Unfenced – First Date
“I knew right away that you were it for me, there were no reservations or second thoughts, I saw you and in an instant knew in my bones, my soul had known your soul lifetimes ago.” ~ Beau Taplin
2016 – Present Day – Age 36
I looked down at my hands gripping my steering wheel, knuckles shining white. My right hand instinctively clutched at my left ring finger for comfort, realizing the gravity of this day with the absence of my wedding ring. Breathe, Ella, I muttered to myself. You can do this. It’s just a date. It’s one teeny, stinky, silly little date. One of many you’ll likely have in your newly minted age of singledom, and this is just ripping off the bandaid. But somewhere deep down, I knew this wasn’t true. Yes, it was a first date, but it was no ordinary first date. This was my first date with a man other than my ex-husband in twelve years. A man with whom I had already logged countless hours in two weeks sharing my deepest, darkest desires and fears. A man with whom I felt a cosmic connection unlike anything I had experienced before. A man…with a serious live-in girlfriend. A girlfriend…who knew I existed. And, who had graciously consented to this date. Stop hating yourself, I implored to my inner critic. You’re not doing anything wrong…right? The first time I laid eyes on Kai was in a 30 X 30 pixel space on my Macbook screen. I had recently signed up for MeetMindful, an online dating destination for crunchy granola, yoga pants-obsessed modern hippies like myself. I was first told about the site by a blissfully content couple at a yoga retreat while discussing my single best friend’s dating plight. I had hardly conceived I’d become a member myself (as a single mom with tenuous health) just two years later. My foray into the online dating vortex was more experiment than expedition. My affection-starved soul was itching to peruse the single world’s wares, while my inner masochist sought to prove that I was divorcing the best thing that could possibly happen to me, considering my physical “considerations”. After suffering through a decade of pelvic complications, failed sexual expectations, and a disintegrated dream of lifelong marital bliss, my marriage dissolved during an exhausting seventeen day speaking tour and relationship retreat in St. Kitts. Needless to say, I was convinced that any soul interested in dating me would eventually come to realize that my appealing exterior was more mirage than marriageable. It’s a good thing you’re never getting married again, missy, scoffed my jaded inner skeptic. Serial monogamy is the way for you now; fall in love, get bored, cut bait, next please! This felt like a solid plan that would keep my exceptionally high need for romantic variety and low threshold for angst and vulnerability satisfied. After creating my profile and setting my search radius, I was shocked to see how meager the population of conscious men were available to love. Two profiles did stand out; one handsome fellow who ate Paleo and had a cherub of a daughter. Wee, I thought. A grown man whom I won’t have to convince that real food is actual food! When I saw the second gentleman, I did a double take upon first sight. He was a beautifully aged doppelgänger of Rob, my best friend Jules’s estranged ex-fiance. Well, THAT could never happen. I could never date anyone that looked like someone that had so terribly wounded Jules; not after my own life’s bounties had already caused her so much pain. Nevertheless, I found myself absentmindedly staring into his eyes, shimmery wells of hazelnut that spoke of infinite depths and…a mystery that yearned to be solved. Something about his gaze called to me. Yes, he lived in the heart of Lehigh Valley, which are the Elysian Fields for a closet farm girl. Sure, his profile was written so thoughtfully and resonated so deeply that I felt I could have written it myself. But there was something so compelling beneath the surface that I found myself traveling back to his profile more than once. While I was gazing away, a faint “ding!” emanated from my computer. This mystery man had just “liked” me. Suddenly, my throat seized and I gasped for air. I slammed my laptop shut, pushed it aside, and put my face in my hands. No, no, no, no…no, I thought ruefully. Oh god, am I really here? Am I fucking starting from scratch with two mortgages, a hectic career, significant medical debt and a small child all hanging in the balance? And I’m considering dating again? What am I thinking?? I turned away from my laptop and accepted my inevitable fate as the most eligible high-maintenance, overcomplicated, debt-ridden, health-addled lifelong bachelorette on the crunchy dating scene. Several days later, I embarked upon a