History Class

kissing

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Smoke and Mirrors

Then again, ANYTHING Jon Hamm does is sexy...

Then again, ANYTHING Jon Hamm does is sexy…

There’s an undeniably perverse sex appeal to smoking that transcends rhyme or reason.

I know, I don’t like it either. It’s a bad penny that keeps showing up in your pocket, covered in grime, but somehow still works. I can’t help seeing it and thinking, “Yea, alright then. I’ll let it slide.” Somehow still ups the tally.

The guy from this week (yet to be named; I’m waiting to see if date two occurs) is a smoker. Said he’s quitting, but I suspect that’s a dating ploy. So many people list is as a dealbreaker, he’s probably adapted to social norms. I’d much rather people be unapologetic. The Mistake was a smoker, and didn’t claim otherwise; he simply made sure I had a full drink and was content before popping outside for a quick one. But unlike with him, this week I joined.

When a date smokes, I usually send them out on their own and amuse myself talking to the server/bartender/surrounding patrons. I’m perfectly comfortable taking care of myself, and I appreciate the added proof to the guy that I don’t need his constant presence to enjoy my night. I’m not clingy, and don’t require incessant attention. It’s monotonous.

Unless you smoke gross cigarettes. A coworker of mine smokes something nasty, and each time we talk after a break outside, I have to fight gagging. And these excursions occur every twenty minutes. I don’t know which poison of choice he carries, but the smell trails after him like a shadow of ash and odor. It’s awful.

Some don’t bother me; I think it’s the more natural tobacco. The scent triggers memories of college parties and nights with Big Bro’s friends in Philly or home. It’s basement shows and late-night rages, wandering South Street for pizza and following DJ sounds to a new dive. They’re good memories. And I smoke hookah anyway, so not all tobacco rubs me wrong. As a social smoker, I see the shared enjoyment of it. The communal moments circled around a shisha or ashtray. The particular intimacy of a shared cigarette, or leaning to accept someone’s offered flame. There is something illicit in such communion; it’s dark and alluring.

What does hit me wrong are the brands crafted solely for chain smokers. You can actually smell the addiction in the air. It’s all strained teeth, yellow skin, and cancer. It’s my aunt’s chemo, head scarves, and funeral. It’s the kids that barely survived our high school, and a few that didn’t. They smell of degenerates, death, and dumbasses. I might date smartasses, and a few jackasses– but I never date dumbasses. If a were ever out with a guy that smoked these, he would never reach date two. Kissing these smokers is like kissing an ashtray of disease. Just don’t do it. I don’t want all of my kisses to taste bad.

Gained serious cool points when I added that to my party resume.

Gained serious cool points when I added that to my party resume.

Thankfully, Mystery Man’s smoke doesn’t bother me. In fact, I switched it up and joined his breaks this week. He seemed a little more nervous than me, and relaxed more in his zone. Our bartender is an industry acquaintance, and was more than entertaining on the patio. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to ensure him that I don’t mind cigarettes, though I don’t personally partake. I mentioned hookah, and he perked up that he had never tried it but was curious. So I explained, and added that one of my goals during my time in the Middle East was to learn how to blow smoke rings. We compared notes on the easiest way to make them, and promised I’d show him a few great spots if he’d like. I think this is when the date turned to more comfortable level for us both. The chemistry ignited and caught fire.

So he’s an interesting one. He’s older (a topic to be discussed in my upcoming article, “What’s Your Number?”), taller (despite size not always mattering, I really do enjoy a 6″4 guy), and new to the area. I love new people. Showing them around, sharing the city as I know it… nothing beats it. Because they’re just as excited as I am; others who have lived here as long or longer than I are typically calmer or more jaded about our town. I prefer the excitement.

And he is subtly exciting. He’s old enough to know who he is, what he wants, but young enough to still want something new. He lives rather far out in suburbia, and deeply regrets it– something I find attractive. I only want to see people interested in being in the middle of it all. He is rather good at dropping the most interesting comments into conversation in the most quietly unassuming way. Instead of asking if I like Doctor Who, he mentions how our topic is like an episode. (And I fucking love Doctor Who– very geek chic.) While talking about how he didn’t start drinking until his later-20’s, he modestly credited it to having to be out on his own at age 17, being responsible with a full-time job instead of partying. In lieu of declaring the much-sought-after ability to keep rhythm and dance, he broke off mid-thought and said he loves the blues tune the band was playing, and the inspiration to dance was distracting him. He loves live music, but also likes to be able to hear the person he’s with? Alright, then– let’s move to the back bar, where it’s a little quieter. And hey, there’s even a real fire back there! (Both figuratively and literally.)

