I think Megan knew luring me on a minigolf date was going to be a bit of a challenge. So when she stumbled upon a pirate-themed course — “Pirate’s Cove” — in Branson, Missouri, she piped up and within hours I was meeting Jake on the course.
Quiet, unimposing and rather unassuming, Jake was anything but typical for a first date that was going to be filmed. Admittedly, while the men I’ve gone out with have been unique snowflakes, if they were books we were studying in literature class we’d be able to pick out a theme through them all: outgoing.
Taciturn as he was, I decided to just be myself and bounced into Pirate’s Cove Golf to get swinging. Jake was actually good at minigolf — as in, he could hit below par without effort and seemed very at ease (whereas I clocked my ball into a gurgling creek on my second stroke). He seemed rather happy to let me drive the conversation, though he actively did not want to join me in my favorite part of minigolf: running around the green pretending I’m the ball and swooping up on inclines and hills.
Our skill differences wound up being the great equalizer between us. I asked for pointers in between my chatter, and he warmed up to talking through the subject of minigolf technique. Soon we’d moved on from putting and were into the meat of the dating sandwich: past experiences.
Jake proclaimed he was “jaded” about relationships. As it turns out, he’d been married briefly as a young adult and after realizing people change, relationships take work and that marriage is hard, he had decided it was not for him. So instead, Jake has been working on himself for the past few years, making sure people like him for him and not for how he looks or what he has. (He’d grown out his hair Jesus-style and said that before he’d had a beard and long hair, he’d get hit on a lot, and now was often left alone).
Jake was intriguing — slow to warm up, obviously intelligent, well spoken and very rational — and because I liked him as a human being, I deeply wanted to find his ex-wife and shake her a bit for really changing not just his outlook on life, but his current life trajectory. I don’t think that relationships are necessarily bad, or that finding somebody who will grow with you and accept you as you change is unrealistic. I think that in any partnership, you can demonstrate love, kindness and empathy day in and day out, even when it’s hard.
A lot of guys — my ex included — have taken an emotional bruising from long-term relationships. God, emotional bruising sounds too easy. These men have taken seemingly insurmountable blows to their ability to trust or understand the possible inherent goodness of people. Obviously these aren’t the only two guys in the world who have gone through an experience like this, and there seems to be a void of information for them about how they move forward.
Which makes me wonder…what is the role future girlfriends (or just dates) play for men with these backstories? Did one decent date maybe help Jake feel like there’s hope for him yet? Did a rational relationship with me help my ex feel that maybe it’s possible for him to try trusting someone again? Or is a series required, a set of positive experiences over and over again?
*Yes, of course, women have this problem too. But we’re offered books (I Used to Miss Him But My Aim is Improving), movies (He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day, Under the Tuscan Sun to name a few) and a social structure of friends that provide tools for getting over it.