Dating and Not Dating

Posted on May 18, 2010

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, I used to work on a dock. Okay, that’s not true, but I didn’t have sex for six years. I would rather have worked on a dock.

Six. That’s a lot of years. From the time I was 28 until I was 34. My sex life became something I did with myself, with no input on other people. I still thought about sex a lot–I am, despite what this indicates, a highly sexed woman–but the gulf between thinking about it and doing it became unbridgeable. I didn’t even have a crush on anyone, really; no going out of my way to see that hot guy at Starbucks or lingering overlong in my cute coworker’s office. It all just…stopped.

I came to feel like that entire category of human experience–dating, love, sex, affection–wasn’t for me. Like I didn’t deserve it, or couldn’t access it due to some outside force, so I’d better just stop considering it as an option. It seemed like a silly thing to want, frivolous to my life, like my secret desire to be overheard singing in the shower and tapped as the next pop sensation.

Then something changed…well, that statement skips over a lot of therapy and some time with my buddy Lexapro, following a terrible event that I’ll talk about here some other time…and I dipped my toe in the dating waters. Turns out it’s actually not that hard to find people to go on dates with, even for a fat underachiever in a status-obsessed city. I write really excellent personal ads and dating site profiles; really I should start consulting. It’s not even hard to find people to have sex with. (I know this shouldn’t be surprising, but to me it was.)

It is, however, very hard to find people to go on dates with who you like enough to see again. Even though I was–am– a lonely person, I still like plenty of my own company, so I’d really rather stay in than spend the evening forcing small talk with a stranger who I don’t like and who clearly doesn’t like me. Or who I like but doesn’t like me. Or who likes me but I don’t like. The bad permutations are endless and multi-hued, and the sweet spot–a man I like who likes me, too–elusive. A man I like who likes me too, and who isn’t otherwise engaged or so damaged by someone else that he can’t function in a relationship–well, sometimes I think I may as well wish for a unicorn.

It’s hard to figure out which sacrifices are worth making, how much self-respect to risk when you’re not blessed with an abundance of such anyway. It’s hard to balance people’s good qualities versus the less good, and find the middle you can accept (a sweet smile and a subscription to the New Yorker v. a holding on to a little too much hot anger toward an ex.) It’s hard to quell the rising tide of panic, once you’ve admitted to yourself that a relationship is something that you really, truly do want, that there is no one in the world who wants a relationship with you. As the failed first dates mount, and the second dates (much fewer and further between) pile up, you have to ask yourself: what if this just doesn’t work, ever?

What then?

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Posted in: Angst, Dating, Mating, On Love