12 Dates and Beyond

Kind of like Bed Bath and Beyond, but way sexier…

So here we are at the end of the 12 Dates series AND at the end of the year, so I thought I’d take a moment to look back on both.

First, the numbers:

17 years age range
11 men
10 good dates
9 restaurants
6 kisses
5 pubs
4 dating sites
3 cities
2 shows
1 lost skirt

I’ve done improv comedy,
walked the zoo at night,
2-stepped,
salsa danced,
worked my way through a scavenger hunt,
go kart raced,
bowled,
played darts
and pool

What a ride!!

The 12 Dates of Christmas series was an interesting (and exhausting!) study in human interaction. 
I’ll take some great (and not so great) memories with me, as well as a few lessons about myself and the dating game.  Here are some of my observations:

1.  There are a LOT of boys out there.  But, there are still some men.  This gives me hope. 
Most of the guys I went out with were men of character… men that will be amazing partners.  How nice is it to know that they’re out there?

2.  Profiles can be deceiving – both for good and bad.
A couple of these guys, I may not have said yes to SOLELY based on their profiles, but because of the series, I agreed…and I’m glad I did – they were more handsome and charming in reality than their profiles let on.  I realize I’m a huge spelling/grammar nazi, so I often dismiss men who may just not be the best at representing themselves in writing, but are still very intelligent/talented/creative.

3.  I can broaden my physical parameters a bit.  I’ve had these ‘rules’ in my mind about age, height, race, hair…
I didn’t want to date anyone younger than 30 or older than 42, shorter than me in heels, a different race (read the post on that before assuming I’m a horrible person), or bald/balding.  And yet, I went out with ALL of those during this series, and had a fantastic time! 
The youngest and oldest dates were two of the most fun. 
I discovered a black man that kisses the way I like,
had a blast with men who were my height or shorter,
thoroughly enjoyed 3 men who were bald or balding
and basically all-around had to eat my own words.

I’ve gotten a lot of judgement for having too many first dates, very few second dates and being too picky. 
But, the more I’m in this game and learning about myself and the people I spend time with, the more confident I am that I CAN hold out for what I really want.  Not perfection… but perfect for me.

I’m going to keep being picky.
I’m going to keep eliminating quickly – being decisive and honest, so that no one gets unnecessarily hurt.
I’m going to continue expecting the best.  Because, not only am I worth finding an amazing man, but I have a big, passionate and authentic love to GIVE.

So, there you have it. 
The last year has run the gamut for me.  Almost exactly a year ago, I had my heart broken so badly – I didn’t think I’d survive. 
And, in some ways I’m NOT the same…that experience is still with me…it shaped me… but I’m good.  REALLY good.  And after the initial pain subsided, and I ventured back into the world of dating, I gained SO much!   What exactly did I gain from all this, you ask?

– I’ve learned more about myself, my expectations and desires in a relationship.  The things I used to think were at the top of the list aren’t, and other things have become priorities.
– I’ve grown more comfortable on dates, so that – as I walk into a bar/wine bar/restaurant/coffee shop, I’m not nervous or anxious… I just have an excitement and anticipation about what THIS date will bring.  I’m not worried that I’ll run out of things to say or that I’ll make a fool of myself… because I’ve learned now that I probably WILL and it’s ok!   I’m at ease in my own skin.
– I’ve made some AMAZING friends.  A year ago, there was no Tyler, Brian G., Alan, Doug, Derek, Jenny, Denise, Jason, James or Brian K. in my life.  ALL of these people have been added into my circle of friends because of online dating/blogging, …and I couldn’t be more grateful. 

So, when we’re laughing (or wincing) at all the horrible messages, terrible texts and unthinkably awful profiles, remember that there is a huge GOOD side to this world.  I’m glad I’m in it.  Of course I hope that my search for love doesn’t last too much longer… but while it continues, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy the ride.

See you in 2013!  And see you on my website – launching TOMORROW!

www.sarahmariestone.com

-Sarah-

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#12 – Twelve Hearts A-Racing

12 Hearts A-Racing,
11 Hats A-Rockin’,
10 Rauls A-Mystery-ing
9 Friends A-Tempting,
8 Cradles A-Robbing
7 Smoke’s A-Blowing
6 Skirts A-Dropping
Sca-ven-ger Huuuunk…
4 Snowboarding Yanks
3 Taco Bobs
2-Stepping Gent,
and a Partridge in a Greek Salad.

Before you read that title and go thinking I’ve lost my mind and broken all my rules and am falling madly in love with someone who doesn’t believe what I do… settle… the racing is in reference to Go Karts… mostly.

So, we left off with plans for date two with the Matthew McConaughey sound-a-like, and knowing that the “what do you believe” convo was on the table.  No pressure, right?

(let me interject here… that I didn’t think I’d be using this as #12, so I didn’t take pictures.  Ugh!  But, I’ll put in a couple of us from other hang-outs so you see how totes adorbs he is…)

Brian was SUCH a gentleman.  He showed up at my house with a blazer and the ever-ready cowboy hat… and a bouquet of flowers.

A bouquet of FLOWERS.
Now, I’m gonna venture out and say (and I don’t think I’m revising history here…) that no man has EVER showed up on my doorstep before taking me out on a date …with flowers in hand.  And they were pretty too – Christmasy.