Dating suspense: drives me almost crazy enough to smoke.

Dating suspense: drives me almost crazy enough to smoke.

He’s comfortable with who he is. He admitted the first thing he drank was a period of Rumplemints (of which he had to get the bartender to hit me a shot, since my lack-of-girly-drinking had never had it). So maybe he actually is unapologetic in personality; he laughed enough at himself for it, and maintains it’s a delicious liquor. He mentions his experiences being single in DC in a relaxed way, and has no problem with questions. He asks some on his own, too. By the end of the night, he offered to drive me home. We parked outside my house to finish a conversation long enough to make me wonder if I should kiss him. But I refrained; I made the first move twice with him already. First, in contacting him; second, in asking him out. I know he’s older, but he needs to make the next move.  I need him to make the next move.

When I mentioned earlier in the night that I usually go to Madam’s on Thursdays for salsa and karaoke, he looked thoughtful and said he could probably make it. So I texted him yesterday that my friends are definitely going; he has an early flight Friday, and said maybe. Today, I texted that I promise the roof patio will be open to smoke this time, and I promise I won’t make him do birthday cake shots with the bartender again. He wrote back laughing. I understand flights and late nights don’t mix, but I can’t help hanging on the suspense if he’ll put in the effort. (And therefore judging a possible lack of it if he doesn’t show.) He’s attractive, tall, older, interesting– and fuck me, he looked hot smoking those damned cigarettes.

I don’t know if his smoke is hiding mirrors or if this is a genuine and sustainable interest, but color me intrigued.

Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

Sex gives a whole new meaning to the classic 80’s song. Originally the Clash’s version of romantic angst, it always pops into my head when struggling with the decision to take it to the next level with a guy or not.

It’s never asked to him, because I know what his answer will always be—a resounding ‘Yes!’ It’s more like a mildly schizophrenic internal discussion. ‘Should I let him stay, or not?’ I’ve been out with this one guy a few times, genuinely like being around him, and definitely like the kissing activities. But to be honest, that could be chalked up along with a lot of guys I date—this one simply intrigues me enough.

For me, it’s all about the experiences. Your youth is the time to explore, and I’m not trying to squander my life by worrying too much. I worry just enough for myself, and the rest is history. There have been times when amazing chances slipped out of my fingers in the past, and I’m not about to let it happen any more.

Carpe diem 2012! Right?

I believe this Exploration Era should be applied to sexuality and dating, too; in fact, that should be a huge chunk of your self-examination. How can you expect to meet Mr. Rest-of-Your-Life if you haven’t fully expanded into who you’re meant to be? So try new things, figure out what [and who] you like, and the rest will fall into place.

That’s why this guy is so fascinating. Let’s call him ‘Stealth Hippie’, for a codename. He’s one of those guys that listen to Phish, go to music festivals, have trippy tapestries on the walls, and then wake up bright and early Monday morning to go to the office in suit-and-tie. It’s probably one of my favorite social typecasts, this balance of hippie and yuppie that realized they’re no longer in college and actually grew up a little. It’s an amazing mix

So, my Stealth Hippie. First date was a great start. We met for some beers at a favorite spot of mine, talked about everything from work to travel, all the usuals. He seemed like a cute, DC corporate-newbie, until I mentioned music festivals and he perked up with the name of my favorite one. I haven’t been caught off-guard by a Stealth Hippie in awhile, but it was a great surprise. I’m pretty sure that’s where the friendly atmosphere shifted to genuine interest for both of us. He drove me home after, in a mix of gallantry because it was raining, feigning the need to play this band he’d been telling me about, and most-likely just figuring out a situation that ended in a good-night kiss.

The band was incredible, it had been awhile since I’ve been in a car besides a cab, and I ended up thinking his uncertainty for a kiss was adorable enough to just lean forward and initiate it myself. It was a solid decision.  He had this sort of controlled intensity that piqued my curiosity even more.

The next night, he kept in touch while I was at work and managed to meet up with some of my restaurant friends at a bar we hit on Thursdays for drinks, my favorite salsa band, and to shoot pool. His roommate came with, and they both seemed to have fun checking a new place out. I figured they would head home together, but the friend ducked out after awhile to leave us the pool table to ourselves. On the bus that goes to both our houses, he asked if I wanted to keep hanging out. Laughing, I asked if he meant in general, or continue that night?

