—Saturday, May 19, 2012—
Don’t be so closed-minded — married people needed to go on dates too. We all know that in 2012 the sanctity of traditional marriage was being destroyed by liberal hippies and their gay friends, so it wasn’t all that hard to find a married woman to go out with me. But I wasn’t a homewrecker. No, my date was in an open marriage.
That’s right, you old-fashioned fraidy cats — an open marriage. How open was her marriage? I didn’t really know at first, but I figured I would find out. All I needed to know what that it was open enough for her to go on a date with me.
And actually, the ease with which I had found a married woman to date was not my doing, but hers. I knew Grace from my time living around Boston and she contacted about a month and a half before our date with an offer to help me out. I remember getting a text from her, telling me that she had a OHD question for me, and I called her back as soon as possible. She told me that she knew I needed a married woman to go out with and that she could help.
Great! I thought and then asked who she had in mind. I was being a total idiot because I knew that Grace was married, but it took me a second to realize that she was talking about herself. Oh! That was even better. I was so grateful that she had offered, because I’m sure it was a difficult thing for her to do.
Weeks had passed before I was able to schedule another trip up to Boston, but I was eventually able to do so and this time, I was going to be in and out. I took a 2 p.m. train up to Boston and had secured a room in Roxbury, close to Jamaica Plain, thanks to AirBnB. Grace lived in JP, and since I was coming to town specifically for this date, I figured it would make sense to be as proximal as possible. Transportation around Boston could be a bit of a pain.
This was my first time using AirBnB, so I didn’t know quite what to expect, but my host Erik was very nice. In meeting him, I was worried that he’d figure out why I was there. After all, it was kind of weird for me to be visiting Boston and paying to stay someplace considering how many people I knew who lived in the area, including my family. The truth was that I was on a tight schedule and all I had time to do was drop my bag off and then meet up for dinner. If I had gone to my brother’s place, which was all the way on the other side of the city, it would have been a hassle. If I had crashed with a friend, a similar story.
And because I was going on a date, I didn’t want anyone waiting up for me. Plus, my date was married and the less people I had to explain that to, the better. It wasn’t so much that I was embarrassed — I had told my family — I just didn’t think most people would get it.
So, I worried that he’d “figure me out” largely because I didn’t want to explain the whole project and context of the date, for fear of looking like a weirdo. Additionally, I didn’t want him to worry about whether or not I was trying to bring someone back to his place, because that wasn’t what I was going for. It would be unexpected, I figured, but it was possible. Right? I mean, anything was possible in Boston.
Erik didn’t ask too many questions, but did manage to acquaint me with his home, which was much appreciated. With that all taken care of, I left his place behind and walked the 25 minutes to Canary Square, a restaurant and bar that Grace had suggested which was fairly convenient to both of us.
I had never gone out in JP before and had only been to Boston’s cool outer neighborhood maybe a couple times while hunting for apartments two years earlier. As such, I was looking forward to checking it out. Plus, it was a gorgeous day in May and apparently the place had outdoor seating. It sounded great to me.
We were meeting at around 8 p.m., but I got there ahead of Grace and grabbed a drink at the bar. Shortly after, I saw her crossing the street, so I finished my beer and walked out to greet her.
Grace was friendly and approachable, but I think we were a both a little more awkward than usual, given the new context we found ourselves in. It was good to see her though. We asked for a two top outside and they took a few minutes to prepare it. While they did, Grace told me about the trouble she’d had in getting there and I told her that luckily, my place was within walking distance.
Once we were seated and given menus, I immediately looked for a beer to take the edge off. Our server took our drink order and Grace requested a Jamaican cocktail of some kind without even looking at the menu, so she’d definitely been there before. It had been her recommendation, after all.
Grace wanted to know if I was in Boston just for our date, and I told her that I was. She was flattered, but I felt desperate. I was so lucky that she reached out to me, I was willing to go to great lengths to make the date happen. Desperation aside, it was fun and exciting to zip up to Boston for the night to go on date.
When Grace had first asked me out, or told me that I could as her out, I was very surprised. She told me that she had been nervous to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, because of our preexisting relationship, but I let her know that it would have taken a lot more to weird me out those days and that offering to help me had in no way been off-putting. In fact, it would have to be pretty fucked up for me to think of it negatively when I was the one looking to go on the date.
Over drinks, I learned a bit about where Grace had grown up and also, that she had gone to Boston University for physics and latin. Her career path hadn’t followed either of those disciplines, which was the same for me, but it was a good gig that she’d fallen into.
Our waitress told us the specials in a very nonchalant manner. “We have a special tonight. It’s a flounder. Do you guys like fish?” she asked unenthusiastically. “Yeah,” we both said. “Oh, okay. Some times I won’t even bother…” she said before continuing on with the description of that night’s flounder special. It was funny.
We then talked about where I was from, where I had gone to school and how I ended up in my line of work. Grace was surprised to find that I had been a finance and international business double major, but I explained how I had made a series of non-decisions to get there and it made more sense after that.
