Friday, August 21, 2015

Help! I might be dating Sheldon Cooper

Sheldon Cooper is a fictional character on the television situation comedy, "The Big Bang Theory."  Sheldon is straight, but he's portrayed by gay actor Jim Parsons.  Wikipedia has this to say about Sheldon...
Sheldon Cooper is a former child prodigy with genius level IQ, but displays an almost total lack of social skills, a tenuous understanding of humor, and difficulty recognizing irony and sarcasm in other people, although he himself often employs them. He exhibits highly idiosyncratic and narcissistic behavior and a general lack of humility or empathy. These characteristics provide the majority of the humor involving him, which has caused him to be described as the show's breakout character. Despite speculation that Sheldon's personality traits may be consistent with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive personality disorder and asexuality, co-creator Bill Prady has repeatedly stated that Sheldon's character was neither conceived nor developed with regard to any of these traits.
Sheldon is a strange, funny guy, but he's far more amusing to viewers than he is to the other characters on the show. Sure, they genuinely like him, but they also regard him as a pain-in-the-ass-know-it-all, whose many idiosyncrasies must be constantly accommodated.

About two months ago I met a real-life Sheldon Cooper and we might be dating.

There are so many stories I could tell about this guy, who I'll call Cooper, that I hardly know where to begin...

We met on a relationship-oriented dating site.  Physically, he's quite attractive so I was somewhat surprised when he "liked" me almost immediately after I joined.  I "liked" him back and sent a message which he quickly returned.  Two days later we spoke on the phone for about 10 minutes and arranged a hike as a first meeting.  AFTER the details for the hike were agreed upon, Cooper said, "I don't have a car.  Can you pick me up?"  This was a surprising request because it required me to drive an extra 40 minutes each way to pick him up and drop him off.  Doormat that I am, however, I said, "Sure, I can do that."

Cooper lives in a small apartment building with a locked lobby.  When I arrived on-time, I texted to tell him I was downstairs waiting, to which he replied, "OK.  I'm almost ready."  Fifteen minutes later he appeared.  I'm not sure why, but I greeted him with a polite hug.  That's not something I would normally do when meeting for the first time, but I guess he seemed approachable.  He, apparently, thought it was very odd.  His whole body stiffened under my arms.  "Ooops," I thought.  "I guess I shouldn't have done that."

The drive to the hike location (which he chose; I couldn't have cared less where we went or what we did) was about 45 minutes.  As we began the drive it soon became clear that the burden of carrying the conversation was on me.  My tactic when that happens is to ask questions until I stumble onto a topic that triggers discussion.  After about fifteen minutes of my inquiries and his so-so responses, I started to ask about his family.  Did they live nearby?  Did he have siblings?  Was he close to his parents? 

Well, holy shit, was that the wrong question to ask.  Quite angrily he replied, "I have a tip for you.  The first time you meet someone you shouldn't ask so many personal questions.  It's rude. I feel like I'm being interviewed!"

Although the way he made his point was unnecessarily harsh, he was right.  In my nervousness I probably did come off like an attorney conducting a deposition.  I immediately and sincerely apologized and stopped asking questions.  Inside, however, I was in a panic, "This could easily turn out to be the worst date ever and it's only been fifteen minutes.  What if it gets uglier and I have to drive him back for 40 minutes?!!"

Well, long story short, I focused on keeping the conversation light and he seemed to calm down.  The hike was OK, although things got contentious whenever there was a decision to be made.  I felt like I was walking on eggshells with him so I wanted to be certain we were doing exactly what he wanted.  He got annoyed that I kept confirming every decision.

When Cooper decided we were done with the hike I breathed a silent sigh of relief.  I was anxious to take him home before anything bad happened between us.  However, as we were walking to the car, he started talking about how hungry he was and how he hadn't been to his favorite restaurant in months.  "Let's go there," he said.

"Well, that restaurant is about twenty-five miles away and commute traffic is starting to kick in.  I estimate it would take us 45 minutes to get there."

"That's OK.  I really want to go.  I haven't been in months and it's my favorite restaurant."

Eager to end the date in a positive way, I said, "OK, let's go."

The restaurant was Ethiopian, which I hadn't eaten in years. Because Cooper loved it so much, I followed his lead and ordered what he did, a sampler and an entree.  Little did I know that the sampler was humongous, more than a full meal by itself.  I was stunned by the quantity of food we ordered as the waitress brought everything out.  It was easily enough for four full meals, not two.

One thing I forgot to mention about the hike were Cooper's rules, one of which was that we had to silently observe nature's beauty as much as possible.  It turned out he had a similar rule for eating.  Talking, he said, distracts from the deliciousness of the food.  "Of course it does," I thought.

It turned out that Cooper was correct about talking being distracting.  Sort of.  Although I thought the food was nothing special, I was left completely speechless by the way Cooper inhaled every bit of it.  I've never seen anyone eat with such joyous gusto.  He was truly a sight to behold, especially when he periodically moaned and rolled his eyes back in his head.  The connection he made with the food was sensuous and slightly erotic.  I couldn't help but stare.

When the check came, I paid for it all, mostly because I felt bad about offending him at the beginning of the date.

