Friday, February 17, 2017

New Year, New Man

It was January 3, 2017 and it was surprising, but I had a date.

I had kind of fallen out of my "seeing what's out there," phase after so many promising young men just didn't work out for one reason or another. Plus, work got super busy and I couldn't really focus my attention on keeping my job AND finding a boyfriend. 2017 had to be different, though. My sister had made fun of me while I was home and when she called me a "spinster in training," I really didn't have a comeback.

I know there's nothing wrong with being single, but I still owed it to myself to at least have some fun. At least, that's what I told myself, even though my version of fun is staying at home with a bag of pita chips and watching HGTV. I will say, my tiny apartment looks absolutely amazing, since my weeknights and weekends in the fall were basically consumed with working out or decorating.

But to get back to the point, I was making good on my resolution only 3 days into the New Year. I made arrangements with a nice young man through an app. I decided not to go with WebMatch because even though my membership was free, it made me feel a little better to not be indirectly supporting Mr. Larson.

My new suitor, Tom, suggested a wine bar that I had actually been to. I got to the restaurant five minutes early, parked my car, and began fixing my make up when I heard my phone beep. He was waiting in front of the restaurant for me.

I don't know about anyone else, but first meetings still make me overly anxious. I don't know how people can be so calm about meeting someone for a first date. I can rationalize it, but it still makes me incredibly uneasy. It's probably why I'm so picky about who I actually let take me out.

The first thing I noticed about Tom was that he looked shorter than his pictures. I was wearing heels and ended up being almost his height. I'm not a height snob or anything, but it threw me off. I also noticed that he really didn't look like his pictures. I mean, I found him extremely attractive, but it didn't feel like I was meeting the Tom from online. He had short brown hair, brown eyes, and a great smile.

I didn't take this as a bad sign or anything, even though I've had friends who would completely discredit a guy who didn't fit their expectations, but it's something I often wonder about my own pictures. I know I post my best ones, but do they actually look like me? I don't think I'll ever know.

We sat down at a high top table right in front of the bar and a waiter came over relatively quick. We both ordered wine before getting into the typical, interview like questions you ask on a first date. What do you do? Where did you go to school? What side of the bed do you like? (Obviously kidding on that last one).

Conversation flowed pretty well and when it came time to order another round, he turned to me and said, "it's up to her."

"Sure, I could have another glass."

Tom told me about his job as a conservative biologist. He worked for the government and it all sounded very interesting. It was really nice being out with someone who not only did something he was passionate about, but he was also making a difference. The more he spoke about it, the more I could see the passion in his eyes. After I was about halfway through with the second glass, I started feeling a little buzzed, but it only made the date better.

"Well, I think I should be heading home," I finally said after my second glass was done. "We both have work in the morning."

Tom looked at me and smiled. "Yeah, I'll have to take you out again on a weekend."

I felt my cheeks getting red as I tried to keep myself from smiling too wide. "I'd like that."

After he paid the check, Tom walked me to my car. I had butterflies when we were a few feet away from my car, wondering if he'd kiss me or not. I'd be okay if he didn't, since he already told me he'd like to take me out again, but I was really hoping he went for it.

And he did. He kissed me softly as he wrapped his arm around me and placed his hand on my lower back. I didn't even care that we were standing there, making out, in a public parking lot. I didn't want to stop kissing him.

I was excited for our second date. This time, we went out to dinner. Our conversational topics broadened and I felt like we were moving at a good pace. About halfway through dinner, though, I started to feel lightheaded. He was talking about something that happened with his friends and I kept telling myself to just nod. I thought it would pass, but it didn't.

I don't know what happened next, but it felt like I blinked a few times and then Tom was in my face, on my side of the booth, looking terrified, with a huge glass of water in his slightly shaky hand. A concerned bus boy was scratching his head behind Tom.

"Caroline, are you okay?" He asked.

"Um, yeah, I think so," I replied as I weakly reached up for the glass. It just then occurred to me that I really hadn't drank any water that day.

"We were talking and you just fainted," Tom replied.

The only thing worse than how I physically felt was how I psychologically felt. What a way to make an impression on a new guy?

So I was glad when he still texted me the next day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It's Not Easy

"I don't know why I even got a Christmas tree," I sighed as I wrapped up the last ornament to pack away.

