Continued from Part 1

Date #22 - Friday, February 28, 1997: Amy and I decided to go to a movie together that Friday, and so I picked her up in the Oldsmobile and we went to see the theatrical re-release of The Empire Strikes Back. She seemed sort of forlorn, and so after the movie we drove around for a while and eventually I asked her what was up.

She had decided to leave school and join a volunteerism group (Lutheran Volunteer Corps? Peace Corps? I actually don't remember for sure), effective in about a month, so she would be moving away soon. She told me she had been pretty sure of her decision for a while, and when the final deadline to back out passed, she realized that she had to go.

I put my arm around her and gave her a kiss, which seemed to make her feel better. We drove to her place, and I told her that I had a gift for her. I reached into the back and handed her the collage I had made for her. She loved it and insisted that I go up to the apartment and help her hang it, even though she wouldn't be living there much longer.

A couple of days later, she called me and thanked me for making the whole thing go okay, and she told me that I would be the one thing she would really miss from her college experience.

Date #23 - Saturday, March 1, 1997: Jessica and I had so much fun driving around country roads on our first date that we packed a picnic basket and just went on a long road trip for our second one. In a lot of ways, this was one of the best dates I've ever been on; we never turned on the radio, and except for a couple of pit stops and a stop for dinner, it was pretty much a seven hour conversation.

I thought that at the end, it would be something of a stretch to call it a date, but at the end of the night, she grinned at me and gave me a kiss and told me she wished all dates could be as fun as that one. I was even rewarded with a kiss on the nose at the end.

Date #24 - Thursday, March 6, 1997: Bea convinced me to go on another date with her, even after the weirdness of the first one. Yet this one turned out weirder than the one before it.

This time, she strongly wanted us to go to the Red Lobster in town, so we went. After we sat down, she went to the bathroom three times before we ordered. Now, I found this to be really strange, but I didn't say anything at all.

As we waited at the table, a familiar looking guy sat down at our table with us. Indeed, it was the fellow in the pictures from her desk. They had this really tense conversation and I tried to pretend I wasn't there. Eventually, the fellow went away, and I pretty vocally announced my displeasure at Bea for being a pawn in her stupid game with her boyfriend. What was stupid was that she actually seemed to get mad at me about this, so I excused myself, went out to my Oldsmobile, and drove away from the restaurant.

Date #25 - Sunday, March 16, 1997: Monica and I met while she drove the city buses back and forth. I would often get on the bus late and ride from the business district where Round Table Books and a few record shops were located back to campus, and she would be driving. Along the way, the bus was required to stop for several minutes, and so there was a period of time that the driver had to occupy themselves. Monica occupied herself by reading The New Yorker. I noticed this and thought it was interesting, but never really did much about it until one night, I sat on the bus and she turned around in her seat and asked me what I had purchased at the book store. I showed her my purchases, but the one that got us talking was The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test by Tom Wolfe, which she had read the previous year. We wound up talking about One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, both the book and film, and when I went to get off the bus, she bid me farewell. I still didn't think much about it, but as time passed, she drove me back to campus countless times and we reached the point where we were continuing conversations (Jessica actually rode at the same time a few of the times when I talked to Monica).

One night, I missed the bus and had to wait an hour for the next one, which was the last one of the night heading towards campus. When she got near my stop, she asked me if I'd stay on the bus and talk, and she'd drive me back to the dorms. I stayed on and we kept talking, even for another half hour after she parked outside of my dormitory. When the conversation lulled just a bit, I asked her if she'd want to go out sometime, and she asked me whether Sunday would work, and it was on.

We wound up going bowling; she drove her pickup to the alley, which was nearly empty, and we played three games, in which I got swept. It turned out that she bowled in a league. On the way back, we talked of stopping at a seafood shop and buying some cooked shrimp, but the seafood shop was unsurprisingly closed. We drove out in the middle of nowhere, pulled down her tailgate, and sat there talking for a while. I was in the midst of making some point when out of the blue, she kissed me. We wound up laying in the back of her truck, kissing each other for a long while, before finally going back.

Date #26 - Wednesday, March 19, 1997: Justice was another woman in my Western Civ class; what I noticed about her was that she would sit in the class reading all sorts of different things (I can recall Ulysses, Invisible Man, Roughing It, and The World According To Garp without having to think about it too much) and still be one of the first people to fire her hand in the air in response to most of the questions. The professor noticed this, and once she was sitting there doing her physics assignment when the professor actually directed a question at her. Without looking up, she fired back an appropriate answer.

I watched her for a long time and became fascinated by her. I never saw her speak to anyone other than the professor. She wore what I speculated were hand-made clothes, and she kept her long black hair in thick dreadlocks. After watching her for the better part of two months and having no clue as to how to introduce myself to her, I came up with what I thought was a good plan. I bought a copy of The Education of Henry Adams and wrote inside the front cover: I think you'll like this book. If you do, just talk to me sometime. At the end of one of the classes, I walked over, handed her the book, and said, "I believe this is yours," and walked away before she could say anything at all, positive or negative.