While I was putting them in a vase, he asked how I’d feel about going Go-Kart racing.  (He had told me earlier that we’d be doing something “active” for the first part of the date – and that I’d have full-veto power about that part, and then could come back to my place so I could change for the rest of the date… I LOVE that he thought it all out.)  I quickly responded, “Sure!”

Brian - CityCentre night

Only later, as we were walking into the racing place did I realize I was REALLY nervous!

First of all, Brian used to race.  Like – really race.  As in – if you type his full name into Google, the world “Racing” automatically fills in.  Yeah.
Oh…I google people.  More on that in a later blog post…

Secondly, I’ve never done this before!  And it’s PRACTICALLY his first impression of me.  Minus a quick round of drinks on our mini first date…

And lastly, I’m relatively certain I’m gonna suck.  I mean – I like to drive quickly (and it’s gotten me into my fair share of speeding tickets), but I’m also conservative and not a huge risk-taker, so driving some car I don’t know at super fast speeds around a track I don’t know, all while wearing a helmet which I’m not used to, and having to pay attention to this entire series of signs and flags I was just briefed on by a junior in high school…. Can you feel your pulse racing?   <—racing…. see what I did there?

So, we were sitting in our cars waiting for our turn and I was SO anxious…I KNEW Brian would win.  I knew I would lose.  My only prayer was that I didn’t screw up so badly they’d have to stop the race and come pull me out of the crumpled guardrail I’d just demolished with my terrible turning radius…
And as I was sitting there in the car, my heartrate quickly speeding up to match the pace of the cars zooming past us, I started calming myself down by saying (to myself…don’t worry, I didn’t talk out loud like a crazy person), “Sarah – you write a blog about dating,….you ask men out all the time… you are always telling other women to be bolder and initiate the first move with men of interest… and you can’t drive a toy car?  Pull it TOGETHER woman!  What’s the worst that could happen?  (don’t interrupt my self-talk with ideas of public humiliation in front of an experienced and dashing race car driver… this is MY pep talk, darnnit!)

And with my newfound sense of confidence, we began the race.

What a high!  I was right about finishing last, but I didn’t ever have to stop the race and publicly embarrass myself because of some idiotic mistake, so that’s something.
It was a lot of fun.  And yes… Brian was in first place.  And yes… I was in last place.  But, that was expected.  And him winning, was pretty rock star.

We drove back to my place where I quickly changed, refluffed my hair from having some sort of cat burglar mask smooshed onto it (a head sock for the helmet… Brian called it some fancy name that sounded like Baklava, but I dunno…), and when I walked back down the stairs, he caught his breath and told me I looked great.  Does this man have any flaws??  (oh yeah…there’s that whole “might not be a big fan of Jesus thing…”)

He had made dinner reservations at Benjy’s (which, as I’ve mentioned, is one of my favorite spots in Houston.  Brian didn’t know that… he just chose well.  Much like his choice in company).  😉

We had the nicest meal.  He was completely on board to split two entrees so we could each experience two meals (not a lot of people agree to that… I’m not sure why?!).  We flirted with our waiter (who MAY have been high…), we laughed and talked and every time I got up to go use the restroom, he would stand.  And every time I returned to get into my seat, he stood.  I have never had a date do that.  And, while it sounds old-fashioned as I sit here and type about it, when I was THERE, it made me feel like royalty.

Brian - karaoke night

Blazer and a straw hat… not a bad combo.

Finally the time came for the faith talk.  It was a natural segue… you know – me pounding my fist on the table and saying, “Alright, let’s DO this thing!!”  No, it really was pretty organic and honest and he did a good job of talking about his family, how he was raised, and what he’s come to decide/believe.  He was gracious and winsome and we even even joked throughout the conversation. But, as delightful as it was… it was also discouraging (for me) because he really is agnostic.  I guess I’d hoped that he’d say something like, “Well, I put “agnostic” on my profile because (fill in the blank here…
‘I’ve become so frustrated with the flaws of organized religion’ (I can work with that…)
‘I was so hurt in my church after my divorce’ (I can work with that too)
‘I didn’t like the other options because they weren’t an accurate representation of my true beliefs, which are just to follow Christ’ (who COULDN’T work with that?)”
But, he truly is agnostic.  SOOOoooooo…… I knew I would enjoy the rest of the date because he is a FANTASTIC guy.  But, my heart sank because I also knew – I can never marry this man…which means it would be stupid to let myself fall in love with him… which means it would also be foolish to continue dating him.  I don’t ever think I’ve been so disappointed to anticipate the friend zone.

But, I was right about enjoying the rest of the night.

Brian knew I love to play, so he suggested heading over to an English pub that has darts, and after that, on to a pool hall.
At the pub, he totally schooled me in darts.  And not like Taylor, who came up from behind because I was so horrible at the bullseye.  No – Brian’s aim was unparalleled and the scores weren’t even CLOSE.  On the second game, he worked through the numbers in proper order and let me play slops and I still lost miserably.  Haha!  Oh well, all hope was not lost because it was in that dimly lit darts hallway where he kissed me.

OK – I know what you’re thinking… why would you kiss him if you know you’re going to have to just be friends?  Oh… I wish it was that simple, y’all.  He’s SO handsome and kind and smart and funny and…the list just goes on and on…did I mention charming?  Sigh… I don’t think I stood a chance at resisting his smooches.  And I’m glad I didn’t, because he was an AMAZING kisser.  Tender, respectful while also being passionate… perfect.
I don’t feel bad about the kiss – in part because I’d already laid out for him what I want/need in a romantic partner (faith-wise), so he had to have known exactly what I did… that this date would probably be our last, barring future friend-only ones.  So, it’s not like he was thinking we were smooth sailing into lovey-dovey land and I was being the Cruella de-Ville of relationships.

