2: Marriage Is Not An Option And My Second Date With Bear

(Continued from Finding True Love, Part 1)

I didn’t want it to be too late. I wrote in my journal, “I want Bear, but I don’t want to want him.” He seemed too quiet. I was worried about how he’d hold up around my obnoxiously loud, raucous, opinionated family. They had destroyed the chances of many men before him, and, I figured, would destroy many after him.

I sat in an office combing through endless pages of material for an organization that wanted to make sure they were using the most inclusive language possible. I made lists of instances where “spouse” was used instead of “partner,” used the words “people of color” a lot, and added “Q” after “Q” to “LGBT.” And I thought about kissing Bear. It was a fun crush.

We wrote back and forth from our respective offices, flirting just the slightest bit. He found a Mark Doty poem I’d heard the poet recite but had never managed to track down online. Lilies in New York. One of about five poems I’ve ever loved. We sent each other the articles we were reading in the New York Times online. We made plans to walk around on the High Line, the elevated new park in Chelsea that used to be train tracks. We were dating.

So let’s just take a step back here. I had met Bear. And one day, I was going to marry him, though I didn’t know it yet. In fact, unbelievably, in about a week, I would begin to realize it. But even that was a long way off at the time.

But what was the context for our meeting?


Or, in other words, what was our heroine doing, other than clicking on internet dating profiles, when she met the hero of the tale? Isn’t it obvious? She was pouting at her reflection in the lumbering, ancient mirror that leaned against the flagstone wall by the hearth of the drafty great room. Her stubborn curls insisted on being disorderly, and her enormous violet eyes framed with the thick black lashes flashed with a passion that she’d barely learned to contain, despite years of stern instruction with the best and most proper governesses in Scotland. Her pert white bosom heaved against the rude constraint of her hunter green silk bodice, and she scowled and clenched her tiny hands into fists, murmuring, “Father wills that I wed Sir Edmund Weatherton, but how could any woman love such an old, jovial man? He knows nothing of love! The rogue Laird Bear Rockcliff is not old, and certainly not jovial. He always looks unhappy….But why do I think of him now? He is an outlaw!”

Or at least, that’s what I would’ve been doing had I lived in one of the romance novels that grace the esteemed shelves of Duane Reade. (What is with the obsession with Scotland?)

Instead, I was going to grad school, and working on my thesis. I was interning at some non-profits. I had lived in Manhattan for nearly a year. I was twenty-three, and there was no way I was getting married anytime soon. Not even if my father willed it. I admit—when I moved to the city, I had this little fantasy about meeting a guy at grad school. Not someone to marry, necessarily (my mind didn’t work like that), but someone to be, you know, my perfect soulmate. Or something. It was going to be a whole new life, and having a soulmate crop up might work really well. I thought he’d probably play guitar, but not in the way that guys who play guitar because they think it looks cool play guitar. In a much more sensitive, personal, introspective way. He would write a song called “Paper road,” about the gap in the forest where a road was planned, but never came to be, and how some things are better left incomplete. He might mention the meadow full of wildflowers that had grown up there. He’d be Jewish, but not observant or very religious.

Grad school had no such guy to offer. Which really wasn’t the end of the world. I had plenty to do. Grad school was a lot of married men and one other woman, who quickly became one of my closest friends. It also coughed up a boyfriend who I got along very well with, despite never having even a slight crush on. He asked me at some point after we’d had a lot of heated debates on gender and identity politics if we could date, and I said sure, not knowing what else to say, since we were hanging out a lot and there wasn’t anyone else. In retrospect, those are not the right reasons to date someone, but at the time, I had just come to the big city, and I was just starting grad school, and I felt shaky and lonely.

Meanwhile, Bear had been in the city for nearly three years already. He’d grown up and gone to college in California and come to the east coast for work. He was working all the time. About the time that he moved here, he was diagnosed with diabetes, and he was living on eggs and mustard and diet coke. He was working all night lots of nights, and sleeping until 3 p.m. on the weekends. He didn’t have time to date anyone. His friends were happy when he remembered to meet them occasionally. There was no way he was getting married anytime soon. In fact, he sort of suspected he might never get married.

So neither of us was going to get married anytime soon (or ever), and Bear thought he had just enough time to date, finally, and I thought it’d be nice if I met some new people and ate at some interesting restaurants, and then I thought that Bear’s sunflower was a nice gesture, and that he was fascinatingly awkward and competent at once. He didn’t play guitar. He wasn’t Jewish. And he was a diabetic, like my father. I had promised myself that I would never be with a diabetic, after seeing my dad struggle with the disease.

I told Bear that I had a rule about diabetics. He said, “I hope that’s a rule you’re willing to break.” I wasn’t willing to break it. But I wasn’t thinking straight about him.

None of it felt particularly romantic, except maybe for the strange pull Bear had for me. And I had no expectation of romance, whatever that even meant. I didn’t know how to be romantic, or what that might look like. I liked that Bear didn’t seem to know either. I liked that he didn’t try to sound romantic.

