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A Game of Numbers

crowd of blurred menSo, I’ve been dating. It’s a rather obvious statement, but I’m saying it here with a real air of assertiveness that lets you know that I’m “for real,” because dating is what I should be doing if I am blatantly putting out into the universe that I’d like a partner in crime.

And, as painful as dating can be (and, take my word for it, it can be unbelievably painful), the only way to get better at anything is by doing it. Over and over and over again. So, I’ve spent the last few months committed to putting myself out there more as a means of sharpening the side of me that would rather gauge out my eyeballs with a rusty spoon than go on yet another date with a guy who is either too confused or too feminine or too vegetarian or too horny to even see past my backside in yoga pants (feel free to reference this previous dating rant for verification).

Fact. Dating is a game of numbers. You have to weed through a lot of toads to find Prince Charming (at least this is what they tell me).

I, personally, liken dating to Groundhog Day. You know, the movie where Bill Murray wakes up and repeats a sequence of events over and over and over again until he finally transforms from being an arrogant asshole into a good-hearted philanthropist? Yep, that one. Because every first date is essentially the same series of questions, actions, and reactions. The two of you are simply sizing each other up to come to some type of conclusion in regard to whether or not you’d like to do it again sometime.

Sidebar. I’d like to think that Prince Charming breaks the first-date mold. That he asks me for drinks at a college basketball bar where I spend far more time directing my body towards him than Saturday’s primetime matchup. And that we don’t even have to think about asking all the generic questions because the conversation just is. And he whisks me away to a sold-out concert where I’m scalping a ticket from a guy named Chicago in an effort to have another excuse to be next to him. And, at the end of the night, after one kiss that is more electric than the band’s encore, I’m wearing his alma mater shorts and Nike t-shirt to crawl into the left side of his bed and fall asleep next to the warmth of his body.

Unfortunately, this, here, is not that story.

So, let’s return to the vegetarian. Correction. Let’s return to the vegetarian that I met on Bumble. Truly, how else do you meet people these days? It’s altogether mind-blowing. Yet, I’m also living this quasi-nomadic life that warrants the use of technology in order to both make connections and stay connected. So, I jokingly call Bumble the place where we go to die (the ratio of ghosting to non-ghosting has got to be hovering in the 90th percentile); and yet, I am also on Bumble (and last time I checked, I’m not dying).

I digress. The vegetarian. When we started chatting, it happened to be snowing in Breckenridge. I had just landed with the Airstream by way of Texas. And he had just landed at the local hostel by way of New York, quitting corporate America to try on the ski bum life for a winter. We were both new. Great. We were both into powder. Great. And the next day promised lots of the latter. Even more great. Naturally, we agreed to meet on the mountain. And, while this was a risky move on my part (since I knew nothing about his ability level), I felt that I had enough scapegoats for a day date to politely abort the mission (hard rule of first dates is that you always have scapegoats).

We skied. We asked questions. And, surprisingly, I was able to avoid any scapegoating.

The next night, Vegetarian asked me to grab a drink with him to meet some guy that could be his potential roommate (remember, homeboy is living in the hostel while waiting for some housing to open up). He actually pulled the “but I’d much rather be sitting there with you” card, which, as a sucker for words, I found rather endearing. To be honest, I found a few things about him rather endearing.

Until I didn’t. Until, in transit to date two, I find myself sitting in his passenger seat on the side of Main Street while having a passionate discussion about my current diet and my affinity towards eating animals.

That’s right, folks, it’s all fun and games until you disclose that you’re a meat-eater.

If you follow my Instagram Stories, then you know that I’ve been dealing with stomach issues for almost a decade, and I recently engaged in a six-week metabolic reset that was rather strict in regards to the types of foods that I could eat and the portion sizes of those foods. Yes, meat was involved (as it has been involved in my diet for the vast majority of my life). And, yes, I presented this information to him so that he could understand why I wouldn’t be gorging on pizza that evening. Immediately, my diet became the epicenter of our conversation (while still sitting on the side of the road).

Allow me to preface this next bit with two statements. One, I have tried being a vegan and a vegetarian. Two, I don’t actually believe that anyone needs to justify his or her diet choices. Regardless, I opened the door for him to engage in conversation with me about my obsession with being a meat-eating member of society.

Because, I’ve tried everything, dude. Because I’ve been dealing with gut problems for seven years. Because I’ve seen over ten doctors. Because I am more educated on this topic than 97.4% of Americans. Because you call yourself a vegetarian and eat pretzels with fake cheese; meanwhile, I call myself an omnivore and only consume organic meats, fruits, and vegetables.

So, there we were. For an hour. Literally. And all I could think about was how thankful I was that his BMW X3 had a functional passenger-side seat heater.

In hindsight, what I learned about myself through this experience is my ability to detach from commentary that is merely someone’s opinion and recognize that it is in no way a personal attack on my character, an area where I truly struggled just a couple years ago.

Me: “Look, I would love to have a more detailed discussion with you about the pros and cons of vegetarianism, but I don’t feel educated enough on the topic to continue to disagree with you. I don’t even disagree with you. Because if it works for you, then great. If it doesn’t work for me, then great. But, as a whole, I don’t have any plausible data in my back pocket to support that eating meat is neither better nor worse for a human body.”

