Breaking all the Rauls

With all this talk of breaking things off, I thought I’d tell you a related story from my own dating life.

I have permission to share the story, but on the condition that I refer to this man as “Rahul.”  Or is it “Raul?”  Hmm… let’s just see what rolls off my fingertips as I type.

Let me paint the background picture for you, so you’ll understand my later angst.

Raul and I met on an online dating site, and quickly exchanged numbers.  After a lovely phone conversation, we agreed to meet for drinks.  There was flirty banter back and forth before we met (a whole string of texts about what to wear when we met.  He told me he’d be the guy at the bar in a Panda suit.  But, later, was bummed that the dry cleaner wasn’t done with said suit…all very cute.)  Then when we finally did come face to face, it was a great first meeting.  He was a total gentelman, easy to talk to, obviously smart, laughed at my jokes and was happy to pay for the drinks and appetizers (always a good sign on a first date, at least in my book).

About 35 minutes in, he said very candidly and sweetly, “oh, and… I’d love to go out with you again.”  I loved it!  FINALLY, a guy who isn’t playing games… just speaking his mind about what he likes/wants.

Great.  Finished up the quickie first date and went our separate ways.

Second date:  He called a few days ahead of time (planning! woo!) and asked me to a nice restaurant that just opened up in Houston.  We had a great meal, laughed a lot, whenever he noticed my wine was low, he’d refill my glass.  He was a gentleman.  At the end of the night, he gave me a sweet short kiss when he walked me to my car.  Perfect.

3rd date:  Again, a few days ahead, he asked if I would feel comfortable coming over so he could cook me a meal (we’d already established a shared love of food).  I happily agreed and when I got there, he had prepared the most amazing feast, even made me a delicious cocktail beforehand.  He then came out with me and some friends to a wine bar, then salsa dancing (well – I did more of the dancing, he did more of the purse-watching, but still…tomato, tomahto), and the night ended with him making me a melt-in-your-mouth prosecco-poached peach tartin with homemade lemon ice cream.  YUM.  Ok, fine, we may have smooched for a while after that.  Also yum.

Things continued like this for the next couple weeks – lovely dates (coffeeshops, walking in the Heights, dinners, even a relaxing pizza/movies/PJs night at my place, etc.), him being sweet, fun to be with and generous (after my computer bag was stolen on my birthday, and he remembered that I’d lost a bottle of my favorite perfume in it, he brought me a Chanel giftbag with a new bottle of perfume…how incredibly thoughtful is THAT?  (and good TASTE, too)), and me genuinely enjoying his company.  But, for me, there was a piece missing.  The more we spent time together, the more I was truly baffled because in so many ways, he seemed perfect, but there was just something that wasn’t fitting for me.

Now, normally it doesn’t take me this many dates to know whether something is going to be a good match or not – which is why this situation with Raul is particularly intriguing.  I think it’s, in part, because we were just becoming good friends, which was so nice, I wasn’t forcing myself to face the inner voice saying, “he’s not ‘the one,’ Sarah.”

But, finally, I realized I couldn’t keep going like this and I needed to let him know.  But, HOW do you tell the sweetest guy you know, …
…a guy who spent the better part of an afternoon braising short ribs and picking basil for the mashed potatoes from his own garden (yes, you read correctly…he grows herbs in his cool Rice Military townhouse yard)…
…a guy who braved the Galleria ON A WEEKEND to buy you new Chanel perfume…
that it’s not gonna be a good match?

I knew we needed to talk, so when the next kid-free night came along, I let him know I was free.  He asked if he could take me to a nice seafood restaurant in MidTown.

GREAT!  I’m going to be telling this guy we’re a no-go and he’s going to be buying me a delicious crab-topped red snapper?  Ugh… stomach starting to knot up.

I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to talk with him BEFORE (in lieu of) going to a nice meal together.  I knew it wasn’t fair to his time/money to agree to a meal of that caliber (now, it would’ve been a whole other thing if he’d just offered to treat me to Taco Cabana…), knowing that I was going to give him the “we’re not a good match” speech.