We headed over to the pool hall and played a couple of games – I actually WON the second one – yay!  And we kissed a little here and there between shots.. .it was really nice.

He drove me home, walked me to my door and we kissed some more.  Hey – I’ve already given you my rationale… if you don’t like it…skip ahead to the non-smooching portion of the post.  😉

I don’t regret anything.  We were both honest and had a great time.

A couple days later, we decided to meet up to see a movie.  I knew I needed to have ‘the talk’ and tell him I don’t see how we could work out, given the huge gap in beliefs… and I did it that night.  He knew it was coming and, while he was disappointed (oh…I do hate that part… so much…), he also understood where I was coming from and respected my choice.

I’m not done with Brian, though.  He’s WAY too much of a catch to let go of.  (Did I just accidentally make a fishing metaphor?  Wow…I am SO sporty).

We’ve already hung out again since having ‘the talk’ and it was REALLY nice.  We walked around CityCentre one night after playing darts/pool/shuffleboard nearby, and he asked a couple clarifying questions about the faith/religion thing and I got a chance to elucidate my thoughts on it all…which was good.

I also invited him to join my singles group that I’ve mentioned before and he came out with us last night for karaoke and 2-stepping!  Of COURSE my friends loved him… because he’s great.

I envision a great friendship here.  There will definitely be that low hum of sadness/disappointment for a while as I mourn the potential of something that would’ve been amazing…yet incomplete for me.  But, I’m willing to be reminded of that and deal with it, if it means getting to have Brian as one of my friends.  He’s worth it.

And now we’ve come to the end of the 12 dates… aaaaahhhh……….. I’m going to go have a bath.

But, stay tuned for a review of the series as well as some pontification over the last year of dating, blogging and the pursuit of love.

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In 2 days, I will be moving over to my new website and I would LOVE you to join me there!
http://www.sarahmariestone.com

I’ll post to both places for January and then it’ll be exclusively the new site.
S
o – come on over as we take the party to my new digs.

And a special thanks to my sweet friend Tyler, for helping build the website and patiently walking me through learning how to use it, getting the fonts I wanted on there and in general, just being awesome.  

#11 – Eleven Hats A-Rockin’

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

11 Hats A-Rockin’,
10 Rauls A-Mystery-ing
9 Friends A-Tempting,
8 Cradles A-Robbing
7 Smoke’s A-Blowing
6 Skirts A-Dropping
Sca-ven-ger Huuuunk…
4 Snowboarding Yanks
3 Taco Bobs
2-Stepping Gent,
and a Partridge in a Greek Salad.

Alright…I’m gonna cheat just a little here.  I’m going to use Brian as my number 11 AND my number 12 (and I’ll use the 12th post to review all the dates!)…because we had THAT much fun together, and have been out a few times now.

Brian Convo

(Now, before you go getting all excited… wait to hear the “catch”… sigh…)

First of all, I just texted Brian (real name) to ask him if he had any requests for his psuedonym, to which he replied, “how about Ali Benizir Kamal?”…. what a NUT!  This guy is so silly…and adorable… and… well – I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me start from the beginning.

I met Brian on Zoosk.  He messaged me first and we got a little banter going… (to the left)

Somehow, in all the flurry of discussion, and me doing my cursory check of his profile to see what he looked like, if all the you’res had apostrophes, and make sure there weren’t any “alot”s, I jumped in, and missed an important piece of information.  A piece I ALWAYS check, but for some reason…didn’t.  We’ll get back to that later…

So, Brian and I met up at Sullivan’s near the Galleria.

We had the BEST bartender who made all sorts of suggestions and conversation about food and wine and scotch, and even took our picture for us.  Brian was easy to talk to from the beginning – very real, down-to-earth, funny, and all with the smooth voice of Matthew McConaughey.  No lie.  If I close my eyes, it sounds just like him.  MMMmmmm…

Brian & Matthew

At one point, I dropped my earring as he bent down to get it for me (sweet), I remarked about how I have a problem with losing earrings.  He replied, “well, at least this time you didn’t dance it off.”  And I knew that he’d been keeping up with my blog (where I’d mentioned that in one of the recent posts).  I said so and he replied, “Well, it wouldn’t be good sense to go on a date without doing my RESEARCH, now would it?”  So cute.

So we chatted.  We talked about our children, our jobs, the dating scene… and it was really nice.  Brian has this twinkle in his eyes when he’s listening to you – the kind where I kept finding myself pausing mid-sentence, distracted by this light in his eyes and face.  For me, there was definitely a spark.

Brian 1

So cute…

Oh… at one point, he even told me that I had a bit of spinach in my teeth.  Now that’s a good guy right there.  I mean – sure, it was a moment of embarrassment – but how much MORE embarrassed would I have been to discover later that it had been there the whole time?  Points, Brian.