"You were trying to be in the holiday spirit," Shelby replied as she picked up her wine glass. "It was well intended." She finished her glass and I saw her pouring herself a hefty second glass out of the corner of my eye.

I shrugged. "Yeah, it's a bummer packing it up, though."

"It might have something to do with you packing it up on December 23rd."

She had a point, but what else was I supposed to do? I was going home in the morning and wasn't going to be back until after New Years. I didn't need a tree rotting away while I was gone.

"Enough about me throwing away my time and money on this stupid thing," I replied. "How're things with you? How's the job search going?"

Shelby took a long sip before answering, though I felt the amount of wine she was drinking was an indication of the answer. "Okay," she finally replied with a sigh. "I have an second interview with a place this week and I could start right after New Years if things go well."

"That's awesome!" I responded with a smile. I was genuinely happy for her. Mr. Larson, the jerk face executive who I first encountered as a rude airplane traveler, had been at our branch of WebMatch in Santa Monica for months now and none of the employees had any idea when he was going to leave. There were apparently a lot of internal adjustments going on in the company that were out of my lower level awareness, but what I did know was that they laid off about half of my department the Friday after Thanksgiving. Shelby was one of the employees to be let go and I felt so awful, while also being thankful that I still had my job. But for how much longer?

"Yeah," Shelby replied with an unenthusiastic nod. "I don't know, though. I've been thinking about going back to school." She began telling me about how she had always wanted to be a lawyer, but couldn't stand the thought of three years of law school. "There's a program for paralegals and I applied this morning."

"I loved school, so I'm always a big supporter of anybody going back." We talked about that a bit more before I began telling her what had recently been going on at WebMatch.

"So, Larson has been having a lot of meetings with me and Pete. The other day he brought up one of our less than great customer feedback forms." I paused to pick up my own glass of wine. The thought of the meeting already had my blood boiling.

"Why is he saying that he feels like you didn't take his preferences into account?" Mr. Larson asked me as we sat at the long conference table. Pete was sitting in between me and Mr. Larson, but he might as well have been invisible, because Mr. Larson wasn't berating him about anything.

"Well," I began as I pursed my lips. "Most of the traits he asked for were purely based on appearance and I tried to take those into account, but there were also personality characteristics based on the most recent research that I had to consider." I passed him some of the papers I had with me, but he waved them away without giving them even a mere glance. "He's been with us three years and while some of those relationships have worked, him and I have discussed that we need to try something different if he wants to find a serious, long-term relationship." 

Everything I had presented to him was true and it's not even like the customer feedback was that bad. He just didn't give us perfect scores and that was something the customer had written in his comments at the end of the survey, along with excellent reviews about me.

"I don't need excuses, Caroline," Mr. Larson replied without considering any of my perfectly valid points. "We just can't keep losing clients like this. The personal matchmaking takes a lot of resources to keep running and if we lose clients we won't be able to maintain the department. Does that make sense to you?"

I was ready to quit right there and after hearing the story, Shelby didn't understand how I didn't blow up at him.

"It's not easy," I insisted. "But I've decided to channel all that energy into kickboxing. Plus, I've started doing deep breathing exercises at my desk."

Shelby and I finished up the process of taking down my Christmas tree. Then I forced myself to go to sleep so I could wake up super early for my flight.

It was really nice to see my family for the week. I missed being home, but I did not miss that cold. I spent a lot of the time inside with my sister, who was also off for the week.

Then New Year's Eve rolled around. I went with my friends to a catering hall, like we had done a few times already. It was fun to get dressed up and see them. Not to mention that I killed in my crop top and skirt combination. Thanks were due to kickboxing, yet again.

Moose was there, though. He didn't try to talk to me and I was thankful he didn't. I was so busy catching up with everyone that I don't think anybody noticed, but I did. He was giving me weird looks all night, but he was also glued to his cell phone. Anna told me him and Jacky had broken up, but he was already back on Tinder. "He's talking to a lot of girls," she informed me, without any prodding. "He's kind of being sleazy with it."