That was on Monday. On Wednesday, she comes to class and sits down next to me. She reaches into her backpack, pulls out a copy of A River Running West, and hands it to me. "Read the inscription," she says. I open the book, and in her flowing handwriting she says, "Henry Adams was a smart man. So was John Wesley Powell. Justice"

I smiled at her and she opened up The Education of Henry Adams, so I started on A River Running West. The day's lecture was on Herodotus and thankfully I was already pretty familiar with The Histories, so I had another opportunity to impress Justice when the professor decided to make an "example" of me as well; he fired off a question about the effect of the death of Darius on Persian affairs and I responded with a swift bit about his son Xerxes kicking the military into high gear. After the class, Justice leaned over to me and said, "Seldom does anyone actually pique my interest. Do you want to do something together this evening?" Can you guess the answer?

Justice and I had a long dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, where we spent most of the time unfolding each other's backgrounds. She was homeschooled by her single father, who had apparently won a very large settlement due to the death of her mother and thus poured the grief of losing her into providing a stellar education for Justice. He would literally work everything alongside her -- they'd read the same works and do the same math at the same time. When she got older, they'd have academic competitions to see who would do housework, then she would have to handicap herself when she got to the point where she could beat him regularly. Basically, she got the best education that anyone could have, and that explained at least in part her fierce intellect.

At the end of the night, she told me the real truth about herself; she couldn't date someone she didn't respect, and she couldn't respect someone who couldn't challenge her intellectually in some capacity. So, it turns out that that dinner date was the first of her life.

Date #27 - Friday, March 21, 1997: Heidi is still, to this day, perhaps the weirdest person I've ever met, yet I have a great deal of respect for her because of the lengths she would go to stand up for her beliefs. She held some extreme political viewpoints and was convinced that there was going to be a war against the government in the near future, and she prepared for this by practicing making homemade explosives, learning what herbs to eat and the nutritional value of grass and leaves, and so forth. She went so far as to live on the grass that grew on campus for days at a time to understand what would happen to her system if forced onto such a diet.

Now, I think most people would run away from a woman dressed in combat fatigues, sitting on the open grass tearing it off and putting it in her mouth, but this actually intrigued me. I sat down next to her and asked her why she was eating grass, and she went off on a lengthy diatribe about the government combating the will of the people and so forth, and that she intended to be one of the people who took the power back. It turned out she grew up with parents deeply involved with a militia group in Montana.

Weirdly enough, I found this fascinating and I asked her if she'd want to go out for some tacos later. She stared at me, completely slack-jawed, then accepted the offer.

We went to Taco Time for dinner and sat out front on the ground eating a pile of tacos. She made it a point to save each wrapper and fold it up neatly, and she had also insisted on a paper bag. I asked her why, and she said there were a lot of reasons, but the environmental aspect was the most important to her. We went back to her dorm room, but she told me that she didn't really live there; we went inside and there were a couple of boxes in the corner labeled Heidi's stuff and the rest of the room was apparently dominated by her roomate. It turned out that Heidi by choice chose not to live there, and just kept some items there. Heidi put the taco wrappers and several other paper items from her backpack into one of the boxes; she told me that she thought she would need good tinder someday and that she was saving it here.

If this whole thing seems weird to you, trust me, it was pretty unusual. Yet Heidi kept up with this nonstop optimism; she genuinely felt like she was constantly working towards a greater goal. It was almost like a religion to her, I think; preparing for the great battle.

We walked around for a while, and she kissed me when we stood beside a dumpster, then launched into a lengthy diatribe about the necessity of reproduction to save the human race. After a bit longer, I went back to my dorm room. Alone.

Believe it or not, I went out on what would be described as more of a 'real' date with Heidi less than two weeks later.

Date #28 - Saturday, March 29, 1997: Jessica's third date with me was in a lot of ways similar to the first two. This time we went to a park, climbed on top of the monkey bars, and ate some soup out of thermoses that she made. After that, we walked through the park down to a river, which was icy cold and full of freshly melted snow.

We sat along the side until dark, then Jessica made the suggestion of going swimming. We both stripped down to our underwear and waded out into the water. We splashed each other and then we started to just stand out there, looking at each other glistening wetly in the moonlight. I put my arms around her and we kissed.

We went back to shore and got dressed, then went back to her place intending to watch The Hudsucker Proxy, but when we got to her room, I made a huge mistake and didn't even realize it. I sat down on her bed. Now, this probably doesn't seem unusual at all considering it was a college dorm room, but suddenly Jessica got really tense. I sat there for a while, not really picking up on the fact that my sitting on the bed was connected to this, but after a while, I realized something was wrong, so I got up and asked her what it was. As I got up, I put my hand on the bed next to me, and I realized what was causing the problem.