So he came over to listen to music. Hey now! I made sure to detour him to an ATM to get cab fare home, since the last bus had already run. I insisted that knowing a guy 24 hours does not get a sleep-over invitation… But that doesn’t mean we didn’t make-out to Pink Floyd like I haven’t done since I was in high school. And this Stealth Hippie had one more card to play—that controlled intensity raised a mental flag for a reason. At one point, I laughed and said he had an interesting style. When he responded with, ‘What, sexually?’, I nodded. He said he likes to be dominant. I asked why, wondering if he consciously knows what he likes.

“I like to be in control.”

Ohh… what an unusual hippie… A Dominant one? I’m utterly fascinated. I did manage to keep my shit together enough to scoot him out the door around 2am, instead of caving. It wasn’t about upping my number in itself, I just won’t add someone to the list just for a one-night stand deal. He quietly said ‘I don’t think we have to worry about it being like that’. As much as I hoped that meant what I wanted it to, I let it lie and opted to repeat myself from earlier. Like I said, I had only known him since the night before, so it wasn’t going any further than PG-13 on the second night.

When he asked why, I said I didn’t know him yet. ‘Well, what do you want to know?’ Laughing, I said ‘everything’, but that would have to wait for another night. He was ready to go away for the long weekend, and I wanted to see if he was actually genuinely interested.

The interest apparently held strong over the weekend. We met up again last night, and it was pretty memorable on all accounts.

Go On, and Kiss the Girl

If I don’t want to kiss a guy by the end of a first date, then what’s the point? There, I said it.

I’m not in the market for a frog prince—I’d like a post-transformation guy, with no sign of sliminess to be seen. I really don’t think that is too much to ask.

I’m not saying there’s always a goodnight kiss—I know I’m a forward girl, but it’s not always the right time. BUT if that lack of a kiss isn’t disappointing—or if it’s preferable, even—then I don’t think we’re in the cards at all. That fundamental desire has to be there.

There’s a question asked about first dates: do you expect to determine your compatibility emotionally, spiritually, financially, or sexually by the end of it? My answer is definitely physical compatibility. It’s always been the easiest for me to determine, but not because I’ve a specific ‘type’. I actually have crazy eclectic taste.

There just needs to be that certain sort of spark, on top of whatever about various guys is attractive to me. I generally like them tall and lanky, though some more muscular guys have been thrown in the mix. Blondes aren’t on the list too often, but it’s always a personality thing and not physicality. Eye color doesn’t have much impact—I like the whole color wheel. I’m bigger on eye CONTACT. And someone who’s comfortable in their own skin.

I might find out something incompatible intellectually about a guy further on—say, he’s actually a neo-fascist with the hots for Mubarak, or maybe a closeted NRA member running around in a Democrat’s clothing—but I might not find that out the first date. What I CAN find out without much detail is if I want to kiss him, and by the end of the night if there’s potential for more.

I also wait to see if he’ll make the first move to kiss me. My history has seen a lot of kissing initiated by yours truly rather than the guy, because at that age I “intimidated the hell” out of guys. I’m not all that old-fashioned, it is more about testing him out. I can be a bit of a headstrong girl, so when it comes down to it, I want to know if the guy sees my challenge and wants to meet it.

Recently, I was on a really cute date. The night had gone great, definitely feeling mutual vibes going on, and we had already talked about meeting up again several times. Since we were in my neighborhood, he offered to walk me home, and did the dragging-out-conversation-on-the-front-stoop” cliche, that eventually ended with “so, can I kiss you?” I made the wise choice, and nodded. It definitely added to the night.

If it’s a first date– especially a blind date– I think it’s alright for the guy to ask as his segue into a goodnight kiss. Typically, I’d rather a guy just go for it, but this time around it was damn charming. Maybe it was his puppy-dog brown eyes, or scruffy dimples, or just the whole combination in general… but it worked.

This spark just might be catching flame.

Hold the phone– you’re straight?

There are enough things to be concerned about in the dating world without the question of ‘is he actually into women, or has he just set up camp in that closet?’ When it DOES come into play, it can quickly turn a rather confusing experience into a very sticky situation.

Issue #1: I am a very forward person, so my initial response is wanting to ask ‘but aren’t you gay?’ ATTENTION: DO NOT ASK. One of the first things my mama taught me when I was young is that boys are very fragile creatures, and their egos need to be handled with care. Normally, my bull-headed nature tends to ignore that and charges into whatever blunt idea I had in mind… but in this case, I have to agree.