harrowing, life-altering dance with my shadow during an Ayahuasca ceremony inside a lonely ashram in central Vermont. In my rawest, most vulnerable state of consciousness diving, I made an ask of the universe. I asked for a man so brave and so rooted from a place of service, that he would run toward my baggage, not away from it. Who would cherish my every imperfection and allow me to envelope him in the nurturing love I desperately wished to offer. Looking back, I often muse on how deeply altered states could be a questionable forum for placing an order at the “Universal Diner,” as my relationship coach affectionately called Source Energy. A fog of questioning draped around me following the ceremony; I couldn’t shake the feeling that the world I was living was an illusion. Attempting to distract myself from this unsettling trance, I returned to my MeetMindful account and the mystery man. A sudden untapped bravery emerged. After staring several minutes at the mystery man’s profile, I pressed the “Like” button in return, generating an festive “It’s a Match!” notification. A seemingly innocuous gesture at that moment. What’s the big deal? I had thought with newfound boldness. It’s just dating. I’m never getting married again anyway. This will be fun! Two whirlwind weeks later, I found myself standing on the stoop of a coffeeshop in Lambertville, New Jersey. A place that held fond memories of late nights with my beloved college roommate. I was about to meet Kai in the flesh. A bracing intellect, wildly successful entrepreneur, spiritual soul, philanthropist, conscious father of two, aspiring Tantric healer, and already a safe haven for my darkest secrets. What was the “catch”, you ask? Just one small consideration: he was polyamorous. Not a swinger, or even in an open relationship with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Rather, a man whose relationship vision was to engage deeply in love with more than one person at the same time. To love them consciously, with the freedom to connect with other souls on multiple levels with full integrity and disclosure. A man so ahead of his time that his existence shook the foundation of everything I had reluctantly adopted about the world’s default way of loving: monogamy. I was moments away from finding out if this amalgamation of my wildest desires was only a figment of my imagination. Just the night before, we both lay in our distant beds over FaceTime remarking on the depth of our connection, despite never having met in person. Severely burned by men with ill intentions before, my pain-avoidance antennae were on high alert. Calm the fuck down, Ella. He’s just a human being. For Christ’s sake. Hands shaking, I mustered the strength to lift my feet in suddenly cement-filled boots, push the door inside and tumble down the rabbit role. “Shall I wear a red rose so you’ll recognize me?” I had coyly joked. “No need, my love,” he responded, sending another shiver through me. “I’ll find you.” Good lord, I thought. Either he is the most dazzlingly intriguing man I’ve ever met, or a serial killer. I responsibly patted my Tiger Claw defense device and recalled my best friend’s advice to not let him walk me to my car lest he see my license plate. In my heart though, I knew this precaution was ridiculous. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I tenuously glanced around the shop to identify the man I’d known only through photos and Skype. And…nothing. I grew braver and began to explore the coffeeshop, anticipating THE moment when I’d see him. The moment never came. I nearly yelped as my phone buzzed in my hand. Kai had decided to take a quick stroll around the block while waiting for me. Although his silken voice was so familiar at this point, knowing its vessel was yards away was highly unnerving. I sighed a deep breath of relief and scurried into the restroom for one last touch up. I excessively adjusted my olive green leather bomber jacket over my favorite deep wine tunic. I had obsessed over curating the perfect ensemble that neither revealed too much nor too little. I was a mother, after all, and couldn’t possibly communicate any but the purest intentions on a first date. And yet, much out of character for a first date, I had asked for his advice on what to wear earlier that day; his response, as usual, caused a tingle. “Don’t try to impress me too much – I’m already blown away,” he responded. “I care more about being in your energy field than what you’re wearing.” At that moment, and many moments before, I realized I was in very deep trouble with this man. Minutes later, he announced his return to the shop. This was it. I smoothed my wavy chestnut locks, steeled my frayed nerves and turned the knob to exit.