The sheets on the bed were rubber, and Jessica completely flipped out. She started crying, and she shouted at me to leave.

Now, being the dense boy that I am, it didn't occur to me why the sheets on her bed would be rubber, and thus here's where I made my real mistake: I let her know I had no clue what was going on. This just seemed to make her more upset, and she practically pushed me out the door.

This whole experience confused me so much that I went and woke up Tessa to see if she could shed some light on the topic. She looked at me in a dumbfounded way and asked me if I was kidding. I wasn't. So Tessa explained to me that apparently Jessica had some sort of bladder control problem that would cause her to urinate the bed at night, and unsurprisingly, this had become a really sensitive issue for her and I had handled it like a clod.

I tried to call Jessica a couple of times, but every time she answered, she'd say that she didn't want to talk to me and hang up, so I stopped trying after a while.

Date #29 - Wednesday, April 2, 1997: Justice and I went out again the next Wednesday after our first date, and we spent this date playing timed chess while talking. I felt at an inherent disadvantage when playing her given her demonstrated mental multitasking abilities, but I managed to pull out a few games in between discussions on the benefits and costs of building a space elevator both privately and publicly, why James Joyce is inaccessible to many readers and whether that was intentional, and a really long discussion on NAFTA, which we agreed to disagree on.

We ordered a pizza very late at night and sat on her couch waiting for it, when she told me her father was coming into town that weekend and she wanted me to meet him. This seemed pretty amazing to me, but I was fine with that. After we got the pizza and munched a bit, she actually let down her guard against me; prior to that point, she had kept her guard pretty highly raised. She told me that she liked me, and that she hoped I felt the same. I took a napkin, wiped off her fingers, and held her hand. We sat there and didn't say anything for a bit, then I turned and looked at her and she looked back. We kissed, rather lightly, but for a long time. It sort of turned into a hug, then I left.

Date #30 - Friday, April 4, 1997: Mary was the only "older woman" I ever went on a date with. She was a graduate student who was about to finish her doctorate in history, and her thesis focused on the relationship between the transcontinental raiload and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I only met her because of the oddest of coincidences; Tessa and I were reading books about sects closely connected to Christianity, and so I had a copy of the Book of Mormon sitting on a table at the library in front of me when she came up out of the blue and asked me if I was a member of that church. I told her I wasn't, but that I knew several people that were, and this sent her down a very inquisitive path. She started firing questions at me about them: their personalities, their backgrounds, and so forth.

Mary was in her early thirties and was very beautiful under an exterior that looked completely exhausted. Her hair was disheveled, and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. I went way out on a limb, knowing nothing else about her other than her interest in the LDS church, and said that I'd answer all the questions she could ask over dinner, and that it'd be my treat. She looked shocked, but she said that she would; I think that she didn't expect a random guy fourteen years younger than her to ask her out on a date.

We went out to dinner that night and she was loaded with questions about my LDS friends: did they have close-knit families? Were they well-educated? Did they present themselves as having money or high standing in the community? I answered the questions as well as I could, and after a while, she closed her notebook and we started to have a conversation about our own backgrounds and interests. I remember thinking that Mary was a stunningly beautiful woman that night, and a bright one, too, provided you avoided too much detail in the sciences.

We slowly drank a glass of wine after the meal and talked for a couple of hours, and then we agreed to see each other again.

Date #31 - Saturday, April 5, 1997: Justice met me at my door that evening, which would turn stranger and stranger as the night went onward. I rode along with Justice and her father to the jacket-and-tie place mentioned before in an eerie silence, which I knew didn't bode well for things.

At the restaurant, we got into a discussion about how to teach religion in a homeschooled environment. I didn't have any experience on the topic, but I put in my perspective that theology should be taught, and that the primary religious texts should be taught to any homeschooled child in order to improve their perspectives on humanity. Her father, it turns out, was a devout atheist, and he wholeheartedly disgreed with me on this, stating that organized religion had caused most of the problems of the world. Her father kept at it, though, insisting that religious texts deserved to be sent to the dustbin of history, a stance that I (and Justice, I believe, although she wasn't saying much) disagreed with.

Justice went to the restroom, and while she was gone, her father dressed me down hard, demanding that I leave his daughter alone immediately before I filled her head with nonsensical thoughts that she didn't need to be wasting her time with. After that, he paid the dinner bill and we left. He dropped me off at my dormitory and, since I knew he was going to drop her off next, I strolled over to where she lived.

She knew I was coming and was waiting for me on the front steps. I told her what had happened, and she had completely expected it. I also told her that I did want to still date her, but I wanted to give her the power of the decision of what to do: risk alienation by continuing our relationship or play it safe and end things now before any sort of strong bond grew between us. She decided for the safer route, with her reasoning being that he was the only thing that she had that amounted to family and that he had given so much of his life to make hers what it was. I suppose it was a reasonable decision; I left by giving her a handshake that turned into a hug.