Grace was cool, which I more-or-less already knew, and she was cuter than I had probably given her appropriate attention for previously. Our night looked to be getting more successful as we loosened up a bit and allowed ourselves to be ourselves.
We ordered some kind of shrimp appetizer and it was really good.
As was bound to happen on many a date, we talked a lot about work. I told her how I thought that the only thing I excelled at, within the context of my job, was being an employee people wanted to be around. I had never been awesome at my job functions, but people seemed to enjoy working with me. It was a compromise I was very cool with since that was what I cared about anyway. I didn’t give a shit about my work. I only did well enough not to fail.
Grace talked about the reshuffling they had done recently at her work and we both discussed company holiday parties, which was something I had actually brought a OHD date to that previous November.
We talked about drinking for a while as well. Specifically, about how neither of us really drank until we started working in the professional world. As we ate our main dishes, we moved on to discuss different neighborhoods of Boston. I had once lived in Cambridge, while she had been in Allston before moving to JP. Boston neighborhoods had a lot of character and it was fun to make assumptions about the people who lived in each of them.
Once upon a time, I had known a decent amount about the Boston music scene, but as we got into a conversation on the matter, I realized my knowledge was mostly out of date. We both had friends who had been Boston musicians and actually, Grace’s husband had played in local punk bands for years. She’d even heard of my friends Dead Boots (née TAB The Band), which was cool.
Having stumbled upon the topic of her husband, I asked Grace more about him. It was a little funny to be learning about someone’s husband while on a date, but it honestly didn’t feel much different than hearing about someone’s sibling or parent. He was just another extremely important person in her life. Also, at that point in the night, we weren’t doing anything particularly romantic yet, so the context didn’t even feel all that wrong for such a discussion.
We finished eating and ordered another round of drinks so we could continue chatting.
Over drinks, we talked about non-monogamy and I wanted to know how it worked for Grace and her husband. They had a few guidelines, but other than that, they had gotten to the point where they trusted each other enough to simply use their judgement. While Grace pretty much always turned friendships into sexships, her husband was more apt to go out and pick up a random woman. It was interesting to hear that two people who so closely agreed on how their relationship would work had very different modes of operation outside of that.
They both had different rules they played by individually, but the open marriage thing worked for both of them, she told me. Grace admitted that occasionally her friendships turned sexships could be difficult to manage because there was already a closeness involved and while her marriage was sexually open, she was not pursuing polyamory. No falling in love!
I had recently read a book called “The Monogamy Gap,” so I related a number of things I’d learned from it and asked her what she thought. Grace had some suggested reading for me as well, which I preemptively guessed were the books “Sex At Dawn” and “The Ethical Slut.” These two books really seemed to be the hallmarks of non-monogamy writing and, in fact, I’d already bought them to read later. They were on all the reading lists.
Grace also told me about what it was like to have some friends know about her non-monogamous ways while others did not. Each time she told someone new, she said it felt like being outed a little bit. It seemed like something that would be especially hard to explain to friends that didn’t have much experience being in relationships. Without a frame of reference, I’m sure it could be difficult for perpetually single friends to understand their arrangement.
I described some of my friends and how we rarely discussed relationships with each other. I’d had friends go from always having a relationship to being single and from seemingly never having interest in sexual things go to being consumed with someone. However, I never really knew how they felt about those sea changes. My friends from home and I generally let those matters remain private. I also told her one story about a time when my friends and I attempted to woo a server at Charlie’s Kitchen but none of us had the guts to do it directly, so we left her a note. Several months later, we ran into her working at The Middle East and asked if she had received the note. She laughed at us and no one got a date out of it. Oh well.
After our drinks were gone, Grace asked me if I’d want to go to ZuZu to dance to soul music and her idea sounded like solid gold to me. However, I was a bit torn, to be honest. I’d told Grace that I might meet up with friends later that night, if time allowed, but what I’d really meant was that I’d hoped to meet up with Julie, my Comic Con Date. We’d been romantically unlinked for months, but she was single again and my hopes had bubbled back up.
Prior to the date, I had been in touch with Julie about possibly meeting up later that night. The whole thing was very uncertain, but I wanted to make it happen if at all possible. There were options to balance though. If I had ended this date, and then Julie wasn’t available, I would have been a total fuck head. On the other hand, if I continued this date and then found out that Julie had been waiting for me, I’d have been upset for missing out. It was a conundrum, but I figured that going to Cambridge would help either way, since that was where Julie was hanging out. I didn’t need to make a call just yet.
So yeah, let’s go to ZuZu. Sensing my momentary hesitation, Grace asked if my friends were bothering me to hang out, and I said no, no friends were calling. It was sadly true!
We walked to the train and talked about karaoke along the way. We each had our old standbys and we swapped favorite karaoke experiences. Many of hers involved friends from her work and they were fun stories. I told her about the time that I performed “California Love” for a room full of Jamaicans in Montego Bay — a tale I had surely repeated many times while on dates.
