Small Part of Something Big, Part 4 #LoveisBlind
Part 4 of the Love is Blind experience for Matt Thomas - other parts HERE.
Her eyes were glassy, and her tone was sincere. Danielle told me about how she and Rory went to Miami (while the rest of the cast went to Mexico with the Netflix crew) to see if things could work out in real life, after the Love is Blind experiment. She told me about their adventures, connection, and sincere desire to make it work. She told me about how it was not the romantic life partnership she felt in the LIB facility. She told me it was over between them, and she wanted to give us a shot.
Photo: Me, Danielle, Danielle's best friend, and Andy from LIB after filming
My soul sank. It was everything I would have wanted four days before, when I walked out of the facility, heartbroken. I thought back to that night, seeing her so happy at the bar with Rory, telling myself I had to move on. I wanted to be their friend. I thought back to the morning after our meeting at the bar.
I woke up and reached out to a woman I had connected with that summer. While training for the Chess-Boxing World Championship, I competed in the World Open for Chess in my hometown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the three-day tournament weekend, I connected with a Women's International Master who was as beautiful as she was cunning. After watching her dominate the first round opponent, I asked her to dinner. From then on, whenever we weren't in battle on our respective chess boards, we were getting to know each other better. Before the end of the weekend, we kissed, and we vowed to stay in touch. Since she lived in Serbia, we couldn't realistically pursue anything beyond that.
After the night at the bar with the other cast members, I told the Serbian chess master about my experience on the show, falling in love through a wall, and not being chosen. Her response was, "so, you're not engaged? Then let's take a trip together!" I was surprised and thrilled. That same day, we booked flights to Paris. After all, Rory and Danielle were happily together, and it was time to move on.
So, back to the meeting after Miami, when Danielle told me she wanted to give things between us a shot, my heart was conflicted. On one side, I deeply wanted to see what would happen between Danielle and me in real life. What was the connection from the pods? Was love truly blind?
On the other side, I felt I should continue the effort of moving on and stay committed to the impromptu trip to Paris. I shared this dilemma with Danielle, and she understood, noting that I had made the plans while she was still engaged to Rory.
After speaking with both women, I made the decision that I did not want to go to Paris with any "what-ifs" in my mind. I wanted to go with my full heart, or not at all. So, I kept the Paris trip booked, told Danielle everything, and promised to give our connection a real shot before flying out. We met each others' friends and families. We had fun dates doing yoga, watching sunrise at Stone Mountain, and cooking vegan dishes together. We worked an event together, swing danced to a live band, and took adorable photos in front of interesting backdrops. We took trips to Philadelphia to visit my father's side of my family, and to New York to visit my little sister. Then, it was the week before the Paris trip, and I had to face our truth.
Danielle had become my best friend. We liked everything the other liked, and we made a good team. Since we were so similar, we didn't balance each other out in the ways that some life partnerships resemble. A counterbalance and romantic spark was missing for us both, and before Paris, we had a tough conversation ending the romantic part of our relationship, and setting the intention to be friends one day, after we healed. I didn't like hurting someone I cared about, and being hurt in the process, but it felt like the best decision.
The weekend I went to Paris, she traveled to Raleigh to go to a holiday party with a longtime friend. The man who was her date is now her boyfriend, and from what she's shared with me, it seems to be a beautiful relationship and balanced love for them both. On my end, I took more trips after Paris with my charming chess partner over the next year. Shortly before Love is Blind aired, we had a conversation about the difficulty of staying connected from across the world, and about our doubts of merging our lives in Serbia and the USA. We decided to be friends and stay in touch, similar to our first interaction in Philadelphia.
When Love is Blind aired on Netflix, I was single and dating. However, I was wary of anything resembling another full blown relationship, or something long distance, like the two experiences I had recently encountered. Being a relatively small part of the show, since Rory, Danielle, and my story was not featured, I didn't expect much of anything to come from the show for me, and I continued on with my life.
Then, the show exploded, seeped into pop culture, and became the #1 show on Netflix in the USA. As the global pandemic hit, everyone was talking about it, including many people from my past - childhood, high school, college, old jobs, distant relatives, everyone. A little over a month after Love is Blind aired, one person who reached out changed my life and turned my world upside down.
"Any and all advice on how to find new people and date while under quarantine is greatly welcomed. I feel like the lessons learned from LIB are pretty transferable right now." My heart skipped a beat. I hadn't seen her in eight years. She was way out of my league. Plus, she was single.
"I guess I am uniquely positioned for this kind of situation. Want to do a practice pod date to prepare you for the new normal?" I crossed my fingers and waited. Maybe a practice date could turn into a real one.
"Alright pod pro, how should we do it?" This time, my heart stopped. There's no way I could have been prepared for what happened next...
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