Chapter 1, because serendipity
I joined all the dating sites.
Two, really, but if you are pretty much everyone I’m friends with (that is my age, anyway), you’re married or partnered off, so you don’t know how taxing it feels to be on dating apps. It is 100% true that the people I find attractive rarely find me attractive, or when there’s a magical match (gasp! we like each other’s profile!) we’re three messages in and he says:
So, do you want to meet up for a drink or do you just want to suck face?
My requirements for anyone that I’m going to spend time with, casually or not, are as follows: within 30 miles, funny, kind, responsible, attractive. That’s it. Attractive is last because if all of the other things aren’t true then they aren’t actually attractive – which kind of makes the process of filtering through people on sites difficult, y’know? If I look at the people that I’ve found attractive over my life, the attraction has been born from my love for their personality – and honestly, if someone can’t make me laugh it’s all over. And how do you figure that out from a profile? It takes a significantly funny person – like famous-person funny – to manage a funny profile without sounding arrogant or idiotic. In addition, with years and years of therapy my true partner in life (my therapist) has helped me figure out that because of some deep rooted hurt from my childhood (soooo ridiculously over-therapy-y talk, am I right?) I am built to find people attractive that are somewhat withdrawn – either from life in general, or from me. I mean, I’m working on it guys – but it essentially means that someone swiping right on me means I have to overcome some ridiculous obstacles.
I just wanted you to understand where I am at before I tell you what just happened to me. And to be clear: I have a solemn vow to not hash out dates here – because I don’t think anyone will want to date someone knowing they could end up on a blog that is viewed by: some people. But this is just – well – here we go.
I matched with someone – and he checked all the boxes. Within 30 miles. We’ll call him Bill. From his profile and our initial talks – kind. Funny. Seemingly responsible. We texted back and forth for a few weeks – really, only because I was terrified to go on a date with someone I’d never met. I’ve done that maybe 3 or 4 times in my life – at least a decade ago, and just couldn’t see it happening, in my head? What would we say? And if it was horrible – how would I leave? What if I showed up and he said something about how I didn’t look like my profile pictures? (Doesn’t that always happen on bad sitcoms? Further, haven’t large parts of my life read like bad sitcoms?) We managed to get to the point that we picked a week to go out – we’d moved to phone texting at this point rather than through the app, and he said:
So what night works for you?
And then I disappeared.
I mean I didn’t really – I was always right here, with you guys, but for him, I fell off the planet. I didn’t respond. To be fair, as YOU GUYS know, I was dealing with some heavy depression and had gone into the whole dating thing as a distraction from that, which kind of meant that I wasn’t in the right space to be finding a relationship with someone else, even if it was casual. So when I disappeared, I justified it – I was on the floor. Bill just didn’t know that.
Cut to a solid two months later, about a month ago. I’m good. About 6 weeks into anti-depressants. Sleep. Exercise. Church. Volunteering. Meditation. Time with friends that I love and that love me. High off the best anonymous letter I could have ever received (thank you again, angelic person, I am still in grateful disbelief at your words). Walking into work through the coffee shop downstairs, where Bill is sitting at the counter, looking up from his coffee just as I’m looking up from my phone, immediately recognizing me as I recognize him, panic settling in my stomach as he says, ‘Hello!’ – clearly directed my way, while I hurriedly keep walking, and immediately call my friend Jen, replaying the whole story in an anxious panic.
‘Text him now. Text him because it’s weird and crazy and if you address it right away it won’t be weird anymore,” she said.
But I didn’t – because I deleted his number, along with the app I found him on, and I was on my way to work – and the investigation I would have had to do to find him would require time I didn’t have, so I marched to my desk, and about a minute later, received a text from a number that wasn’t saved in my contacts:
You just walked by me in Lil’s.
I laughed. Out loud. Because if the situation was reversed, and someone had dropped out of sight after I asked them what night worked for them, I wouldn’t even have been able to say hello, I don’t think – and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to text them to document the fact that yet again, I had been blown off, only in person this time.
So I replied. And told him a vague version of what happened when I’d blown him off. And, we set a date to get a drink. Because serendipity, right?
I set parameters that I thought would make me feel safe. He’d meet me after work. Anna had plans with her friends about an hour later, so I only had an hour. If it was great, we could see each other again. If it was notsogreat, I would be in pain for less than an hour.
I wore a black wrap dress, boots, and my favorite coat. I did my hair. I made myself look as casually cute as I could, because what I would want to wear – less clothes than a cold Maine New England really allows – would make me look like I didn’t know how to take care of myself. It was 10 degrees out, y’know? I opened to the door to the bar, my eyes adjusted to the room, and he looked up, smiling at me from his seat.
