Leaving the Door Open, Hoping That You’re Coming Through. By Dish Stanley

Leaving the Door Open, Hoping That You’re Coming Through. By Dish Stanley

. 9 min read

In this story, Dish ponders a man she craved but didn’t sleep with and devises a strategy, with a little help from her friends, on a bolder approach.

”I'ma leave the door open, girl

Hoping that you feel the way I feel 

and that you want me like I want you tonight, baby.” 

From Leave the Door Open by Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic

I have a good friend, Lisa, who tells me repeatedly about my dating life “Just keep walking through the open doors, Dish. Love will be there eventually, on the other side.” 

She is not, of course, talking literally about bedroom doors, as in the sexy, smooth Silk Sonic song I quote above. She grew up as a SoCal dream girl, often talking in metaphors. Keep your heart open, stay positive, loving and peaceful. Believe in abundant love.

Equally important is the inverse, which I have discovered (with no help from Lisa) over the decade I have spent dating after being widowed in my forties — to walk past the doors of those who are toxic, not fully available, not focused on their physical or emotional health. I should consider those doors closed.

Although, as I write that, I recall that while at Lisa’s house this week, just as she repeated the bit to me about walking through open doors I got a text from my friend Anne. “I want you to meet Bob Smith. But do you know him already? He belongs to your golf club.” I didn’t, but no sooner had I read the text aloud to Lisa that she had opened the club’s member directory and, shaking her head emphatically, said “Oh god no. Not for you. Schlub.” So evidently Schlubs are another category whose doors I should walk by (and gosh, at this rate I am easily getting my 10,000 steps in).

Lisa‘s ‘open door’ formulation, though requires action - me walking through. Sometimes I look back at the ill-fated (but fun!) romantic relationships I’ve had over my 50’s and I feel frozen. Like I can’t possibly live through something else failing. Other times I’m able to put a positive spin on it: I’m not frozen, I’m being patient until I meet somebody I feel truly aligned with.

It just so happens that the day after seeing Lisa, I had my friends Allison and Karen over for dinner. Karen’s family had just gone to Sugarbush to ski, and she was reporting on the snow. “Fine the first two days, then not great.” Then she went right into the place most everyone who loves me goes to these days “How’s dating going, Dish?”

Lisa’s ‘open door“ still in mind, I responded “Funny you should mention Sugarbush, because I dated somebody a few years back who loved two things, his season’s tickets to the Rangers and skiing. Our first date was dinner (lovely), our second was a Rangers game (terrific fun) and our third was a weekend at his place in Sugarbush.”

Fred had been introduced to me by a close male friend. “Top drawer, Dish. True gentleman, also caring and well-read, as you like them.” When Fred extended the invitation for Sugarbush he mentioned he’d give me his best guest bedroom. (“I only have one, truthfully, but it’s the best!”)

It was a Friday and we were driving up after work. Past 10pm by the time we showed up, we had a short and easy conversation over a glass of wine, then went to our respective bedrooms. Saturday we had a fun day of skiing, and decided to stay in for dinner. Sitting next to each other on his couch after dinner, legs touching, holding hands, the movie we were watching finished, he turned to me and said “I had an absolutely wonderful day with you. I think it’s time to call it a night.” As we walked toward my guest room, he leaned over to give me a kiss on my cheek and said “Thanks again for the wonderful day. Good night.”

My bathroom was off the hallway and as I exited to head to my guest room, I couldn’t help but notice that Fred had left his bedroom door open.

”So you went in, right?” asked Allison.

”I didn’t know whether that was an invitation or not,” I said. “So no, I didn’t go in.”

“WHAT?” They replied in unison. “OF COURSE IT WAS A FREAKIN’ INVITATION.”

We then went to a place that Jerry, Elaine and George must have covered in a Seinfeld episode. They questioned me, and like the Seinfeld cast, dissected the details.

“Was the door only open like a crack? Or all the way?” (“All the way.”)

And: “What exactly did he say on the couch?” {“That he’d had a wonderful day and was calling it in a night.”}

And: “Were you, like, intertwined, or more like just next to each other, touching?” {“More like sitting next to each other. We briefly held hands.”}

And: “Describe his kiss. Where was it, exactly? On the lips - and if so, more open-mouthed or closed?” {“On the cheek, more like a peck, but very sweet.”}

The bottom-line was that while I conceded that there was ample evidence that he was interested in me romantically, I argued vociferously in defense of my cautiousness. There just weren’t enough clear signals that he wanted me to join him in bed, I felt.

”Wouldn’t he have initiated a little more action on the couch? A more lingering kiss? Or even said something?” In the Silk Sonic song, Leave the Door Open, Bruno Mars is actually literally telling his crush why he is leaving the door open - for her to come through. I may have pointed that out.

They looked at me, dumbfounded, these two friends, both in their 50’s, in long marriages, who have not been in the dating world for over 20 years.

”But why ELSE would Fred have left his door open?” said Karen.

”Because he’s claustrophobic? Because he always sleeps with his door open?” I said. “I do.”

