As I contemplated what to do about Man #47, I continued taking my dating prescription and responded to an email from a man who we will call “The Golf Coach.” I met him on my newly-acquired eHarmony account, which Sam had set up for me. There is no mention of golf anywhere on my eHarmony profile, but Sam posted a photo of me putting a foam golf ball through the streets of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. This photo seems to draw a lot of attention…for some reason…from male eHarmony daters.
Man #49 and I first went through the “guided communication” on eHarmony, a series of conversation starters and intro questions meant to help you flush out potential deal-breakers. Then, when we finally got to emailing, he asked if I play golf. He apparently golfs at least once a week with his buddies.
“Define what you mean by ‘play golf’,” I responded. The truth was I hadn’t played golf in over a decade. My ex-husband didn’t play golf, which meant I had rarely played, and my clubs sat in the basement covered in a thin layer of dust. I had kept the ex from selling them at a garage sale, but I hoped my golf shoes hadn’t become moldy in our wet Seattle climate.
Mold happens to clothes and shoes here sometimes, and it’s pretty gross and disgusting.
At one time, I played a lot of golf. Fifteen years ago, I worked at a golf course, and the best perk was getting off work by mid-afternoon and getting nine free holes in before heading home for the day. I played Nicklaus North in the pouring rain while a black bear crossed the fairway in front of me, and I unexpectedly stole the ladies long drive contest from a long-time, consecutive multi-year winner at a tournament at Desert Aire. The truth was; I was itching to meet a man who played golf.
I gave Man #49 my golf history and let him know how much I wanted to get back to hitting that little dimpled ball. I told him not to expect any greatness, however, as I had no idea how I would hit the ball after such a long hiatus.
“Well, how would you feel about a date at the driving range,” he asked.
“That would be awesome,” I said.
“And don’t worry,” he said, “I’m a really good teacher.”
“No,” I said.
“No, don’t do that,” I said.
“Teach me. Don’t try to teach me anything unless I ask for your help.”
“Fifteen years ago, I would go to the driving range and there’d always be some doofus there, talking during my backswing and thinking he was going to “teach” me something. Then he’d step up and hack the shit out of the ball. I don’t need that. Are we clear?”
“Absolutely. You got it,” he said, “I won’t say anything unless you ask me for advice.”
“Ok. Cool. Then we can go to the driving range.”
“Ok. Good,” he said. He was laughing at me already; I could tell.
On the day of our date, we met in the parking lot of the driving range, got our buckets of balls, and walked out to the stalls. I sat my clubs down at a stall, and when The Golf Coach went to sit his clubs down in the stall behind me, I moved to the stall behind him, kind of like a game of driving range leap frog.
“Where are you going,” he asked.
“I’m going back here where you can’t watch me,” I said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done this, so I want to be out of sight for my first few whacks at the ball.”
“Oh, ok.” I also didn’t want him staring at my ass the whole time. I had enough to worry about as I wondered if hitting a golf ball would be anything remotely like riding a bike.
It’s not. There’s a lot to remember in the set-up, and I’ve always believed your set-up to a shot is everything. I’d hoped I could grab the club and everything would feel instinctual, but it didn’t. I started to go through a checklist in my head. My forefinger and pinky were interlocked. Where were my thumbs? Where was the ball in my stance? What was my left shoulder doing? Were my knees flexed or stiff? I breathed in and let out my breath as I pulled back and then swung through.
And this, my friends, is golf. My first ball was a worm-burner that never made it off the ground. My second was a bad slice, but at least it got some air. Between each shot, I went through my set-up checklist. Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I struggled through several more shots. Between swings, Man #49 and I would chat or comment on our respective shots. Though frustrating, it was a fun, casual date. After several more attempts to figure out what I was missing, I asked Man #49 if I could come watch as he hit his next ball.
“I just feel like I’m missing something,” I said. I went and stood in front of him.
He hit the ball, which flew nice and high and straight. I watched as he set up for another shot. After his second swing, I had it. “It’s my thumbs,” I said. “My right thumb isn’t in the right place,” and went back to my stall.
Now, as far as first dates go, I don’t recommend a driving range date unless you have two people who have golfed before and who aren’t worried about making a good impression. I once had a guy ask me what I thought about him taking a woman who had never golfed before to the driving range for a first date. My response was, “are you insane? That’s a horrible idea. What the fuck is wrong with you?” And as you might guess, I had no opinion on the idea whatsoever.
