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Men Like Him


Dating in San Francisco is weird.

He said after he sipped his second sazerac, that I paid for, on our first date.

I replied, agreeing without really knowing why. Wondering how many other girls, or boys, or in-between unidentifieds he had dated before me. How many he would date after me.

We first met at a bar. It was during baseball season and we were winning and everyone was excited. He claimed I was eyeing him and I never corrected his assumption because I wasn’t actually eyeing him. I was eyeing this other guy standing near him, probably a friend of his, and debating whether or not this Javier Bardem look-a-like was gay. I then asked all my co-worker friends whether or not they thought he was gay. No one knew. No one really cared because from afar you can speculate, fantasize and then move on. No harm, no foul, no expectations, no disappointment. That is dating in San Francisco. Before I knew it I was no longer drunkenly speaking German to my boss, but instead to this other Chris, who had been lingering near Bardem but was now sitting next to me. And who also, I thought, could possibly be gay.

Years ago I’d fallen in love with an East German man when visiting Berlin, or maybe it happened over a period of months and subsequent visits, or it could have even happened years after that initial contact when I returned, yet again, and everything about us and how we are together came back. Rushed back like a flood. I slept in his bed, like I always had. He was now with someone else. We had both been with many other people. Yet, that first night back, I told him I thought I was in love with him. He didn’t really know what to do, given the circumstances, and I didn’t really know if I was actually in love with him anymore, or just remembered what I thought could have been love. I realized while I did love him as a person, I mostly loved everything about the way we were or could have been. The surreal times we spent together and the promise of more to come was what I was in love with: the untainted possibility of a future. The miscommunication and misplacement, due to our different native languages and cultures, that allowed everything in between to swell up into future perfects, instead of present or past mistakes.

This is how I first came to find I was even interested in the German language. So there I was years later, in San Francisco at this bar exchanging my number with Chris because he was a native German speaker and I thought we could have an intercambio (this is what I did to practice Spanish). I wasn’t interested in anything else. I was flattered he was clearly interested in me, but I was more excited about practicing my German skills with someone.

Later that evening my friend and I went to a burrito joint nearby and fate would have it that this Chris sat down next to us, with a woman. I had heard them speaking German, so when the woman sat next to me I introduced myself with the best of my ability, from my one semester of language class, and then stopped when I ran out of things I knew how to say. He tried to converse with my friend and I, but I, thinking he was on a date, acted uninterested. I was in fact terribly confused as I could not comprehend how this man could have asked for my number thirty minutes ago and now be sitting with someone else. I was disappointed as I decided he was never actually interested in me, then further annoyed at myself for thinking he would be interested in me, then mad at myself for questioning my ability to get asked out, then depressed that I have an ego that fluctuates so much. I realized that I may have convinced myself I didn’t care, but maybe I did, in fact, care and, disgusted at my inability to know my own feelings, I tried to eat my burrito in silence. We all went home and I ignored his text message because I still didn’t know how I felt, much less had the energy to decipher what he could possibly want.  

Later that weekend or week, I don’t remember, I ran into him again at the same bar where we had first met. He wondered why I didn’t answer him. I told him I did, because at some point between my crisis and our run in I think I did answer him. This is how we went out on our first date.

After our date, he walked me home and carried my bike up my stairs. I thought, wow, I actually like this person. I actually like a person. I liked how he told me I didn’t have to qualify that I might someday want kids, even as I continued to qualify it. He asked if I read, then apologized for asking such a stupid question when he realized of course I read. He intrigued me with his conversation and slight accent and admission to having been sick as a child. I felt like I knew enough about him to know that I’d want to see him again and be excited about him. That hope, thought, made me assume something would be off so I figured he would probably be a bad kisser. I almost hoped for it because that way we could be friends and no one would get hurt. My heart floated for a second and then dropped when, after our first kiss, I realized how much I enjoyed it and immediately thought shit, we are going to see each other again. On his way out I asked him if he was seeing anyone else and said if he was I didn’t want to see him again. He wasn’t, so we saw a lot of each other for a while. 

