This is about the farmer. The guy I met last year, and I drove through tornados, twice, to see. He dumped me. But I kept his toothbrush in my bathroom for five months while other men paraded through. And the way you can gauge if you love someone is if you keep the toothbrush even after the toothpaste gets so crusty that it makes a mess on the sink.
So it was a big day in May when he sent me an email inviting me to Burgers and Brew. It took only one email for me to let myself be obsessed with him again. (The great thing about a Blackberry is that if you spend the day at the office reading a romantic email fifty-five times, you don’t look obsessed; you look like a hard worker.)
The festival is a big deal. Restaurants here in Madison, WI understand the draw of the grown local movement, and the Farmer's pork is the meat of choice for the most picky chefs in the city and also the best pizza places.
Last year, when I had not met the farmer, his first invitation to me was for Burgers and Brew, and I declined. It struck me as one of the moronic, provincial invitations I get for Wisconsin stuff every day.
But somehow, somewhere, I became a Wisconsin girl. I'm not sure when it happened. But I remember last year, when the farmer introduced me in his town of 500 people, he'd say, “She's from Madison.” And I thought it was ridiculous, because I felt like I was from New York. I don't even know what “from Madison” means, because it seems to me that everyone from Madison is not actually from Madison but from a farm and thinking they just moved into a big city.
When I came out of my giddy stupor from his email, I realized that Burgers and Brew was the same weekend as maybe the biggest schmoozing event of my life: Guy Kawasaki invited me to spend a weekend on the USS Nimitz with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble and others.
I said yes to the weekend, of course. Because how can hanging out with these guys not be great for me? It's probably what I've been working up to my whole career: a weekend like that.
People always talk about how you need to give stuff up in order to have a fulfilling career and a fulfilling personal life. What people don't realize is that the better you get at your career, the more amazing are the opportunities that you give up. But this is a hard reality to swallow. So I said yes to the farmer and yes to Guy and lived in an alternate reality where there are no hard choices in life and I was doing both events.
Until finally I told Guy that I couldn’t go on the trip. Right after that, I was besieged by the greatness of the people going on the trip. For example, Charlene Li ended up being the source for a quarter of the statistics in my investor pitch. And someone asked, “Do you know her personally?” And I thought, well, I could. If I hadn't fallen for the farmer. Again.
And then I went to the airport for one last trip before Burgers and Brew. And I saw Pam Slim's book there. And first I thought, “She's amazing to have gotten her book such good placement.” And then I thought, “She's amazing to have such passionate views on the workplace.” And then I started to think that my career is going totally downhill, when I could have spent a weekend with her and I'm not.
But you know what? Burgers and Brew was great. And there does not seem to be fallout from my decision to pass up the USS Nimitz. And, in maybe a little message from God that the farmer is more important than my career, Michael Arrington cancelled as well. And then I felt like I had this great self-knowledge about myself, that somehow I know how to balance a boyfriend and a career. Like, one good decision begets many more.
So for our second date this time around, I cut out of work early, and we go to a state park. I don’t say, “This is ridiculous. I can go to a state park with a city guy and I want to be on your farm.” I don’t say that because I want him to know that I'm the new, agreeable me. And I know it's going to be hard to be agreeable on the tough stuff, so the state park seems like a nonnegotiable. I have to say yes.
I am nervous. I knew I would have to change in the car from my work clothes to hiking clothes, but it was a rushed morning and I couldn't make important decisions, so I brought every bra I own. I have to make the decision if I should wear a padded, looks-great-under-a-t-shirt bra, or a soft, lacy, your-hands-will-feel-good-here bra.
I go with the second one, but I tell myself not to be too optimistic. I tell myself that the key to keeping him is to let him do things at his own pace, and I need to not just say I'm okay with that. He'll see through it. I need to really truly be okay with it.
He doesn’t watch me change in the car, which is funny since we've been together for seven months before. And it's not funny because I think to myself, “Where are we now? What are we doing? We are not at the beginning but where is the middle and are we there?” I'm not sure.
We start hiking and I am nervous. I just want things to go well. I am not sure if he knows what I've been up to. He doesn't have an internet connection at his house, and he always has to be careful what he reads at his parents’ house, but somehow he always managed to read my posts anyway.
Now I wonder, did he read my post about the 25-year-old?
It turns out he did because he says, “Why do you need to write about oral sex in every post?”
I say, “I don't put it in every post. But it seems to just come up.”
“I think you force it.”
I am quiet. I think there is no right answer.
Then he says,”What's your goal with all that? Why do people need to know how much oral sex you're getting?”
I am quiet.
And he says, “What do you want to be known for?”
I can tell that this is his real question. So I had better have a good answer for him. I pause. Then I say, “I want to be known for being honest in my pursuit of a good life.”
Then we are quiet, while we hike through the forest.
Then we get to some rocks, but they are uneven, and I end up being taller than the farmer. Not by a lot. Maybe an inch or two. In this case, most guys would subtly move me over to the spot that is a little shorter and then go over to the spot that is a little taller. But he doesn't care. And he kisses me.
We hike to the end of the rocky part and he tells me he doesn't think I should write about our relationship because maybe it won't last.
I tell him if it doesn't last then I will write about being sad.
I tell him that I have to write to make sense of everything. But, to be honest, it's not making that much sense to me now why I was so critical of him before, yet I'm not now.
Here's an example: He's really erratic about touching me in public. Sometimes he will and sometimes he won't. Initially I told him he was totally immature and that this is the problem when a guy has almost no girlfriend experience and spends all his time eating meals with his parents.
This time around, though, I am more observant. For example, we went to the county fair, and I reached for his hand and he said, “We can't hold hands here. I'll look whipped.”
I laughed. I told him that's hilarious, but he didn't think it was funny. He told me to look around and see who else was holding hands. And honestly, he was right. It was dark, people were drinking, most people were with a date, and no one was touching. Really, I did not see one couple touching each other.
And then, in the dark, he put his hand on my back.
Me: Are you happy?
Him: Yes. Can't you tell?
Him: Well, I have a nice tone of voice to you. And I'm touching you in a nice way.
Me: Oh. Yeah.