Date #32 - Sunday, April 6, 1997: Monica and I went out on a second date about a month after our first. I have this odd feeling that we didn't really click on our first date, but we got along well enough on our first date that we tried it again. We pretty much repeated the first date, event for event: we went bowling, then drove out in the country and made out in the back of her pickup truck.

At the end of the date, we really didn't say too much to each other. It was fun, but we could both tell something was just missing with the whole thing.

Date #33 - Monday, April 7, 1997: Heidi and I were seemingly going our seperate ways when suddenly she arrives at my door on a Monday evening, dressed in an actual dress. Would you like to go out to dinner with me, she asks, and I accept, completely baffled by this turn of events.

The two of us go out to Applebee's, where she insists on "paying" using a gift certificate that she claimed to have found in a dumpster. We have a long conversation about the global economy, and unsurprisingly she was extremely negative about the idea even then; she expressed a deep hatred about NAFTA and any other free trade agreement as well. She was very well versed in politics and history, but she held an ultralibertarian viewpoint, to the point that it was almost frightening.

After dinner, she asked me if I wanted to go dancing. Again, I was completely stunned. We went to a dance club and danced for three straight hours. I have the rhythm of a goat and she wasn't much better, but it was just simply a good time.

We went back to campus and I stopped where she wanted me to. She thanked me several times and said that she had always wanted to go on a "real" date. She gave me another kiss, got out of the car, and as far as I am aware, completely disappeared from the face of the planet.

Date #34 - Wednesday, April 9, 1997: Mary called me that afternoon and wanted to know if I would go out with her for some Thai food and I accepted the offer. We met at the Thai place and our conversation picked up right where we left off earlier, progressing from our families to a more intellectual discussion of what impact our ethnic backgrounds had on our lives as a whole. We finished the food and drank tea and kept talking, until the place was about to close.

After we walked out together, she turned to me and thanked me for a wonderful evening, but that we couldn't see each other any more. She said that a good part of her wanted to pursue something with me, but that this time her sense of logic had won out and that between her thesis work and job search and the major age difference between us, it would likely be a real struggle. I accepted it with resignation, and we went our seperate ways.

Date #35 - Friday, April 11, 1997: Angela and I met at an objectivist meeting. I was deeply curious about objectivist philosophy, having read The Fountainhead for the first time not too long before. We started the meeting by individually introducing ourselves and shaking hands with each person there, and when I shook Angela's hand, I was expecting a relatively gentle grip, but instead I got one of the most forceful grips anyone ever applied to my hand. The meeting revolved around the "burgeoning" Libertarian Party in the United States and whether or not an objectivist fit within the party. I claimed that it did, but Angela claimed just as forcefully that it did not. Our argument on the topic somewhat took over the meeting, and by the end literally everyone else left, leaving the two of us sitting in a room leafing through pamphlets and arguing political philosophies.

She finally closed her pamphlets and suggested that we read up on this and talk about it again when we're not ruining a meeting. I agreed, and suggested that we have a debate over dinner that Friday. She gave a pretty awkward response, but it was affirmative.

We went to a local Italian restaurant that served things on the cheap and gave out unlimited breadsticks. We argued about political philosophy, but then we moved on to a huge range of topics from whether bloodthirsty competition at miniature golf was appropriate to the nutritional value of a meal of chocolate and gummy worms.

The date ended in a less-than-romantic fashion, though; we agreed to see each other again next week, and we shook hands and walked away in opposite directions. After several steps, I looked back over my shoulder at her; I think she had just peeked at me herself.

Date #36 - Saturday, April 12, 1997: Jenna is the first woman here that I really fell for (I must confess that I came rather close with Justice, Lana, Tessa, Amy, Jessica, and probably Nicole, too). On Tuesday evenings during the semester, I had started attending a bible study group with Tessa, who was doing a lot of struggling with her own faith. After going to a few of these meetings, I couldn't help but notice Jenna. She was incredibly intelligent, felt that most of Christian conservativism was nonsense and that Jesus was a libertarian, and there was just somethinig about the way she looked. I find myself physically attracted to women who come off like Jodie Foster in Contact; casually dressed but immaculately clean and with an intelligent gleam in her eye. I mentioned this to Tessa (who had actually become my confidant about many of my dating experiences and who encouraged me to try to put this all together into some sort of coherent written form), and she decided to play the role of matchmaker, since she apparently knew Jenna very well. I came to find out later that she spent several weeks buttering up Jenna with positive things about me.

