The Coping Mechanisms of a Thirtysomething

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Karaoke King wanted to see me before I went out of town for July 4th weekend so we made plans for lunch on Thursday. During the conversation about when/where to go he insisted on being extremely flexible. I get it, he’s super laid back in general and was only working part time since finishing up his MBA. I, however, was busy and was therefore forced to make all the decisions (which I didn’t have time for). I had to mention it, which led to him asking me what my sanity reclamation activities were, given that he’d forgotten his since he hadn’t been in the real world for so long.

Overlooking the obnoxiousness of someone who is so relaxed he can’t even remember being stressed, I genuinely answered his questions. The condensed version went like this:
  1. Running. Regular running usually takes care of any general stress I may have accumulated during the day. And when I'm running regularly, I often don't get to the point where I need to escalate my stress handling. If it does, though, we go to (2).

  2. Toss up between alcohol and good friends. Usually one or the other helps, or often I find the combination especially useful in at least offloading (if not finding solutions to) extra negative energy.

    The trick to me is, sometimes I don't want to be consoled. I just want to vent and yell and be fussy. Usually when I am in that mode I opt for alone time, see below, because my well meaning friends want to tell me things will be fine and I won't have it.

  3. Alone time. I need a decent amount of alone time in general, I have a tendency to start to feel smothered when I am constantly surrounded by people, so when I'm really stressed I usually need a break and I hide out a bit. Sometimes canceling plans and just doing whatever I feel like doing completely re-sets me.

  4. Cleaning. When my house is clean my life is in order.

  5. Food. Usually in combination with alone time, ordered directly to my casa. This is not a preferred coping mechanism as it negatively affects my waistline while only marginally making me feel better.

  6. And finally Crying. When I have not appropriately handled stress over a period of time I usually end up crying.

Here’s what he wrote back: Well I hope to be part of the solution whether you're venting down the phone or in person, need a running mate, a dinner date or just a snuggle bear.

Did he just write snuggle bear?! What about the above list could he possibly have taken as an indication that I wanted to be smothered? Did I not, in fact, explicitly indicate I have a tendency to feel smothered? And I’m pretty sure I was clear that alone time was key. Why would I want him to go with me on my runs? And what about actually responding to my coping mechanisms? I took time to write actual personal insights and he just wants to be part of the solution. But he's clearly going to be a problem.

I’m starting to get a bad feeling about him. Especially since I have to leave to meet him for lunch. Right now.

A Nice Save

Sunday, September 26, 2010
Either I had misinterpreted The Karaoke’s Kings propensity to smoother me or he picked up on my low tolerance for it during my early morning mumblings, because when I heard from him next it was Saturday morning and he invited me to watch some soccer with him. Not only had he chosen a during-the-day activity (with substantially less likelihood of slipping into drunken making out), he chose a location that served PBR (which he knew I loved from my OK Cupid profile) and had free popcorn (which he soon realized was another fave of mine). Obviously I accepted.

In the sober yet still dimmed lights of the Irish pub, I tried to analyze whether I had a connection with the Karaoke King that extended past delicious Italian snacks. Truth be told, once I got past feeling guilty about having gone out with someone other than Summer Boy I wasn’t even sure whether I had genuine interest in him. I would have loved most of our first date no matter who had been sitting on the balcony with me. I felt mixed about whether we had a good physical connection, too. I mean, he had a decent amount of facial hair, which is not my scene.

I remained on the fence; throughout the ridiculous - and terribly unclever might I add - soccer chants being yelled as the US sadly got beat, as we walked around his neighborhood, stopping in at the Walgreens to pick up band-aids for the knee I had skinned earlier in the week falling off the bus in the rain, and even as we ate mini-burgers and talked about what had brought him to Chicago from New York (combo of girlfriend and job opportunity, neither of which had worked out as planned).

I declined his offer to go up and see his place, so he somewhat reluctantly kissed me on my check and put me in a taxi before the sun went down. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I definitely felt a bit of relief as I sped away down Lake Shore Drive.

I had enjoyed spending the afternoon with him, but I was also feeling that dreaded difference in interest level. He was sure he wanted to spend more time with me. I wasn’t sure we were a good fit. Or whether I would be able to get past his snoring if it turned out we were. Or whether I wanted to rock the boat with Summer Boy.

Wait a minute. The Karaoke King had made a nice second move, and he deserved some credit for that. I was the one getting ahead of myself, and I deserved a swift kick in the ass for falling back into that trap. Done. And done.


Sunday, September 19, 2010
The first thing I thought when my eyes opened in the pre-dawn hours to the sound of the Karaoke King’s alarm (I vaguely recalled he had said something about a part time job requiring him to be in the office at 4am) was “I need more sleep. And an Excedrin.” The second was “Shit.”

When I woke up a few hours later I had a bit of a headache. Also, I felt guilty. Guilty about harmless making out with the Karaoke King. It felt like a violation against my sort of spoken but not really enforced agreement with Summer Boy that if and when we got involved with someone else we would tell the other person.

But I hadn’t. Gotten involved, that is. Not enough to warrant having to tell Summer Boy about it. And certainly not enough to feel guilty about. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s his fault I needed the extra making out in the first place!

I should mention that around this time Summer Boy and I were heading into a series of weeks/weekends where at least one of us was unavailable. We were both of out of town one weekend and then the next weekend he had a wedding. He was dog sitting out in the burbs one week, I was away at the lake house the next. We had discussed our schedules so we both knew it was coming, but although I attempted to make more of an effort to see Summer Boy before the sexy time black out it didn’t seem to be a priority on his social calendar.

It was a teeny bit frustrating. You can’t give a girl access to awesomeness and then take it away from her cold turkey. Especially not to watch someone’s DOG. I had figured it wouldn’t hurt to just meet the Karaoke King. So it stands that I shouldn’t feel bad about making out with him, either.

