The following is the transcript of this podcast episode.:
Jodi: Hi Maxine. Welcome to the podcast.
Maxine: Thank you so much for having me.
Jodi: It’s great to have you here today to hear the first date story that you’re going to share with all of us.
Maxine: It’s an interesting one.
Jodi: Everybody who listens to First Date Stories knows that each episode we start out with the guest telling us a little bit about herself.
Maxine: I am a communications professor and a writer. I love my family. I love nature. I love to be around people that I care about. I’ve traveled quite a bit. I’m adventurous and I think I’m a little bit atypical because I’m 43 and I have not gotten married and had kids. I would love those things, but I haven’t really prioritized that probably as much as a lot of other people.
I have no regrets. These last 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time understanding myself, looking inward, looking at my relationships and making changes in my life that I’ve wanted to change. It’s been a ton of growth. I think that that growth, which has included quitting drinking and changing careers. I used to be a television news reporter and anchor and I segued into teaching to have a looser schedule and be able to also have time to explore writing.
The growth that has happened over the last 10 years has enabled me to be better in relationships and to get myself ready to make a commitment long term to someone. For me that was really necessary because I grew up around a lot of divorce and I don’t want to make those same mistakes. That’s not to say I think I’m perfect and that I’m going to have the greatest marriage of all times, because who knows what’s going to happen. But I know that I’m much better prepared because of the time that I’ve taken. And during that time, I’ve been on a lot of dates.
Jodi: Sounds like you’ve done a lot of work on yourself and that you’re much more aware of who you are as a result.
Maxine: Yeah. And I think that’s so important because I went into the relationships that I had in my 20s and early 30s really wanting someone to make me happy, to fill that void. It sounds like such a cliché, but it’s so true. And I did feel more happy when I was in those relationships, until I didn’t. It didn’t take too much time to realize that it wasn’t going to make me happy and that the work was going to be an inside job.
I did understand, finally, that not only was I choosing very crazy and chaotic relationships with people that I wasn’t compatible with, but that I needed to understand a lot about myself in order to be present with someone, to be intimate with someone. And I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about just really sitting with someone face-to-face and being vulnerable, and open, and true with that person. I had no idea how to do that because I wasn’t taught that as a young person in my family of origin. So I had to learn a lot of that, and I still have a lot to learn. But I’m a lot closer than I’ve ever been because of the time that I took to do that work.
Jodi: Bravo to you!
Maxine: Thank you.
Jodi: A few moments ago, you mentioned becoming sober. The date we’re going to talk about, did it happen while you were still drinking, or did it happen after you became sober?
Maxine: It happened before I stopped drinking. It’s a pattern of how I used to date, which was nervously and with a lot of alcohol to help me through it, or so I thought.
Jodi: Who did you go out on this date with?
Maxine: It was a guy who… an acquaintance wanted to set me up with him. I didn’t know too much about him. I saw a picture of him and he looked cute. I knew that he lived in the same area as me and he was a lawyer. That’s really all I knew. I was just open to meeting and seeing what happened. He lived close to me, so it didn’t seem like much of a big deal.
Jodi: What was his name?
Maxine: His name was Brian. He had brown hair. I should preface this by saying that, I was in the middle of a terrible breakup. We had broken up, but we were still communicating a little bit. I think that this added to the way that this date turned out. Sometimes we go out with people so they will distract us, or we’re trying to get through something and we think, “Well, this will help me get through it.” I think that can help and happen. But for me, I was so distracted by the breakup that I probably wasn’t in a headspace to go out with this guy anyway.
Jodi: Was this breakup with someone who you’d been in a long-term relationship with?
Maxine: Yes. It was a great turning point for me. Afterwards, is when I did all the work on myself…because after I finally got through it, and got it out of me, I realized that something needed to change. Part of the work was recognizing that the people who I picked, they were very unavailable people. And another part was realizing that that never really worked. I was not only looking at that, and wanting to make a change in who I was picking, but I was also looking at myself and why I would pick somebody who wasn’t really ready to be in a relationship. I realized that I, too, wasn’t ready to be in a relationship.