Moose? Sleazy? No way! I was so glad that things hadn't gone further with us. He wasn't worth it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Impressions

I made a list on my flight back to California. I had to make a conscious decision to make certain changes in my life. Why did I continuously return to the past? First, I wanted to hook up with my ex-boyfriend and then, I actually did make out with Moose. What was wrong with me?

But these were mistakes, I told myself. I was making some concrete efforts to move forward. After all, I had been on two, successful dates with Chris. I was really getting along with him and he was great on paper, so that was a start.

So, I began by writing some obvious self-help tips: start actually exercising regularly, listen to that podcast about being assertive and confident, make avocado toast for breakfast at least once, maybe you'll like it! I was super focused on the list when I felt someone bump into my right arm.

"Ouch," I yelped as I instinctually gripped my elbow.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," said a middle-aged man in a suit.

I looked up at him with a tight lipped smile. "It's okay," I replied.

That should've been the end of the encounter, until the man decided to add one piece of advice. "Maybe you should keep those dainty little elbows out of the isle."

My face scrunched up. Maybe I was still worked up from the weekend. Maybe I was primed to stand up for myself because I wanted to listen to that podcast. Maybe it was the glass of wine I had at the beginning of the flight. I can't tell you exactly what gave me more courage that day, because normally I would've kept my mouth shut, but I did not.

"Maybe you should watch where you're going," I scoffed as I turned my attention back to my notebook. There was now a big, misplaced line right across all my ambitions. I actually thought the irony was comical.

I heard the man mumbling as he continued on his way. The only words I could clearly make out were "entitled," and "millennials." I didn't care, though. I wouldn't normally think twice about an interaction with a rude stranger like this.

But I did think about it again. I thought about it the next day when I went into work. Pete was leaned up against my cubicle with a large cup of coffee. "Morning, New York," he greeted me.

I threw my bag under my desk and turned to look at him. "You're here early," I replied as I rubbed my eye. The jet lag was real.

"Yeah, well, we have a big shot in today." Pete took a sip of coffee as he turned and pointed to the conference room. There, through the glass walls, I saw my friend from the plane. He was standing in the front of the room with a bunch of department heads seated at the table.

"Fuck," I said as my anxiety levels spiked. How could I be such an idiot? Work was the one thing going right in my life.

"It's not that big of a deal, Caroline," Pete assured me. "You have top numbers. He'll love you."

I looked down and began playing with my cuticles. I decided not to share my story with Pete at that exact moment. No need to have two worriers. Pete began explaining the situation to me. I was half listening as he told me that the company had a lot of adaptations and innovations in the works. I knew he had been to New York a few times over the past few months, but he was always very hush hush about it. He went on and on for a while and I got the impression that he had been wanting to share this secretive transition with me for a  while.

"So, I hate to do this to you on your first day back, but he wants you in our meeting at 3."

I felt nauseous, but I nodded before abruptly telling Pete I was going to go grab a cup of coffee.

It was easy to take my mind off the upcoming meeting. I had so many emails, so I kept my head buried. I didn't even realize it was lunch time until Pete came over and knocked on the wall of the cubicle. I looked up and he was shaking a small pizza box.

I followed him into his office and realized how hungry I was once I smelled the thin crusted pizza. I began scarfing it down as Pete went over some numbers he wanted me to know. We continued until it was almost 3. I would've been nervous even if I hadn't already interacted with this guy. Once Pete went over everything with me, I started to really realize how important this meeting was not only for my job, but for the company.

I had made a decision, though. I was going to pretend like I didn't even recognize him from the plane. After all, maybe he didn't see my face. Maybe if I talked in a bit of a lower tone of voice, he wouldn't even make the connection. With his attitude and sense of importance, he probably had hostile encounters all the time.

I took a deep breathe as I followed Pete out of his office. I happened to look down and catch a glance at his cute butt as we walked out. It actually made me feel a little better.

"Hello, Mr. Larson," Pete greeted him with a strong handshake. "I'd like to introduce you to one of our top members in charge of VIP memberships, Caroline."

Mr. Larson's eyes met my eyes and I channeled all my energy into a strong poker face. His face was blank for a couple of seconds, but it felt like a full minute, before he finally said, "Hello, Caroline. It's nice to meet you. I've heard a lot of good about your department."

I was finally able to breath easy. At least, for now.