On the Tuesday before, after the study, Tessa went over, grabbed Jenna, and the three of us walked out together. Tessa being Tessa, she pretty much told us that Jenna and I would be going out on a date this Saturday and, to my surprise, both Jenna and I agreed to this matchmaking scheme. Tessa (whose father was a well-established lawyer) then announced that it would be her treat for her two best friends, and gave us an exorbitant gift certificate to the nicest restaurant in town. It turns out later that Jenna had expressed some vague interest in me as well, and given that she was good friends with both of us, Tessa really wanted both of us to be happy.

The place we dined at was literally the sort of place that requires a jacket and tie. Tessa insisted that I borrow her car and drive Jenna to the date (Tessa had a nice car; I had a 1986 Oldsmobile), so I picked up Jenna that evening and she was utterly stunning. She wore a black dress and had her hair tied back and her face made up with just subtle hints of makeup, enough to bring out her eyes. It's one of those images I'll probably never be able to lose.

The dinner was wonderful. We talked about Tessa a great deal at first (Tessa actually made up her face -- knowing that I didn't like heavy makeup and preferred none at all, she managed to come up with something beautiful), but the conversation moved on to Christianity, economics, and the best baseball movies ever made. We ate a great dinner and drank an entire bottle of wine before we went back.

Because both of us were too chicken to go to the other's room, we sat in the car talking until the sun came up the next morning. The car was perfectly positioned to catch the sunrise, straight in front of us. We watched it come up, and I held her hand. A bit later, we decided to go our seperate ways; she was almost falling asleep. I looked at her and said, "I think right now would be a nice time for a goodbye kiss. What do you think?" I got a kiss in response.

Of course, Tessa's reaction at the fact that I returned the car keys at 8 AM still dressed to the nines was beyond amusing.

Date #37 - Monday, April 14, 1997: Melissa and I met under the weirdest of circumstances. At the university that I attend, there is a huge network of underground tunnels that serve to let people access the water and steam regulation between buildings. Most people walk over the various grates and manhole covers, not realizing the great network underground.

One night, curiosity got the best of me and I opened up one of the steam tunnel entraces, leaving a gaping hole in the sidewalk. I climbed down in the hole and looked around, realizing that tunnels spread out from me to the right and left. Just as my eyes began adjusting to the light, I heard a woman above me say, "Yoo hoo! Hello down there!" and shine a light down on my head. It turned out that Melissa was on her way back from work on campus and saw me sneak up and descend into the manhole.

Given that she had a flashlight, and that the lighting down there was dim, I invited her to come down with me, and I was almost shocked when she climbed down with me. We wandered around for a bit, just far enough that either one of us alone might have gotten lost, but together we remembered how to get back. We peeked out a few times; once, we actually peeked out inside of a building.

We also located a central point in the tunnels, where several tunnels joined together. At this intersection, conveniently enough, there was a table and a pair of chairs.

We got to know each other a bit wandering around in the dark, and after we got back outside, she asked me if I'd want to have a nice picnic down there some evening. We settled on the following Monday.

We met up that night at a steam tunnel entrance, and she brought a picnic basket. We descended, went to the table, and began to spread out food. I remembered the finishing touch myself: a candle. So, we shared a nice candlelit dinner in the middle of a network of steam access tunnels under the university for our first date. It turned out that she was majoring in Russian and wanted to be a translator, which I found interesting; I asked her a lot of questions as to why, and it turns out that she travelled to Russia twice as a child and wanted to spend some time there after graduating.

When we came back up out of the tunnels, it was two in the morning. She gave me her phone number, and we bid each other goodbye without any sort of contact.

Date #38 - Wednesday, April 16, 1997: Belle and I went on what I guess could be called a date -- perhaps more appropriately, it was by far the most interesting experience I have ever had while dating. I had been conversing with her a great deal online about my collages, which I had put pictures of online, and one night out of the blue she asked me if I would go to dinner with her and her parents. Now, I thought this was very unusual, but I went along with this. She encouraged me to dress up and she made an even weirder request: could I act as romantic as would be reasonably possible around her parents?

I knew something was up, but I went along with this anyway. I went to her room to pick her up and while there, she repeatedly said thank you to me for coming through for her and that I was the only person she could think of that would do this. Before I even got the chance to ask the reason, I got it: she introduced me to her girlfriend, Trisha. It made sense quickly: her parents were conservative and she wanted to hide the fact that she was a lesbian from them a while longer, so she wanted someone to pose as her boyfriend to sate her parents.

Dinner was an interesting experience; I held Belle's hand throughout the time before the meal came, and I probably overacted in tending to her. I told her parents how wonderful Belle was and so forth. At one point in the meal, Belle's mother went to the restroom and while she was away, Belle's father went outside to talk on his cellular phone (these were very new at the time, mind you; I was actually impressed by this). Belle told me that I was doing fantastic.

After dinner, her father bought us all several drinks. Outside of the desire to try everything once, I didn't (and don't) drink much, so by the time I got through my fourth drink, I was borderline drunk and was getting scared of saying something truly stupid, so I tried to keep my mouth shut. Thankfully, it worked and I didn't spill the beans.

