This post marks my 19th first date wherein I accidentally attract a cougar cub and am on quite possibly my worst first date behavior.
I recently traveled to Alaska to attend a friend’s wedding. It was absolutely amazing. I think I’d move there tomorrow if I could do so reasonably and without much effort. By “without much effort” I mean if I could go to bed at my house in Florida tonight and wake up tomorrow morning in a big, beautiful cabin somewhere in the mountains near Anchorage with my dogs and all my stuff. My friend’s new husband (and my brother from another mother) gave Alaska the best description I think I’ve ever heard when he called it “aggressively beautiful.” It really is. You can’t help but comment on it constantly. It’s like the mountains scream at you, “COMMENT ON MY BEAUTY!” and “DO IT AGAIN!” and “TELL EVERYONE [AGAIN] HOW GREAT I LOOK!”
Pictures do not do it justice. At all. See?
Still, it was amazing. You’ll just have to take my word for it or travel to Alaska and find out for yourself.
The wedding took place over Memorial Day weekend, which is, as those of you who have followed TST for a while know, a very difficult time for me to be social. But I wasn’t about to miss out on my friend’s wedding, either. Besides, this year Memorial Day fell pretty early in the month, and I would still have the opportunity to quietly observe the angel anniversary of my teammates the following weekend. There is one tradition I have on Memorial Day itself; however, that I do not miss no matter who got married the day before. I go to the nearest National Cemetery and spend a few moments among the graves of the fallen. Fortunately, there were people who worked hard to make sure that could happen for me… and that brings me to the story of my first date.
The groom’s mother worked very hard all weekend to try to set me up. First it was one of the men working on the boat. Then, when that didn’t work out, she turned her efforts toward one of the groom’s attendants. She claims that all she did was point him in my direction, but I’m not 100% convinced. Either way, whatever happened seems to have been effective, as part way through the reception/after party, I found myself the recipient of attention from the aforementioned individual. It was a bit flattering, I’ll admit, because I’m no spring chicken anymore, and he definitely is. Not that there’s anything wrong with aging – I’m quite comfortable in my own skin – it’s more that I don’t make a habit of cruising high schools looking for potential first dates. [Oh weird! This isn’t the first wedding where this sort of thing has happened… there was another friend’s wedding where I inadvertently attracted the attention of a not-yet-legal cub. I totally forgot about that. It never actually culminated in a date of any kind, even after he turned 18, so I kind of forgot. Hmm… go me! Maybe I need to start attending high school graduations.]
This wedding cougar cub has actually graduated high school and been legal for a few years. A very few. But still…
Monday wound up being busier than expected, and as my flight was scheduled for later that evening, I found myself extremely short on time. Those of us who were still in town planned to meet for dinner, but those plans changed six or seven hundred times as the afternoon sped by. The groom invited Cougar Cub to dinner with us, and we kind of voluntold him to plan on taking me to the airport by way of the National Cemetery. Fortunately for me, he was on board with the idea. Unfortunately, time was against us and things did not go exactly according to plan.
I wound up at the restaurant with part of our group about an hour before my date arrived. I also knew that if I didn’t order and eat immediately that I would not have a chance to do so before my flight. Since we’d been hiking and loading and unloading vehicles, my blood sugar was low and I was on the verge of feeling hangry. Our group ordered food, and my “date” showed up as I was paying my check. I still had some garlic cilantro fries on my plate, so he helped himself to a few (with my permission). I was a bit out of sorts and panicked about the time, while still cognizant of the fact that he was doing me a huge favor. I explained the shortage of time to him, and he very graciously said, “That’s okay, I’ll just order a water to go, and we can leave.” He wound up placing an order for fries as well since we had to wait for the rest of the group to arrive with my luggage* before I could leave.
*It didn’t make it home with me anyway, though, so I’m not really sure why I bothered.
We left the restaurant and drove to the cemetery. I was very impressed by his demeanor during this whole chaotic ordeal. We chatted a bit on the drive, and he made sure he kept track of the time. At the cemetery he walked with me for a little while, and then was courteous enough to give me a little bit of space so I could have a few moments to myself. There really wasn’t time to waste, so I only sat for a moment before it was time to go.
On the way to the airport we talked about first dating and my previous inability to trick anyone into marriage. We laughed a lot. We talked about Star Wars and I told him that I didn’t want my hypothetical future children to know that Episodes I-III even exist. And then he said something that made me realize he was wise well beyond his years. He asked me if I didn’t trust my hypothetical children to make wise decisions. It gave me pause for thought, and the conversation changed.
Of course I would prefer it if my children could grow up in a world where Star Wars Episodes I-III didn’t happen, and Christopher Nolan didn’t try his very best to ruin the DC universe, and Indiana Jones didn’t make a parody of itself with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. What loving parent wouldn’t? But pretending they don’t exist, and shielding my children from them isn’t doing them any favors. No, he was right. I need to talk to my children about these things because if I don’t, who will? I want my children to feel comfortable talking to me about these things so that when they feel pressured by their friends or peers to watch them, they know it’s safe to call me. I will gladly come pick them up. Sure, I hope their friends are better influences than that, but when the tearful phone call comes in late at night, “Mom, someone brought The Phantom Menace to the party,” I want them to know that I am on their side and ready to come rescue them. Or maybe the conversation is fueled by regret the next morning because they made a poor choice and now they cannot unsee what they’ve seen? I’d rather they feel comfortable talking to me about it than that they try to hide it. Will I be disappointed? Yes. But just because I know how damaging it is for them to be exposed to such things. I’d much rather keep them from that kind of pain. But at some point, they are going to have to choose for themselves.
That was the gist of our conversation. Before I knew it we were standing on the curb of the airport saying our awkward goodbyes [that’s how I end all my dates]. I probably wouldn’t have counted this as a first date except that he called it one and gave me permission to do so as well.
To recap: Our first date consisted of him playing the role of chauffeur and shuttle driver. I ate dinner with other people and insisted we leave immediately after the rest of the group arrived. He never did get a chance to eat his fries, and I can’t imagine they would have been any good cold. Our date activity consisted of something I did largely by myself. We spent fewer than two hours together, and I hardly gave him a chance to speak. Through it all he was the perfect gentleman, though, while I stared at the clock, nervous that I would miss my flight. I made my flight, which was later delayed on the tarmac for an hour, after I received a lecture from the gate agent for my fewer-than-45-minutes-before-takeoff airport arrival. He also had his eye on the clock, but didn’t make it his focus. In fact, I’d say he made getting to know me, even in my agitated state, the focus, and he still managed to deposit me at the airport on time(ish).
I’m starting to think my sister and my friend, who both married considerably younger men, might be on to something. It’s refreshing to go on a date with someone who is not yet jaded by life’s more brutal experiences.
I think I still have a lot to learn.