Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dating in 2014: Yep, Still Confusing

Having been off the dating market for a while, I had this strange notion that when I was forced back into that world that it would be a new animal from the one I'd unsuccessfully tried to tame last time. Turns out it's pretty much the same as I left it. Which is to say it's 90% exhausting, confusing, and confidence-destroying with the remaining 10% being amazing. The amazing part doesn't always balance out having to tolerate the other parts, but it's all worth it when it does. I love the thrill of getting to know someone who has the potential to be an incredible presence in your life and a person who enriches you in ways you did not anticipate. There's all of these possibilities for the future that suddenly open up in front of you and you can't wait to see where things go. Unfortunately there is (usually) a whole lot of the 90% happening before you get to that point.

I have never been cut out for 'dating'. When I was in my late teens/early 20's, I didn't have to date. Somehow I would always meet someone that I would hit it off with and then we'd "go out" or whatever it's called now. We would see each other exclusively, we'd label each other boyfriend/girlfriend, and so on. Looking back, I didn't realize how amazingly unusual and lucky that was. I just assumed that is how it worked for everyone. When I moved to Nashville at 24 suddenly I had to start dating and I had no clue how it was done. 9 years later, I still have no idea.

There were a lot of things I had to learn over the years that aren't remotely self-evident.
I didn't realize people who said "let's get together again" might not mean what they said. I've never been great at letting someone down but I don't say "I want to see you again" when I don't mean it. And neither should you. I'm a big boy, I've been loved plenty of times but I've always been rejected plenty of times. I can handle it. Just say "nice to meet you"...if you don't return my calls after that, I get it.

I didn't realize that some people actually take "dating rules" seriously, such as waiting two days to call someone. If I like someone, they seem to like me, and I feel like talking to them...I call. I'm daredevil like that. I don't want to tell you how many people have been offended by my thought process on this subject.

I didn't realize how many times I would get a date mad at me for opening the door for her. I certainly didn't realize one day I'd be cussed out in front of a restaurant for doing it. She screamed at me that she was "not fucking helpless" but I already knew that. After all, she'd driven herself to meet me and I assumed there were at least two times she had to open a door to make it happen. That's just how I was raised. It's a polite thing, not a male/female thing. She failed to see that I also opened the door for the gentleman who was right next to us.

I didn't realize that people would be going out on dates with multiple people at the same time. That was never my style, but in the dating world if you don't do that, you risk wasting your time because someone else is and they decide they want to get to know another person instead of you.

There was a whole lot of shit I just didn't realize and, now that I do, I just don't understand. I also don't really want to understand. I don't want to get "good" at dating and become an efficient date machine. That's not the person I want to be. I'm not out there to date, I'm out there to meet someone special. Being optimistic as I am and mixing that in with all of the real world experiences I've had which have caused disappointments, let-downs, and heartaches has created in me an uneasy combination of jaded and hopeless romantic.

Despite all my past experience, I was excited to get back to dating after having been in an important - yet unfortunately stalled - relationship for the past year and a half. That feeling of excitement of just who I might meet welled up strong. can be unforgiving on your ego which I'd evidently forgotten. I take rejection too personally even now in my 30's. It's a problem I've always had. Even realizing that rejection is so often not even about you as a person, your mind can always make it be. Maybe that's a little arrogant but I know so many people, myself included, who roll that way. Dating can take your feeling of self-worth and demolish it before you realize it is happening. One day you're walking confident and tall, daring the world to challenge you, and the next you're looking at your feet when you walk and slumping your shoulders under a weight you didn't even realize you'd started to toil beneath.

Take my most recent date, which was my first date since getting back on the horse. I went from feeling like I had so much to offer people to feeling completely worthless and like no one could be trusted.
I met her for brunch in Germantown, a nice low pressure situation where we could actually talk and get to know one another. It's so rare for me to meet anyone I hit it off with and want to see again, but I quickly found myself leaning forward to make sure to catch everything she said and was excited when she agreed to meet up again. I can't stress how rare actual excitement is when it comes to dating anymore.
The next weekend, I sat with her in the park while we watched live music. Close enough to enjoy it, far enough back where we could talk. Which we did for about 5 hours. I enjoyed listening to tales of her life while she would unconsciously grab a handful of her hair in a fist then flip it over her shoulder, wafting her pleasant shampoo scent my way. And when it began to rain for a short time, I even had the pleasure to chivalrously hold the umbrella for her. She scooted in closer to make sure we were both fully under it. It was adorable.
We talked frankly of past relationships, and how strange dating could be, and I was refreshed by how candid and honest she seemed about everything. She even brought up how frustrating it was when people would say they wanted to get together again and yet you never heard from them after that. As we were parting - myself a bit more smitten than I had been earlier- I was obviously pleased when she told me she wanted to get together next week, followed by a "I really mean that, I'm not just saying it."
I'm sure you can imagine my confusion when she cancelled on me a day before our third.

This was one of those situations where the ego makes it all about you when it probably isn't. In classic form, my mind made her decision all about my failings and all I could think was that if you can't rely on someone as adamant about going out again as she was, how are you ever supposed to know or trust what someone says? And also that I sucked and everyone hated me.
It turns out she'd met someone several weeks before me that she'd also been out on (several more) dates with (see, everyone does it) and it had started to get serious so naturally she wanted to see where it went. Assuming she was being honest - which I want to believe she was - that is a reason I can completely understand. I've been in that situation before, though I admit it's not fun to be on the receiving end. But in fairness, it's terrible to have to decide between two people when you think highly of them both. I'd like to think she agonized over the decision though I have no proof that. But it comforts me so that's what I'm going with. Despite feeling more at ease about the situation now that I've had a bit of time to step away from it, I'm still very disappointed I won't get to see her again and I'm trying my best not to be bitter about it even though sometimes I struggle to refrain from wishing ill on their relationship.
Though it would have been nice if she'd at least told me more than 18 hours before our date so I could try and make new plans.

Anyone out there who is going through these same struggles as I, you have my sympathy. Also, stop dating the few girls I like.

"I remember that look, the last one you gave me.
A kiss on the cheek, as you were leaving.
The last thing you said was 'I'll see you again'
But we both know we won't-"

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