Belle was eternally grateful for this, and later on we actually wound up taking similar classes and working on a few class projects together.

Date #39 - Friday, April 18, 1997: Jenna and I spent much of the month of April together, getting to know each other. There were a lot of evenings spent together with her under the auspices of studying, but actually just conversing until the wee hours of the morning.

It turned out that there was a big festival going on in the town that weekend that neither one of us really had a deep desire to attend, so we decided to spend the evening in "a random small town in Iowa." I drove into the southern part of the state, and we wandered about a bit until we started to drive through a weird little town loaded with bricks and windmills; we wandered into Pella, IA.

We ate at a really pleasant restaurant in the town that proclaimed its authentic Dutch food, and then as the sun was setting, we wandered through the town square, which featured an enormous windmill. We walked under the mill, the sun was setting, and Jenna's face was pink in the light. We turned to each other at almost the same instant, embraced each other, and shared a very long kiss.

Every kiss I had ever shared with a woman before melted away in comparison to this kiss. I don't know how to explain it, really; there was something sublime about Jenna, about that moment under the windmill... it still floats in my mind to this day.

We walked back to the car together and started the drive back to the university; we held hands at first, but then she moved my hand to her leg, and the whole while we carried on a long conversation about ... it doesn't matter, it was just wonderful. The whole thing just felt right.

I dropped her off, and she leaned over and gave me another long kiss that I'll never forget .. and then she said, "I need to see you again tomorrow night." There was no argument from me, and she went off into the night.

Date #40 - Saturday, April 19, 1997: Meilssa and I never really had a chance; it is clear to me now that she was interested in moving very slow, and things with Jenna were moving much faster. We decided to spend the day together; she was supposed to have a final dress rehearsal for a play she was in that night, but I wanted very much to see Jenna again.

We played two rounds of frisbee golf, ate lunch at an Irish pub (where we both, incidentally, wanted a Guinness but were underage), and went to a local quarry and skipped rocks for hours. We sat down and stared at the lake, and she just rested her head on my shoulder for a while. I feel somewhat shamed saying that I imagined that it was Jenna's for at least part of the time.

Melissa held my hand the whole way back from the quarry to the campus and I left her at the drama building; she told me she wanted to see me again before we went our seperate ways, but all I really thought about was Jenna.

Date #41 - Saturday, April 19, 1997: Jenna and I went on our third date that evening, the night after our second date, and this pretty much cemented the fact that I was quickly becoming enamored with her. We went to a gyro stand for supper, and then we took each other's hand and went to a number of record shops. I really don't remember a whole lot of specifics about much of the early part of the date; I think we were looking for a vinyl copy of Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming album, but I'm not sure.

After the sun set, we went back to her dorm room, and I knew very well that things were going to get intense between us, and they did. It didn't take long before we were kissing each other on the futon in her room, and soon she climbed onto my lap and we kept it up. I really, really wanted her badly, but I was so scared of pushing things too far that I just kept kissing her lips and her neck and running my hands on her back. After a bit, she pulled back away, pulled off her shirt, and undid her bra, dropping it to the floor. Her blue eyes were absolutely shining at me as I began to caress her breasts, and then kiss them. She held my head close to her as I tried to drink in as much of her as I could, trying to remember the magic of that moment.

She started kissing me again, and then pulled away from me and sat beside me with her head resting on my shoulder. She told me that she didn't want to have sex yet, but that she knew that she wanted me very badly. She looked up at me and said, "I love you." I said it back, and I meant it.

We eventually fell asleep arm in arm on her futon, and I woke up the next morning and wrote her a little note, telling her to please call me later. I signed it with a "love," inscription.

Date #42 - Sunday, April 20, 1997: Angela and I had scheduled this date a long time before; we were going to go miniature golfing together and dine on gummy worms and chocolate. Unfortunately, this came after an evening when things had turned very serious with Jenna and I made up my mind to end the relationship before it had a chance to grow into anything else.

Angela's completely nonsensical sort of humor made the evening a lot of fun, but at the end of it, we decided to go our separate ways. I told her about Jenna, and she seemed to take it very well. Just like she did when we first met, and at the end of our other date, we shook hands and walked away in opposite directions. This time, though, I didn't look back.

Date #43 - Thursday, April 24, 1997: Melissa suffered a similar fate as to what Angela felt just a few nights before. Melissa, I think, was really interested in me, and so I went out on one more date with her to see if either there would be some sort of magical spark; if not, I planned to end things because I was so enamored with Jenna.

We went out to the movies to see the rerelease of Return of the Jedi and during the movie Melissa held my hand. Unfortunately, as soon as our hands locked together, it sealed her fate; the first thing I thought of was Jenna.

At the end of the night, I broke things off with Melissa and I think it really hurt her, although the last thing I wanted to do was hurt her.