The trip back to his apartment was uneventful.  I'd learned by that point to accept uncomfortable silences.  As I dropped him off he asked, "How do you think it went?"

"Umm...I'm honestly not sure what to think.  How about you?"

"There were some rough spots but it was OK."

"Yes, that's a good summary.  I'll go with that."

He nodded, then said, "OK, have a good night," and walked into his building.

On the drive home, I asked myself if I ever wanted to see him again.  After some debate, I ultimately decided I *did* want a second date, but mostly so it would wash away the unpleasant aspects of the first one.  Previous bad first dates had haunted me so I really wanted this experience to be positive. 

That said, if we never met again I would have been OK with that too.

It turned out that Cooper wanted a second meeting right away, another hike.  He has a 'thing' about hiking every trail in a park and there was a place, nearly two hours away, where he hadn't finished every trail so that's where I agreed to drive him.  Ultimately, I ended up driving 200 miles that day and we spent more than nine hours together.  At the end, we were back at the same frickin' Ethiopian restaurant again, where Cooper ate the same massive quantity of food in the same moaning, eyes-rolling-back way.   Again, I picked up the tab, although I'm not sure why.  I guess for the honor of having this strange guy entertain me all day.

Although our second meeting went much more smoothly than the first, there were still some choice moments - a $60 alcohol-free lunch tab; the dead mosquito on his face that I was about to brush away until he angrily said, "I'll do it!"; the time he told me I had too many opinions and I should only talk about facts; and, his hilarious joke that he was better at everything than I was, except, maybe, scrubbing toilets.  "You have janitorial intelligence!!!!"  Yes Cooper, you're very funny.

He also couldn't remember my name.

Sometimes I felt like he appreciated having me with him.  Other times I felt like I annoyed him.  Mostly I felt like a useful object - a thing to be manipulated to achieve his objectives.  Two meetings were enough for me.

But I dropped him back at his apartment...he asked to meet again.  

I hate bad endings so rather than say, "No thanks, you're a weird pain-in-the-ass," I said, "OK, when?"

On our third hike he asked me to carry his backpack, but not on my back; he didn't want my sweat on it.  He wasn't joking.  Later he told me not to stand too close to him when we looked at the map.

On our fourth hike he told me his type was George Clooney - an older, taller, distinguished guy.  I am so *not* George Clooney.  He also heavily flirted with our short, straight, twinkish waiter.  He was nicer to him for three minutes than he'd ever been to me.

Gah, I was so done!  But the rest of the day went OK so why ruin it by speaking up?

On our fifth hike he was nicer than he'd ever been.  He even apologized once after snapping impatiently at me and several times we shared meaningful eye contact.  How could I be done with him after that?

On the sixth and seventh hikes, he gave me a thoughtful, sincere compliment each time.  These meetings were more harmonious.  By then I'd learned when it was acceptable to speak and what was acceptable to say.  Even so, he made it clear that touching him, even by accident, was off limits.

At the end of our eighth hike, just as I was about to drop him off, he said, "You know, I don't have as many friends as I'd like.  I have a history of not liking certain things about people and then I don't want to see them.  I recently decided to start giving people a second chance, so I did that for you."

What??!  I'm his friendship guinea pig???

"Oh wow," I replied.  And I repeated it over and over as the ramifications of what he said sunk in.  

If he had anything else to say, I wasn't listening.  I was in too much shock.  Not only was I used as a chauffeur and a benefactor, I was a sociological experiment as well.  Nice to know!

We parted with mutually strained "see ya's."  I had no idea what he was upset about but I was seething.  I felt like our eight dates and many, many hours together were a fraud.  The guy didn't want to hike with me because he liked, he just wanted to see if he could learn to tolerate an unlikeable person.

The more I thought about it however, the more I realized he was probably trying to say something nice but I stopped listening before he could make his point.  I texted an apology.

"Acknowledged and thank you," was his reply.  Then, "Let's hike very soon."

I really have no idea how this guy feels about me.  And I don't seem to care.  Somehow, during our many hours together, I've grown attached to him.  This, despite the fact that he's a total germophobe who doesn't like to be touched. Not to mention that he's controlling, frequently rude and always self-centered.

Why am I infatuated with this guy??

In part because he's good-looking...which is certainly a positive attribute...but mostly because he's a super-intelligent, highly idiosyncratic puzzle.  I feel challenged by almost everything he says and that makes him totally captivating.  Engaging in conversation with him is like playing with verbal grenades, and the experience exhilarating.  I've never met anyone like him.

Another part of his allure is the uncertainty of how he feels about me.  Of course I could ask him, but that's not our thing.  I have to deduce the correct answer based on the information he gives me.

The biggest positive is that he's relentless about wanting to meet again "as soon as possible."  As a rule, I don't think people repeatedly make that request unless they genuinely like you.  But I also feel like we have a deeper connection.  Often, our eye contact is sustained and significant, and I have this sense that he likes having me close by, despite not wanting to be touched.

Objectively, I know that getting into a relationship with this guy would be a bad idea.  Yet I'm infatuated with him.  Perhaps I need to let my attraction play out so I can get over it and think more rationally again.

If you have any thoughts about this guy or my strange attraction to him, please comment below. 

As always, thanks for reading.