The first night sleeping at his place I dreamt that my best friend told me "Chris can never love you the way the way you need to be loved." I did not tell Chris about this dream. I may have told him all the other parts of the dream but I left out that one important part. I pretended I did not have that part of the dream and only shared it with the friend who had spoken the foreshadowing words. My friend told me that we dream to work out our worst fears. I tried to believe this, but I felt something creeping up inside me and I hoped it wasn’t my intuition. I kept going in this thing that Chris and I had talked about was mutual and exclusive and called dating. We were not boyfriend and girlfriend. This confused me but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know my dream was correct at the time.

So fast forward through quite possibly one of the better dating experiences I’ve had as of late. He was consistent, punctual, sent sweet and frequent text messages, planned dates, paid for things enough times to make me feel like he was paying, but not enough to make me think we weren’t equal, did things with me that I enjoyed doing. He was not passionate. He did not talk about his feelings. He never told me I was special or beautiful or even that he liked me, simply and purely. Once I brought this up, the fact that he didn’t think I was unique, and he stared at me like a deer in headlights. He either had no idea what I was talking about, never has felt that way about anyone, or simply thought I was ridiculous for thinking he would feel that way about me. The fact that I thought this was what I wanted, that this was enough, is beyond me. I think I just thought this is what comes along with consistency, punctuality, planned dates, etc. I thought this is dating in San Francisco: you think it is too good to be true and then you realize it is, but you like everything else so you keep doing it.

Until he stopped me one night and said he didn’t know what to do with me. I was shocked he would speak about me like that - how his phrasing assumed so much agency on his behalf and none on mine; his utter selfishness in the situation. As if I were a dog that he was starting to love but then, when he got a great job offer in some other place and couldn’t bring me along, then he thought I don’t know what to do with you, dog. I was offended and scared, because I knew it was the beginning of the end of me being with someone I was quite possibly starting to love. Someone I would fantasize about and in my head, and, yes, make up dream possibilities of a future. A future I would always qualify by saying if it isn’t Chris it will be someone else like Chris. Dating Chris made me hopeful of dating someone else better than Chris, but the thought of not dating Chris, well that I had not had to deal with so I was simply happy in future Chris’ but never really contemplated the reality of having to end it with the current Chris in order to be with the future possibilities of other men like him, other men like him but better.

So when he said he didn’t know what he wanted, that he didn’t know what he wanted in a lot of things, I knew it was done, over. I knew I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t know he wanted me, someone who didn’t know what he wanted in a lot of things, despite the fact that he had a great life with a great potential and a great mind and the possibility of a great girlfriend lying next to him (me). I knew that he either was simply not in love with me, or did not have the capacity for love, or was confused beyond return and that I was probably not going to be the girl to change that. I knew I could not wait around for this man who did not think I was special.

This is what I hear my straight, female friends talk about when we talk about dating in San Francisco. We are attractive and open and successful; creative and funny and smart; we know what we want and yet have not found men that simply know what they want. Or maybe we just think we know what we want and haven’t yet realized that we don’t actually know what we want. I know that I think I know and that I’ll know when I know, but I also know that knowing is what drives men that haven’t thought about what there is to know, away. My friends all tell me I will meet someone else, someone better for me, or they tell me I will meet lots of people all over the world, because I always meet people. But the very notion of lots of possible people is overwhelming. The very idea that there will be many more to come is exhausting. I would rather just fantasize about the future perfect that is not yet crossed and tainted then live through the grueling reality of dating, in San Francisco or anywhere. Because that’s what dating is no matter where you are - it is learning about what you want or think you want and in the end really just learning about yourself and all the things you still have not figured out or faced or simply accepted. 

Stephanie Echeveste is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find her website here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by the author.

"How Never (Original Mix)" - David Jach, Beatamines (mp3)

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Reader Comments (1)

Very interesting post. Pics are simply superb. And the last part of the post is simply awesome. Thanks for sharing.
January 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersnapdeal coupons

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