We only had about an hour and a half because I was meeting up with a friend to go to a concert.  Toward the end of our time, I made a comment about really looking forward to this concert and Brian, very tenderly, put his hand on my knee and said, “Oh man.. it’s too bad you’re really looking forward to it… that means there’s no chance of convincing you to skip it.”
(enter stomach butterflies here… handsome man in a cowboy hat and blazer, with his hand on my knee, letting me know he obviously likes me enough to want to spend more time with me… sigh…)

He took care of the bill, despite my offer to split it (such a gentleman), and stood up to hug me as I left.  No kiss.  And, though part of me was disappointed, another part respected the fact that, (as he texted me the next day), “an hour of time together didn’t seem like enough to make a kiss ok.”  Indeed, Brian.  Indeed.

So,… I knew I wanted to hang out with him again.  But… here comes the catch.

I went back to Brian’s profile page, to check it out again (not sure exactly why), and there it was – jumping out at me as if to say, “Stupid GIRL!  How could you have MISSED this??”

Brian - the catch

………..the catch

Yup – Brian’s agnostic.

NOOOoooooo!!!!

He’s SO great!  But, as you all know – the faith thing is a big deal for me.  Many other potential suitors have fallen by the wayside for this reason, and I’m sure many more will.  But, man… it never stops being so disappointing.

In my optimism, I decided to ask him about it, in the middle of our making plans to hang out again… thinking maybe he’ll say, “Oh, yeah – I put that on my profile, but really I love Jesus.”  You know… cause THAT happens all the time…

Here’s a bit of our text conversation on the matter…

texts 1

texts 2

texts 3

I felt like I’d spent so little time with Brian on our first date, and I could tell he’s a person of thoughtfulness and depth, so – at the very least – I should hear him out and see what it is he really believes… and go from there.  So we made plans to go out on date #2 (or #12 for this series’ purposes)… and…
You’ll have to read #12 to hear about it.

Oh yes.  Yes I did.

Post-Apocalyptic Blues

Before I post the last two 12 Dates of Christmas stories, I thought I’d provide you with a little post holiday pick-me-up.

You know what they say about depression rates in the days following a failed Mayan apocalypse and Boxing Day?  Oh – you don’t?  Well, I’m sure the answer can be found in online snafoos…so let’s not waste any more time getting to the healing balm of cyber failure.

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hair

I wonder how many tries he had to take before getting the perfect hair swirl…

Awww…yeah… this is everything I need to know about this guy.

I’m not quite sure what chord that is he’s playing, but his crimping skills rival Jem’s (you know…of Jem & the Holograms?).

No, but seriously – I messaged him to ask WHAT conditioner he uses, because, those locks are full of body AND shine.

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This definitely does NOT scream "scam"...

This definitely does NOT scream “scam”…

Don’t leave me on the edge of my SEAT like that!  “As beautiful as my WHAT?”

I can’t stand the suspense.

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stroke

Is this guy having some kind of stroke?

I don’t get the tongue out bit.

Nor do I get that little strip ‘o beard he left on his chinny chin chin.  Maybe he had another ‘episode’ when shaving…

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IMG_3853

I prolly should just leave this one alone… but I can’t, in good blogger conscience, see an “I reccond” (which I spell, “reckon”) and leave it alone.

I’m not sure wat this guy is thanking… but I’m pretty sure we’re not a suitable grammar/spelling match.

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bud lite etceteraI debated whether this photo was appropriate for my blog given that it’s SO sexy… but decided to risk it.  After all – we’re all grown-ups here…if we can’t handle a little sex appeal (or in this case… a LOT), then we oughtta be ashamed.

I decided to showcase this picture because… well, it just has everything I crave in a suitor.

A photo shot right up the nose, tongue halfway out like he’s seizing, holding up a cheap beer in front of a creepy clown tattoo, all while chillin’ on the deck of what looks like prison housing.

* Fans herself like she has the vapors.

Cowboy, take me away.

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Just gonna let my subtle arrows do the talking on this one.

Just gonna let my subtle arrows do the talking on this one.

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both arms

I love this guys commitment to being thorough.

What… you want to see BOTH biceps?  Ok, gurrrl…

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i hunt rodeo old car

Well… two can play THIS game…

“I snort hula hoop trendy melon.”

See what I did there?  It’s just mad libs, folks.  Here’s the formula:  Try it yourself!

I [verb] [random noun] [adjective] [another noun].

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Seems like he coulda chosen a more imaginative name…

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mohawkIf mohawks were ever cool (and that is an awfully big “if”)… it was when you were about 3 cover bands younger.

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Pick up line 2

No, creepy guy… I don’t keep extra hearts on me.  It’s just too risky – robbers and all.

The live organ harvesting robbers…

What?

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framed ex.jpeg

Finally!

A man who understands that what a woman REALLY wants is to see a photo of you a decade-plus ago, with your ex-cutie-girlfriend, in a FRAME

A picture of a picture.  SO profound.

______________________________________________________________________________________Pick up line 1

It’s written all OVER me?

Dang it!!

Oh, and yes… as it turns out… strangely, I actually AM a parking ticket.
Right?  I mean… what. are. the. odds?
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with bat

You know… if this guy was snapped sporting a bat in a candid photo of him at his church softball league championship game…that’d be one thing.

But he purposely picked this up to hold and asked someone to take his picture for him.

With a bat.

Unfortunately for him, this doesn’t convey sportiness.  More like assault with a deadly weapon-i-ness.

But that’s just me…

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Well – you may have been disappointed by the Walgreens silky shirt your cousin got you for the holidays, but I can rest easy, knowing that these photos never disappoint.  I guess, the encouragement and warm feelings I’ve brought you today … are just … well – they’re a downright Christmas miracle.

