I had a great date last week. One I’m putting this one in the “Dreamy Date” category.
Maybe you remember the terrible, fucking awful date I wrote about last month, in which I ran from the restaurant and had to take a bath to wash off all the nonsense and horror.
This one was WAY different.
Before I met dreamy date guy in person the first time a month ago, I told him I’d like to meet in a space that is sensual, beautiful, and pleasing to my eye. A space as sexy as I am and as sexy as we may want to get with each other while remaining classy and chic.
In other words, I don’t want to meet at a ballpark or sports bar or coffee shop. I’ve learned that those spots can be valuable for cultivating friendships or collegiate relationships, but they haven’t helped me discover or secure a lover.
I figure if I’m going to spend more than 2 hours in total getting fresh, gorgeous, and ready for a date that could end in bed together, I want as many of the elements of our time together to gently encourage us to get closer, create more intimacy, and enjoy ourselves with each other.
After a 25 minute drive to the restaurant (because its Houston), I put the car in park and texted, “I made it.”
When I walked up to the fancy glass entrance, he was standing on the other side there to greet me. With a warm embrace, cheek to cheek, we both expressed gratitude, “Yes, finally!”
The day before on our phone call, I asked him to choose a spot for us to sit where I could hold my drink with one hand and touch his thigh with the other. He succeeded in this simple request, directing me to our tall, rounded back, gray leather seats at the marble bar. Outside, the big oak trees were lit from below while the inside chandeliers reflected on the window, giving our view a magical fairy quality.
We ordered martinis and lots of oysters.
We giggled nervously with each other. I noticed his cuff links. He complimented my look, making special note of my color block suede heels.
With our chairs turned slightly in toward each other, I gently touched his hand, we both took deep breaths, and began to settle in.
This was our third meeting face to face, after half a dozen phone conversations and numerous texts. I felt like I knew enough about him to be comfortable, but I hadn’t spent enough time with him to really feel connected, turned on, and trusting, yet. (And I certainly didn’t want this date to go off the rails like the terrible date did.)
I asked, “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”
A few weeks ago, I watched this Seafret video “Wildfire” (embedded below) that moved me deeply. I cried. Then pushed repeat. Repeatedly. Over multiple days. And I kept smiling and crying.
The video depicts a series of couples, strangers to each other, matched up with the explicit purpose of getting close to each other. You see these vignettes of bodies responding in emotions — laughing, fingers fumbling, feet shifting, eyes wandering and seeing, smiling, faces softening.
I watched over and over again. I watched with the curiosity of my own history as a facilitator of escalating intimacy in groups, with couples and clients. I’ve seen these faces before in my work, strangers processing the prompt or question in real time, trying to be honest, feeling the gravity of the moment.
And I watched with my own longing to feel deeply connected. To drop in with another. To be deeply real. Together. To see and be seen.
The video was inspired by this study: The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness, authored by Arthur Aron in 1997. In it, participants are given 36 questions in 3 sets of increasingly personal topics.
The point of the study was “to develop a temporary feeling of closeness” in the study participants. They use the “definition of closeness as ‘including other in the self’ — an interconnectedness of self and other. This feeling of interconnectedness is similar to what some researchers call intimacy… a process in which each feels his or her innermost self validated, understood, and cared for by the other.”
Arthur Aron’s research is clear: “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure.” They found that higher levels of closeness do not develop with mere “small talk.”
Over the course of our 2 hours at dinner, we asked and answered a small selection of the 36 questions.
I told him how I wished I could have dinner with my mother’s mother, a woman I was named for that I will only ever know through stories and photos and prayers. Now in Houston, I walk along the bayou she lived near for decades, where so many members of my family now live and worry when the water rises. I wonder more and more about who I am, where I come from, who the women in my family were who migrated across this continent generation after generation, with children in tow, and hopes in hand striving for a good life. I wonder aloud if they ever got it.
“What would constitute a perfect day for you?”
Turns out this man and I have almost identical perfect days. He wants to be on a boat in the Caribbean with friends. I want to be frolicking in the sunshine or laying like a lizard and soaking it all in near blue waters with warm breezes. And both of us were all smiles describing all the fresh fruit and fish and sunshine we would consume throughout the long warm day.
“When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”
Neither of us could remember when we sang to ourselves last because it is such a regular occurrence in the car, in the shower, whenever a song comes on that we love.
I recalled the fuzzy details of singing to a client who felt lost in her skin and her life. As she lay on the massage table in my studio, breathing into her hands on heart and belly, I traced the outline of her body, reinforcing her edges and her autonomy. She wept hard, tears pooling in her ears and soaking the sheet under her head. As I sang, my own tears slid down my cheeks. In the end, she sat upright and told me she had not ever felt so safe or loved or welcomed to be herself as she had in those moments of melody and stillness.
