Dating 101: Do you know me?

I had a date this week with a man who told me I was prettier in person than in pictures. Before he said hello or nice to meet you, he said I was “surprisingly attractive”. He explained in detail that I don’t take a great picture. As he let me know I was a “pleasant surprise”, and looked younger in real life, he decided he was going to touch me every time he spoke. Hand on my knee, hand on my arm, hand on my back. At one point he reached over and brushed the hair off my face in such an intimate way I cringed. He was behaving as if he knew me.

My date was under the impression he knew me based on reading my blog. He was so sure he knew me, he acted as if we were not in fact strangers. It rubbed me the wrong way. Literally. He rubbed my back. We were together less than 10 minutes and he rubbed my back as he asked me what I wanted to drink. It was very strange and I found myself confused. I am a very tactile person and I appreciate when someone else is, but this was different. He made me uncomfortable because with each touch he would say, “I feel like I know you”, but he didn’t.

My first instinct was to end the date, but I thought about an email I got recently. A gentleman wrote to say he had been reading my blog for a few months. He felt I needed to think about my audience when writing, as I may offend male readers by being dismissive when I write about a date that has not gone well. In terms of my search for love, I might scare off men with my blog. Even though I write an honest look at my life, he felt like he knew me, but acknowledged he didn’t, so lines were blurred and I can come across as aggressive rather than honest.

He asked if I was writing to share my life with other women, or a guide to men who date. He felt I needed to make it clear who the audience was for each blog so it would be received better. He made me look at my blog in a way I never had before. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I appreciated his email and we corresponded a couple of times. In the end my blog is read by a lot of people. Men, women, Jews, and gentiles. It resonates with different people for different reasons and that is what inspires me to share my journey.

The truth is I write my blog for me. That I make augh, cry, think, and keep the faith is remarkable. When I write the only person whose opinion I consider is my son. I've written thousands of blogs over the years and whether they are about my son, search for love, heartache, my worldview or faith, they are ultimately a love letter to my son. He doesn't read them unless I specifically ask him to because I think he will like it, be moved, or educated. When he does eventually read them all he will know me. That is a contradiction.

I think my son will read my blogs and really know me, yet I am uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger reading the same blogs and feeling they know me. I want my son to understand who I am as a mother, Jew, and woman, yet I am offended when a stranger feels they know me. It is scary, which is funny, which is ridiculous. Is it fair to expect my blogs to mean one thing to my child, yet something else to everyone else in the world? I am not allowed to be selective in this way and there is the dilemma in writing so personally.

To clarify, I was not uncomfortable with this man touching me, but rather with the intimate way in which he touched me. It felt like he was being possessive, which made me feel unsafe. In his attempt to be warm and connected, he actually came across as dangerous and intimidating. In his taking control, I felt out of control, and it didn’t feel good. I found myself looking around to make an escape plan, and couldn’t properly pay attention to our conversation. The first two minutes of our time together threw me for a loop and I really struggled to get back on track.

One could argue that if I had been physically attracted to him I wouldn’t have minded the touching, but I disagree. He started the date by being critical, and though he may have thought he was complimentary, I didn’t take it that way. I was never going to give myself the chance to discover if I was attracted to him. I was unnerved and frightened, so he could’ve been someone I found very attractive but the possibility was immediately shut down. After 30 minutes, which felt like a painfully long time, I asked him to stop touching me as it was uncomfortable.

As soon as I said it I felt horrible. He was embarrassed and immediately shut down.  He went from talkative to quiet and I was mortified as I realized he was not creepy, as much as he was just trying. Rather than tell him I needed to go, I thought about the email and how men and women read my blog differently. I apologized and explained how he made me feel. He listened closely, nodded in agreement on some things, and explained himself on other things. He was open, honest, fragile, and funny. We had a wonderful talk.

As women we worry about things when dating, but never stop to wonder what men worry about. He explained his marriage was spent with a woman who never communicated and he vowed that going forward he would communicate freely as he wanted to be with a woman who was communicative. He was so focused on being open he didn’t think about how he was communicating. His opening with criticism was not his intention and he felt he was being kind. It was enlightening and we ended up spending four hours together.

We spoke about our dating habits, how we presented ourselves, what we said about our lives, and how our past relationships were effecting how we date. I even read him part of the email exchange I had with my reader about my blogs being targeted to women, when men also read. If I had the phone number of the man who wrote me the email I would’ve called and put him on speaker because he was a big part of our very interesting conversation. It was the first time I looked at my dating from the perspective of a man and also how my dating blogs are interpreted.

This man offended me and in turn I hurt his feelings. It was the words of a stranger that inspired me to set aside my initial thoughts and look at things differently and I am grateful. In listening to one stranger I was able to embrace another stranger and walk away with a friend. By allowing myself to be kind instead of dismissive I was shown kindness in return. When my date spoke openly about his insecurities I rubbed his back as a show of support. As I did he said it made him uncomfortable, we both started laughing and our date started over. It was a nice date.

Who really knows who we are? Can someone know me from reading my blog? Reading my dating profile? Having a phone conversation? In the end people know what we want them to know, and even then it is up for interpretation. It turns out that dating is hard for everyone. I always assumed it was harder for women, but men struggle too. Everyone is difficult and while surely easier for some, if women can date knowing some men are nervous, and men can date knowing some women are easily spooked, maybe it will be better. I am keeping the faith.