On the train to Cambridge, we talked about work stuff again, mostly about funny co-workers and entertaining stuff like that. I told her about the one time I hooked up with someone from my office, which was at the same company outing where one high-ranking director was punched in the back of the head by a random woman he had slighted. Previously, at another company outing, the same guy was being put into a cab while drunk and, when someone tried to give him cash for the ride home, he told them, “Seriously? I have thousands of dollars on me right now.” That was always a funny story.
By the time we got to ZuZu, it was pretty packed, but the tunes were on point. We made our way to the bar in the back and Grace got us drinks while I went to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I texted Julie to say that I was at ZuZu with my date and didn’t know how long we’d be there. I told her to let me know where she was and maybe I could meet up with her.
For the record, this was not cool of me to do as it was quite disrespectful to Grace — and I knew that — but Julie was like, the ONE from this project. I was gaga for that damn girl. In fact, the last time I had been in town, I’d given her a necklace for her birthday and she loved it. I loved that she loved it. And while that changed nothing between us at that time, I was hoping to reignite a flame that had seemingly died months earlier.
Back from the bathroom, I took my beer from Grace, we toasted and then we got to dancing. All the music was great and there were a number of people around us to provide entertainment. I joked about grinding up on macho guys for fun, because they would get uncomfortable, and Grace said that her husband did the same thing. It was especially fun to do in really fratty bars.
Other men aside, we danced and danced and danced.
Taking a breather, we got more drinks and used the bathroom. Julie had texted me to say that she’d left Cambridge and had a bad night. Her text was cryptic and I was concerned. I could only assume that a boy other than myself was involved and I probably had a 50/50 shot of guessing who. In the bathroom, I texted her back and asked if she needed someone to hang out with. It was a desperate attempt on my part — to “good guy” my way into seeing her — but then again, I was desperate to see her.
Back on the dance floor, I genuinely tried to concern myself only with Grace. In general, the crowd at ZuZu that night was a really great one, but there were two young women next to us who were not having any fun. They were just kind of standing there, watching other people dance. Grace said that we should encourage them to actually dance but a better opportunity presented itself.
There were two dudes dancing on their own, right between the two no-funs and us, so I leaned over to one of them and said, “Hey! Those girls are not having any fun. You guys should make them dance with you so that they can enjoy themselves.” They smiled and told me it was a good idea. Slowly, they got the ladies dancing. All right! I felt like we had accomplished something that night.
We moved around the dance floor and my ass was grabbed by some dude in a suit a couple times, but I guess I was kind of asking for it, shaking my little tush with wild abandon. Grace told me I was a good dancer and that made it two nights in a row that a date had told me that. It must be true! My ego enjoyed the boost.
Eventually, Julie texted me back and said she was already home, effectively shutting down all chances of us meeting up that night. As such, I put her out of my mind and did what I should have been doing all night, which was put all my focus into making my date with Grace a successful one. I tried to, at least.
The best moment came when I spotted a former Boston co-worker who was quite drunk. I said hello to him but he was so far gone that he barely considered the coincidence. He didn’t even ask why I was in Boston or what I was doing at ZuZu, he just shouted, “SO WHERE ARE YOUR JOKES?” It was pretty damn funny.
Grace and I danced closer at times, bumping our bodies together here and there, but it was never anything very intimate. Flirtatious, sure, but nothing too direct. I put my hand on her hip for maybe a total of 30 seconds. I don’t really know why I was so hesitant, but I was. I think I was trying to be extra conscious of the fact that she was married and essentially, doing me a favor by going out with me that night. I didn’t want to presume that she had any genuine interest in me.
We found one of the uptight women from before dancing with a flailing foreign man and, although she had definitely loosened up, it seemed like she was now in over her head. Oops! Sorry!
And just like that, the lights came up and the night was over. Stupidly, I texted Julie once more to say that I could get in a cab and go to her place if she wanted me to, but she said she was already heading to bed. I mean, I knew she wouldn’t say yes, but I wanted to offer because I was willing to do basically anything to see her.
Grace and I found a cab together and headed back toward the Roxbury/JP side of town, while I debated what I should do next.
As we entered Roxbury, and we talked more and more, I finally decided to go for it. I asked Grace if she wanted to come over and watch Dr. Who on my laptop, which was a pretty good excuse because we’d been talking about it over the course of the night. She was into it and got out of the cab with me at my stop in Roxbury. My only caveat was that we had to be super silent when entering the apartment because I didn’t know how receptive Erik would be to my having a guest.
We snuck into the apartment and into my room. After we both used the bathroom, I sat next to Grace on my bed and she asked, “So, Dr. Who?”
After Grace had left that night, I stayed up for a while longer, wondering if Erik had heard her in the apartment. I wondered if he’d have to talk to me the next day. I wondered how it would be the next time I saw Grace and her husband. I wondered how different this night would have been, and if it would have actually been any better, if I’d met up with Julie.
I doubted it. I’d had an awesome night devoid of heartache and frustration, and those were both things that nights with Julie practically guaranteed. Dating a married woman seemed to be easier than dating a single one. Eventually, my mind stopped running and I passed out.