#10 – Ten Rauls A-Mystery-ing

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

10 Rauls A-Mystery-ing
9 Friends A-Tempting,
8 Cradles A-Robbing
7 Smoke’s A-Blowing
6 Skirts A-Dropping
Sca-ven-ger Huuuunk…
4 Snowboarding Yanks
3 Taco Bobs
2-Stepping Gent,
and a Partridge in a Greek Salad.

Raul returns!

I told you that I’d feature different SORTS of dates in this series, and this was, as Raul kept calling it, a “Mystery Non-Date Date.”

For those of you just joining us, Raul is a friend of mine (who’s name is nothing remotely close to Raul, but chose that Nom de Guerre as a condition of me writing about him) who inspired a post about breaking things off, and later guest posted with advice on what to wear on a date.

Raul and I have become good friends, and we hang out quite often now.  So, when he said he wanted to take me out on a “mystery non-date date,” I knew I wanted to use that as one of my 12 – in part, to show how this whole online dating thing has a sweet secondary advantage while you wait for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect (for you) to come along… it’s a great vehicle for meeting/making new friends.  In fact, in just a couple of hours, I’ll be hosting a Christmas party for over 20 people, most of which I’ve become great friends with through online dating and the ripple effect/connections that’s afforded me!  So, if you’re feeling discouraged about not yet having found your prince/princess – at least you can enjoy the happy byproduct of the search…new friendships.

So, Raul didn’t want to tell me what we’d be doing or where we’d be going.  He just told me what HE would be wearing.

Then, a day or so before the non-date-date, he texted me to talk about dinner options – and he remembered me telling him the story of having gone out on a date with a guy I really liked, who honestly did leave his wallet at home (we’d worked all this out before the date, so it wasn’t some trick – he was a good guy) and I offered to pay for the date… which meant that when the time came to choose the spot to eat, I had this newfound sense of total freedom in deciding..because I was paying!  This is something guys don’t often consider, but as a woman, if we think there’s even the slightest chance that the man will offer to pay, then we have to be careful about the restaurants we choose… don’t choose something so expensive it makes you come across as greedy or a gold-digger, but also don’t go so cheap that it’s a place you won’t enjoy…

Anyway, Raul remembered me telling him that and so he told me to choose a restaurant that I would choose if I knew I’D be paying (even though I wouldn’t be.  Raul is a very generous and traditional man when it comes to taking care of the bill).
I just thought this was so sweet – mostly because it proved that he had been listening when I mentioned that story and he’d tucked it away.  That sort of thoughtfulness and attention to another person, is something Raul has in spades.

So, I threw out a few options, and we settled on Haven, the new culinary darling of the Houston scene (Raul’s words).
Traffic en route to the restaurant was crazy – Christmas season in Houston, I suppose.  So, we got there late and Raul was a little stressed about the time because we had SOMETHING to get to at 7:30.  But, the long ride to the restaurant also afforded us time to talk…and we had a great conversation about family traditions, holidays, …we even got into our parents’/grandparents’ love stories – which was a lot of fun.

Raul at Haven

Naturally, Raul wanted to remain anonymous.

Dinner at Haven was so yummy and our server was a total hoot – taking our picture, bantering about food and our evening schedule, and even at the end, running out to grab the car to give us an edge, timewise.

IMG_4388

Crabcake appetizer

IMG_4390

Raul’s quail

IMG_4389

My wild shrimp with butternut squash puree

Then, we drove like a bat out of Hades through downtown Houston to the Alley Theater, to see a delightfully funny and even briefly poignant show, “The SantaLand Diaries.”  This is a one-man show (a hilarious one man, I might add) about a man taking a job as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s in NY.  It’s based on the work by David Sedaris, so you know it was hilarious.SantaLand Diaries 1

The reason why this was such a good choice, is that Raul chose something which matched my personality/interests perfectly – it’s Christmasy (and I am a total sucker for all things Christmas… I’m that girl who actually LIKES hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” playing over the mall speakers… because it means we’re in the Christmas season!!), AND it’s comedy (and I absolutely LOVE comedy… stand-up, improv, you name it).

santaland - the elf himself

We squeaked in JUST in time before they closed the doors and then proceeded to laugh our tooshies off for the duration of the show.

When it was done, as we were climbing into Raul’s car, he remarked on what a beautiful night it was and asked if I’d like to take a walk.  I, of course, agreed and he said he’d drive us to someplace suitable.  As we were driving, I kept thinking, “why doesn’t he just pull over here?  Or here?  Downtown is beautiful!?”
After a few minutes of driving, I finally asked, “Where are you going?”  He laughed and said, “I was wondering when you were gonna ask!  I thought we’d go check out the lights at the zoo.”

Now, for those of you who live in H-town, you already know this, but the Houston zoo puts up a million lights each year at Christmastime – “Zoo Lights” – and you can buy tickets to walk through the zoo at night while looking at the different themes and listening to the music they have playing… it’s quite beautiful.  So, that’s what we did!

ZooLights

In addition to the traditional lights, they also had several series of neon tubing displays that were pretty amazing to look at.

ZooLights

Almost every tree on the zoo property was lit… amazing.

ZooLights3

The main thoroughfare/walkway of the zoo – a canopy of lights.

