On April 29, 2015, I had a date.
A first date.
Worse, actually. A first internet date (FID). The culprit was a fellow inmate at Match.com. A seemingly nice looking fellow who had adequate pictures and a profile that had some thought put into it. He made a remark about yoga and his hips that made me laugh.
We’d set a date.
He’d listed off a few places to meet and I selfishly chose the one that was an 8-minute walk from my house. Well, not entirely selfishly. I’d been prone to saying shit like, “Wherever you want to meet is fine” and ending up driving for 45 minutes to the South Loop here in Chicago only to realize Guy In Question lived (literally) in the high rise next door.
So forgive me. I picked the bar that was an 8-minute walk from my house.
As we exchanged a final pre-meeting email, I signed off with a line I thought was ever-so-clever:
See you then. I’ll be the redhead.
Clever. As. Fuck. Amiriiiite?!
Email in my inbox from him, five minutes later:
Good. I’ll be the guy who looks like Clark Kent.
Har-har. The glasses. I get it. I don’t think I sent an email in return.
Along comes April 29, the “matching hour” was 7pm. Eight minutes after leaving my front door, I arrived at Rogers Park Social – a darling little neighborhood purveyor of adult beverages. I step inside, scan the room, and there he was, sitting at the bar.
Fuck me if he didn’t look like Clark Kent.
I was left to hope that the personality matched the package.
Because what every gal is hoping when she shows up for one of these Internet First Date things is that she’s what he’s looking for…
In that profile of his – where he was so sure of who he is and what he wants.
And we just hope that he’s not looking for That Girl.
You know – the one who can roll out of bed a mess and still look Cindy Crawford from the late 80s.
The girl who can eat 4 pancakes, a croissant, and hash browns – all washed down by 2 mimosas at brunch and still look like Scarlett Johanssen.
Because I’m not That Girl.
And the moments walking into a First Internet Date are always filled with a mixture of doubt (because you know you’re Not That Girl) and hope (because you just might be THE Girl).
So, two hours later, I’m one dirty martini in and what I really fucking need is some food because I only figured this thing would last an hour like all the other First Internet Dates (FIDs) do and I’d usually be home by now, eating a Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart, hot out of my oven.
But I’m hungry. So Clark Kent graciously pays the tab and I wander us awkwardly (because this is going well, right?) over to a local grill where I proceed to order buffalo fries.
Because (1) DELICIOUS
And because (2) STARVING AND I AM NOT EATING A BURGER IN FRONT OF THIS MAN JUST QUITE YET.
The fries arrive. I invite him to have one.
He unabashedly ascertains that these fries are, without a doubt, in the Top Five Worst Foods He’s Ever Tasted.
He says this with no shame, and there I am, shoving shitty buffalo fries into my gullet and laughing at the unbelievable audacity of a man telling a FID his honest opinion about her suspect food selection.
We (I) eventually abandoned the basket of fries and wandered down the street to another venue. Three hours in.
He’s still here.
My jaw hurts a bit from smiling.
Him, a gin and tonic.
Me, a lemonade. The request alone made the waiter wince. Fuck off. I like lemonade and refuse to be shithoused on my First Internet Date with a man who looks like Clark Kent.
We each get to the bottom of our glasses and as it’s a Wednesday, it’s a literal school night for me and an air-quote school night for him. Our empty glasses sat steps away from the El stop that would take him 2 stops down to his house.
I’m a five block walk away. And he offers to walk me home.
Me: Oh, you don’t have to do that. The train’s right here.
Him: I know. I’ll walk you home.
Me: It’s a 10-block round-trip walk to walk me home.
Him: I’ll walk you home.
You know the moment, as a woman or man, when you’re out with a woman or man or person-thing you’re having a fine time with and you realize that they’ve offered to do something because they want to steal 10 more minutes with you and you’re being an idiot by saying – hey, noooooo you don’t have to do that I am fine and can take care of my damn self yo!?
That moment? Sound familiar?
This was me, realizing I was sitting next to a man who was offering to walk 10 blocks out of his way…just to walk me home.
So I said yes.
And for five blocks, we walked close to one another. Not holding hands, but I realized that I liked the way his arm brushed mine every now and again. The first block or two was all nervous chatter (from me) and then voices fell silent.
We walked up to my front gate and I made some dorky gesture to my balcony, mentioning (obviously) my orange curtains.
He said he would like to see me again. And on the very end of that statement, he punctuated it with a “soon.” It was like the final staple you’d put on a paper you were handing in, because that fucking staple meant that bitch was D-O-N-E.
Soon. I said I’d like that.
And then he reached forward, gently grabbed by coat, pulled me toward his chest and laid a kiss on me that made me forget…
Well, pretty much everything.
I don’t remember what I said after that, but I do remember Clark Kent telling me goodnight and turning – walking back the way we came, back down that sidewalk towards the train that would deposit him safely back at Wayne Manor.
And that night, I stood looking at myself in front of the mirror in my bathroom…
And all I could do was smile.
I can’t speak for him, but since that day in April, I haven’t seen another man. On our second date, we realized that – not only had I almost bought a condo in his building, but one of my conservatory classmates and his wife were his landlords.
