The beginning of July marked three years since the end of my second marriage, and lately one thought keeps occurring to me: it’s time to get back out there and start dating again.
I don’t really want to — I’ll be taking my wares to the open market as a 52-year-old with a beer belly and a lazy eye this time around, and the very idea of it gives me a knot in my stomach. Plus, I don’t love the process I’ll need to go through to find someone, and I have a thousand concerns about what might happen if I actually begin to date again.
Why would I do this to myself?
For one thing, I know I’m not a loner by nature. I have had lots of great times in my previous relationships even though they’ve all come to an end. Spending three years on my own has truly been good for me, but I miss being partnered. It hits me at odd times: when I come home from a weekend away and there’s no one waiting for me at the airport; when I’ve had a great or horrible day and there’s no one to share it with over dinner; when I’d like to go out to brunch or away for a weekend and I don’t have a partner to go with.
This is not to minimize how important my friendships have always been to me, and it’s not as if I don’t have anyone great to hang out with. I do, and I’m very thankful for that. It just feels like an element of my life is missing.
It has been easier to be single and more in charge of my environment and my emotions these last few years. Keeping my house ridiculously neat and my dating life dormant has given me a sense (falsely or not) of control that I sorely needed. After getting married and separated in less than two years, and then having full custody of my teenage son, I have longed for calm, but things are different now. I’ve now had enough time to myself, and my son is successfully living on his own in an apartment nearby, going to school and working. There’s no excuse to avoid dating anymore.
I also know that the longer I wait to get back in the game, the harder it will be. I already feel I’ve gotten more rigid about doing things my own way, and I worry this will make it difficult to partner again.
A friend from work recently mentioned that she and her husband were celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary.
“Wow,” I asked, Phil Donahue style, “what’s your secret?”
“Flexibility,” she said, and added a bunch of other things, but I didn’t really hear her after that. I was lost in my own thoughts.
“Flexibility??” I mused. “Welp, I’m out!”
It would be lovely if my next soulmate were air-dropped into my living room, preferably during a commercial break on one of my many TV shows, but the likelihood of that is slim.
Even before the pandemic, lesbians tended to nest in clusters and at home rather than in bars, especially after their 20s and 30s, so it looks like I’m going to need to venture out on a platform I have always dreaded — online dating.
Some previous ventures into this world have colored my view. I went on Match.com seven years ago with mixed results, spending countless evenings scrolling through pages of profiles, feeling uneasy about the raw vulnerability on display. Eventually I went on a date with a very attractive and fun woman. At the end of the evening, when I asked if she’d like to go out again, her response was “Weeellllllll …” I said I totally understood (though I didn’t) and suggested maybe we could be friends. Her response? “Weeeelllll …”
I did end up dating a very nice woman for about a year, until it became obvious to me that we were not a match.
Regardless of the outcome this time around, I expect I’ll have a different experience. In previous years, I have been a mess with women, perseverating about small things and generally being surprised any time anyone showed interest in me. My “type” became, in part, “You like me? Then I like you!”
Latching on to someone because they like you and because you don’t want to be alone, rather than spending at least a little time making sure you are well suited for each other doesn’t always lead to the most compatible pairings. On several occasions, once the surprise wore off, I realized I had little in common with the woman I was dating and then abruptly brought things to a close.
After one of my breakups a number of years ago, a good friend made an observation about my pattern of jumping into relationships too quickly and then being overly critical at the end.
“I actually feel bad for you. You’re like, ‘Ugh! I was really into her, but then she ate her French fries wrong!’”
Another friend of ours shared a funny poem from a book called Gay Haiku that hit home a little.
You were perfection
Then you misspelled embarrassed
Don’t call me again
If I’m Sigmund Freuding this, my concern about spelling or French fries had little to do with other peoples’ shortcomings. If I had been more accepting of my own flaws, I probably would have been more accepting of others. Some time and space has allowed me to see this crooked pattern and hopefully I will avoid it in this next round.
As I’ve gotten closer to moving ahead with online dating, I have found myself worrying about possible pitfalls.
Will a new person think I’m high maintenance because I sleep with three pillows these days? Will she be cool with the fact that I more than just occasionally wander the house at 3 a.m. when I wake up and can’t fall back asleep? What if I meet someone who is allergic to cats? And so forth and so on.
I also anticipate feeling like a 13-year-old in braces and a training bra if and when I do go out on a date, and I’m not looking forward to that. Perhaps I should take a cue from the Aidy Bizzo character on Saturday Night Live.
I understand that putting up a profile on a dating app is no guarantee of finding love. I’m not sure what any of this will bring, but it’s almost not about the outcome at this point — it’s about having the courage to start over. I am hesitating to connect again for fear of another breakup, and I’m scared of losing the sense of order and calm I’ve developed over the last few years.
But I try to live without regrets, and sitting home alone watching TV in order to avoid the possibility of rejection is something to regret.
So wish me luck as I muster the confidence to put together a profile to market myself (yuck). I’ll hope for the best, knowing I’ve already won a little by venturing off the couch.