Pressure or the lack thereof

Something I’m beginning to notice, having found my peace and learned this particular dance of meeting and wooing to some extent, is that seeing multiple people means that each new interaction is taken on its own merits.  I don’t have to, while wining/dining, calculate whether someone has the same musical taste, or the same plans for the future, or the same taste in basically-vegetarian food.  I just need to work out whether they are sufficiently excellent human beings to claim some of my time.  I’m also realizing that this is how I always wanted to operate, and the way that things work best in my head.

Each of these new maybe-something interactions is, perhaps ironically, just about me and the person across from me.  It’s not just in spite of but because of the fact that I’m not coming into it lonely and weary, due to the lovers and others that are already out there.  I’m not looking for anything in particular, except what the party of the other part inspires desire for.  People don’t have to fit some slot in my head before I can want them.

I know some of my readers haven’t been in serial-monogamy headspace for a long time, so these things aren’t revelations.  Some probably never have been.  But this sort of meta-analysis–“can I see this person for years without getting bored? can I commit to not looking for anyone else while I’m doing so?”–is a huge drag on the ability just to enjoy someone.

I probably should have told you this already

To sum up the lead-up to this: when I was 18 I got engaged, and was with her for four years, and then immediately thereafter got involved with someone I was with for six years. When it became obvious that that was unsustainable, and I broke up with her, I had been in ten years of two relationships, both with people who approached me.  There had been some (well, more than some) hanky-panky in my teenage years, but also always with people who made their intentions known first.

So, at 28, I was single for the first time in my adult life, living on my own, and had never asked anyone out.  And didn’t for some time thereafter; I just continued on that path, spending time with the people who approached me.

Erika was 19. Far too young for my 28 years, obviously.  I found her on OkCupid. Gorgeous, of course, which caught my eye, but also fascinating. We had all the cliches in common: musical taste, sense of humor, movies, being the only two interesting people within two hundred miles of each other, etc.  I let it go, though, because she was obviously too young, being nine years younger than me (this will be hilarious to some of the people reading).

For three months, at least.  And then I got in contact with her, and it turned out she’d been trying to work up the nerve to contact me, too. Still, though, it was.. cordial.  On purpose.  I wasn’t hitting on her, I told myself, just getting to know her.  Which I did, and well, for another three months.  She was fantastic, and we clicked hard, and IMed almost every day.  We hadn’t met in person.

Finally, finally, after three months of this, and of conversation edging toward steamy, or going from talking about the sorts of things that we like to her sending me pictures of alterna-porn models, I took the hint and “asked her out”.  We worked out times and dates and such, like you do, and were set to get together in a week or so.

That Thursday, a couple of days later, we were chatting online in the middle of the night, as was our wont, and the conversation just sort of drifted off, as it does.  She said something, and I responded, and then she didn’t respond, and I didn’t think anything of it.  I went to sleep.

She wasn’t online on Friday.

On Saturday, I was contacted by a friend, because I was visible on her MySpace page as someone who’d commented on a couple of things.  He was tracking down her friends, because her parents had called him, as he was a number they’d found in her cell phone.

She’d hurt her back, which I knew about, and she’d gotten something to deal with the pain, which I also knew about.  Morphine, which I could have guessed.  See, she was an ex-junkie.  Or maybe ex-ish.

Anyway, the pain was too much, but she was no good as keeping to dosages, either.  That Thursday while we were chatting, she’d drifted off as I thought, and then she died in her sleep.

Worst place to meet a gal’s parents is her funeral.

That said, the wake was fantastic.  One of the best nights of my life.  An evening sitting around with people that it turned out I liked a great deal, listening to them swap stories about someone they’d known much longer, being just welcomed for the small connection I could make to someone we all wished was there.

This was a traumatic and important event in a lot of ways.  The most relevant to this blog being that it made “asking people out” a very difficult thing for a long time.  Just developing a crush on someone would send me into a panic.  Sending the “hey let’s meet up” message felt like dying; I couldn’t approach someone in person.  I still haven’t, actually, come to think, but I’ve recently become able to make an approach online with what I assume is no more than standard anxiety, which feels like a superpower to me.  I mean, it’s been more than four years, so I think it’s time that I get past this particular hangup, or at least stop blaming it on this incident.

Obviously, of course, other people were much more traumatized by this than I, and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise.  Not least, her poor cat, which was locked in with her for a whole day.