I had to realize that I was very commitment-phobic myself and very afraid. I had all these fears around it not working out, and intimacy, and really being vulnerable with someone. So yes, it was a relationship that lasted over a year. It just wasn’t good. We were not compatible. We fought a lot. It was not healthy in many, many ways.
Jodi: You realized you had a pattern?
Maxine: Yeah. And the guy that I was going out with on the date that I’m going to tell you about fit the pattern. (Laughter)
So I hadn’t realized anything at this point. But the date is important because it mimicked so many dates. It was the same kind of thing that I did over and over again.
Jodi: Your friend introduced you to Brian.
Jodi: How did the two of you hook up?
Maxine: We ended up meeting at a wine bar. I know, go figure! (Laughter) We talked over email a little bit first, and then we met. It was nice. He was a nice guy. He was interesting. We shared some laughs. I remember giggling and laughing with him and talking very easily. The problem for me, and him too because he was right there with me….we were both obviously heavy drinkers because we were ordering glasses of wine.
I remember it got to a point after four glasses each that I realized, “Wow, we should have just gotten a bottle or two,” and thinking “this bill is going to be so expensive!” But yeah, we were just getting drunk at this wine bar and talking and laughing, getting drunker and drunker. The thing that I’ve realized about these types of dates, which were the norm for me, is that I wasn’t really getting to know him. I don’t even know what we were talking about!
Jodi: That’s what I was going to ask you. What was going on as you were doing all this drinking?
Maxine: Getting to know each other, I guess. Then eventually, a couple of hours in, we’re making out at the bar. Which sometimes, that’s fun. I’m not squashing making out at the bar. I’m not squashing having alcohol on dates. What I’m saying is, for myself, I didn’t really gain anything by getting completely blasted on a date and realizing I’m not really getting to know the person.
I’m looking back on it and seeing myself in that chair with him making out at the bar and I don’t like the way that looks. I don’t want to see me…maybe if I’m 21, but I wasn’t 21. It just isn’t the way that I want it to be, or ever want to be again on a date…just this sloppy drunk woman making out with a guy who I met a couple of hours before in the middle of everything. I mean, there are people all around us.
Maxine: It doesn’t feel good for me to look back on it. I much more enjoy situations where I’m present. I wasn’t present and the reason why I wasn’t present is because I was too nervous to be.
Jodi: Do you think that he was drinking because he was nervous?
Maxine: Oh, yeah. Dates are scary. It’s so natural to be totally nervous, which is why I understand having a glass of wine and kind of loosening up. It makes total sense for me, because my chemistry and my relationship with alcohol was one glass of wine usually led to too many glasses of wine, I had trouble stopping there. So then I would go this place when I was really, really drunk.
Jodi: Let’s delve further into the date. You and Brian are at the bar. You’re drinking and you’re making out. Are you at all aware of what’s going on around you? Is he aware of what’s going on around him?
Maxine: I don’t think either of us really cared. Yeah, we were just having fun and we were kind of in this bubble. I think what got a little bit weird was, we stayed there for a long time. And boy, probably closed the place down. It got really late. He lived in the town over and he had taken public transportation to get there. It was so late when we got out, that he would have had to take a really expensive cab ride, because he could no longer take that public transportation to get back home. So the date’s over and we’re standing out on the street and he says, “It’s too late for me take public transportation. Can’t I spend the night?”
Jodi: Can’t I spend the night?
Jodi: Were you attracted to him?
Maxine: Yeah. I totally was. However, I wasn’t ready for him to spend the night.
Maxine: Ready to make out at the bar. Not quite ready to have him in my home, in my bed, to spend the night. It wasn’t there yet.
Jodi: I get that.
Maxine: I wasn’t ready and that wouldn’t have been my choice. I was tired. We had fun. We had been together for hours. I was ready to go home and marinate on it and talk to him another time. But I felt guilty. I felt like, “Well, I don’t want him to be stuck.” In hindsight, I think I could have said, “Well, you’re going to need to take a cab.” But instead I said, “Oh, okay, you can spend the night.”
Jodi: Why did you feel guilty?