We realized over multiple conversations that we both lived in Denver – just a few miles from one another – at the same time. He left in 2010. I left in 2013.
It was all a delightful kind of weird.
And today, his name is Philip.
He’s my dork. He’s the man who’s never asked about Jason, but said that if I ever feel like talking about him, he’d be happy to listen. He’s the guy who saves the Sunday Arts & Leisure section from the New York Times for me (because it’s the only section he doesn’t read and that’s AOK by me). He’s the man who’s seen me break down completely only to be so lit up with joy that the Fourth of July could cancel its fireworks display. He comes to every show I’m in and has no problem telling me he didn’t much care for a play we just saw together.
He’s seen me laugh (and made me laugh) to the point of tears and we’ve shared moments between us that have brought one another to tears.
Because we’re both stoooopid humans who have 40+ years of baggage and life and bullshit each that we’re trying to navigate without breaking one another’s heart.
And Philip is the best part of today – my 43rd birthday.
To me, he’ll always be Clark Kent and I hope you understand why he’s been Clark Kent around here for so very long. I’m very protective of him. Because he’s fallen in love with a woman who lives out loud doesn’t mean he has to give up any part of himself in that heartfelt bargain. And can I just tell you…
It’s really lovely that he’s nowhere to be found on social media. I mean, no Facebook account. No Twitter handle. Nada.
Finally, I have a man who hasn’t seen “the latest video.”
Who has no real working knowledge of hashtags.
Who doesn’t see all the jackassian comments some folks leave on my Facebook page.
It’s lovely to have met a man who’s met the woman – my me – and knows only as much about the persona that social media demands as he sees in my blog (which he does read from time to time).
So today, for my 43rd birthday, I have a birthday wish for each of you wondering when your Clark Kent (or Lois Lane, as the case might be) will come along because you’re sick as shit of dealing with the Lex Luthors and Cat Women (Womans?) of the world:
I spent 30-something years thinking I was broken. That there was something so tragically wrong with my ME that no one would love me. With each year and asshat that passed, I just knew that I would be staring at myself and a pile of shelter animals in the mirror one day, having missed out on something – or someone – that could have made my life better…
And it was all because I was broken. And unlovable.
If you’ve been around my ‘hood for awhile, my writing reflected all of this. It was angry. Angst-filled. Mean. Shitty at times. I was a professional asshole.
Because it’s hard to believe you’re anything but broken when things keep happening to tell you that you’re broken. Time and time again.
And then I met Jason – the first man I’d ever met who took me as I am. Good, bad. Funny and not-so. He called me on my bullshit and never asked me to change. He died.
I spent four years Back to Broken – destroying myself in every way I knew how, yet hiding every bit of that from everyone. Including you.
But here’s the part where I tell you something magical happened. That one day, something shifted and I realized WHAT I DESERVED and WHO WAS WORTHY OF MY HEART.
That didn’t happen. I can tell you what did, though.
Through four years of being alone and nearly drowning in the darkest, most turbulent ocean my soul had ever seen, coming close to checking out of the human race at the 12-mile marker on a 13-mile run – I got to know the girl I was alone with.
And I started to be honest with myself about what I wanted out of this life. Out of a partner. I re-evaluated my “friends” (read: mostly assholes, just like me). I realized that I liked a lot of what this girl – me – had going on in her heart.
I just really fucking hated what she had going on in her life.
And it’s been a long road back – from feeling broken and unlovable to looking at Philip and wondering every day what I did to deserve this salted caramel-flavored unicorn in my life…this man with one kidney and a heart bigger than any human should ever possibly be allowed…this man who disses my buffalo fries and can tell you more than you’ve ever wanted to know about Humanities and who WRITES THE FUCKING SAT (like, the real SAT test) FOR FUCK’S SAKE (srsly).
It’s been a long and shitty yet glorious road.
And it took me all this time to realize that finding a partner whose weird matches mine…was WORK.
That learning how to BE someone partner when our weirds finally collided…was WORK.
And that he and I have a lot of work laid out before us that we’re not yet aware of and I guarantee you that he’ll likely find more joy in grading student papers from his first-year college students than he will in dealing with my layers of bullshit that have still yet to emerge and I will continue to be annoyed with how he pays cash for everything and never uses his fucking debit card like a normal human being. I mean, for shit’s sake, he had a BLACKBERRY until about 2 months ago with a limited data and text plan!
My wish for you, on this, my 43rd birthday, is that you realize that you’re not broken.
You’re not unlovable.
You’re just fucking WEIRD.
And you were put on this planet to be appreciated by some weird motherfucker you just haven’t met yet.
I’m just glad I didn’t hit the exit button a few years ago – because I was damn close several times – as I’d have missed out on this glorious Clark Kent of a man who makes me feel like the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world even when I know a panel of 9 out of 10 dentists would say I sound completely dumb and look like total shit.
He’s my 10th dentist. And I fucking love him so ridiculously and completely.
On Tuesday, Phil took me out to dinner for my birthday. I snapped a few photos of us — and have included one from a previous and rare Phil-and-Erika on-camera moment. Enjoy meeting Clar…er, Philip.
If you’re having trouble seeing the gallery in your email, go ahead and click through online right here.
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