Tomorrow, I will be seeing my high school sweetheart for the first time in eight years.
It’s a crazy thought on so many levels. The fact I’m getting to see him; the fact we’ve kept in touch over the years– hell, the fact it’s been EIGHT YEARS. I’m not even close to old enough to have that long since I’ve seen someone significant, but there it is.
I should start at the beginning.
We were just kids when we met. When I started high school, I went on a volunteer trip with my church group. This one guy was a bit older, and I had a harmless schoolgirl crush on him. That is, until we talked a lot the last night of the trip and found out he liked me, too. Our group had stayed at the church we were rebuilding in the Blue Ridge mountains. We started talking about his training in the Army Reserve and plans to join after high school, and my particular hippie leanings as a pacifist. We wandered around the grounds and ended up in the field behind the church, under the night sky. Epic, adorable, romantic. Sparks flew. My teenage heart didn’t stand a chance.
And neither did our relationship. When my mom found out how old he was, she was [ok, fine, somewhat understandably] unsettled. I was a freshman, he was a senior. Three years is a pretty big difference, at that age. But I had always been an old soul, and a damn stubborn one at that. We fought over it. I had my first real taste of teenage rebellion, and relished the secret online contact and late-night phone calls that ended in us falling asleep. We talked constantly. I daydreamed in school. He wanted me to visit, meet his family, even go to Prom. I was smitten with the whole Romeo and Juliet vibe of it all. Not only was he a soon-to-be solider and I a card-carrying pacifist, but our families didn’t remotely approve.
This continued for months, until we had another church trip that winter. By then, the strain of distance and family disapproval had weighed on me. The adult supervisors were keen to the situation, and it soured the experience. It was bittersweet to see him, knowing I might not again. I crumbled under the pressure, and we agreed to get emotional distance to match the physical separation. I gave him a peace sign ring I always wore, as a joke to remember me by. I was utterly heartbroken.
In retrospect, I was a kid and bounced back just fine. We hadn’t been exclusive the entire time, so it wasn’t much of a social change for me, but the emotional impact felt real. The romance was over.
But the story didn’t end. We looked each other up over the years, and kept in contact pretty consistently. I found out that after we lost touch after the initial break, he did actually sign up with the Army. He was deployed to Iraq from ’05-’06, and was injured twice. The second injury was enough to have him sent home.
I heard through the grapevine that something had happened to him, and tracked him down via the wonderful interwebs. It had been two years since we’d talked. He said he had wanted to find me the second he got home from Iraq, but didn’t think I wanted to hear from him. Absurd. Of course I wanted to hear that he was alright. So we caught each other up, and went back into a sort of pen pal connection. We’d talk about our days, what kept us busy, who we were seeing, the heartaches, the happiness. Our favorite color. That awesome band we just saw live. The usual conversations of our age. Friendship.
There were sweeter moments, too. On nights when he couldn’t sleep after work, or I was up late writing a paper for college, we’d talk about that summer night under the stars, or the winter trip in the snow. It was fun to think back. When that movie, Dear John, came out about an Iraq War romance, we both watched it online together. [The movie is total crap, don't watch it; we ended up just laughing the whole time.] At some point over the years, he confessed how often he thought of me in Iraq. It comforted him to have someone to fight for, and it brightened his day to think of how I would have hated him holding a gun in the first place. Said he could hear me in his head sometimes, railing against the concept of war. Surrounded by bombs thundering and guns firing, I made him smile.
One night, he told me that he even brought the ring I had given him with to Iraq, and sometimes kept it on his dog tags for good luck. The second time he was injured, his Humvee was blown up. The explosion tore away both his tags and our ring. He told me how furious he was to have lost it. He always thought to come home safe, find me, and show me that it had been his good luck charm. I cried that it hadn’t been good enough to keep him safe. He replied that it did work; he was alive, wasn’t he?
Our relationship has represented a sort of romantic nostalgia over the years. It’s mellowed into a calm, warm place inside me. No matter how small other heartbreaks might tear me, those memories can always piece me back into a smile. He’s my chicken soup.
And now I get to see him, after all these years. He’s from Silver Spring, so he’s back this week for the holiday family visit, and we’re meeting up tomorrow. Jules Junior asked if I’m nervous– I can’t lie, butterflies have invaded my stomach. He hasn’t seen me since I was fifteen! Now that we’re adults, is this going to be weird? What the hell should I wear? And I’m concerned that he might want to initiate something! I don’t want to ruin what we have together by reigniting long-distance yearnings that spoil it. [And if Fairfax is too far away for me to date, South Carolina is practically the moon!] But it will be unreal to be in the same place just the same.
