Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Beginning

Four years ago I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

About 2 months prior, after my friend Katherine suggested it, I had begun to use OkCupid to meet people. I had decided I actively wanted to seek dates and see how it worked. I'd never tried online dating, but here's the thing, I had a bad habit.
Out of all my guy friends, I've dated most of them. I don't know if this is actually "bad," but it certainly has the possibility of making things awkward. Luckily for me, most of my friends have been really cool about it and have maintained a friendship with me with little to no ill effect. Because, I suppose, I believe a good friendship is the best basis for a good relationship, male friends would often become attractive to me and/or would continue to be attractive as friends after a relationship didn't work out.
But, there is (as always) a cost to this. Not only does this run the well dry, so to speak, it also had the negative effect that having dated (and not been successful) with those guys and being somewhat infamous around here, word had spread about me since I was 17. There are still people who believe I am the ridiculous spaz I was when I was a kid. I'm 28. It's been over 10 years.... let's move on, shall we? So sometimes, when I would meet someone new, it was always because they were a friend of someone else.... and had heard about me from them. And possibly even heard about my divorce. That doesn't mean they all thought poorly of me, or even acted negatively about that information... but that information is still there. I was tired of meeting people who thought they had some idea of who I am. (Nowadays, it's amusing to do so, because I can either act like I meet their expectations, or completely confuse them. But that's irrelevant here.) When it comes to dating, you don't want all those notions. Since I'm not really into the bar scene, and school meant most of the guys were significantly younger than me, I decided the best way to meet people who hadn't heard of me or had preconceived ideas about me was through the internet.

If you're not familiar with OKC, I'll give you a quick description of how it works (and a high recommendation because the whole thing makes a lot more logical sense than other sites). There's lots of ways to meet people, but the biggest ones are just setting up search parameters and browsing, or using "quick match." What I liked the best about OKC is that it's free. Seriously. They have a paid option, but all it really does is remove ads. Otherwise, it's fully functioning. You can do a few things to help your profile be searched by potential friends and mates. You can answer a virtually endless supply of questions, many of which are user generated (reviewed to keep from being repetitive). These run the gamut of serious to silly, from asking how you feel about controversial issues like gay marriage and abortion, to asking you "WHAT is your quest?" (The correct answer is obviously "To seek the Holy Grail!") But even more important about these questions is that OKC follows each question with two more. First, what answer would your ideal mate give, and second, how important is this question to you? When talking about nerdy things or political issues I strongly believe in, I'd say it's high in importance that their answer match mine. But someone else might not care about politics. See how much sense that makes? These questions then make percentages that you see when viewing other profiles. Romantic match, friends match, and enemy match. I usually aimed to keep my romantic matches over 85%. And you can set up your search parameters to include that. You also can take quizzes to see how others match up to your results, and a few other tools create search parameters to browse. You can read their whole profile, check their interests, pictures, "stats" (things like if they're a cat or dog person, if they smoke, use drugs, drink, have a job, etc), and if you so choose, send em a message and see if it fruits anything. The other way to meet people is called Quick Match. You click on the option, and it gives you the abbreviated version of their profile, your percentage match, and their primary profile picture, and you give them a quick rating on a 5 star scale. If you rate someone a 4 or higher, they get a notification that someone has done so. But they aren't told who. They simply have to do the same thing and the profile who rated them high will be somewhere in the first few profiles they view. If you BOTH rate each other a 4 or higher, you'll both get a notification and are encouraged to speak to one another.

The second is how Alan & I got matched. I rated him first, he was exactly my type. Scrawny, ginger, geeky and cute, and then he picked me out of the random sampling to rate high as well. And then HE messaged me. Though his confidence was lacking because he opened with "So it seems we both rated each other high, and that doesn't happen to me very often, I figured I should say hi."
Awwwwww. <3
My favorite thing on his profile was the portion marked "The first thing people usually notice about me is: That I'm really tall, I'm 6'4"! :D" I like me some tall dudes. I'm kind of tall myself, I don't like towering over guys.

But getting him to actually come out and meet me was quite an exercise. We probably spoke online for 3-4 weeks before our first date. I kept urging him to come and meet me out at Denny's or some other innocuous public place. He kept waving it off saying it takes him a while to meet people in person from the internet. I shrugged it off. I had a few other dates as well in this time period, so I wasn't worried, but I did want to meet this guy.

