I met my first Matt inside my car during a particularly rough bout of Salinas traffic. I was antsy for a boyfriend and had a sore back that needed rubbing, so it was fortuitous that my match.com app had produced several winks during my time in San Luis Obispo.
“This one likes to cuddle,” I told Kelsey, “And he likes to hike and eat meals”
“He looks like a pastor” she observed, but I remained fascinated with his penchant for romantic comedies and desire to have children “someday”. I was also thrilled that he was “spiritual but not religious” and imagined we’d eventually summer in Big Sur where we’d camp and attend holistic wellness functions and yoga retreats.
On our first date, at a Sonoma bar, “Petaluma Matt”, as he came to be known, was unabashedly charming. He appeared nearly on time in a crisp, white-collared shirt wearing trace amounts of hair gel and aftershave that reminded me of my first communion. We ordered beer on tap and summed up twenty-five years of life in twenty-five minutes.
Later we went for a walk. He was no taller than 5’9 and seemed to have no desire for physical contact. We kept a minimum of eighteen inches between us at all times. I tried to make myself shorter by slouching when we stopped at corners. I shifted uncomfortably; I was wearing the most slimming black dress in my closet with flat shoes.
After briskly rounding the square, I suggested we sit down in the freezing-cold park because it encourages canoodling, and it makes for great stories to tell the grandkids. I’ve been out in Sonoma before.
He quickly turned me down citing an early wake-up call, which should have been a wake-up call for me.
“Ok” I smiled politely, and we were soon hugging in front of my car. I texted him from highway 12 thanking him for a “great night”. The first of many.
By the following Tuesday Petaluma Matt reported he “couldn’t wait to see me” and was “very excited”. He chose an offbeat Himalayan restaurant and, quaintly enough, made a reservation. With my work schedule permitting, I arrived around 9:15.
We wore the exact same outfit.
And though he remained calm throughout dinner, I couldn’t stop giggling. Here we were, side by side, eating Himalayan potstickers over Starmont chardonnay while dressed in identically pressed white collared shirts and darkly washed Levi’s. We were so convincing as possible tasting room employees or casual waiters that numerous visitors asked for directions and dining recommendations that evening. Frazzled, we rushed into Steiner’s for beer.
After screaming towards each other for the better part of an hour and getting tipsy, we stumbled out awkwardly and proceeded to stroll down the road in our matching outfits. “I’m gonna do this now” I said as I linked my arm through his. This was one of my moves. I used it when he appeared to not have any.
Shortly after, Petaluma Matt and I attended a Giant’s Game where he put his arm around me and paid for valet parking. When, at the end of the night, he kissed me in front of the Catholic church I could not believe my luck and began envisioning myself a third grade teacher named Mrs. Grebil. “Kissed!!!!!!” I texted Kelsey excitedly, though there was no tongue.
For about a week he didn’t contact me. There was something wrong with my lips, my weight, my height, or my socioeconomic status. I made detailed lists of what was wrong with me and time stamped them. If I ever get a Psychiatrist they’ll be happy with my record-keeping.
Our last meeting was for a home-cooked meal and The Graduate. That night we learned that I had a healthy obsession with 1960s nostalgia, but Matt had an unhealthy obsession with the sixties. He wanted to marry someone from Mad Men who’d bring him his cigarettes in a silver case and tend his children while he worked long hours on Wall Street. He wanted to marry someone who’d answer only to “Mrs. Grebil” and would support his development of an organic poultry farm on their property. He showed me, in detail, how to part out a chicken, though I’d asked him to only as a joke. He said he’d kill a chicken gladly. He fed me two flavors of organic ice cream after making me eat spinach leaves and organic chicken (with water!), which he referred to as “dinner”. I googled in-n-out on my phone. I wanted him to leave the room. Or, better yet, his apartment. I wanted to be alone with this delicious ice cream to watch The Graduate on his comfortable bed. But he stayed. And he put on his glasses for his”night blindness”. Then he put on a USD sweatshirt and sat next to me on the bed, leaving a ruler’s length between us.
That night he hugged me and made fun of my grocery bag. I never heard from, or saw him, again.
Two days later I met Matt Kirson, or “Sacramento Matt”. Sacramento Matt wore American Eagle shirts that were too small and needed ironing. His hair was a scruffy light brown and his face was broad and shiny. He looked like a nineteenth century European immigrant, so I e-mailed him.
Meet me in downtown Napa on Sunday at 7. I’ll be at Fish Story. See you there.
I had no interest in wasting time following the evident split from Petaluma Matt. Sacramento Matt seemed demographically promising; he was 24 and had graduated from Cal. At Fish Story, I learned that he was unemployed and currently “renovating” his “house” in “Sacramento”. I trusted none of these leads and asked him if he lived with his parents.
And thus, ten minutes into cocktails, Sacramento Matt was made to confess that his parents had died. Years ago, in a plane crash, in Napa. I stared shamefully into my lemon drop, then up at Matt, cautiously. He said his grandparents had wittingly moved down from “The Sea Ranch” after it happened and they’d committed themselves to his upbringing.
I was sad over his parents but anxious for property in “The Sea Ranch”. I’d learned about “The Sea Ranch” when I’d worked for an estate planner. It was a place where Marin-based doctors and their wives could spend weekends harmonizing with nature and perusing academic journals. At “The Sea Ranch” I would accrue an expansive Biography collection and keep separate bins for recycling and compost. At Thanksgiving, everyone would play card games and the ukulele. The kids would be asleep by nine in their bunk beds and I would retire to the lookout for brandy and jazz. Morning hikes would commence at seven. I would learn to make really good sandwiches. I would have kids, some of whom would be probably be boy scouts and others of whom would probably collect rocks. I would wear hemp pants and clear mascara and keep newspapers clippings. “The Sea Ranch” was the only place that it was the 1960s anymore.
And Suddenly I missed Matt Grebil.
But Sacramento Matt and I, we got on well. By our third date we were holding hands and actively contemplating a weekend in “The Sea Ranch”. He kept calling it Sea Ranch but every time he did I mentally corrected him and put it in quotes. I was dying to go. I would bring crosswords and a bathrobe and feign vegetarianism…
His friends apparently put an end to it. They insisted that I was not “cool enough” with them to “fit in”, or so I imagine the conversation must have gone.
Soon I was searching for more Matts, and eventually found one who was a militant Christian; as passionate about the Lord as he was about squirrel hunting. He invited me to go fishing. I swear to God, I almost went fishing. Thursday afternoon. One Boat. Two Strangers. And possibly some very resentful fish and a displeased deity. I backed out Thursday afternoon over the phone, yelling over the third Matt as he alternately sang country songs and conversed with his dog. He still insisted I meet him in Petaluma for fishing. I wondered how much longer I’d have to date for.
When he texted me later that evening, I was surprised to find he asked me if I was a Christian. “No,” I told him, “I’m a lapsed Catholic.” He still insisted that we meet. I told him frankly, I enjoyed alcohol, caffeine, square dancing, and cursing and much more closely approximated a sailor than a fisherman.
And now I’m sitting a few rounds out.
These goddamned Matts just get my hopes up and disappear, and I’m not having it. I’m staying home in my fleece pajamas with my takeout Chinese and reading biographies.
And God help anyone who’d have to read mine one day. Pun intended.