I am going to have to do something about this headache, though. The Karaoke King is a snorer, so despite all the wine I got a terrible night’s sleep. I’m also a bit nauseous, but I think that’s because as he was leaving he whispered something mushy and smothering like “Let’s do this again at my place tonight. What time shall I call you later darling?” Excuse me while I go throw up.

The Best Date Ever?

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Despite passing on polka and some hesitation on my part, the Karaoke King was insistent that we meet in person. We eventually settled on lunch plans which I had to break last minute so I could work from home and wait for the air conditioner repair men to do their thing. Not melting trumped pretty much everything as soon as the weather started warming up.

We tentatively rescheduled with drinks that same night and while I was sitting on my couch in my finally cool condo I tried to think of outdoor bars with a view that were close to me. I couldn’t help but think the best place was my deck, which overlooks the harbor. On the one hand, I had never met this guy so it was possible he was a serial killer (although, really, I think any crazy dude worth his salt would play down the craziness until he was invited into your house, even if it took a few dates to get the nod up). On the other, I did have some fantastic wine at my place and it would be SO easy to just meet at my house. I mean, I was already there.

He had said I could pick anywhere, so after a nod of support from E. I proposed my balcony as the location. It was accepted, although with some concern on his part. I assured him I was cool with it – it is the summer of no rules, after all! After meeting up at an Italian market in my neighborhood to pick up snacks first we headed back to my place.

It was the Best. Date. Ever. Sitting outside, with the gorgeous blue lake and the season’s first sailboats dotting the landscape, we sipped on delicious wine and a feast of olives, salami, caprese salad, cheese and bread. The Karaoke King was completely interesting. He’s lived all over and has had a few different careers in his life (he’s about 5 years older than I). We had overlapping interests and the conversation flowed easily.

The wine flowed easily, too, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the date transitioned right into making out. Making out followed by me wearing these ruffled panties that a neighbor had given me to spice things up with Summer Boy followed by a sleepover.

What had I been thinking?! The thing about a date at your house is that you’re already at your house. I had been worried about the danger of having a stranger in my house, but I completely forgot about the whole end-of-the-date-deciding-about-making-out-and-inviting-people-up scene.

Eh, I'm not going to sweat it. I had a really great evening, failed foresight notwithstanding. But maybe next time I’ll save this particular date idea for #3. Okay, maybe just #2.

Beer + Sausage = Love

Sunday, September 12, 2010
Right around the time I found Summer Boy I heard back from a guy I had emailed on OK Cupid some three months earlier. He’d shown up in my matches but hadn’t been online for awhile, and I had apparently emailed him suggesting that if he did come back online to let me know. When he did, I looked back at his profile and couldn’t quite figure out why I had reached out in the first place.

He turned out to be an interesting guy, though, professing to be a Karaoke King, a runner, and the owner of NFL season tickets (sadly not for the Bears). I had mentioned in our conversations that I was heading to Maifest that weekend, the sister event of my most favorite festival in the city, German Fest. He suggested we meet up there to share some delicious brews and if things went well, perhaps I’d give him a polka lesson. Obviously I’d be hoping for a better result than last year’s debacle.

It seemed like a good idea, especially since I was already planning to be there and could always slip into the crowd with friends if it didn’t work out. It wasn’t until the day of that I started to second guess myself.

For starters, Summer Boy and I had spent some time together that morning. Things were going so well with him – I didn’t want to do anything that would throw a wrench in that well oiled machine. I was also pretty sure that The Bowler was going to be serving beer at the festival. I could only imagine how awesome (read: awkward) it would be to buy beer from him, with some new guy, just after I’d ended things with him. Oh right, I’d be drinking all that beer, too. Who knows what I’d feel like saying or doing after the 2nd stein!

I did see The Bowler, with the very first beer purchase I made. He was on the other side of the beer counter and fortunately I saw him with enough time to drop to the ground and hide instead of making eye contact. I’m a lot of things, but mature in front of an ex is not one of them.

I also saw Marathon Guy, blast from last year’s past, sitting with a group of friends. Again, I was quick enough to maneuver myself out of his line of sight. I’m not sure he would have remembered me, but why chance it?

I even got some texts from Summer Boy, who was getting mystery texts from someone and wondered whether I was sending them from someone else’s phone, which I obviously had not.

The only guy I didn’t see was the Karaoke King. He bailed, saying something about the rain forecast and not wanting to get wet on his bike. He would have gotten wet, it flat out down poured for about an hour towards the end of the night, but then he also would have gotten to huddle with me underneath the big tent, sharing a pretzel.

I should have known better! No matter how many guys I run into, the only love match to be found at German fests is bier. And we are a perfect pair.

Summer Lovin’, Had Me A Blast

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
When we last left our dating heroine (me) she had rid herself of a dud (The Bowler) and found herself a stud (Summer Boy). Not too keen on the effort it took to formally date while blogging about said dating, I went on a break. I didn’t just take the summer off from blogging, though; I freed myself from making any actual relationship decisions as well. It was awesome!

Turns out there’s a market for a lady without an end game, who doesn’t ask herself (or her date) questions about where they see themselves in 5 years or whether they want kids. Turns out you can really enjoy getting to know someone who you find interesting, but know you’ll never see again. Turns out there really isn't a better aphrodisiac than good old-fashioned alcohol.

In refusing to entertain the possibility of a future I was able to really enjoy the present. I worried less about how my actions would be taken and instead did exactly what I felt like. Not every decision was a good decision, and navigating the casual relationship world requires a very different skill set than the one I’d been cultivating, but I have no regrets.

I do have some good stories, though, and before summer ends I think a little kiss and tell is in order. Consider the next few posts your online trashy beach novel.