(the high line. source)

We went to the High Line. First, we went to Whole Foods, and got lunch. I distinctly remember the shape of the back of Bear’s neck as he went to get a bottle of water in the store. There was something vulnerable about it, even though it was big. When I asked him much later to describe what I seemed like to him then, he said hesitantly that I reminded him of a bird– small and graceful and somehow intimidating. It was very hot out, and we were sitting in the sun for a long time, talking about things. He said that he’d thought about putting his arm around me. I asked him why he hadn’t. He said, “Well, maybe I will,” laughing a little. We paused for a few moments. And then he did. I sat up very straight, like a moron. I didn’t want to let myself relax into him. It felt like if I did that, I’d give everything away too soon. And I didn’t even know what “everything” was.

I went home and called my ex-boyfriend. The one who I’d never had a crush on. For some reason, I wanted to hear his voice, and remind myself what being in a mature relationship had been like. A relationship built on graduate papers and mutual intellectual respect and polite friendship. A relationship that had nothing to do with how appealing someone looked when he had sweated through the pastel green teeshirt he had obviously bought at the Gap yesterday because this was a date and he obviously thought that this was a nice shirt that would go well with his New Balance sneakers and his tan cargo pants. This was obviously his most fashionable outfit. A relationship that had nothing to do with the way someone blushed so easily, and the way I wanted to touch him even before I knew whether or not he had any siblings. I felt myself sliding towards Bear, and I wasn’t sure I was OK with how quickly I was sliding.

And then, about a week after we met, Bear did something shocking. Something that should have seemed totally out of character for him. Except that I didn’t know much about his character at the time. He refers to it as the best decision of his life. And it all began with pastrami.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Un-Roast: Today I love my ability to make myself feel better about negative stuff in my life by playing music.


Kate on September 7th 2010 in life, new york, relationships, wedding

19 Responses to “2: Marriage Is Not An Option And My Second Date With Bear”

  1. Cindy responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    ohhh Pastami?

    AWWWW young love! You’ve got me gripped.

    What about Pastrami?

    Happy Tuesday

  2. Kate responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Ha! Love you, Cindy! I know, pastrami does not seem like the key to romance….

  3. Christina responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    I like how you say this isn’t romantic :) I think it’s completely romantic, partly because it’s so normal in certain ways. I love learning the story!

  4. Bethy responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    OK, I’m a little in love with this story. You tell everything so well. It makes me want to record my own love story.

    I can’t wait to read more!

    And I play music to make myself feel better constantly. Best medicine.

  5. Emily responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Even though I know this story already (and heard it all as it unfolded) I am totally loving the retelling :) You’ve got the reader hooked!

  6. Chris responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Pastrami is the key to everything!

  7. Kate responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    Apparently! I mean, it really is a very fine deli meat. Interesting how it beat out corned beef in the end.

  8. San D responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    As your unravel your love story, like a lovingly knitted sweater, I am thrilled to read your love in your prose. Thanks for sharing. And as an aside, isn’t life wonderful when it surprises you?

  9. JStolk responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    If I didn’t know any better I’d think that I had written this! Your relationship with your fiance sounds beautiful and the way you write really shows your love for him. Good luck and many blessings to you and yours on your upcomming marriage.

  10. Anna responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    This is what I love about your blog. It is so real and honest.
    We get all these ideas about romance and relationships and “incredible” first meetings from movies, books, etc. And yet the way that love actually tends to go is not generally with flashy trappings, but is so amazing and contrary and beautifully nonsensical. Bundles of red roses and black tuxedos- standardized, mechanized romance pale in comparison to awkward sunflowers and sweaty green t-shirts and all those things that are so personal to each individual’s love stories.

  11. Noel responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I need more! And I think I may also go make a pastrami sandwich. :)

  12. Kate responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you! But now I’m afraid I may disappoint you with the next installment….It’s slightly flashy. But definitely still involves sweating through tee-shirts. Bear’s consistently good at that.

  13. Wei-Wei responded on 07 Sep 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Pastrami is the Key.

    Somebody should write a song titled that. Or a book. Or a band.

  14. Lena responded on 08 Sep 2010 at 12:49 am #

    Yes more! You write the story so well and these little cliffhangers are killing me :) Can’t wait for the next part.

  15. elise responded on 08 Sep 2010 at 4:41 am #

    you tease.

  16. B.T. responded on 08 Sep 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    I can’t wait to read the next installment. This is so much fun.

  17. Sarah responded on 08 Sep 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    I love your blog! I love your writing, the stories you share (and the way you share them,) and the message of your blog — it’s raw and refreshing.
    I can’t wait to read your next posts!

  18. Eat the Damn Cake » No more boys responded on 12 Jan 2011 at 11:59 am #

    [...] for three months. I met Bear a year and a half ago. And right before I met Bear, I had had enough. I was dating boys for fun, not for the promise of forever. But I was still thinking about boys in the back of my mind, as I interviewed for organizations with [...]

  19. Carrie responded on 30 Apr 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    What a great beginning to a great love story… :)