Last night, I watched Somewhere in Time which I watched at least two dozen times in Jr. High. The basic story is that a man falls in love with a woman from the past, based on her picture (shown above), and then finds a way to travel back in time to be with her. They Instantly fall in love and after a few days he is swept back into the real year and they never see each other again. A young man, he dies immediately out of implied starvation/shock–he just sits there until he dies. She dies of old age having spent her entire life obsessively thinking about him. At the end they are shown walking into the clouds–together again at last.
Perhaps films take us to unreality because we yearn for something so simple. To instantly know when we see another person that they are the one. To fall in love and have that feeling be accurate. To never fall out of love. In real life, I am noticing, things are not always so simple. Some partnerships start in exciting ways but that isn’t how they all start.
I did not have to travel in time to meet Sam, my now fiance. We used an online dating service. Before meeting him, I knew that he was within my age range, employed, religiously/politically compatible and geographically close. How convenient is that?
The first moment that I saw him, I thought, “No.” I started to warm up to him during the date. He was friendly, polite and cute. There were no fireworks or intimate conversations. In Somewhere in Time the moment they meet each other Jane Seymour says, “Is it you?” (As in: The one I’ve been waiting for). These are her first words to him. With Sam and I, I cannot recall our first words but I am sure they were regular greetings.
The date progressed politely and by the end of it I felt pleasantly neutral. I wasn’t in love and I wasn’t obsessed with him. Sometimes it is incredibly obvious that you could never be remotely compatible with someone and sometimes it isn’t clear. With Sam, it wasn’t clear. It was pending investigation.
Up until my late twenties, I would have never gone out with him again.
I would have said, “He seems nice but there’s no way. I just wasn’t feeling it.” It meaning instant chemistry, flirting, intimate disclosure and sexual tension–from the first date or encounter onwards. I wanted to, essentially, say “Is it you?” when I first met the one. But I was finally serious about finding a marriage partner. And looking for someone to marry is very different from looking for someone to have exciting conversations with. Sadly, the people I was most in love with during my twenties were emotionally unstable addicts. I was finally past that and ready to choose a real person and not a fleeting feeling.
Our date was short. About 1 1/2 hours. We politely exchanged basic information about our selves in a friendly and informal way. He told a few funny stories. I think the thing I liked best about him was that he didn’t make a lot of eye contact. I am a shy person and when I realized he wasn’t going to seductively stare me down the entire evening I was able to relax. He didn’t go overboard with flirting which I found comforting. Because the truth is: we had just met and didn’t know each other. On some intuitive level I think I knew that his lack of over-the-top seduction was really the presence of a real person.
At the end of the date, I thought, “I’d go out with him again,” and by that I simply meant let’s get to know each other more before we rule this possibility out. I didn’t think I had found the one. But he was cute and seemed to be friendly, polite and intelligent. When we meet new friends we allow time to pass before we rule them out. It is only in romance that we create strange criterion for the initial meeting. I was finally at a place where I could give my date the same respect I’d give any new acquaintance. I could allow us to get to know each other slowly and let go of the instant chemistry fantasies that had plagued me for nearly twenty years. Ultimately, no matter how exciting a first date is or isn’t, there will always eventually be two real people navigating a very daily human relationship.
And that was our neutrally pleasant first date.