“I like you. I like spending time with you”
Daniel’s words at the end of our first date.
We were walking toward the Hunter Art Museum in Chattanooga. It was closed in the evenings, but the downtown area is a great place to explore. With bridges, sculpture gardens, coffee shops, small paths by the river, and fountains outside the Aquarium, there is a lot to see. Coolidge Park is close by where we began the evening playing soccer.
I had only been on two or three first dates in my life. They had gone much differently than this one: nice restaurants, nice clothes, maybe a movie, feeling a little nervous. Enjoyable things and nice people, but this time I felt something new as I prepared to go downstairs to meet Daniel. What was it? Not nervousness because so far I was comfortable with him.
I was surprised to find it was anticipation. I wanted to see him. There were no worries about whether the date would go well, what I should say, or feeling caught up in stressful expectations either one of us might have.
It was easy to be with him. He made me feel beautiful, safe, valued, and I knew I was free to be myself. He was always very honest. Before this there had always been some sort of surprise when we hung out; a small gift or an activity or game he had planned. He knew how to keep me curious.
Tonight would be the same, only it would be just the two of us instead of a group. I didn’t know what to expect for the evening. Daniel said he’d pick me up at 6:30 and to wear clothes I wore to soccer practice, but not cleats. Ok then. Nike shorts, old t-shirt, running shoes, pony tail, and there didn’t seem to be a point in makeup.
As he pulled up to my dorm I glanced in the back of his small red car: a football, frisbee, orange cones, a soccer ball, and some water. And he was playing music I didn’t hate. So far so good. While we headed downtown he shared his plans.
“I thought we’d start at Coolidge Park playing some games we both like and go from there”
In a university with skirts, dress shoes, and a detailed schedule this was a thoughtful change of pace.
Our first date began with a muddy field, drizzling rain, and soccer. Daniel stayed one point ahead for a while, but then I remembered what my Brazilian friend called a tunnel. Moving as if I would go left, I suddenly went right instead. As he started to change direction his feet came apart so I tapped the ball through and ran around him.
My smile was unsuppressable after tying the score. We had been running for a while so he suggested doing something else. A friend said maybe he didn’t want to lose, but I suppose we’ll never know 🙂
A walk through the scenic downtown area, covered in mud, talking about everything we could think of. We felt completely at home with each other. But there was no kissing or even handholding (yet). Not just because there were policies about it at our university, but because Daniel wanted to see how we truly felt about each other without adding the physical element to our relationship.
We knew the spots in the park where couples would sneak off for that sort of thing because you couldn’t be there at night without occasionally bumping into them. But there was not even a hint that he wanted to go to those locations.
A few weeks later he explained his thought on that and I really appreciated it:
“If we’re in a spot so secluded that no one can see us ‘breaking a rule’ by kissing, then we’d probably have the opportunity to do a lot more than kiss. So if I kiss you we won’t be completely in public, but we also won’t be in one of those secluded areas. I’d rather make decisions that protect our relationship than worry about breaking a rule.”
We also continued spending time together on campus. Once at lunch he cut an apple to show me the star shape in the middle. Then he sliced it and drizzled honey across the top because he knew I liked that for dessert. The other ladies at the table did a collective “Awww”. I was happy, but knew my face was flushing with the sudden shyness I felt. Combined with my hair color I probably looked a lot like the apple.
He accidentally lost my blue frisbee in the Tennessee River on our second date, but I didn’t mind.
Lots of hiking on date number three. We left the trail behind and climbed up rocks to read beside a waterfall. When we climbed back down I was not prepared for Daniel’s words. It wasn’t fear or shyness, but I actually froze for a few seconds. I had no idea how to respond. That will be my next story.
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
Some fun ideas for spending time in Chattanooga:
(Signal Mountain is not mentioned. That was our favorite. Ask us about The Blue Hole if you like to jump off large rocks into water or swim in chilly mountain pools, but you must be willing to go past the usual places to get to the best ones)