But, we’d been out enough, and established enough of a friendship that I couldn’t just text him.  I knew I had to talk to him on the phone.  Stomach hurting…

I knew it, but I didn’t WANNA!  Who does?  Stomach tightening up even more…

So, I did what any self-respecting emotionally intelligent, MA in counseling carrying woman would do.
I called my guy friend (Tyler).
I wanted him to say something that would get me off the hook (I don’t know what!?  But he’s a think-outside-the-box sorta fellow…I figured he’d have SOMEthing up his sleeve).  Nope.  He said exactly what I already knew… talk to him before dinner.  When I told him I was weak…and didn’t want to hurt Raul’s feelings, he told me to “grow a pair.”
Harrumph.

So, I did what any self-respecting, was-hoping-to-hear-different-advice-from-Tyler woman would do.
I called ANOTHER guy friend (Doug).
I wanted HIM to say something that would get me off my own (and now Tyler’s) hook.  But, you know what he said?  “Grow a pair.”  Geez!  What are these two, in some anti-Sarah club?
Double Harrumph.

FINE!

The next two hours was me filled with me anxiously waiting for Raul’s call (to confirm dinner plans), where I would crush his spirit and deal with the disappointed fallout that would inevitably ensue.

Stomach now in full ulcer mode.

I even did that thing that adorable female protagonists do in movies, where you practice all the various ways you could say it, out loud.  There may have even been pacing involved.

“Raul, you’re such a sweet guy and…”   NO….
“Raul, I’ve just given this a lot of thought and… I really do want to be friends, but…”  NO…
“Raul,… wanna make out?”   NO!

Finally, he called.  I took a big breath, my stomach, at this point, is now in a full constrictor knot.

Here’s the convo:

Raul:  Hey!  We still on for Reef at 7:00?
Me:  Um… well, I was hoping we could talk for a couple minutes.  Are you driving home?
Raul:  No, I just stepped out of a work Happy Hour for a minute to call you.  What’s up?
Me:  (sweat dripping down the back of my neck…he’s not even really alone?  Crap…)  Well, can you call me when you have a couple of minutes to talk?
Raul:  Is something wrong?  Is it bad?
Me:  Well…. I just…. I wanted to talk with you about something before we go eat.
Raul:  Can you just give me the reader’s digest version?  (Great…)
Me:  (deep yoga quality breath)  Well, ok.  Raul, I’ve just been thinking a lot about you and me, and about whether we’re a good romantic match or not, and I …
Raul:  We’re not!
[record scratches]
Me:  Uh…what?
Raul:  (laughing)  We’re not a good match!  I was going to talk to you about it tonight!

What???  All this time, and all the years taken off my gastrointestinal life… for nothing?
He felt the SAME?  Good grief, what are the odds?

Raul:  Do you mind telling me what it was for you that didn’t work?
Me:  Well, …(started to tell him one of the issues…and then he kindly interrupted)
Raul:  Actually… this is really good feedback for me, and I think we both agree that we like each other and are friends, so…what do you say we go ahead and go to dinner and talk about it there?
Me:  OK!

Cut to an hour later at the restaurant.  We ended up having a great meal and discussion.  I had way too much fun with our server – “Can you give us a minute?  We’re trying to break UP here!!” or when she asked, “is there anything I can bring you two,” I replied, “yeah, an eligible bachelor and bachelorette!”  There was some serious frivolity happening…

Raul ended up telling me the BEST possible reason why a guy wouldn’t want to date me.  Why was it the best?  Because it truly wasn’t about me.  It’s one of the only times someone could say “It’s not you, it’s me,” which works out perfectly for my ego, since I think I’m practically perfect.  Oh wait… that’s Mary Poppins.  But, still.

He said that when he was at my house and saw my daughter’s shoes lined up in her room (my kids weren’t there, I was just showing him around, lest you all start judging me for introducing him to the kiddos too early…. settle down), it clicked for him that he wanted that.  But from the teeny tiny shoes on up.  He wants to START a family, not come in as an add-on to an existing one.  And he hadn’t realized before then just how strong that desire was.  He then went on to say all sorts of kind and complimentary things about me that he DID like (is there any more appropriate way to end things with someone?  I think not.)
We agreed that we are definitely going to continue the friendship, enjoy meals together, meet up for coffee/walks/concerts/etc., he’s gonna hang out with my singles crew, and we’ve even talked about co-hosting a wine tasting party.  It does NOT get better than this.

So  – there you have it.
Great guy.
Great breakup (minus my ulcer).
Great story to tell.

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