Maxine: I don’t know. It’s one of the things I’ve worked on. A kind of codependent, people pleasing, nature is my default. So, I wanted to help him and also not be mean. It seemed mean to say “no.”
Jodi: Did you also feel guilty because you had kept him out so late?
Jodi: It was something the two of you had done together.
Maxine: Yeah. Maybe I also felt like, “Did I lead him on? I’ve been with him all this time.” I didn’t want to make him mad. I don’t live like that anymore. But at that time, I really did. I didn’t want to be considered a bitch. And looking back, I fully have the right to make a choice and say, “I’m not ready to have you in my home.” But I didn’t do that. I said “okay” very reluctantly. He came back to my… he did, he came back to my home.
Jodi: Did you drive him there?
Maxine: We took a cab.
Jodi: Good choice.
Jodi: I was hoping you were going to say that.
Maxine: Of course. I didn’t drive there. I knew I’d be drinking. No way.
Jodi: Wise. When you got home and walked in to your place, how were you feeling?
Maxine: Awkward. Yeah. I felt awkward having him there and I knew he wasn’t… he didn’t feel like a creepy guy at all. He was a nice guy, 100%. You know, going back to the breakup with the ex-boyfriend, that had a lot to do with it. I felt weird about having a new guy in my home. This was the first new guy in my home. So that was a big part of it too. I wasn’t ready for that.
Jodi: But there he was.
Maxine: But there he was. It was a small place. Is he going to sleep on the couch, in the bed? It was awkward. He ended up sleeping in the bed with his clothes on, which is great, because I didn’t want to do anything beyond that. I remember going to sleep feeling awkward.
Jodi: In the bed with him?
Jodi: You didn’t direct him to the couch?
Maxine: No. I was still kind of wanting to be helpful and kind and accommodating to him rather than myself. The thing that’s popping into my head is “cool girl” and I’m putting air quotes up…wanting to be “cool, relaxed, accommodating girl”. And that never worked for me. It’s like, “Why don’t I need to accommodate his needs when I don’t even accommodate my own?” And really, did I even really fully know what my needs were?” I don’t know. Probably not.
Jodi: Were you able to sleep with him lying there next to you?
Maxine: I was anxious. I think I just probably slept a little, but not that much.
Jodi: Did he pass out?
Maxine: Yeah. We both did eventually. I remember he had his white T-shirt on and I remember lying on his shoulder. Maybe I was getting a little bit of comfort or cuddle time in there, and using the situation for that. But I’m really with a complete stranger and it’s very fleeting.
Then I wake up and here’s this guy that I didn’t really want to be there in the bed, wishing it was my ex-boyfriend. There’s two things going on. It’s that I’m not ready to date and we took it too far on this date. It was too much. It was too much booze. It was too many hours. It was too drunk. It was too everything! Maybe if the both of us could have taken it slow, not gotten drunk, who knows? Maybe I could have dated him. Maybe it would have gone differently.
Jodi: What did happen when you woke up and he woke up?
Maxine: We awkwardly got dressed. I had to go to work and I felt weird about the whole thing. This was another pattern of mine, this sort of deep dive in with somebody and then I would usually go either way with it. I could go one way and say, “Oh my gosh, I think that this is the greatest guy and I’m so into him and let’s just keep hanging out” or I would completely freak out. And that’s the route I went with this guy.
Jodi: What was the goodbye like in the morning?
Maxine: He ended up taking a cab to public transportation because I had to go to work the other way. And yeah, it was an awkward hug and he said that he would call me, but I felt overall just weird about the whole thing.
Jodi: How did you handle it when he called you?
Maxine: I expressed to him that I thought we kind of blew it with everything going so fast and that I felt a little freaked out by it. I wish I hadn’t used that terminology because he took offense to that. I didn’t mean freaked out by him. I just meant by the whole situation. He was a bit mad at me. But when I look back on it, I think he was a really nice guy. He wasn’t an evil person or a jerk. I’ve thought about him since then and I wonder where he ended up. I also think that when I look back on it, timing was such a huge thing.