Finally, the final week of the year, both of us had plans fall through for NYE, and this was finally enough time (and fb stalking) for Alan to meet me. He suggested I come to his place to watch movies.
I know, I know, go to some stranger's house alone, I'm dumb.
But I felt pretty confident that I could handle myself if something happened. I'm pretty good at telling when a situation is going poorly.
And the day finally came around. I had some running around to do earlier in the day, including stopping in to see my grandpa. My grandmother had died a little over a month before, and we were all trying to make an effort to check in on him and chat, it kept his spirits up. So I stopped in to see him. My grandpa is really old fashioned and is a huge worrier. When X left me, mom made me tell him myself and this resulted in a 30 minute phone call in which he asked me over and over why I wasn't trying harder to change his mind, why was I getting divorced (even though I tried to tell him X left me, it wasn't my choice), and moaning about all his children who've been divorced, and now his grandchild. Frustrating, but I try to remember it's because he loves me and wants me to be happy. But as I sat speaking to him about how he & grandma used to spend NYE, he asked me if I had any plans. I told him I had a date that evening.

He was quiet for a moment, and then asked me, "How do you know he's the one?"

The divorce had only happened earlier this same year. It was still pretty recent. I had to stop myself from being really offended and just snapped back with "I don't, that's why I'm going on a date. I haven't even met the guy."

He didn't really say much about it after that. We spoke about other things, and then I left. I went home, got ready, and then drove over to Alan's apartment. Which turned out to be 5-10 minutes down the road. Practically around the corner.
Go figure.
I called him when I pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex to find which building was his and where I should park. I was shocked by how deep his voice was, since his pictures just gave me the impression of the scrawny kind of dweeb. I almost thought I'd dialed the wrong number, but seeing as we'd been texting for a week, I knew it wasn't wrong. We hadn't spoke yet, though, so his voice was quite a shock. When I finally got up to his apartment, he was in the middle of playing a level of God of War.
I was working at a video rental place at the time, so once we got past our awkward introductions, and I politely let him finish the level he was on (I understand man!), we decided our plans for the evening would be to go use my free rentals on some movies and games (he had a PS3, which I wasn't super familiar with, but he DID have Rock Band, and gorram if I don't love me some Rock Band!), and make dinner at his place. We picked up Lego Rock Band, a few movies, and headed back. Alan made me a nice alfredo pasta for dinner, we played some games, and sat on his couch and watched movies. Because I wasn't keeping track of the time, we missed when the new year rolled over, because Alan hadn't thought it was a big deal. When I had noticed, I told him happy new year, and he said the same and that was it.
I was totally into this guy, but he seemed so uncomfortable.
And then I realized he was so awkwardly cute. Because he was almost the text book definition of a nerd. Online dating had been his choice because the internet made him comfortable. He kept suggesting another movie for us to watch in order to get me to stay, rather than just telling me. And he wouldn't make a move if I wasn't more obvious. So my first move was to sit closer on the couch and make contact. Once that happened, he relaxed a little bit. Finally, when one movie ended, and he began looking at his collection of dvds to suggest another, I leaned into his line of sight and told him "You can kiss me, you know?" He kind of blinked at me, got a little flushed and said, "Oh!"

That was our first kiss, lol. Adorable. We watched a few more movies, and he started to loosen up and got to talking. We realized we did know a few of the same people, but not enough that he had ever heard about me. BUT enough of those people who did know him I knew I could trust their opinions, and later they all confirmed what a great guy he was. We stayed up until 7 am talking and laughing, and then I headed home. On New Year's Day, Alan met me out for dinner at Red Robin, in a snow storm, before I had to head in to my very first shift at the job I have hated the most (midnight janitor at a movie theatre), and we saw each other every day for nearly the next month.

The first year was a lot of growing pains. It turned out that Alan's struggle with anxiety was more than just his general geeky awkwardness and may have been a factor in him not maintaining any real long-term relationships before me. As I came to understand more and more of his dating hang ups, I taught him that not every problem means we have to break up, that some differences can be solved and worked through. And he learned that there are some issues which I will never change my mind on, and as we dated, he became more vocal about what he believed as well. We grew and challenged each other, and we both learned a lot about what an adult relationship means. I learned when to give space, and Alan learned when to get close. And we have fit together like a puzzle ever since.

I knew I had found something special that New Year's 4 years ago. I didn't know how special yet, but I knew he was important.

Thank you, Alan, for being exactly what I was looking for, and more than I ever thought I deserved. <3