in the dating world (for those of you who are no longer in it, or perhaps have never been in it), it is a good idea to not come to any conclusions about someone you are seeing too quickly in the process. unless the date is an absolute disaster (and generally you know that within the first 30 minutes so there is still a chance to salvage the evening), it is always a good idea to schedule at least one more meeting before deciding whether or not to pursue the person further. i back up this statement with my own experience with dating, as well as my knowledge about how the attraction and attachment processes work in human beings. i have found that first dates, which for the purposes of this blog are defined as meetings in which sex is NOT the only activity, are most often about determining safety, first, and desirability, second. once we decide (usually within the first 30 minutes--see info on "disaster dates" above) that we are in no danger of being killed and eaten by our date, we can then move on to determining desirability. desirability is related to, but by no means attached to: personality, values, and beliefs. desirability is that elusive quality that belies common activity interests and shared film tastes. it is that quality that is often triggered by the subtlest of physical qualities--the length of eyelashes or the curve of an ankle--despite our possible disinterest in the whole. and yet, unfortunately, desirability's elusive nature means that we often don't become aware of it on the first date. it may be hiding behind awkwardness or shyness, it may be buried under the embarrassment of a dropped appetizer or a booger in the nose, it may be overwhelmed by neediness or sexual arousal. it may just choose to not fucking show itself. and...when that is the case, we will often conclude that, though pleasant, this person does not justify a second meeting.
this, i say to you, is a mistake, and i am advising you to avoid this at all cost.
second dates have a tendency to reveal subtlety and nuance; allowing space to explore the combined effects of personality, looks, and chemistry. it is during the second date that we often notice what was hiding or overshadowed during the first date. in my experience, i have agreed to second dates with guys who have been agreeable, if not outstanding first dates, and have been happily surprised with the discovery that i sort of really like this person.
the same goes, as it were, for cities.
my recent visit to berkeley did not leave me experiencing "love at first sight". i had a hotel in downtown, and i was amazed by the number of homeless teens and mentally ill i had to walk through to get from the bart station to my hotel on bancroft. i thought, could this be berkeley? the city that surrounds a great university? it seemed much more like seattle with the number of homeless on the street. i wondered to myself: how could there be such a concentration of homeless this close to one of the premiere institutions of higher learning in the nation? could they all be just students, and not really homeless people? granted, not all of downtown berkeley was like this--there is an area north on shattuck known as the food district that was quite nice, but i think that i was expecting all of downtown to be more upscale like this area.
during the visit, my best bud and i toured the university grounds and loved the mix of historic and new buildings, landmarks, old tree groves, as well as the shirtless (male) students lounging in the springtime sunshine. but there were so many young folks that i figured that an older guy like me would be pretty invisible here--i was literally overwhelmed by youth.
after two days in berkeley, i came to the conclusion, despite the absolutely fantastic coffee that is available on nearly any block, that i could not live there.
then an odd thing happened. i walked a mile or two away from downtown to an area known as rockridge. it was here that i was meeting my friend zamiera for some coffee (at cole's) to catch up on each other.
she has been living in the area (from los angeles) for a year now, and like me, she is an mft intern getting her hours. well, as i walked the streets further out from the university on my way to the coffee shop, i discovered all kinds of beauty--tree lined residential streets with carefully preserved victorian homes; quaint storefronts, and old movie theaters with marquees advertising a single film.
as i walked these beautiful streets, i realized that this was more the type of setting i had imagined when i thought of berkeley. there were people walking dogs and tons of bike riders, and despite the occasional person who looked at me as though i were going to attack them, i began to enjoy myself and feel glad that i had agreed to meet zamiera here in rockridge instead of downtown. once she arrived, we each ordered a coffee (brewed individually!) and two poached eggs on sourdough toast, and then we talked about her job and her experience in this city; and what she told me is that east bay, like los angeles, is full of money (parts of oakland and the area around my hotel withstanding).
but unlike los angeles, people in east bay spend their money on food, coffee, wine, and cheese, as opposed to cars, clothes, and plastic surgery. wow. i could see it all around me--a dearth of bmws, mercedes, and prada bags. instead i saw lots of bikes, regular clothing, and flat shoes. hmph. i also saw LOTS of restaurants and coffee houses. could it be that in east bay people value quality of life rather than quantity? zamiera confirmed this to be so. i became more interested. this morning in rockridge, and my subsequent walk through the telegraph/temescal area, left me with a changed mind about the living possibilities here for me. the east bay could be the place where i would not be out of place at all as a gay intellectual, a bike rider, and a man of a certain age.
now here's the thing, and it is a big thing. though the east bay may have just jumped over portland, oregon, to the top of my consideration list, that does not guarantee that i would actually be happy there. it is possible that i could be happy, or at least as happy as i am now (pretty happy), in east bay, or in portland, or in austin, or in scotland (thanks darren!), or even in (god forbid) southeast florida (sorry, lara). when it comes to moving, there is really only one way to find out if happiness is to be found in a city: move there. and it is here, readers, that i circle back to the connection with dating, and ultimately (finally!), the point of this whole long post. with moving, and dating, we can get all the information that we can find in order to help us decide about commiting, but even with all the information in the world, we just never know. at some point, we just have to decide, we just have to commit to going there. fortunately we have the ability to change our minds, but before we can change our minds we have to make up our minds. of course, for me it is a lot easier to change my mind about dating someone than it is to change it about moving, but the concept still applies. i could pretty much live anywhere, but i just need to decide on one place. one. and if that second look generates more interest, then the challenge for me is to give it a chance before moving on to the next possibility. the answer is not in berkeley anymore than it is in any one of the men i am dating. the answer lies in who i decide to be in that city/with that person, combined with the interactive affect upon me by said city/person.
east bay, i am glad i took a second look. i'll be seein' ya.