As I get older, I also realize how important timing is. We hear that phrase, “Timing is everything.” To me that’s always seemed like a bit much. Is it everything? Well, how I look at it, it’s a lot. Are you truly ready to come together and get to know each other and develop something? Because there are so many factors involved with where you’re at. Are you over the other person? Are you in between jobs? Are you about to move to another city? There are so many things happening that can affect the timing and affect whether or not somebody can actually commit. So I do think it’s very important and I certainly don’t think the timing was good for the two of us at that time.
Jodi: I couldn’t agree more with your statement about how important timing is and how it can really either propel you into a relationship, or keep you from starting one. Do you have any advice for our listeners coming out of this date that you’d like to share?
Maxine: A suggestion is when you are dating, despite the fact that we get really nervous and it’s an anxious situation, just to try your best to be there as much as you can. Be in your body. Am I in my head thinking about what he thinks of me, thinking about if I have food in my teeth, all of these things that go through our head rather than simply listening to him?
Do I like what he’s saying? Are we having an easy conversation and exchange of information? Or is it really hard? Or is he just doing all the talking and I’m asking all the questions and he’s not asking me any questions? That’s a big one for me because I am a communicator for a living. So it’s something that I really look at, that reciprocal communication and wanting to know that other person.
But it’s just really about being in the room with that person. I know that when I’m thinking about the food in my teeth, or these silly other things, I’m really not in my body. I’m not with him. Doing our best to be present is really important because then we can assess, “Is this a connection? Is this somebody I might want to see again?” And also I think it’s important to try to not drink too much. It’s not going to work. Nobody is getting to know anybody.
Jodi: It’s not serving yourself well to look to alcohol to get yourself comfortable when you’re out with a new person.
Jodi: Nothing wrong with sipping, you’re saying, but don’t chug-a-lug!
Maxine: Well, right and don’t go to that crazy place. I was an unhealthy drinker and so that’s something that I had to look at and realize that it had to go. That’s not the case for everyone. This is a question that I asked myself so many times. I wondered if a guy didn’t call me back because I got too drunk and acted silly, or said dumb things, or slurred my speech and got sloppy. I wondered if that’s why he didn’t call me back.
I remember one time my friend said to me, “It is because you drink too much. That’s why they didn’t call back,” and I thought, “Oh, that’s harsh. How do you know?” But she’s probably right in the majority of cases. And so I didn’t want to go home wondering, “Did I act too sloppy?” There’s enough to worry about with dating and the anxious feelings around that, that having that whole other layer, it just made it a thousand times worse.
Jodi: Have you found that when you allow yourself to be present, that some of the anxiety will dissipate?
Maxine: Yes. And some of that anxiety has dissipated because I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin through this process. I’m not as anxious. I don’t bring such an anxious person to the table. I also realized that while I thought that the alcohol in particular was making me more loose and relaxed, it was actually in the end causing more anxiety. It made me more anxious. It made me more deep in my head and all of my thoughts about myself and freaking out about every little thing. So it wasn’t only clouding me, it was making me more nervous. I’m so much less anxious in general with meeting people. So it’s great. I’m so grateful. It’s so much easier this way.
Maxine: Thank you.
Jodi: And thank you. Thank you for sharing so many of your personal learnings from this journey you’ve been on and for giving our listeners such sage advice.
Maxine: Thank you. I know the process is different for everybody and everybody is going through something. The highs and lows of dating, it looks different for everybody. But I know we at least have these similarities and that we’re all terrified. We should be commended for even putting ourselves out there at all.
Jodi: But it’s worth it.
Maxine: It’s absolutely worth it because as human beings we want to connect. It’s just part of the deal and that’s to me the most beautiful part of living is to connect with others. I will never quit. I haven’t met Mr. Right, but I’ve realized that he’s not going to be perfect and I’m not perfect. I look forward to bringing our imperfections to the table together. I know that there’s a great person out there for me that’s looking for someone like me just as much as I’m looking for someone like him.
Jodi: I know what you’re saying is true. I thank you for connecting with me and connecting with our listeners and for being on the podcast.
Maxine: Thank you for having me. It’s been fun.