As it's Valentine's Day, what could be more appropriate than talking about my love life/lack thereof? WARNING: Brutally honest post ahead here. And I'm not trying to be a downer, or to throw a pity party...just to be completely candid about some of my experiences in the last few years. Please be gentle :)
"101 in 1001 #80: Go on a date." You guys. UFF DA.
When I put this item on my 101 in 1001 back in May 2014, I was less than a month out of a relationship that I thought I knew, bone-deep, was going to end in marriage and kids and a Millennial happily-ever-after. Looking back, the old adage “Hindsight is 20/20” proves true in more ways than one, and without my rose-colored glasses on, I can see that that was never really the case with that relationship – it was flawed, in fundamental ways that I had blithely ignored for far too long. So I threw “go on a date” on my bucket list, never really thinking twice about it…and yet, thinking constantly about it.
Now here we are, nearly three years out from that cataclysmic shit-storm of a breakup, and I’ve been intentionally silent on my love life for so long. The more-than-casual observer may have noticed this line sitting on my 101 in 1001…lurking there just waiting for me to check it off. And here’s the funny thing: I have. I just haven't bothered to tell pretty much anyone.
I’ve checked it off in so many ways. In weird coffee dates, in drinks with a maybe-not-so-friendly-friend, in torrid long-distance texting relationships that blew up in my face or never advanced off the iPhone screen. In confusing, ambiguous, best-night-of-my-life outings that require hours of dissection after the fact with my best friends. In hope, and in the complete sense of futility that comprises the flip side of that coin.
How naïve of me, in hindsight, to think that adding “Go on a date” to this list would cover the weird, stressful, what-the-fuck gamut of my love life post-Jon. I have, in actuality, very little experience with dating. Relationships, yes. I’m the kind of girl/young woman/lady who prefers the monogamous, defined, structured life of being with someone and knowing that person is with me in equal measure. Love? Yes, I think so. I love too easily and too quickly, and have learned the hard way that loving doesn’t guarantee a return on investment. But dating? No, not so much.
So what’s a girl to do? I tried Match.com for about a week, and had stress-panic reactions every time I opened it to find dozens of strangers winking and messages flying around. I picked out flattering pictures and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, charming-but-sarcastic bio…or so I thought. In hindsight, I came off like a snide bitch, and never really got comfortable with the whole interface.
I downloaded Tinder, and treated it like a game…sort of a romantic “gotta catch’em all” type deal. I answered perversion and crudity with snark and willful obfuscation. I was called a bitch, propositioned in graphically sexual ways, and generally insulted on a whole bunch of fronts. And without fail, I would freak out, delete the app, and then download it again (usually drunk) for another go. I went on a Tinder date, once, and it was a completely appalling mismatch of personalities on every fundamental level. I’ve never dipped a toe in again.
I tried out Bumble, went on a string of horrific, comically bad dates, and choked as soon as I realized I am pathologically incapable of making the first move, even over a freaking iPhone app. I did, however, appreciate the irony of seeing men on Bumble and on Tinder, and of comparing the way they presented themselves on those platforms. Definitely an interesting sociological experiment, if nothing else.
Then there are the friends, or the friends of friends. I’ve always believed that it takes knowing me to appreciate me – I’m not generally a candidate for the “love at first sight” approach. I’ve had a few different…”things”…with people who are part of my social circle. The funny thing is, in the past few years, these things have all started over text. I’m best in text, I think. The written word is my strongest tool for seduction, which I suppose makes me some sort of smaller-nosed, less-rhyming modern-day Cyrano. In text, I am witty and charming and much more forward than in person. In person I demur and dissemble, hiding how uncomfortable I am behind a smile and an agreeable laugh.
These textual sexual romantic uncertain things, therefore, are my comfort zone. Rendered, I believe, even more comfortable by the fact that they happen at a distance – not just the distance of the phone, but the distance, in many cases, of state lines or time zones. Some have fizzled back into friendships, given enough time and space. Others took the leap into in-person interaction and absolutely exploded in my face. Still others are ongoing, comfortable in their ambiguity and non-threatening in their lack of proximity.
Long story short: I have checked off “Go on a date,” and so many accompanying subtexts. I have checked off the unwritten item “Get over the former love of your life.” I have checked off “Kiss someone new,” and then some. I have checked off “Get over the fear of putting yourself out there.”
What I haven’t checked off? The “and” behind the “Go on a date.” “Go on a date, and go on another date, and another date, until you are, as they say, dating a person.” “Go on a date, and fall in love.” “Go on a date, and find a relationship.” “Go on a date, and become half of a couple again.” “Go on a date, and fit into the societally-accepted timeline and norm for your geographical and socioeconomic bracket by hitting general late-twenties milestones.”
It’s hard, to look at those hypothetical implied line items, and not feel like a giant failure. Some kind of Havisham wanna-be hiding out in my downtown apartment with my champagne and excuses. I am twenty-eight years old, and I am alone. And I don’t know what to do about it, or whether I need to do anything about it but just keep doing what I’m doing. Every time I have tried to date, it has failed, and I’m tired of that sense of failure. What I’m not tired of is the full, rich, varied life I lead without a partner in it, and the dozens of other people who lift me up and love me and support me in the place of that as-yet-nonexistent date. Maybe, for me, for now, that’s enough, and that’s okay.
A long while ago, I stumbled on these wise words by Nora McInerny Purmort, who I have adored beyond measure for years now, and it really summed up everything I just tried to say so much better than I can, so we’re going to close with them.
“But what the heck is a failed relationship? One that ends? Nah. Those relationships did what they were supposed to do: they lived to their full potential, small as it may have been. They were mayflies: only here for a short period of time. But they weren’t totally worthless. They’re getting you somewhere, you just don’t know where yet.”