So, we walked around, talking, laughing and enjoying the beauty of the lights.  It was really nice.  I highly recommend this as part of a date in the winter, as it affords you space to talk, as well as something to look at or “do.”

Most of the animals were tucked back into their sleeping nooks, but we DID get to see the giraffes up close and personal, and we probably stood there for 10 minutes, just watching them, imagining what they were thinking, naming them (I wonder if between the two of us, we could remember all the names we gave them… I seem to remember Janet, Larry, Leslie, Barkley, Farkley and Markely (the triplets), …and there were more.  Fantastic creatures.

This is Janet and Leslie... as dubbed so by Sarah and Raul

This is Janet and Leslie… as dubbed so by Sarah and Raul

We finally left when the zoo closed down for the night and headed home.

The night was lovely – as I KNEW it would be – because I’ve come to know Raul pretty well and he’s always fun to spend time with.

But, not only do we enjoy each others’ company, he is an expert listener – always tucking away stories and thoughts I’ve said or told him about, that come up weeks later in conversation or – in this case – a date.  He knew how much I love Christmas and Christmas lights… and he chose the course of the date based on knowing me.  And it was perfect.

So, let this be a lesson – my testamonial, if you will – that the online dating thing has its privileges and perks, even if you haven’t yet found your great love story.  I would never have met or befriended Raul if it weren’t for being online, …and what  a loss that would’ve been, because he’s one of my best friends now.

So – if you’re wary about getting your profile out there – think of Janet and the triplets, think of lights and one-man shows, think of car-rides with great conversation – and go for it.  Maybe you’ll find a Raul too.

#9 – Nine Friends A-Tempting

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

9 Friends A-Tempting,
8 Cradles A-Robbing
7 Smoke’s A-Blowing
6 Skirts A-Dropping
Sca-ven-ger Huuuunk…
4 Snowboarding Yanks
3 Taco Bobs
2-Stepping Gent,
and a Partridge in a Greek Salad.

I feel I should tell you that this AND the next date are platonic.

Thud.  <—the sounds of thousands of readers dropping their smartphones/ipads/etc. out of indignant disappointment.

But hold on… just because the dates weren’t filled with smooches and declarations of future love, doesn’t mean they weren’t fantastic.

Let’s start with Andrew (oooooooohhh….using his real name and EVERYthing.  Scandal.  Well…as much scandal as is possible when the person tells you it’s ok…).

Remember WAY back on date #3 (Taco Bob… bowling…frozen yogurt…ringing any bells?), when I posted a coupon for Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in the Heights?  Well…. when I wrote to the corporate office to ask them if they’d consider providing a coupon for me to post on my blog, I got THIS reply:

andrew e-mail

To which I responded… “How old are you?  Can I see a picture?”  Ok, so maybe I said it a little more diplomatically than that, but c’mon – I knew nothing about this guy, except that he co-owns a Frozen Yogurt shop.  Hmmm… now that I think about it – that’s really all I need to know.

He promptly replied with some number where there was a 3 in the front, and a photo of a very handsome man.  I was in.

We started making plans, and in our back and forth e-mails, I could tell he was an intelligent guy, and witty.  So, of course, he crushed my growing anticipation by clarifying that this was just a friend date, because he is dating someone else and wanting to be honorable in pursuing her.  Y’all, he used the word pursuing – no lie.  Sigh…

So – here I am with a date set up with a guy who’s handsome, runs a business (not to mention, one that could keep me knee deep in mint FroYo), is funny, smart, aaaaaaaaaaaaand……….unavailable.  Awesome.

But, I figured, how can I pass it up?  I know we’ll enjoy each others’ company – I could tell that much from the back and forth e-mails.  And I DID say I was going to have all sorts of dates showcased in this series, so… yeah.

We decided a daytime walk/bite-to-eat in the Heights was in order (and since I knew there was no chance of a mug-down session, I didn’t need to cleverly suggest somewhere that we could nestle into a smoochy nook).  I had to change our plans a couple of times because of kiddo’s schedules and he was quite gracious about it, playfully teasing me about being “back burnered.”

We met for lunch at Liberty Kitchen, an Oyster bar in the Heights, and it was smooth sailing almost from the first hello.

IMG_4362

I apologize for the blurry shot…

Now – THIS is the kind of date that I don’t think anyone really wants to read about… because it was just …nice!  Bad dates are entertaining, but a guy who’s polite, kind, funny, intelligent and handsome, while a fantastic lunch partner, doesn’t exactly make for stem-winding reading.

But, I promised you honest accounts of my 12 dates, so – splash some water on your face and let’s do this.

Andrew was great.  Too great, actually.  I’ll explain in a minute.  He was friendly – quick with a smile and a laugh, did a great job of keeping that balance of talking about himself and asking me questions about me, had a great sense of humor, and was all around pleasant company.  And so handsome.  And did I mention that he’s a Christian (some of you may remember that’s a thing for me… to find someone who lines up with me in what we believe)?  Yeah – when I cyber-stalked…er… did some preliminary research on him before we met (which, of course, I NEVER usually do……ahem…), I saw some things on his FB page that made me think he MIGHT be, but at lunch I got to ask him about his church, and was pleasantly surprised to find a guy who not only believes what I do, but can articulate the motivation behind choosing his church…which speaks to his character and level of engagement with his faith.

IMG_4365

So – really – the only thing wrong with this guy, that I can tell… is that he’s someone else’s guy.

