m starting from scratch. I buried my face in my hand this morning when I was trying to take a sniper poop in my bathroom located five feet from where her head was lying on my pillows and a very audible, airport restroom burst came out of me. I thought about crawling out of the small window next to the shower and spreading myself on the sidewalk below. 

I’d like to think I’ve made a lot of progress. Couples therapy with Mark remains one of the most impactful experiences of my life. The awareness of my judgment and rigid tendencies and how that slowly took the joy out of every experience has stayed in my mind. I can practice ways of staying open and being more receptive. The same as I practice ways to combat my OCD. Looking at a stack of papers on the table and not straightening them. Walking up a flight of stairs without counting them. Taking all the curb steps with my right foot instead of shuffling to land on the left. And while each of these moments causes me a bout of physical pain, it quickly passes and I remain intact. I am learning that things pass and I remain okay. 

Maddy calls us free agents. It’s a thing from some old philosopher that she studied and quotes and I forget who said it because I’m horrible with names and not academic but we are free agents, that part I remember. It is not our duty to control one another but to witness and support and in the process understand the love that comes with that. 

I am working at this with some early success. I don’t feel bothered by things she says or does that I wouldn’t necessarily say or do. They have been rolling off me or passing through me, either visual works. It could be that it’s early times and I’m choosing to look past things in order to gain access to this person’s emotional trust. It could be that I’ve made progress as a person in every relationship. Or both. Or something else. But I never remember having such an awareness of noticing a whole person, not just the version I am interested in. 

We can’t do better than being seen and supported. I usually fall into agreements with others where I act a certain way and they act another way so we can have an understanding that doesn’t challenge our insecurities or invite too much change or growth and we ride that ride until everything has collapsed on itself into such a stale routine that the main objective becomes avoiding intimacy and connection. 

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