Date #44 - Saturday, April 26, 1997: Sarah was an old acquaintance from high school who was on her way to attending the same university that I was attending. She had been a year behind me in school, but during my senior year we had been in sociology together under the tutelage of a teacher who facilitated a primarily discussion-based format for the class. Sarah and I had differing opinions on almost everything, and we were unafraid to let each other know about it.

After I graduated and moved onto college, we started and kept up a very detailed correspondence by both email and longhand letters. We sent each other odd things; I mailed her a container of used Play Doh, while she later sent me a sock. Eventually, this grew into a very tender relationship, which grew even stronger as we helped each other through some trials.

Sarah came up for a campus visit and out of the blue asked me to attend her senior prom as her date. I was shocked, but somehow it wasn't entirely unexpected, either.

We went to the prom together that night and I went with the full intention of telling her about Jenna and nipping the whole thing in the bud before it ever got started, but the moment I saw Sarah in her prom dress, I realized that it wasn't going to happen tonight. Sarah is one of those women who doesn't dress up, but when she does, it means something and she transforms into something indescribably beautiful. I didn't tell Sarah about Jenna that night, and after I returned home for that summer, Sarah and I went on a few dates. I found so much that I liked in both her and Jenna that it was very difficult to choose between them, but I eventually fell completely in love with Sarah. After that, we dated exclusively for six years and in 2003 we were married. Although this was the 44th date, instead of the date being a part of one path, it became the beginning of another. And here is where the story ends.

What Happened To These Women?

There has been some interest in knowing whether or not I developed any long term connection with any of the women I dated this year. So, here's a summary of what happened to them:

Nicole (i.e., the woman who tried too hard to seduce me): Aside from an awkward meeting on campus where we had an uncomfortable and stilted conversation, I haven't seen her since.
Tessa (i.e., the woman who wondered about religion and science): I talked to Dawn daily for years; she actually introduced me later to Jenna, which I talk about above. Sarah and Tessa became friends for a while. We began to drift apart, mostly because our lives went in seperate directions, but we still keep in touch somewhat regularly. As far as I know, she never really made up her mind about her sexual preferences.
Dawn (i.e., the woman who worked at the book store): I saw her pretty regularly for a while, as I was a regular customer at Round Table Books. We had some discussions, including a long one about whether James Michener was a good writer or not. She finished college and moved on a couple years later; I haven't seen her since.
Kyrie (i.e., the woman who I shared that absinthe freak out with): Kyrie actually wound up getting pretty involved in politics. She went to the WTO protests in Seattle and spent two years working for a representative in the state legislature here and got on some local committees. I last saw her when we were both doing some volunteer work for Howard Dean here in Iowa; she said she's thinking of running for a representative seat in 2006.
Lana (i.e., the woman I tutored through calculus): I lived just down the hall from her for another year beyond this, and actually worked with her through a calculus-based physics class the following year. She sort of hinted at going out a few times again after the second semester of calculus, but I was already with Sarah.
Carole (i.e., the woman who was into Vampire: the Masquerade): I never saw Carole again, although I did see some of her friends on my third date with Jenna.
Erica (i.e., the ultracompetitive woman): I wound up facing her the next year in three or four intramural competitions. I only lost to her once. She didn't take it well.
Amy (i.e., the woman who I read short stories aloud with and made a collage for): I kept in reasonably good touch with Amy for a few years via the internet, but I haven't heard from her in ages. The last I talked to her, she was living in South Africa and still had my collage on her wall.
Fiona (i.e., the very straightforward woman): We actually just went back to being acquaintances, badgering the Western Civilization graduate student. After that, I didn't see her again.
Jessica (i.e., the woman who wet her own bed and then tried to make some sort of major issue out of it): I saw Jessica two more times at Round Table Books after our parting of ways, and each time she practically ran away from me.
Bea (i.e., the woman who was using me to make her boyfriend jealous): She lived on my floor, so I saw her occasionally for the next few months, but I avoided her like the plague.
Monica (i.e., the woman who drove the bus): After riding the bus a few more times when she drove (and we had a nice conversation each time), I never saw her again.
Justice (i.e., the super genius woman): She and I actually remained friends, and still are to this day, although I don't think this was ever mentioned to her father. She got heavily into abstract art; she recently had a gallery showing of her work. I showed up and we talked for a bit; while I was there, she managed to sell a painting. She came back and told me that the painting sold because she made up an explanation for it; she believed that her art didn't owe an explanation to anyone.
Heidi (i.e., the militia woman): I haven't seen Heidi since the day she got out of my car. I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that she was at the WTO protests in Seattle along with Kyrie, but I honestly don't know.
Mary (i.e., the older woman) is currently a professor at Pennsylvania State University. I haven't talked to her much at all, but I keep up with her publications.
Angela (i.e., the objectivist woman): She got into student politics a fair amount, but lost a close election to become student body president at the university a few years later. Last I heard she was in law school, but I didn't keep in much contact with her.
Melissa (i.e., the steam tunnel woman): Melissa is now married and has four children; she works not too far from where I do and we bump into each other at lunch on occasion.
Belle (i.e., the lesbian): Belle and I stayed in touch for a long time; in fact, I got a "catching up with you" email from her a few weeks ago. She came out of the closet with her parents about a year ago, and she's still with Trisha.
Jenna (i.e., the woman I dated last and seemed to be getting serious with before Sarah came along): What can I really say about Jenna? She's easily the biggest regret that I have among all of the women I dated before I started dating my wife. I went home for the summer following that, to the same town that Sarah was in, and Jenna went to her hometown which was in the opposite direction. She wrote me twice weekly that summer and actually drove eight hours one way to see me three times. When I went back to the university that fall, I knew I had to make a choice between the two of them, and I chose Sarah. I still believe to this day that Jenna and I would have worked out, but Sarah is just ... Sarah. I think I broke Jenna's heart, though; we stayed in contact for years afterward, but when I sent her an invitation to my wedding, she wrote back with a note that she wouldn't come because she didn't want to reopen any old wounds and wished me the best of luck in my life. I read her note and cried.