I know there are men out there who think that if they can teach a woman something they’ll come off as some sort of hero, but the fact of the matter is, things like teaching a date to golf, ski, rock climb,…etc., are better left to a professional. Go do something where both of you can have fun! Taking a date out to teach them something is just begging for frustration. Get your partner a couple of lessons, and then, and only then, make it a date.
Even for me, a woman who has golfed before, the driving range date is a little weird. Golf, for me, is half social and half introspective. With the set-up to each shot, I’m all in my head, blocking everything else out and concentrating on how my body feels right before I wind up and hit the ball. Blocking people out is not a good thing to be doing on a date. Just know that.
The Golf Coach finished his bucket of balls before I did, so he came and stood right behind my stall.
No, that’s not distracting at all!
“Maybe you should take a couple of practice swings,” he said.
“I don’t take practice swings.”
“Nobody ever swings the same during a practice swing as they do when they’re actually hitting the ball, so I don’t do practice swings.”
“You know, I have a friend who says the same thing. He never takes practice swings either.”
“Well then, there you go.”
I teed up another ball. This one flew nice and straight.
“You have a very athletic swing,” he said. I just looked at him. What did that mean? I had progressed through my shorter clubs and finally teed up a ball to use my driver. I swung again.
“Wow, that was nice,” The Golf Coach said, as the ball flew out high and straight in front of me. “You really have an athletic swing,” he said again.
I just smiled at him as I teed up another ball. “Do you want some of these balls,” I asked, offering him some of mine so he’d go back to his stall and leave me alone. The “athletic swing” comments were starting to feel a little creepy.
“No, you go ahead,” he said, anchored to his vantage point behind my stall.
I hit another sweet shot with my driver.
“Maybe you should have started with your driver,” he said. “You REALLY do have an athletic swing.”
“What does that mean?” I finally had to ask. During a golf tournament later in the year, my friend, Paul, informed me that this “athletic swing” nonsense was just code for “he was watching your ass.” However, The Golf Coach insisted he just meant that my swing and follow-through were “very fluid and strong.”
“Oh,” I said. Fluid and strong, huh?
Let me think about that for a second. Fluid and strong…
..ok…yeah, that’s me…
…fluid and strong.
After our hike, Man #47 and I drove back to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to bathe in the mineral pools. To call it a “resort” is sort of a stretch, and I got the impression that the place didn’t impress Man #47. I told him it was rustic, but I’m not sure what he was expecting. The communal shower room where he had to change was not up to par, and I think he expected the pools to be more,…I don’t know, elaborate…private…clean.
Here again, where I could have lingered for a long time, Man #47 seemed fidgety and ready to leave after a quick dunk in first the hot pools and then the cold. Maybe it was his hypertension again. Perhaps his heart couldn’t take too many minutes in the hot pools. I didn’t know, and he didn’t say. I just knew his pace felt very out of sync with my own, and I started to feel judged for my desire to stay.
To some, this may feel like a very small thing, but for me, it felt huge. I want a man who will sit still with me. Is that too much to ask? I like going places, dancing and singing, attending lectures and networking events, and going to the theater, but at the end of the day, in those moments when my inner introvert needs recharging, I want someone who will just sit still with me. I want to simply hold hands with someone or snuggle my head into his chest as he puts his arm around me, close my eyes, and just be. Does that make me needy or neurotic or unrealistic?
I always see online dating profiles where people list all of the amazing activities they enjoy, and, quite frankly, it exhausts me. Beyond that, I don’t believe it. The same man who lists all of the countries he’s visited will be the same man you later find hasn’t gone anywhere or had his passport stamped in ten years. Look, I want to travel to Europe just as much as the next person, but once I’m there, I want to savor the food, explore the culture, and linger in a piazza long enough to realize that, after a few beers, German tourists are just as obnoxious as the Americans.
There’s a lot of pressure in online dating to portray oneself as a person with a lot of charisma and joie de vivre, and I possess those things. However, I also know that in a long-term relationship, it’s what happens in the down time that really counts. Will that person be there, just be there, when you need them?
That wasn’t the vibe I was getting from Man #47. He kept asking if I was ready to go, and after telling him several times that I wanted to relax just a little bit longer, I gave in and we showered and got back in the car. I didn’t know how I felt about our day together, disappointed I suppose. It had started fine, but now I wasn’t so sure.