And, if I’m being honest, I didn’t care. I still don’t care.

In that moment, all I cared about was him driving me home. Because, good gawd, we’re two dates in and he’s already not listening. Disagree with me on something? Totally fine. Try to convince me that my opinion is completely false, or even stupid, without even really knowing me? Totally not fine.

But I stayed calm and talked myself into persevering (it is dating, after all, which is borderline rocket science). I reasoned that he was coming from a good place. I could feel the sense of urgency in his voice. He was imparting a knowledge on me that he believed could help me. At the core of my being, I could not fault the man for speaking his truth. The difference was that the conversation was not directed towards vegetarianism as a whole. The conversation was directed towards me and what I should do and how I should be leery of a program that suggested eating meat as a means of balancing myself. He just didn’t have enough knowledge about me as a person to so passionately preach to, what he seemed to believe, was my ignorance.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt. It was only our second date, after all.

We walked into the pizza place – me maintaining an aggressively safe distance between the two of us. Sports were on TV. I looked to the Nuggets for a little respite from the previous conversation.

Me: “Do you like the NBA?”

Vegetarian: “I don’t really like sports. I don’t really get them.”

Well, shit. Strike two, buddy. Strike two in two hours (if I’m still being generous). Seriously, sports, you don’t get them? So, we return to the food conversation. Again. Because he has to know what I would eat off the menu of this dive pizza place in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Nothing, dude. The answer is nothing. Mostly because I’ll get sick (hello, glu-tard over here). Mostly because I don’t know from where they’re sourcing their ingredients. Mostly because I would order a Tito’s and soda from the bar but not a salad in this kind of establishment.

Sure, I’m a damn food snob. And, sure, I’ve passed over caring what other people think of my food choices. Because I’ve been too damn sick for too damn long to sacrifice feeling good so that someone else can feel comfortable eating next to me.

At this point, I’m managing every verbal volley without any defensiveness or predisposition towards a specific response. But, inside. Inside I am screaming. I just want to cheer for the Nuggets and drink my Tito’s and soda and laugh until my cheeks feel like they’re going to explode. Is that too much to ask?

Seriously, where is Chicago and the sold-out concert and the alma mater shorts?

Somewhere. The answer is somewhere. But, most certainly not on this night with this guy at this local pizza joint. It took everything inside of me to not tell him to just let me jump out of his moving vehicle while he rolled past my RV park on the way home. Because, yes, I did in fact make it home. Alive.

But don’t worry, it gets better. Post-drop off, he proceeds to immediately text me and ask me to define the relationship. And I gather that this sense of urgency is spurred by the fact that he needs a place to live and my Airstream seems like a plausible solution (his words, not my assumptions).

Is this real life? Was he on our second date? Or did I just wake up from a really bad dream?

Nope. Date happened. He was there. This is actual real life. And, in the spirit of extreme bluntness, I euphemistically explain that hell will freeze over before we see each other again.

And, just like that, back to that desire to gauge out my eyeballs with a rusty spoon than experience anything resembling a date in the near future.

But I know better. Vegetarian is just another story. And I don’t mean that in some sluttish laundry list of dating have-dones. As a metaphor, I simply mean that I took him for a test drive and I didn’t like the car (at all), so I left it on the lot. To date is to simply be open to making the purchase.

As a non-metaphor, I liken it more to the softening of one’s heart. Dating is creating spaces of vulnerability for someone to show up. And I’m pretty convinced that you can find out in no more than three dates whether or not a person is going to show up in a capacity that makes you want to be enveloped in their presence over and over and over again. The challenge is that it requires brutal honesty, both with yourself and with the other person. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this fear of honesty is what propels most people into settling. Because we do not want to do the work to know ourselves. And beyond that, when we do challenge ourselves to do the work – when we sit inside ourselves long enough to understand how we receive love – we are then scared to articulate boldly to another human what is that we need based on that knowledge.

Because, what if we are too needy?

My answer. We all have needs; therefore, we are all needy. The right person will never put this label across your chest and ask you to carry it as if who you are is altogether too much. The right person will hear you, really hear you, and he most certainly will not keep you parked on the side of Main Street for an hour to defend your eating habits.

So, here’s to more swipe rights, and random chairlift conversations, and Instagram messages, and phone number exchanges, and actual dates to all different types of food establishments (organic or not). Because I just have to keep playing the odds. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of toads in this world, but Prince Charming, he is out there (and he’d better know how to snowboard).

Stephanie is a road warrior, adventure seeker, and brand builder. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and after spending nearly a decade between the PNW and the east coast, she’s proud to once again be calling Colorado home. Well, home for now. Stephanie recently bought an Airstream with the intention of living a more minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle. After logging over 20k miles in her car last year, chasing rock faces in the summer and powder days in the winter, she realized that life could be a hell of a lot simpler if she could carry her house with her on these adventures. In 2017, she started her own marketing agency, Sleigh Creative, to take control of her freedom. As a freelance creative director and brand strategist, she spends a lot of days playing and even more nights working. In all things, be it work or play, she seeks to inspire people to the life of never settling. You can follow along with her journey on Instagram, @by.stephanieleigh, and through her self-titled personal blog.