Honestly, this date was funny for me because it left me with two opposing emotional reactions.

On the one hand, I felt this sense of sadness that I finally found a great guy – the kind of guy I could totally fall for… and he’s taken.  AAaaargh!!!  Frustrating.
On the other hand, I felt a renewed sense of encouragement that I CAN be picky and hold out for the kind of man I want – because there ARE still some out there.  I haven’t had that feeling in a while… I mean – I’ve met some AMAZING men in this journey, but only once in a while do I encounter someone who really meets that ‘can’t put your finger on it’ “THING” I’m looking for.  And, while Andrew may not be the one for me, he represents the fact that the pool isn’t completely dry.  And, the very thing that was most discouraging (his being already committed to another woman) is also a piece of what makes him so attractive (that commitment to that other woman… shows his character and his heart).

IMG_4368

So… the search continues.

Sigh with me, will you?
Sigh…

But, the date wasn’t completely in vain… I think I may have convinced him to bring the mint Frozen Yogurt back.  I mean, c’mon… who even eats Taro?  It’s just a food-snob’s coconut.  But, I digress.

Take away:
Andrew- good guy.
Date- refreshing.
Menchie’s- the place to go for a sweet treat.
Sarah’s love life – soldiering on.

———————————————————————-

A note about this series…

Just because today is Christmas doesn’t mean I’m tapping out at 9.  I’ve completed my 12 dates – but I just didn’t have the time to GO on all of those dates AND write them up, while living a (relatively) normal life with jobs and children and the holidays demanding my time!  So… stay tuned.  They’ll be posted before Epiphany <–(that’s for the church-calendar nerds out there).

And while I’m adding postscripts – let me also remind you that in mere days, “AndAllThatSass” will be moving to my very own website!!  Keep reading for more information…

#8 – Eight Cradles A-Robbing

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

8 Cradles A-Robbing
7 Smoke’s A-Blowing
6 Skirts A-Dropping
Sca-ven-ger Huuuunk…
4 Snowboarding Yanks
3 Taco Bobs
2-Stepping Gent, and
A Partridge in a Greek Salad

Welcome to my cougar date.

Sigh… Sadly, I’m not even kidding.

I’ve been jokingly called a cougar, because I seem to be attracted to men SLIGHTLY younger than myself, but I never go out with any that are significantly younger – on principle. But, this series is supposed to feature all different KINDS of dates, so…. I decided to take a young man (a very young man) up on his offer to go out.

I met Taylor (I’m calling him Taylor because he has one of those adorable last-name-for-a-first-name names, and “Taylor” just SOUNDS young) when he played upright bass in a jazz ensemble with my best friend one night at her gig. He was filling in for her usual guy and we met. He was very flirty and charming. We only exchanged numbers because a group of us were going to head out after that to go salsa dancing and he said he might like to join us. In the end, there was an issue with texts going through and he never got the information about the salsa spot… but the next day, he asked me out for brunch. I was flattered, but had other plans (AND he’s so YOUNG!) – “how young IS he, Sarah?”… well – let’s just say there’s a 2 in the front and leave it at that, shall we? Old enough to drink, young enough to not be marriage material – that we didn’t meet up.

But he read my blog and enjoyed it and we kept in touch with the occasional text here and there.

So, when he texted me one day to check in, I asked if he’d be up for being my baby child boy-toy slightly-younger-than-I-am date for my 12 Dates series. He was, (as I suspected he WOULD be) a great sport about it – even asking for clarification about his role. So cute.

We agreed to meet up at an English pub in the village, and I asked if we could grab something to eat from the restaurant next door and bring it back over (since the bar didn’t have much in the way of food and mama was hungry!). So, headed over to Benjy’s and while we waited for the pizza, we dove straight into what turned out to be a surprisingly lovely evening.

Taylor made me giggle right off the bat when he instituted a policy whereby, if he raised his hand while saying something, that information was inadmissable to the blog. “Off the record,” if you will. Awesome. Of course he didn’t ever end up raising his hand throughout the night, but it started us out in a light-hearted way, which is always good.

Taylor - at Benjys

We brought the pizza back into the pub and ordered a couple of beers. I asked if Taylor wanted to sit at the bar so he could watch the game (there was an important Texans game on…why do I always end up on dates when there’s football to compete with?), but he made this anti-football girl’s heart flutter when he said, “no, I’m not here to watch football!” (swoon…) and we retreated to the side room with the fireplace/bookshelves/sofas – very English parlor-esque.

P 3 - fireplace with beer and pizza

So we sat and talked… and talked… and talked…

Who knew a young thing like Taylor had so many interesting opinions and ideas? They must be teaching that kinda stuff earlier these days…

We talked about music, about children (he wasn’t at all freaked out about me having kiddos…which surprised me), about dating, jobs, and on and on. He was so easy to talk to, and (as you can see in the photos), adorable to look at. And, despite his age, he was so conversationally adept – keeping a balanced cadence of his own thoughts as well as asking me about myself and my world. Color me impressed.

After a while, I mentioned the fact that they had pool and darts in another room and Taylor was totally game – for a game. This is my kinda guy – ready to spring into playful action at a moment’s notice.

So, we played a very flirty but competitive game of darts. To be fair, I totally had him on the ropes all the way through – knocking out my 17s, 18, and such, but got SO stymied by that blasted bullseye, that I gave him ample time to come up from behind and ….(though it pains me to say it) …win.