We’re going to meet on the steps of Natural History and kick around the museums and monuments. He hasn’t been down to DC proper in years, despite being a semi-local, so we’ll play at being tourists. Apparently we have a knack for being a picturesque, cliché duo. I’m not complaining. I’m pretty confident about our status in each other’s futures as the bright light/ chicken soup, and am bubbling with butterflies at the chance to add another day of memories to the story.
You know you’re just as excited for the sequel.
To be continued….
“Once upon a time, offline wasn’t even a word… You caught someone’s eye across a room. Your stomach leapt. There was chemistry. This was back in the time of romance. Back in the real world.” -The Offline Society
Hello, world! So I’ve joined on with the Pink Line Project as a society-and-dating writer– three hips and a hooray for me! Below is a teaser of my article, found in their Noise section, “The Offline Society: Bringing Romance to the Real World”
Our generation doesn’t live in the real world often anymore—we live online. With all the social media sites “you just have to join!” popping up, it’s tough enough to keep up with your evidently-crucial internet life, let alone an actual one. So many of us, craving that fabled romance of times gone by, search in the only place we know: the internet.
“Hi, my name is Jules, and I am an online dater.”
Yes, you all better chorus a dull “hiiii, Juuulllless…”
The Offline Society has an answer for this generational dilemma:
The three lovely ladies of the rising Offline Society have witnessed—and experienced—this struggle they call “internet-dating fatigue”. They’re offering a solution. In a strange mix of futuristic innovation and historic throwback, they have created a novel concept. According to their press release, “the Offline Society is a carefully curated club of ladies and gentlemen who could all be described as ‘quite the catch’. We gather in a private row home over old -fashioned cocktails and lively conversation. The mood is relaxed and there’s a hint of magic in the air.”
Again, read the full article here with Pink Line Project, and maybe step up your game with me tomorrow night? They’re bringing DC to ‘an era of people, not profiles’, and I sure as hell want to be a part of it.
Sometimes after telling a friend about my most recent flirty shenanigans, they ask how I get up the guts. How? Easy-peasy: I just do it. Seriously, it’s that simple.
You have an impulse struggling to break free from the prison you’ve locked it into in the back of your mind? Slip it the key. Or better yet: explosives, so it can bust outta confinement in style. Out with a BANG!
That’s how I’ve tried to liberate myself since moving to DC. I’m in a new city, new lifestyle, and trying all the lovely new things along with it. I’ve been outgoing and decidedly-Me for most of my life, but this is bringing it to a whole new level. I go out dancing half the week, soak up new friends like it’s my job [wouldn't that be cool if being social was my job??], and strive daily to do ‘carpe diem’ proud. Vulnerability can be a surprisingly delicious feeling.
Most often, this fun growing habit [addiction?] manifests itself in my dating life. I think the bartender that always finds a way to knock down my tab is cute? Well, last Friday, I left him my number on the check along with a note saying “in case you’d like to grab the drink I definitely owe you now”. [Note: this is at a bar my friends and I frequent often, so there is sure to be follow-up on this particular one.] Impulses like these are healthy, natural, and downright exciting as hell– so everyone should take some initiative spice up their own life.
Months ago, there was this boy who played an acoustic and sang outside the metro across from my restaurant. He was cute, obviously did it just for kicks, and had a variety of genres he’d jump around in. All summer and fall, I’d listen to him while getting the patio ready for dinner or waiting for my bus home, and we’d do that adorable smiling-at-each-other-from-afar thing. Sometimes he’d play this great Hank Williams song, and I one time shouted that was my favorite– after that, any time I walked by, he’d immediately switch over to that song. I don’t usually carry cash on me, and started kicking myself nights he was there. So, I did what any decent girl would do.
I dug through my purse for paper, and wrote him a note. “I always seem to only have bus fare home on me, but have listened to your music long enough that I figure I owe you a drink by now– here’s my number in case you’d like to take me up on it some night.”
He called the next day. Not a text, but a phone call. We talked a bit, and he said he didn’t know bars in the NW neighborhood area very well, but I said the Red Derby had great beer. We each brought a friend, had a great night of conversation, and that was mostly it. He still played my metro stop, and was adorable but a little too timid for me to date. But that’s not the point. We’d talk whenever running into each other, so I just made a cool neighborhood friend and an even greater story.
Don’t give me that “oh, but you’re so much more outgoing than me, Jules!” crap. I was a morbidly shy girl up through most of middle school, complete with bright red blushes and the inability to speak when it came to boys and bullies. Then I took to heart my mama’s best piece of life advice: you are who you want to be. Seriously, it’s that easy. You want to be the extroverted girl flirting in a circle of guys or walking up to a cute guy to buy him a drink? Then get over yourself and just do it. The only thing holding you back is you.