The last time he sang to someone else, it was a voice memo to me — the Cheers theme song, “… where everybody knows your name …” (I don’t remember why he sang that to me, but it made me laugh out loud.)
I asked him, “If you could change one thing about the way you were raised, what would it be?”
I saw the skin around his eyes get pink with emotion and his breathing change. He wishes his mother would say, “I love you.” He wishes his father would say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” I saw the way he longed for these simple and powerful expressions of love and vulnerability without having to perform a task or sport, to provide something to receive, or to prove himself worthy. And I saw his resignation, knowing he wouldn’t get it.
I took his hand in mine, looked him in the eye, and we both took a big breath.
Then we sipped our martinis, and went in for another oyster.
“For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”
I spoke of having been loved in my life by a few people who, when I was at my most disconnected, depressed, and disoriented in life, these folks held out a vision of me and for me of my best self, my most talented, skilled, successful moments of the past and the possibilities for my future. I thought of my long-time lover, my mother, and friends I’ve been so blessed with over the last few decades.
“What do you value most in friendship?”
He spoke of loyalty and trust, dependability he can count on in the people he lets in close. I talked about a willingness to keep growing in ourselves and with each other, especially when we feel challenged.
“Complete this sentence: ‘I wish I had someone with whom I could share…’”
He said he wished he could have someone in his life with whom he could share “anything and everything.” He meant the breadth and width of his curiosities, desires, or struggles, and to be safe, not judged or antagonized, or having to hedge his bets and strategize four steps down the road, measuring if this set of words would cause grief or conflict to the person listening. He wishes to be free to be himself with a human who celebrates him.
I wish I had someone I could share travel with that felt luxurious, where we have everything we need, we’re tracking each other, we’re on the same page, easily connected, having fun, and laughing. I want the moments of travel through a congested airport to be as much of an adventure of being together and enjoying each other as our intentions for the destination. I want to know that someone has my back; I’ve spent so much time and energy on high alert when I travel alone (and sometimes with others) that I’d like to relax.
I want to feel so relaxed, I can exclaim, “Oh look! The MAC store at the airport. I want to get a new lipstick for our vacation! Let’s go choose a color.”
I caressed a section of hair between my fingers, consumed in the sensuality of my own fantasy, and we both laughed out loud.
“Are you ready to get out of here?”
Yes! Please. Let’s go someplace private, just you and me.
We cut through so much nervous tension, exploring and sharing in the context of these questions. We dug in, revealed, and allowed ourselves the chance to be known. This experiment in vulnerability and honesty increased my excitement and desire to be close to him. It opened us both up to share specific stories from our lives and, for me, accessed genuine compassion and empathy.
I could feel his struggles, celebrations, and aspirations as adjacent to my own, as universally common to so many of the people I have known across the years of my life. I felt connected to more of his whole humanity and heart than just the stirrings of my sexual cravings. (This is that interconnectedness the researchers were searching for.)
So, when we chose to move from public to private space, from clothes on and flirtatious to clothing coming off and erotic, and finally to sexually explicit, we had built enough of a foundation of knowledge of each other and trust through disclosure, that we could be playful in revealing our bodies and desires.
I have been in situations with new sexual partners where I don’t know them very well, and I notice that I feel too timid or shy to accurately and unabashedly say what I really want, what will turn me on, how I want to be touched, what I need to feel good, or how I want to touch this new sexual partner. I have deferred to the other (most often the more masculine person in the equation). I have worried about what they were thinking or how they would react to my requests or how I have sex — the positions or pace or words I use — or how I orgasm — with a vibrator, multiple times, increasingly more feral and vocal.
This date was NOT that.
I felt confident in me advocating for myself, in his sexual curiosity and exploring of my body, and in our connection to create a consensual, hot, and thoroughly orgasmic experience together.
I don’t think the questions we asked and answered are a panacea solving any or all of our sexual problems or anxieties, but because of the process, I trusted that both of us were going into our sexy play together with a deeper respect and care for each other than we had previously.
Just underneath all the trust I had for a hot encounter, even more importantly, I trusted that dreamy date guy wouldn’t hurt me once we were in private together.
At the end of the night, we lay cuddled up with each other, our legs entwined, my head on his shoulder, feeling his hairy chest under my hand and the warmth of his body next to mine, while he stroked my hair gently and we breathed in unison.
I share all this because I know that if we pay attention to our processes for creating intimacy and closeness or for engineering ecstasy, we can intentionally make choices in our environment and interactions that orient us toward the best possible outcomes.
In the comments below, please tell me what you found helpful about this writing or what more you’d like to know to create amazing dates or sexually intimate moments in your life?