The Great Dating Experiment, One Year In

Posted on October 12, 2010

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I wasn’t blogging when the Great Dating Experiment began, but as near as I can figure this is the one year anniversary of my first date.  Which was a disaster.

Since then, I have been on 22 first dates.  Of those, 12 have at least made noise about a second date, and I’ve seen 8 of them more than once. This doesn’t take into account the dozens of men with whom I’ve corresponded, some at great length, but who faded away before we met.

Nor does it account for the casual rejections of first overtures, both given and received.  Beyond the faceless disappointments of sending a friendly email that isn’t returned, or worse, of having things grind to a halt when photos are exchanged, there are the even more personal rejections.  Going on a date with someone and thinking that you’ve hit it off well only to have them disappear without a trace sucks.  I regret to say that I have dealt that rude and cowardly blow as well as received it, and for that I humbly entreat the dating deities for forgiveness.

In one way, the experiment has been good for testing my image of myself as someone who doesn’t quite measure up intellectually. I’ve been on dates with very, very smart and accomplished men and never felt out of my depth.  If anything, I’ve often felt undermatched in the social skills department instead of overmatched in the brains arena.  I’m still ashamed of my educational background, or lack thereof, and it’s a major issue, but I am almost convinced that no one who meets me will be appalled by my stupidity, whether or not they know about my shameful lack of a degree.

The most painful data points in this experiment have come from Lieu, of course, because he is the only one who has captured my heart.  Unfortunately, once he captured it he had no idea what to do with it.  But I write this to remember: as agonizing as some chapters of our relationship have been, I wouldn’t give them up if doing so also meant sacrificing the joyful parts.  There was a morning this winter, eating breakfast and then riding the bus with Lieu and kissing him goodbye at the metro, when I was as happy as I have ever been in my whole life.  He was wearing a fedora, and I wouldn’t have noticed if Brad Pitt was on the bus with us passing out money and orgasms.  I don’t know how many tears I’d say that moment was worth, but I wouldn’t trade it lightly.

And that, I guess, is the most important thing I’ve learned.  Dateless C_Girl was not vulnerable to being hurt the way I have been, but she also didn’t have access to the kind of pure, transcendent glee that I have experienced at times. Once in a while I catch myself thinking that knowing those feelings are possible is a curse, because knowing it makes giving up the chase impossible, despite the rough patches.  From some vantage points, my numb old cocoon looks pretty cozy.  There is an argument to be made that you can’t fail if you don’t try, and I abhor failure.

In a very early post on this site, I said something that is still true:

I want love. I want words of love, and acts of love, and a commitment to love. And I wish I didn’t, because I’m not sure I’m going to find it, and I’m not sure what I’ll do if I don’t.

That’s where I was when I started this experiment, and, after everything,  that’s where I am now.  I read a characterization of single women in their 30s recently that chilled me.  It compared us to sharks, searching for love like prey and unable to stop swimming or sleep lest we (or at least our hopes for our futures) die. I want to strike the balance between admitting to myself that it is okay for me to want love and turning into a cold-blooded hunter who chases it without cease.  I want to go after what I want but know that I won’t die if I don’t get it.

What’s next?  Hopefully, I have some big life changes on the horizon that I’ll be able to talk about soon.  I can’t quite stomach the idea of trying to meet new people right now, but I’ll get there.  In the mean time, I’m going to take my own advice and date myself a little bit.  At least I know I won’t stand myself up or reject me.  Who knows, I might even make me happy, if I do it right.

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Posted in: Angst, Dating, Lieu, On Love