First impressions: tall; circle of near-white hair, surmounted by a crown of pink skin. His back was turned to me.
“Mike?” I asked.
“Only if you’re Donna.”
Panera was not crowded late on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. I don’t know how it happened that we met on New Year’s Eve, except that we had progressed from emails to telephone calls and at last decided it was time to meet. We did the usual awkward things you do in a first meeting—order a cup of hot tea, choose a table, exchange casual comments about weather.
Second impressions: eyes that change color with clothing, blue with a blue shirt, gray-green with a green shirt; very intelligent; easier to talk with than I had thought a retired computer networking specialist with an engineering degree might be.
It didn’t matter that he had learned computer languages as easily as I learned French. We didn’t have to speak computer or French to each other. All we had to do was put on our hiking boots, get out on a trail and play in the winter sunshine.
Kayaking and bicycling would wait for warmer weather. If I had thought he might want to join me in taking out my old canoe, I knew by the end of the first meeting he would not. Not even if he could be the steering paddler.
He walked me to my car and held the door for me, leaving me to figure out what that meant. Donna, he’s an older generation, a time when men routinely held doors for women, I reminded myself as I drove away. It doesn’t necessarily mean he cannot accept a woman as an equal. The test will be how he responds when I hold a door for him.
He had not asked me to stay and go out to dinner with him. I thought about that on the way home. No, it would not have been appropriate. If we were, as the Craigslist header said, “Strictly Platonic,” dinner, especially on New Year’s Eve, would have been too much like a date. And even if we moved beyond platonic at some point, dinner upon first meeting would have been too soon.
“Well, Greta,” I said as she greeted me at the door, “We’ve got a maybe.”
She hung out her tongue in a dog grin and waved her tail.
The Sierra Club, http://maryland.sierraclub.org/, Howard County Group had a hike scheduled near the Middle Patuxent River. Yes, Mike would like to go with me.
I know there are men out there you can go on hiking with and not return alive. And some of them probably lurk in all the spaces online where women can meet men. But I had been on Sierra Club hikes as a single, and knew we would stay together as a group and there would be a sweep person making sure no one was left behind. It’s sad that we have to think about predators, but until all sexual deviants are somehow rendered harmless, we do.
The hike went well, and we all ended up at a big lunch table at a nearby restaurant, laughing and talking and eating.
(c) 2011 by Donna R. Engle