If it is evident enough to make you wonder, you can be damn sure he’s been asked that before, and you don’t want to crush a guy’s soul. There are plenty of people still in the closet as adults, but that is their decision. What you need to decide is are you into the person they want to be at this moment, or does the possibility of them being someone else in the future bother you too much?

Issue #2: Attraction. I have many gay friends that are crazy hot and like to flaunt it. One of the best things about the gay guy-girl friend mix is being liberated from expectations. You can be sexual and flirty with the knowledge that it is just a game without an actual goal. The pressure’s off, because it isn’t legit. But when you’re on a date, and the guy is setting off your gaydar, there are conflicting emotions. Your habits are telling you to relax and have fun being as flirty as you like because there’s no harm in it, while your brain is screaming MAYDAY MAYDAY, HE THINKS YOU’RE INTO HIM. Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

I am not the type of girl to lead a guy on just because I want a plaything to amuse myself with. That’s a bitch thing to do, and not okay. The main conundrum is for first dates, I’m so used to just being myself at full steam ahead, I forget that they will be reading into every signal I send off.

Case-in-point: the other night on a date, I was busy trying to figure out in half of my head if the guy is paying mortgage on his closet or not, while the other half of my head was on auto pilot. Which, for me, is a rather charismatic flirt. Next thing I know, the guy I had nearly convinced myself deep down should get traded to the other team is leaning over and kissing me in a VERY determined take-charge kind of way. Well, THAT throws a wrench into my actually-gay theory.

The biggest dilemma of it all is that until that point, I figured gay or not, we were having a great night of conversation and banter and I’d probably found a new friend. He was intelligent, outgoing, and interesting, even with his ambiguous sexual preference. And then he had to lean over and solve that riddle by opening a can of very befuddled worms with their own confusing questions.

Talking to a girlfriend about it, I said that I don’t think I could date him legitimately. That I want a manly guy who would suddenly kiss me against a wall just because he wanted to, in that way that makes all other thoughts rush out of your head.

OH WAIT. Isn’t that what just happened?

So , what to do now…

Prelude to a Kiss

You know how in that moment just before a kiss, when the tension is palpable and you can almost see the intensity rippling in the air, you can’t help but wonder if it will actually match up to the perfection you envisioned in your dreams? [And the unfortunate fact that a lot of the time, it falls painfully short and leaves you dissatisfied.] I was worried that my long-awaited move to Washington DC would turn out like that.

Yea, this is not one of those times. The past few months have been a perfect first kiss of fireworks, chemistry, and a lot of ‘getting to know you wayyyy better’ late nights. DC and I went into this knowing we were wholly compatible on paper, but needing to test drive the car a bit before accepting the knowledge that we were meant to be. Now, it’s settled. The District and I are going steady.

I just moved to DC this summer. Some say I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but they don’t know me very well–I belong here. Most dreamers grow up yearning for the Big Apple or Hollywood, but my geek ass self has wanted to relocate to the capital for years. Mission accomplished! Mazol tov to me, and yes, I get a cookie.

Now comes the hard part: actually living the dream.

Only it hasn’t been THAT hard, in the grand scheme of things. Sure, I’m an unpaid and under-appreciated intern in the pretty small office of a relatively unknown non-profit/advocacy group. We might be known very well within our circle, but the average Joe would probably be baffled. Yes, I pay my bills by working at a restaurant, despite my university degree in a highly specialized and in-demand field. Of course, I’m poor as hell, eating food from my restaurant’s kitchen every night and wondering how I’ll keep from getting evicted and chased down by student-loan-sharks if I don’t get a Big Kid Job soon. But honestly?

I love the freedom of part-time work, find intellectual fulfillment on my own if needed, and have enjoyed the ‘poor kid weight loss plan’ that my impoverished diet has created. For the first time, I am entirely surrounded by intelligent, ambitious people with the drive to be both intense and playful at the same time. It has been liberating. I am not one of the only crazy passionate people in the room, and my political jokes actually get laughs. [Can I also say… there are TALL men here! More to discuss later.] There are attractive men, assertive individuals, and artistic activities. I’m covered on all bases.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t come from some severely rural area where the combined IQ could hide in the corner of my brain and get lost. I’m not the only intellectual from my town– nor am I the only one in my own family and circle of friends. I have awesome roots. I come from intelligent people, accomplished friends, and diverse backgrounds. but every bird needs to fly the coop, and DC has always been my migration destination.

I belong, and this kiss is sweeter and hotter than I ever imagined.

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