I know this is coming off as preachy, but it’s because this is what’s running through my head whenever I get into such situations. I like a guy at a party, bar, coffeeshop, or any other random place. There’s something I want to say to him. The introvert deep inside wants to just watch or run away, so I tell her to shuttup and walk over before I lose my nerve. I’m a recovering shy girl, it’s a daily struggle to overcome. But I decided early on that I didn’t like being quiet and overlooked, didn’t like being the cute-girl’s-best-friend, and definitely didn’t like that feeling of lost opportunity.
So here’s the deal: the end game for this kind of thing isn’t finding a boyfriend, or even a date. I do them because they make people smile. If the Cute Bartender never calls because he isn’t available, isn’t interested, or isn’t assertive enough to do it, that’s fine. I’m peachy keen without any response. Regardless of the outcome for me, everyone likes knowing they’re admired, and I know my note brightened his day. And isn’t that worth taking a few seconds of your time to express something as simple as “I think you’re cute”? Because it always makes them feel a little better, and it will definitely give you awesome butterflies that you will soon learn to crave. Just like me.
So just do it!
So my little sister and her friend Abigail shot me this video the other day, and it’s naturally been stuck in my head ever since. I think the ridiculously cute lyrics/video/everything about it are pretty appropriate here. So thanks, sis.
My friends and I were ‘those kids’ in chem class that rushed into the lab, turned our Bunsen on high, half-read the directions, and ended up with foam everywhere or frightening/ awesome balls of fire shooting from our station.
It’s not that we were idiots (well, not all of us); a number of us went to the best schools in the country. The hyper-intelligent can screw around in experiments with the best of the morons, thankyouverymuch. No, we just wanted to mix this with that, and see if it goes BOOM! [Yes, more often than not, something did explode.] I’m convinced we learned just as much from the negative trials as we did from the positive ones.
Sometimes I talk about my dating life as a series of experiments, but I should clarify. They aren’t only to see how certain guys will react to me, but also how I react to them. Chemistry goes two ways, and I’m still learning all my properties.
For example: how could I know if I like dating a hip-hop dancer unless I try it? Result: it was damn fun. And how would I react to someone wanting to introduce me to his family after two weeks? Outcome: negative. But you can’t truly know how you would react unless you have experienced something– and that’s what your 20′s are about. Experiencing anything and everything life has to offer, in order to better learn who you are as a person and what you want out of life. [Ok, or maybe just have fun.] It’s like a chem lab where you have several containers of the same sample, and add different materials to see how they react together.
Me + questionable sexuality guy = ambiguity confuses me
Me + guys exactly my age = thinking that my little sister would looove them
So I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past few months. I’ve experimented and experienced, and have ruled out certain traits that don’t mix well with moi. It’s not them, but it’s also not me– we just don’t work well together. I’d say it’s a fair conclusion. But the toughest realization to accept is when two people work well together, are a stable combination, but it still doesn’t do what you want [yes, I'm referring to the Genuine Article again; more tba]. There’s no fizzle, no spark, no eyebrow-singeing explosion of fireworks and hormones. I don’t want a stable, flat compound– I want CHEMISTRY. So, I must experiment on with my life.
I blame my fiendish experimental inclinations on the Muppets Lab. Beaker always WAS my second-favorite [after Miss Piggy, of course].
“DC is like dating in Grand Central Station– everyone is coming and going and moving too fast to really see,” he tells us between sips of beer and over the music and noise of Marvin’s.
How to get guys to talk about their feelings: get them very drunk.
The other night at the bar, with most of the group respectably intoxicated, conversation swung over to our District dating world. I only knew the romantic backgrounds of two of the guys [one at the 'interested but decidedly not committed' level, and the other mixed-signals-confused], but then another of them [let's call him Peter] pipes up with that line and floored me. Brilliantly put, my friend.
He threw his hands in the air dismissively and asked, “What’s the point?” With everyone coming and going so often, the city’s in a constant upheaval and no one stays put. Everything is always changing, which means when you do fall into a relationship– more by chance than anything else– it has to continually adapt to new surroundings. New friends, new places, new activities. We’re a city forever in transition, and our relationships follow suit.
He says we’re a city full of very attractive, very intelligent people– and I had to interject my addition of ‘very ambitious’– so it gets overwhelming. Maybe it’s just our personality differences, but those are the exact reasons why I do love dating in DC. The endless new people and captivating conversations have utterly fascinated me. I fully admit that it might be my newness playing a part in that– Peter and the guys have been here for years, whereas I’m still coming up on my first anniversary [I expect a big celebration, Washington!]. And yes, for once I’ll grant that my age might also have a hand in it– though I prefer to refuse the entire age premise.