The experience of these dates taught me a handful of important lessons about dating, which I've told to various people in various ways. If you have never really had trouble finding people to date, then most of these might seem silly to you or not apply to you, but I'm mostly speaking to those of you out there who aren't exactly socially adept, but want to find someone a lot like yourself as a companion. Thus, I present:

11 Tips For 44 Dates

  1. If you don't bother to ask, the answer is already "no" before you start. If you believe you're going to fail, you're not really taking a risk by asking anyway. Even though I had a decent string of dates, I failed a lot more than I succeeded. I just assumed that every time I would ask, I would fail, and so there was no penalty in trying.
  2. Pick-up lines suck. They don't work, especially with anyone that has even the semblance of an intelligent mind on their shoulders. Just be straightforward.
  3. If (s)he's more than just an acquaintance and you're asking yourself whether to ask him/her out, don't. Don't give up a good friend just because you're confused about your feelings; as much as it hurts, acting on a short term crush can really hurt a long term friendship. Give it some time and be absolutely sure about how you feel before doing anything.
  4. A lot of guys (and most gals I've come across) are looking for something besides sex. Many of the women I dated above seemed to be completely baffled that I wasn't hatching some plot to have sex with them. I was actually much more interested in conversation, and that's actually true of a lot of people out there. You don't have to have sex to date, and you most assuredly do not have to give into any pressure applied to you to do so. Remember, you're the one person you have to wake up with each morning.
  5. Be as straightforward as possible about what you're thinking, especially at first. Confusing signals suck, and so I would usually just say what was exactly on my mind. It rarely failed me, and it usually met with straightforward honesty in return.
  6. Places to "find singles" suck. Try looking somewhere that you'd actually want to be at. I'm a big fan of reading, and I met four different people through either the library or a local bookstore in just a handful of months. One of my closest friends found his current girlfriend by hanging out around a DDR machine even when he didn't have any money to play. Don't waste your time "finding other singles;" do something you'd enjoy doing anyway.
  7. Stupid things are going to happen. Don't let them get you down. I have the social skills of a chimp, and it was probably my lack of knowing what to do in a lot of situations that resulted in a lot of the abject failures you read about above. You're going to screw something up, so just don't worry about it and be yourself. There are a lot of interesting and amazing people out there; don't get yourself on edge with the first interesting person you meet, to the point that you do something idiotic.
  8. A date doesn't have to be something formal. Driving around can be a date. Making cookies can be a date. Don't get stuck on some archaic, traditional concept of what a "date" is. Just find someone interesting and do something fun.
  9. Take a shower. I had a long history of onerous personal hygiene before I went to college, and I later found out that a lot of people in my high school noted this quite loudly behind my back. Take a shower each day; it doesn't take that long and you've already made a huge positive step in your impression on others.
  10. Chivalry lives; just don't be obvious about it. It doesn't take some over the top act of gallantry to be courteous to your date. Holding a door or offering a compliment are both easy and can only mean good things. I almost always do these things to complete strangers; a well-placed compliment can make someone's day.
  11. If you don't know what to say, be patient and don't just blurt out the first thought that comes to mind. A moment or two of silence is easily forgotten; proclaiming your proud heritage of wearing Scooby Doo underwear is not. You're better off with a bit of silence than with something nonsensical.

This entire writeup was the backbone of a book-length work of (mostly)* nonfiction that I worked on for several months in 2003, astonishingly entitled 44 Dates. Perhaps someday, I'll return to this concept, but for now it feels more appropriate to share it. If you have any thoughts at all on this writeup or any aspect of it, I'd love to hear it.

* Mostly here meaning names and some minor events were changed to protect individual identities.