37. The Teacher

juggler-1216853_1920Right around my dating anniversary, I quit using Tinder, overhauled my Bumble profile, and decided to spring for a one-month subscription. The main benefit of the subscription is that it allows me to browse through a list of men who had already swiped right on me. If I was interested, my right swipe sealed the deal and we had a match. Knowing that statistically, for every five matches, only one or two would ever make it to date level, I threw caution to the wind and matched with seven men from my “bee line.” From that batch emerged The Teacher, a table-top gaming enthusiast with a flair for woodworking and painting. We hit it off immediately. He was headed out of town for a few days, but we texted throughout his trip, settling on plans to meet for brunch when he returned.

Our first date lasted over ten hours. And it was…lovely. Brunch, banter, kissing, movies, Indian delivery, sex, another movie, more sex, a shower, and some laundry thrown in for good measure. I was enamored. So much so, in fact, that I  decided to do something I’d never done before: I deleted my dating apps. My motivation stemmed in part from a naïve optimism that by doing so, I’d be clearing the slate, un-muddying the waters of my tandem approach to dating. It also stemmed from a conclusion that I hadn’t quite reached until then — by not allowing myself to focus on one person at a time, I had likely limited the potential of some of my matches. And I felt good about The Teacher, like he had potential, and I didn’t want to ruin it. The imminent approach of our first date played a big part in the timing of my choice to finally break things off with The Hermit.

By the time we’d had our second date, I had sent texts to The Cop and The Leaguer (both of whom had been trying to pin me down for a get-together), letting them know that I was taking a break from the dating scene to see how this thing played out. I gushed to my girlfriends and officemates. I told The Confidante and The Voyeur, both of whom seemed happy for me.

And then it hit me: I didn’t know how to do this. I had been a master man-juggler for a year, never sending a text to an unintended recipient, never calling anyone the wrong name, never confusing my schedule. And here I was, with only one person to focus on, and I perpetually felt like I was forgetting something. It didn’t help that The Teacher’s schedule left him largely unreachable throughout his work day, and his relative introversion meant that he needed a recovery buffer after work. His texts were precious, infrequently sent, and eagerly consumed. I felt hungry, a sensation I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. My mind would drift at work from what I should be doing to what his eyes looked like in the afternoon sun. Cue dramatic girly sigh.

And yet. I had inadvertently trained myself to feel comfortable with juggling mode, and single-minded dating was foreign. I felt edgy, and the temptation to fire up the dating apps again to fill the void danced in my mental periphery. I began to suspect that I liked The Teacher quite a bit more than he liked me. The suspicion developed into a realization, and I absorbed this new reality with a sense of objective fascination: is this what the guys I’ve dated have been feeling?

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ve unknowingly already seen the conclusion to this post. As it turns out my suspicion was accurate. As much as rejection hurt, knowing that I was right did soften the blow…a bit.

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