One of the concerns for singles today is how long to hold out for 3rd base, and what that wait implies. Protest too much, and you’re a prude; immediate gratification makes you easy. A recent relationship developed swiftly [let's call him the Genuine Article, more details to come], and he told me our intimacy didn’t take away from his interest or opinion of me– he won’t become bored. My gut response was to think to myself, “Who said it was YOUR attention I was worried about losing?”
After a week of seeing this truly great guy nearly every day [and loving every minute of it], I was a bit burned out this week and needed Me Time. The result was this romantic malaise whenever I thought of him– am I bored already? Do I only want something that I can’t have [or just don't have yet]? Our quick level of comfortable intimacy is just a little too committed-feeling. Is there something wrong with me? It reminds me of my ex, and how everything felt more like a habit than a desire– that is no good. The start of connection should be all fire and longing. I’m an intensely passionate person; casual affection will not keep me interested.
So there it is. Hi, I’m Jules, and I have Relationship-Attention Deficit Disorder. [It's RADD!] Maybe even R-ADHD, because my high-energy lifestyle is definitely hyperactive. It’s not stress-related, stemming from some PTSD break-up baggage. I don’t have commitment phobia. It’s not environmental, because I’m up to my ears in commited couple friends. Everyone has a significant other this spring.
But I honestly have no problem whatsoever that I am not one of them– I rather enjoy this RADD lifestyle of meeting multiple new people in a short amount of time. The city’s always full of them coming and going, with wild stories to tell about their travels and experiences. Each new acquaintance for me is like giving sugar to a five year old [okay, maybe it's just like giving sugar to me; the effect is the same].
Isn’t that the charm of Washington? Peter’s right about the Grand Central chaos– going out in DC has you on perpetual social sensory overload. There are too many trains pulling in and out of the station going to wild, new places, and I can’t bring myself to narrow my possibilities by going in just one direction. I enjoy who I am, I enjoy meeting new people, and I really do enjoy dating. Maybe that’s why this is the perfect city for me. Only Washington is ever-shifting enough to keep me captivated with its constant influx of fascinating new people to meet and play with.
I’m not writing off this Genuine Article; we’ll see how this unfolds. But if it does turn out that I just get bored and disinterested, I don’t think it means there’s something wrong with me. I just don’t think it’ll turn out that he’s what I’m looking for, or that the lifestyle his relationship offers is right for me.
If I don’t want to kiss a guy by the end of a first date, then what’s the point? There, I said it.
I’m not in the market for a frog prince—I’d like a post-transformation guy, with no sign of sliminess to be seen. I really don’t think that is too much to ask.
I’m not saying there’s always a goodnight kiss—I know I’m a forward girl, but it’s not always the right time. BUT if that lack of a kiss isn’t disappointing—or if it’s preferable, even—then I don’t think we’re in the cards at all. That fundamental desire has to be there.
There’s a question asked about first dates: do you expect to determine your compatibility emotionally, spiritually, financially, or sexually by the end of it? My answer is definitely physical compatibility. It’s always been the easiest for me to determine, but not because I’ve a specific ‘type’. I actually have crazy eclectic taste.
There just needs to be that certain sort of spark, on top of whatever about various guys is attractive to me. I generally like them tall and lanky, though some more muscular guys have been thrown in the mix. Blondes aren’t on the list too often, but it’s always a personality thing and not physicality. Eye color doesn’t have much impact—I like the whole color wheel. I’m bigger on eye CONTACT. And someone who’s comfortable in their own skin.
I might find out something incompatible intellectually about a guy further on—say, he’s actually a neo-fascist with the hots for Mubarak, or maybe a closeted NRA member running around in a Democrat’s clothing—but I might not find that out the first date. What I CAN find out without much detail is if I want to kiss him, and by the end of the night if there’s potential for more.
I also wait to see if he’ll make the first move to kiss me. My history has seen a lot of kissing initiated by yours truly rather than the guy, because at that age I “intimidated the hell” out of guys. I’m not all that old-fashioned, it is more about testing him out. I can be a bit of a headstrong girl, so when it comes down to it, I want to know if the guy sees my challenge and wants to meet it.
Recently, I was on a really cute date. The night had gone great, definitely feeling mutual vibes going on, and we had already talked about meeting up again several times. Since we were in my neighborhood, he offered to walk me home, and did the dragging-out-conversation-on-the-front-stoop” cliche, that eventually ended with “so, can I kiss you?” I made the wise choice, and nodded. It definitely added to the night.
If it’s a first date– especially a blind date– I think it’s alright for the guy to ask as his segue into a goodnight kiss. Typically, I’d rather a guy just go for it, but this time around it was damn charming. Maybe it was his puppy-dog brown eyes, or scruffy dimples, or just the whole combination in general… but it worked.
This spark just might be catching flame.