Can you isolate the exact moment on a date or in a relationship when you know–perhaps on a subconscious level–that it’s not going to work out? That the guy is going to vanish into thin air, in a not-so-magical swirl of dust? I call it the moment of “imminent poof.”
The signs are always there for the taking. So why do we ignore them? Does our desire to convey that we are “open” and easygoing, or to be in a relationship, blind us from listening to our gut?
Two years after my divorce, when I was ready to get back out there and meet Mister Right, I met a guy through a friend whom I wasn’t interested in at all. He wasn’t my type physically, and our brief conversation held no spark. But when my friend told me afterwards that he was into me, and that he looked at my Facebook photos often (creepy?), I was flattered. And that flattery, along with the boost to my ego, kicked up some sparks that disguised themselves as interest. Flattery does work, whether we want to admit it or not. Besides, he was a nice Jewish boy – smart, funny, and “only” six years my junior.
In retrospect, the “check list” items (the kind I could boast about to my mother) wooed me and impaired my judgment. We eventually began a dialogue and went on a date. Three hours of talking plus two hours of over the top PDA equals a good date, no? My friend confirmed this: “He had an amazing time. He’s so into you.” Cut to date two, where I was pleasantly surprised to learn that physically we connected too. When he left my apartment, I was humming to myself, hopeful…
So I didn’t find it unreasonable to text him the following day (cringe), “Last night was fun.”
It took him six hours to respond with three words: “Glad you enjoyed.”
Needless to say, my imminent poof detector was out of whack. While I knew that this comment signaled something was wrong (and I didn’t write back), I felt slighted. And when I didn’t hear from him again, I felt deflated and confused. Had I been so blinded by my desire to click with someone that I hadn’t been able to see this coming from the get-go?
But I learned my lesson, or so I thought. On the next slew of dates, my gut was speaking to me more audibly.
For example, I met a tall handsome man at a concert (he looked 36, but I found out later he was 29). He showed promise – when he asked me out, he used the telephone. Drinks at the bar were flirty and friendly and so was the first half of dinner. Conversation was flowing. And then the alcohol was too. He was drinking two glasses to my one, and then ordered another bottle. I noticed it, but it wasn’t until he started overtly flirting with the female manager right in front of me that I realized, this guy’s gonna go poof. It took an actual physical sign, him literally grabbing the manager around the waist and cooing her name, for me to get it. When the date ended, he hastily kissed me on the lips and said, “I’ll call ya tomorrow!” and then ran off (aka fled). I wasn’t surprised when I never heard from him again.
But only later did I realize that the real defining moment was more subtle – when he dared to ask me mid-dinner, “So how old are you exactly?”
“Older than you,” I replied.
“Well I know that!” he remarked with an arrogant toss of his head.
And then what did I do? To my disgust and shame, I lied. I told him I was 37. A whole year younger than my actual age.
I mean, if you’re going to do something as base as lie about your age, you might as well make it count. I realized later that his question had made me feel small and insecure enough to feel flustered, and it was in that instance that I knew there would never be a second date. It was in that moment when the dynamic and chemicals in the air shifted, and where my insides felt yucky, that contained all the information I needed.
I knew it with my previous boyfriend too, at least on a subconscious level. In the month before our breakup, I could sense it before he did. It was an accumulation of all the tiny intangible changes in his behavior and attention, as well as the change in pattern and frequency of his affections – both physical and virtual – that telegraphed that the end was near. Looking back, I must have known deep down that the relationship didn’t have the ingredients to graduate to the long-term stage, and my gut was there to spare me. Spare me from wasting precious time with a guy who was already planning on going poof, even if he didn’t know it himself. So I broke up with him. At first, he was stunned, but his frozen face and wide-eyed shock morphed into relief and resignation only a few moments later.
The point is that sometimes the underlying reason isn’t discernible, nor is it important. Sometimes things just don’t click – no matter how much you want them to – and why doesn’t matter.
Sometimes it’s worth just listening to yourself – and trusting that the intangible shift in the air is real – to see the signs for what they are.
Oritte Bendory is a Manhattan based writer and blogger at The Cougel Chronicles: Tales of a Jewish Cougar (Or, If Carrie Bradshaw was Jewish and divorced Big). Her remarriage memoir, “To Love, Cherish & Disobey,” is forthcoming. She is also a former screenwriter and film producer.