Dating Across Party Lines

In the spring of 2017, I went on a date with someone I met online. It was Bumble, the supposedly feminist dating app, which is different because men can’t message a woman unless she messages him first, so basically women are stuck with more of the work. I have been on many online dates since my divorce four years ago, and this one didn’t necessarily start out any different, but we had chemistry, and I was fairly confident we would see each other again. I wasn’t sure what would happen beyond that because we were somewhat different. We didn’t talk about it, but there were signs. I had recently marched in Washington, D.C. in protest of the inauguration of Donald Trump, and he drove a big white truck with a YETI sticker on the bumper.

If we met a few years ago, I may not have gone out with him again. I might have crafted a T-chart, with things like “wears cowboy boots” on one side and “makes me happy” on the other, as if those were equivalent in importance. Luckily, I had experience dating post-divorce and after many break ups and some good therapy sessions I learned that I should not plan my entire future with, or without, someone on the first date. Maybe instead I should just have fun and see what happens, which feels like driving down a dark, canopy road with no headlights. As someone who prefers to plan ahead, I want my dating endeavors to be like doing taxes with Turbotax, “You are now 75% done!”

With this particular person, I climbed up into his front seat and just went along for the ride. During the first several weeks, I was having too much fun to perform any kind of assessment, and I never felt insecure enough to freak out because he was different than most of the other guys I had dated, meaning that he was not a jerk, married, or dead inside. We did not discuss our political opinions at the beginning, and sometimes that was a bit of a cloud, leaving me wondering if it would eventually rain on our love parade.

As a writer, who writes about my personal life and opinions, it is difficult to keep my ideologies out of the public sphere. I am one quick Google search away from being an open book. One night leaned up against a railing staring at the Gulf of Mexico, we bridged the subject. He said he did not want to be with someone who was his mirror image. I agreed. I work with a radical feminist group in Tallahassee, and when I first mentioned that I was going to a meeting, I called it “a women’s group” as if we were gathering to talk about the new edition of our local cookbook and not working to topple the patriarchy. He was not fooled and told me he was proud that I fight for what I believe. With that moment, I metaphorically inched a little closer to him in the cab of his truck.

Now, I have space in a closet he cleared out for me at his house. He moved some suits that he never wears and a few jackets to make room, but left a half-dozen shotguns. Every time I slide open the closet door, I see them lined up between my row of strappy sandals and the ruffled hems of my sundresses. They are a reminder that life is most interesting when it offers up the unexpected. We do not often talk about politics when we are together. That is why I have a Twitter account. When an issue does come up, I am usually able to at least understand why he would feel that way, unless he mentions something about emails. What I have realized is that I love him more than I love being right, and I am not sure I could have felt that way in a relationship before my 40th decade. We probably won’t ever celebrate 50 years together, unless both of us make some serious lifestyle changes, like cryogenics, but I am thankful every day that I did not meet him a moment sooner.

 

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Florida

Funny girl writes a sad-ass poem. I’ve got some nerve. Thanks to a dear friend who shared some of her inspired writing with me last weekend, I remembered this poem that I wrote  while living in New Jersey, more than ten years ago. I wanted to share it here both for a change of pace and as an act of fearlessness. Sharing funny stories is easy. They are veiled. This is written by a much more vulnerable character.

When I wrote this, my dad was still alive.

Florida

Home was barefoot under the canopy of cypress,
Sucking on watermelon rinds, eating oranges off the tree.
His mama tucked biscuits in his pocket,
He picked sand briars out from between his toes.
He went to the grove to help the pickers,
And slept in the shed on nights when the pipes might freeze.

How could he survive after they moved him
To palm-lined streets on the wings of his father,
Abandoning one Florida wilderness for another?
He stole lobsters out of traps in Biscayne Bay.
He walked barefoot into Woolworth’s
And climbed spindly palms to escape the obstruction of a stucco view.

He worked at a gas station and dated a rich girl,
He watched his Florida disappear,
He did landscape work for a golf course community.
He tried to teach me better.
Swim, sugar! Deep into the fresh, dark water of your home.
Let the tannins course through your veins.

Paddle up the river and keep an eye out for gators,
They only attack tourists and cowards.
You’re great granddaddy cooled his feet in this river.
Yankees won’t swim here, they are too scared, but not my girl,
You swam in Lake Walk-in-Water before you could walk.
You belong here in this real Florida.

But the concrete closed in around us, didn’t it Daddy?
No Staghorn Ferns and fish beds where I am now.
People escaping south in old age don’t know what they have destroyed.
They do not see the moss dragging a line in Charlie Creek
Or Cypress trees seated defiantly in the middle of black water currents.
I’ll remember though, just for you.
I will swing out strong on tattered ropes and dive into the darkest of water.