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A Blind Fate

We never got to lay in the hammock I bought him for his 36th birthday. Perhaps never is too strong of a word — technically we did lay in it for two minutes after we assembled it on his kitchen floor, making sure it wouldn’t topple over with both of us in it. It didn’t. But looking back on it, it’s funny how concerned we were about the stability of the hammock. If only we had known at that moment, that in exactly 43 days, it would be the fate of our relationship that was going to collapse to the floor with both of us in it. Only this time, we’d be in my kitchen and there’d be no hammock to catch us.

Whenever I tell anyone the story about how Patrick and I met, they always ask me to repeat myself as if they misunderstood me.

“You met him on a blind date?”

“No. A blind person tricked us.”

“So it was a blind, blind date?”

“No, one of my clients is blind, and she duped me and her colleague into going on a date.”

I met Patrick on the eve of the summer solstice on the roof of the Soho House in New York. I didn’t know he would be there and he didn’t know I was on my way. I was a dating coach and matchmaker, and he had just finished his postdoc. The client whom I was meeting, was also Patrick’s boss. But unbeknownst to us, she had stalled him after dinner that night as she waited for me to arrive, anticipating the two of us would find interest in each other.

Like two ships passing, our encounter that evening was brief. However, her suspicions were correct.

“I’ve known Patrick for three years and he’s never perked up that way around anyone. He’s usually not talkative at all. He’s moving to Chicago next week but I think you two could learn a lot from each other. Can I pass your number along?”

“Well ok, but only if he’s interested. Don’t force it.”

But sure enough, the very next day I awoke to a text from my client: “Good morning lady :) Patrick sent me a text in the middle of the night asking if I’d be willing to connect you two.”

In hindsight, our first date should’ve never even happened. He was moving to Chicago in 36 hours and he squeezed in the date amidst his packing. And for whatever reason, I accepted the invitation despite the fact that he was moving and I didn’t even remember what he looked like.

Much like the night at Soho House, I was late for our date. He later told me he thought that was part of some elaborate plan I had — some secret of the trade. While he waited for me to arrive, he even texted his older brother to tell him the irony of how he was going on a date with a dating coach who was 30 minutes late. “Is she good at her job?” his brother replied.

I hate to say it, but I half-cringe at that remark. His brother was on to something. While I might be successful matching others, my own relationships have always been another story.

I had always believed that timing was everything when it came to finding “the one”. Of course for me, one of my biggest romantic faults in life was that I thought everyone I met was “the one”. From the guy who was catching a train to D.C. on a night I was bartending and wasn’t supposed to be working, to the guy who took me under his wing when I first moved to Seattle and didn’t know a soul. The better the meet-cute, the more I justified the significance of the relationship. In other words, I clung to the idea of fate.

The story of Patrick was no different.

Our date that night lasted for eight hours and we covered every topic that came to mind. We both made it perfectly clear that we definitely wanted at least two children because we couldn’t bear the thought of raising an only child. Our respective parents had been married for almost 40 years and we both had three siblings (all brothers). He was introverted and I was extroverted. He studied social networks but never networked; I naturally networked, but never studied networking. It became clear why my client wanted us to meet. We were a real-life paradox.

Physically speaking, he wasn’t my type. He was very skinny — I usually like athletic; he had a bit of a nerdy vibe to him — I always gravitate to the All-American guys. Not to mention, he preferred cats, while I exclusively prefer dogs. He was nothing like any of the men I would’ve ever picked for myself.

But this is exactly as my mom said it would happen when it’s the real thing.

“Antonia, you make these lists of all the things you want in someone but the person you end up with usually ends up being the opposite of what you expect” my mom would say.

One thing years of matchmaking has taught me is how superficial the world can be. People come to me with their glossy list of non-negotiables and serial-killer-like preferences that weed out 80% of the population. Client after client, I am presented with a menu of human traits, prioritizing the superficial over the connection.

One client, an attractive 48 year-old blonde, only wanted to be set up with Republican men with a high income (she’s a millionaire), who are tall, athletic, have all of their hair, and “Steve Gold” good looks.

Another client that resembled Sam Claflin, only preferred brunettes under 5’5”, with straight hair, and a 7:10 waist-to-hip ratio.

When love is treated like a commodity, it removes the element of surprise. Despite coming to me for help, many of my clients weren’t actually searching for a potential mate. What I learned was that they were looking for ways to escape the responsibility of actively having to choose. Choice makes us responsible. Not only does it expose us to judgment, but it means we’re accepting whether an outcome is in or out of our favor. This is the same reason many fail to commit. What if you choose incorrectly?

The notion of not having to choose, is also what drew me to fate. The catch is, people don’t actually know what they want, they only think they do. I was no exception.

At the end of the night, we were so shocked by how well we got along, I told Patrick I was glad he had asked his boss for my number.

“Wait, what? She texted me and said you were really interested.”

“What are you talking about? She told me you texted her in the middle of the night asking about me.”

We raced to pull up our texts to prove the other wrong, and while basking in the warm glow of our phones, we faced the cold truth: we had been duped. And the strategy was brilliant.

Two weeks later I flew to Chicago for our second date. Our third date shortly followed, and for the next several months we flew back and forth between cities, entertaining this budding romance.

We started a tradition of eating popcorn and drinking champagne every time we saw each other. On warm summer nights, we blasted 90s music on his balcony and shouted commands to Alexa. We spent half our days in bed talking about life and the other half having cooking competitions that revolved around mystery ingredients we would dig out of our cupboards.

As time went on, I started to realize that we hadn’t actually been tricked. We had tricked ourselves. For better and for worse.

But on what would’ve been my last trip to visit him, something changed. Our geographical distance had been replaced with emotional distance and still to this day, I can’t tell you what went wrong. Much like fate, it was unexplainable; it was only something that I could feel.

For weeks, I let anxiety and confusion get the best of me. I talked to everyone about how I felt. Everyone except him. What if I was wrong? Talking to him about it would have meant I had to make a choice, and the possibility of jeopardizing the relationship wasn’t part of the story.

That’s the funny thing about choice: if you don’t consciously choose what you want, then what you don’t want will end up choosing you.

And it did.

On our “6th date,” what would've been his last trip to visit me, we sat in my kitchen and he solemnly delivered the news.

“I can’t do this distance anymore.”

Just like that, our story ended there, just as abruptly as it began.

For most of my life, if you had asked me if meeting the right person was a matter of fate or choice, I would’ve told you fate. But the idea of fate is just that: an idea. It’s something that cannot be proven, it can only be believed in.

Like my clients, I approached love so logically, yet relied on the completely illogical. The “I’ll know it when I see it” mentality fails to acknowledge that the heart often feels what the eyes can’t see. In a sense, we’re all blind, because what we’re looking for isn’t always on paper. It’s right in front of us.

When we become enslaved by our narrative, we look into the world to prove whatever it is we want to feel. We require proof because we want to convince ourselves that there is a reason to choose and to stick to the choice we have made. But in the end, it is the confidence you put in your ability to choose that is the real choice.

Someone once asked me “If someone gave you a book on your life that revealed your fate, would you read the ending?”

Not a chance. A choice perhaps; just not one I choose to make.

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