Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Risk vs. Reward

Its been just over a month since I posted anything here, and only a few months since I've taken an active role in looking for a guy to date, going so far as to sign up for an online dating service. I've even sent a few "winks" and emails to guys on the dating site, but let's cut to the chase, here: I finally went on a blind date. What hit me after I finally clicked "send" on that email agreeing to a bike ride and a beer was the idea of risk in life, especially when it comes to relationships.

I guess taking risks should be par for the course after a breakup or divorce; the guy I was meeting was nothing like I ever gave a second glance to in my younger days: short, bald, glasses. But he's witty, I told myself as I read his email, and he likes being active. Secretly, I hoped he'd be like Harry Goldblatt, Charlotte's husband from Sex in the City. Regardless, I was breaking from my usual definition of "date-able."

The plan was to meet this guy- let's call him "Not Harry"- in Marquette (about an hour's drive for me) and go for a bike ride, chat, have a beer, maybe two. I take my bike out of the basement, pump up the tires, and go for a short spin. So easy! Of course I can do this. Its only a bike ride and maybe a beer.

I make the drive feeling fine, no nerves or butterflies or anything, and when I pull up to our meeting place, I spot him immediately: he is just as he described himself, and I know that Chuck Woolery was nowhere close, what with his witty and flirty questions, winks, and smiles. We have a brief, sanitary hug hello, and we're off. The day was brisk but sunny, and the conversation was...kind of a chore. Not Harry had a bit of a frat boy way about him, trying in that nonchalant way to name-drop and impress. Also, he was an interrupter when it was my turn to talk. Sigh.

We park our bikes and take his car to go grab that beer and a snack. Driving down a main road, he points out a new local microbrewery & pub that's pretty popular...and drives right on by, instead taking me to a nice but generic place further down the road. We chat more, drink our beer, then head back to our bikes where Not Harry and I say our thank yous and goodbyes, and with another sanitary hug, my first post-divorce blind date is over. Risk: going on a date with someone whom you've only had a handful of email correspondences. Reward: knowing that your instincts regarding the opposite sex are still intact after being dormant for so many years.

I immediately drive back to that new microbrewery, try a few samples,  and pick up a growler of beer to take home. Before I start the drive back home, I stop at another new business in Marquette that I've been meaning to visit- Everyday Wines- and begin thinking again about risk. Two new businesses, successful even though the economy is less than ideal. What would those people be doing now if they hadn't taken such a risk?, I thought as I wandered around the shop, listening to the saleswoman give her friend a coffee order. She chatted me up a bit, found out about my reason for being in Marquette that day, and helped me out with some great wine selections.

And then something else happened.

As I'm paying for my wines, signing the credit slip, the sales woman's friend returned with her coffee and she said to him: "I'm going to introduce her to Also Not Harry," pointing to me. Her friend looks at me and says, "Oh, yeah. Good idea."

Not only do I not know either of these people, but I obviously don't know Also Not Harry. As I look up and say "Um, what?" (clearly my conversational skills need practice), she is already texting Also Not Harry. Just when I thought my risk-taking was finished for the day, this woman throws another at me, telling me I need to befriend Also Not Harry. 

What's a girl to do? Well, *this girl* has learned to embrace risk these past few years, and whereas I probably would have smiled and shouted "Hook a girl UP, yo!"  in my younger, bolder, pre-married days, that day I just smiled, shrugged with that "Why not?" look, and said "Uh...okay." (Again with the words!) Everybody needs new friends. I have yet to meet Also Not Harry, and should say that making new friends doesn't necessarily mean more dates, even if that's how my day started. Risk: letting fate and a stranger in a wine shop take control of the day. Reward: new friends.

Taking a risk can be as big as opening a new business or as small as going for a bike ride. Risk nothing, and you're settling for Good Enough; the low level risks associated with Good Enough can certainly be an enjoyable way to pass the time, but deep down, you know you'll always mentally compare Good Enough to What If, even if the latter is only in your head.

Its fitting then, that you never know how you'll truly respond to risk, even if you're aware of what could happen, what the possible outcomes could be. Your business could fail, or you could fall off that bike and skin your knee something awful. Or you could make new friends thanks to strangers in a wine shop.

You'll never know until you pump up those tires and push off.

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