He was cute.
He had a kind smile.
He was wearing flip flops.
In 10 degree weather.
I discounted it immediately, and told myself not to try to find something wrong with him before we even ordered a drink.
“How is the kitchen renovation going?” I asked.
“Great,” he said.
“I’m almost done with the work,” he continued.
“It’s for my ex,” he kept on.
Stop talking, I thought to myself.
“It’s in the house we used to live in together, so that’s hard. I mean, it’s complicated, and hard to be doing. BUT, at least she’s paying me for it. And that is a FIRST.”
I could lay out the entire conversation, but just know that Bill may as well have been wearing a t-shirt covered in red flags along with his flip flops. 45 minutes later, we were hugging at the door of the bar, and I was escaping to my car, and pizza, and Anna, and comfort, deleting his number, congratulating myself for getting it over with. Not the part with him, but just a date in general. I could do it – date.
Chapter 2, The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, or: there’s nothing serendipitous about living in a small town.
I am trying to volunteer when I can.
Volunteering was one of the checklist things I did in the midst of depression, and it’s been a helpful means to pull me outside of my head. Just like meditation, it kind of cleans out the crazy. Pulls me up off the floor. The purpose of it is healing, and I would recommend it to anyone that has ever felt like the floor is a good place to be.
This past Friday night, I was serving dinner at a local shelter. Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like there is no limit to how much you could love people? I don’t know how to describe it – but that’s what Friday night felt like. I loved the woman I was working with. I loved the people we were serving. I was so full of love that I could have hugged everyone within a 30 food radius, which, for that period of time, included about 60 people I’d never met before. I don’t always feel like that, but when moments happen like that it feels like I am doing the best thing I could possibly be doing – like there is such thing is alignment with the universe, that I am doing what the universe wants me to do – ALL THE HIPPIE THINGS. In those moments I feel like I’m wearing a patchwork skirt holding incense and the moon and then sun are aligning around me and the ocean waves are crashing and candles are lit and music is playing. Maybe I’m calling the corners.
Kind of like this:
In the midst of scooping chicken fingers and smiling at people, this was soundtrack-ing in my head.
Side note: I have no idea what the Age of Aquarius actually means, but it has to be good if it then lets the sunshine in right? Also, how FUCKING GREAT is that video?
When an elderly man came up for thirds, I smiled – we’d already chatted a few times and he was funny. And then he said:
You’re so pretty, being around you made my day. Thanks, sweetheart.
All the feminist things. All the value to my looks. But also, and I know what I’m saying, as a 40 year-old single woman who is in the midst of attempting to find romance and connection, being ghosted by men that I may have struggled to find attractive, working with inner dialogue about my self-worth that works against me – I actually do like it when someone tells me I’m pretty. And beyond that – I felt beautiful in that moment, not because of my outfit, or my super cute leopard-print flats, but because I felt so good about what I was doing. I felt right. And aligned. And like I was letting the sunshine in.
I left the shelter and had some time before I had to go home, and since we had no food in the house, stopped at a local Mexican restaurant to pick up food for me and Anna. I never go out, guys. Ever. Anna doesn’t think it’s fun to go anywhere, “where they have to deliver a check” which really limits us on restaurants, and I don’t really want to be without her right now. I love being with her.
But I was alone. And high on letting the sunshine in. And I remembered that taking myself on a date was on my list of things to do before I turned 40, and I’d never done it. So I ordered our food, and walked over to the bar to wait, and decided to treat myself to a margarita, alone. I picked the only open chair, between two couples, and settled in. I put my phone down – aware of the notion of really enjoying your own company, not clutching onto a phone or book or anything like a security blanket. I sat with myself. I enjoyed the peace of sitting, half listening to the conversations of the couples next to me, half watching the bartender, half planning my weekend. All being happy.
And then I looked down, as I shifted in my seat.
And realized the man sitting next to me was wearing flip-flops.
Talking about renovations.
On a date.
And I laughed, out loud, to myself.
And signed my check, and once again, a few weeks after the first time, but without acknowledgement or a hug goodbye, left Bill and escaped to my car, and Anna, and comfort, and congratulated myself again. For knowing what kind of a man I want in my life. For knowing who I am as a woman. For being able to sit with myself on a Friday night in the middle of a busy restaurant with no agenda or insecurity.
For still feeling beautiful.
For letting the sunshine in.
And for realizing there is nothing serendipitous about living in a small town.
*lights incense, pulls on skirt, dances around living room*