But he was a great sport, and didn’t do that annoying thing some guys do where they try to correct your stance or act so superior about their form that it feels less like a game and more like a darts clinic. No, Taylor was an absolute blast.

P 6 - Darts

As a side note – and the only purpose of this paragraph is for me to brag – there was a small group of British friends playing pool next to us and we started some friendly banter with them. I, of course, had to sport my English accent, and after a while, I overhead the woman tell the guys, “my gosh, her accent is better than mine!” SUCCESS!!! My crowning moment… I can die happy now.
Ok – toot-my-own-horn rant over.

We then went onto the patio for a few minutes and enjoyed the gorgeous crisp weather. We talked some more, evening opening up about some more serious topics (past flames, family, etc.), and then he kissed me.
Oh boy…did he kiss me. The man can smooch.
It wasn’t anything crass or over-the-top, but it was perfectly sensual and passionate. MMmmmm…. this guy is danger.

We retreated back into the parlor/library room where we talked, laughed, joked some more. I stole his hat and allowed as how I thought I looked WAY cuter in it than he did…

Taylor was free with the compliments too… even saying at one point (I MAY have committed this to memory right after he said it…), “You’re amazing. I mean – you’re beautiful… But your personality is awesome!”
You speak the truth, young lad.

P 4 - the hat's on the other head...

Finally, we needed to go, and he asked if he could take me somewhere else for one more drink. I acquiesced… (who wouldn’t?) and started to follow him out of the parking lot, when I realized I’d left my phone and my scarf inside the pub. So, we turned around and I headed in to get them, only to find that a gang of drunk 30-something men on the patio had found said scarf, and one of them was wearing it. Great. Gross. Ugh…I can already tell I’m going to have to engage in some kind of drunken negotiations to get it back. So – I turned on my charming and cheerful persona, thanked them for finding it and asked politely for the scarf back. The guy wearing it thought he was being funny, but he was just being a jerk about it and not giving it back to me, saying – “this doesn’t smell like you…I don’t think it’s really yours!” (yes… you’ve deduced correctly… he sniffed me. SNIFFED ME, people…)

After my best protestations, they would NOT give me the stinkin’ scarf (drunk guys can be such fashion-hogs), so I gave up. I thought when they saw me walking away, they’d cave, but no – they’d fully committed to the jerk role and were playing the part beautifully.

When Taylor saw me returning to my car scarfless, he hopped out with a puzzled look on his face. I explained the situation and he marched right into the bar and politely, but firmly told them to return my scarf to me. They played the same boorish game with him, but he was having nothing to do with it. He reached up and grabbed one end of the scarf and used a perfect balance of a “don’t mess with me” tone and playful banter with these idiots as he pulled the scarf off the guy with the same finesse as a magician pulling bandanas from a pocket. In less than 2 minutes, the scarf was ours again and we were heading out.
I have to admit… it’s PRETTY sexy when a guy will stand up for you – even if it IS about something as insignificant as an accessory. (Though…it was a VERY cute accessory – black ruffles and all).

P 5 - Bier Haus

He tried to take us to “The Big Easy,” a sweet blues spot that often has live music… but it was closed, so we headed over to Hans’ Bier Haus where we had some Christmas-y brew and sat by the jukebox just chatting some more. At one point he even quoted Lord Byron. BYRON, friends…

This was a great date. I mean – truly. It was such a refreshing surprise to find such depth AND playfulness in a guy so young. Some of the stuff we talked about would have been socially paralyzing for many men much older, but Taylor was comfortable and winsome.

He kissed me again outside the Bier Haus before returning to his car. Yum. …and sigh…

So… the cougar date ended exactly how you wish it won’t … with me wanting to spend more time with someone who’s really not appropriate for me to date.

I figured that after the fun of the night wore off, when he woke up the next day, unaltered by alcohol or my captivating smile, he would think of our date with fondness, but then move on. I didn’t expect any texts or follow-up conversation.

But… I was wrong.

He texted me to ask when this would post, and after I told him (and asked if he was nervous about the write-up!), he texted, “Well, regardless of the ‘grade’ I receive…I plan on pursuing you again 🙂 ”

Totes adorbs.

So – that brings us to now. We haven’t hung out again because I’ve been so busy with holiday stuff and little ones. But, not for lack of his trying – he’s texted a couple times asking if I was available to go out.

What shall I do? I guess I should also throw out there, that it’s not just the age thing which has me perplexed… I think he and I are probably in different place on the issue of faith. (You know… that whole sticky wicket of me loving God and wanting to find a guy who does too?). Now, I’m not CERTAIN of this… it’s just what I picked up from our brief foray into that topic. Maybe another date would clear it up? But then, when you combine that with him being a neophyte (in more ways than one?)… I’m not so sure… Then again, he’s sweet, smart, funny, thoughtful, fun to be around and an amazing kisser.

Hmmm………..

So, I’ll do what any self-respecting not-bold-enough-to-make-her-own-decisions dater would do…
I’m opening it up to readers’ suggestions… do I go out with him again, but make it clear that we just need to be friends? How young IS too young? I want to hear your thoughts.
The best comment (as judged by my entirely subjective mood, with extra consideration to those that make me laugh…) will receive a free “AndAllThatSass” notepad.
I know… I know… the excitement is almost unbearable.

Let the advising begin.