I’ve been dating a guy for a month now. He is a lawyer, but that doesn’t really capture him, so I will call him The Rugby Player, which he plays on weekends. He’s retired military, too, which I love.
What I love is that this guy is a Grown-Ass Man.
Sure, I appreciate the twenty-somethings (even had one recently call me on “ageist” because I didn’t want to date them and said so on my OKCupid profile), but at the wizened age of 37, I’ve just straight-up outgrown playing pool, fratty jokes and helping someone as they try to come into their own in life.
I’ve been there, done that, and I’m ready for someone who wants to take care of me — not the other way around. I know my pattern. I am someone who is very comfortable with chaos and abuse and codependency, often subconsciously seeking it out, constantly trying to fix and help people so I can feel loved and validated and safe.
But! Do you see what I did there? I saw what was behind my own personal “Matrix,” thereby letting me bust out my own superpower version of slow-mo kung fu — except when it comes to relationships.
So this Saturday is my fourth date with The Rugby Player, who is also, incidentally, twice-divorced. (When I started writing this article, I texted him, brainstorming what I should call him. Military Guy? Twice-Divorced Guy? The Lawyer?
“No, not the lawyer,” he said. “Lawyers suck.”)
By the way, do you know how long I have known about this upcoming date with him on Saturday?
For over two weeks. That’s right. Because he planned it and told me to save the date. I mentioned to him casually that I’d always wanted to try out a shooting range, you know, like Annette Bening in “American Beauty,” and he said he wanted to make this a reality, so hold that date. I did, and now, here it is, planned in advance, as Grown-Ass Men tend to do.
Here are four of the top things I’m enjoying about this relationship so far, which is an embryonic relationship to be sure, and who knows Date #4 could always be the last one, but it doesn’t matter. I’m having fun with The Rugby Player. That’s what matters. And now, for the good parts.
1. He is thoughtful.
I always notice thoughtfulness in people. It is one of the first things I notice. Very small kindnesses to me spell entire personality constructs that I will base my (usually pretty dead-on) theory of Who They Really Are largely upon. The Rugby Player drank the first time we went out, which is great, I don’t mind (and encourage) other people to drink around me, but after I wrote about my three-year sobriety anniversary, on our second date, he said, “I realized that was a thoughtless move on my part. I didn’t realize you were coming up on three years. Let’s both get Diet Cokes and toast to that.”
It hadn’t been a thoughtless move he made on our first date, but the fact that he considered this was so wildly attractive, I can’t even tell you. I’m so exhausted, I’m so tired of the Defensive Dude Are You Trying to Manipulate or Control Me Dance with men that can happen with someone who isn’t secure, but instead sees every encounter as some kind of test for how I might try to emasculate or compromise their integrity as a man. Just be thoughtful. It’s what men do.
2. He is alpha-dude sexy.
We went out to a great Russian restaurant recently, and (I realize many women wouldn’t like this behavior I’m about to describe, but I did, absolutely), and The Rugby Player offered me a few bites of his meal by lifting it up to me on his fork and feeding it to me directly. I love that. I love the confidence it requires to do something so potentially catastrophically cliche — and to kill it. It was hot. I wasn’t thinking about the ice cream. I was thinking about how turned on I felt.
Also, for the record: We haven’t slept together yet, which makes it all the more tension-building and delicious.
3. He knows himself.
OK, he’s been divorced twice so feel free to pile on that this spells only one thing: damaged goods, and I should go running. But I completely disagree. I’m divorced, and I would never hold one let alone two divorces against someone. Life is so about growing and learning along the way, and to me, it absolutely depends on the circumstances. What struck me the most about him was when we were talking one night and he brought up the book “The 5 Love Languages,” which explains all the different ways that people show affection and how through reading it, he realized his own love compatibility style. I can’t tell you how hot it is to have a man think about these things rather than do the fake song-and-dance of “Grunt, grunt, I’m a man, I know nothing but manly man tough man things.”
4. He is protective and chivalrous.
My pattern is to take care of others. As much as my mom and my dad did the best they could, when your father is blind and disfigured, you often end up feeling as if you are the caretaker, staring people down as they gape and gawk and wonder. I perfected the death-glare. Want to make something of it?
As a consequence, I feel incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy and mistrustful letting others take care of me. I crave it, sure, but I’m so afraid of it not being there at some point so I often put on a cartoonishly false tough shell as if a relationship means nothing, this means nothing, do what you like, I don’t care. I don’t need anyone.
I do need people. Very badly. I need a lot of love and nurturing and caring, but I’m very tense about its disappearance, and it requires a lot for me to fully trust someone. I need multiple demonstrations that someone is safe and will not hurt me when I expose my vulnerability. I tend to be drawn to people who are wildly charismatic and slightly sadistic (like my father), but again: I am Super Pattern Breaking Girl! I now actively work against this and recognize it when it is happening. I seek out people who are kind, who seek to help others, who have a core goodness in their personality.
The Rugby Player is that guy.
He holds my hand as we navigate the city. He opens doors. He strokes my arm. He asks me if I’m OK. He brings my dog presents. He questions when someone might be potentially hurting me after I relay to him stories about complicated dealings in my life.
This guy has my back.
I could go on, but I think this gives a nice picture. I’m nervous about the shooting range on Saturday, but I’m also incredibly excited. As a bonus, he texted me the other day, “When was the last time a man cooked you dinner?”
“Um, 2011, maybe?” I wrote back.
“I’m making you dinner Saturday night,” he texted back. “Plan on it.”
Oh — I am.