”But you said he is a perfect gentleman and you were a guest in his home,” Allison offered. “So he would have been concerned about YOUR emotional safety and comfort. He wouldn’t want to come across as predatory. You need to step back, consider the larger picture. He no doubt thought that by inviting you to stay in his place, then saying he had a wonderful day with you and leaving his door wide open, he had given you a clear signal.”

”Oh fuck,” I said.

Then Karen asked, “Well, did you want to go into his room?”

”Oh fuck,” I said again. “Did Peppermint Patty want Charlie Brown? Yes! I wanted to. If I knew he wanted me to, then definitely yes. But no if he wasn’t sure about it. That’s what I mean by “clear signal.” And yes, I was lying awake wishing I was in there with him.”

”But what if I had gone in and said ‘You want some company?’ and he didn’t want company?” I offered up, summoning up all the vulnerability and confusion I felt that night. “Poor guy. Here he is hosting me, and we were introduced through a mutual friend and he’s a perfect gentleman and I turn out to be a presumptuous slut? How miserably awkward the next day would be for him. And me.”

They are sure I was wrong in my cautiousness. I don’t think it’s as clear as they do. And stepping through that open door would have been as far outside my comfort zone, and as emotionally daring, as I have ever been in my romantic life. To this day the boldest move I’ve taken to initiate something romantic was done after great consideration of all angles. It was in a physical, handwritten note (“I don’t want to go another day without being your lover”), sent the old-fashioned way through the post office, which was intended to be as comfortable for, and unobtrusive on, my crush as I could conceive. (There is no expectation of an immediate reply to a handwritten note.)

Back to Fred. A week after Sugarbush his son got extremely sick and had to withdraw from college. His son moved in with him. We kept in touch for a bit, then eventually drifted apart. A year ago, which is about three years after our Sugarbush weekend, I got a text from him. He’d come up for air, he said. Retired, and his son had stabilized. “How’s life for you?“ At that point I was wrapped up in somebody else, so I gave a friendly but not encouraging response, “Great! And I hope you are too. Thanks for checking in. Be well.”

At any rate, Karen and Allison, being the committed friends they are, set about trying to get to the crux of my problem. Which, when it comes down to it, is that I’ve been a chicken shit all my life about making myself vulnerable romantically. I’m very good (trust me, really good) about being loving, affectionate and vulnerable (and initiating sex) once I’m in a relationship, when I feel safe with somebody. In an earlier life, when college and post-college friendships seamlessly developed into romances I felt safe from the get-go. But that approach is not useful in the dating world I live in now, which is all swipe left, quick decision-making based on superficial glimpses of a person. I have (repeatedly) fallen into what amounted to the easiest path for me - getting picked. Somebody reaching out and pulling me through his door. Being so passive makes little sense for any number of reasons, the most obvious being that I have put considerable effort into learning what I need, not to mention understanding what emotionally healthy relationships are. Why would I rely on the decision-making of a guy I barely know over being more active about deciding myself?

I need to be less of a chicken shit. More active. This, I know. But patterns are hard to change.

Karen and Allison asked me to think about the best way somebody I had been on a date with had initiated romance with me. I remembered Samuel, a guy I had met online a decade ago and dated for three years. At the end of our first date, after walking me to my car, Samuel looked into my eyes and said “I really want to kiss you right now. May I?” It was, for me, a perfect balance of confidence (stating what he wanted) without presumption. It was gentle, invitational, respectful. A turn on.

Most importantly, it’s an approach I think I could actually pull off. It’s a nice way to be in the world — honest, vulnerable, unpresumptuous, sweet and ever-so-slightly provocative. “I really want to kiss you right now. May I?” I can do that, I think.

(I later remembered that when I got up the next morning I had an email from Samuel. “Dish,” he said, “I enjoyed kissing you. I’d like to do more of that. How about this Saturday night?” Also short, sweet and admittedly very useful going forward.)

Since my conversation with Karen and Allison, though, I do wonder how different my life might be if I had walked through Fred’s open door that night. “Change one thing, and everything changes,” Dani Shapiro writes. There are some who would say “if it was meant to be, it would have happened,” but I’ve never been one of those people. I am a disciplined, “create your life” and “actions have consequences” kind of person. Who knows, maybe Fred’s son’s sickness would have thrown us off eventually anyway. But perhaps, if I had gone through his open door, and we had had just that much more intimacy and momentum we might have seen our way through. “Change one thing, and everything changes.” I’ll never know.

It’s the bigger picture that vexes me. Beyond Fred. I have, of course, obsessively run through in my mind the many other doors that I now see were open that I was too timid to recognize, let alone walk through. The way they have piled up — the missed opportunities for possibly real love. That really troubles me.

When I start going there, as I tend to, I make a point of heading out for a walk with my dog Ricky. While we’re out, I repeat Lisa’s words. “Keep walking through the open doors, Dish. Love will eventually be there, on the other side.” My new mantra. To be taken literally, as well as figuratively, of course. “Change one thing, and everything changes.”

I’m already practicing my lines. “I really want to kiss you right now. May I?”

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend! And I'd love to have you join us on instagram.

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The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from Dish Stanley curating articles & intelligence on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?


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