I squint through the afternoon sun slanting into my eyes as I glance up at him. This man who I have admired from a distance for so long was finally walking beside me, close enough to hear his deep rich voice and see little hints of gray dancing in the sunlight.
We are on what I think is a date. It is unclear, as are most catch-ups or coffee walks during this COVID season. Since all we can do in our society right now is go outside and try to socially distance be around people, dating has been stripped down to its simplest core - conversations.
Fortunately, these can happen anywhere and any way, but unfortunately, that flexibility can sometimes lead to a lack of clarity about the situation at hand. Are we on a date or just a walk? Are we catching up as friends or potential partners? Is it just the two of us because he wants it or because that’s all the COVID restrictions allow? In my current situation, I might be on a date, but I may also be on what others, including him, may think is simply time spent getting to know each other better.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a date to me - intentional time set aside for another person you may-or-may-not-be-attracted-to, to get to know them other better, and see if this is someone you want to spend more time with in the future. To listen and ask questions and belly laugh and try not to look too long into each other’s eyes. To see how they (and you around them) interact with the world around you and if they are kind or considerate or aware as you adventure through it. To try to find the balance of letting your heart soar and begin to open while guarding it from too many expectations or plans.
These questions and analysis have already been racing through my mind all week as I stay very present in the moment of this maybe date. I try to soak everything in - every word, intonation, glance, laugh, catch of my elbow, and glimpse of the sun slowly sinking over the city. We discuss all the taboo topics - politics and religion and all the underlying belief systems and questions we have about both. We agree and disagree about things I used to care about, and I realise that none of that actually matters to me anymore.
I have been waiting for this for a year - since the night I crashed a dinner at our mutual friends’ house and heard him speak about his dreams in words that I’ve only heard whispered between me and God. I kept an eye and small door in my heart open for the possibility since then. The interest was there for both of us but never the timing - first his busy season, then mine, with a worldwide lockdown in between.
So, was this it? Was the timing finally working out? I look up at him after he hugs me goodbye long and slow and hope it is. But I walk away in that moment knowing that I am also completely at peace if this long anticipated conversation is not what I hope it is.
And isn’t that what dating is all about? Being ok at each step if you do or do not see that person again. Knowing you just gave value to that person for a few short hours, and not regretting it. Holding hope and disappointment loosely and jointly in your hands.
Can we do that well, even in this current worldwide culture of uncertainty? Can we date well and without clarity in the best of ways?
Of course, there are DTR or “define the relationship moments” where clarity is called for and necessary. But can we also be ok with not having all the answers and not knowing all the definitions and maybe just enjoying the process of getting to know someone a little bit more? As someone who is naturally direct and loves definitions and clarity, I know this is not an easy ask of me or anyone else. Perhaps, though, it is sometimes necessary for the enjoyment of the moment and the journey. At least the beginning of it.
We will see where this new friendship (or maybe more) goes. I like where I am standing today in peace and confidence, fully expecting for this to not go beyond yesterday, while fully hoping for another chance at it tomorrow.