Romance has been on my mind a lot lately. Or rather, sex has been. The two are not interchangeable, and I’m still figuring out how much of each I want and how I can go about getting it (and the right balance).
First off, let me admit that it started with me wanting sex. Straight up. I love sex so fucking much. It’s been mumble mumble years since I’ve had it, and I’m worried I’m going to plumb dry up. I’m nearing my menopausal years (I think I’m perimenopausal), and I’ve heard that sex can be more problematic after menopause than before. That doesn’t mean I have to get it now or never get it again, but it does put an internal ticker on it.
More to the point, though, in the past few months, I’ve just been so fucking horny (yes, I mean that in both ways). It’s getting harder and harder to ignore. I can get myself off, of course, but there’s something about interacting with another person that I miss a lot.
Now, let’s get to the problem(s). One. I’m forty-seven who is self-employed. I’m not going to meet someone at work except myself, and that defeats the purpose. Two, I haven’t been in the dating game for such a long time. Come to think of it, I haven’t ever really been in the dating game. I met my first boyfriend at summer school when I was sixteen, and that tends to be a pattern of mine–dating friends. There was a time in my late twenties when I was on the Craigslist personals (I’m showing my age here), and I did end up dating a dude. The sex was hotter than hot, but the relationship was fraught with tension and issues.
It’s been said that online dating is a godsend to introverts, but I found it to be more stressful than it was worth. I liked Craigslist because I could place an add, but that meant wading through all the dudes with the yellow plague, unsolicited dick picks, and women with boyfriends/husbands who wanted a threesome*. No matter how specifically I noted that I didn’t want Asian fetishists or pictures of some rando’s cock, I’d open up my message box and BAM! Dick in my face or ‘I looooove Oriental girls’.
Side note: My dudes. Read the actual bios/essay of the chick you’re trying to hit up. Nothing is more unattractive than showing disrespect within the very first line of your message.
I signed up for OKCupid once, but I got stuck on answering the gazillion questions and never really did anything with it. I’ve heard they’ve changed their metrics so that you can’t read someone’s profile for free any longer, and they’ve taken away a lot of what made OKCupid good. I’ve heard good things about Bumble, but they recently went to a monetization system as well. You can still do the basics, but the reviews on the site are not pleased with the changes. I do like the idea of the woman making the first move, though. If it’s a same-sex couple, then either person can make the first move. You have to answer within 24 hours, though, which I find a bit pushy.
Here’s the problem. I’d like to use a site that was specifically aimed at bisexuals. There is one, but it’s a pay site. My BFF and I have joked for over twenty years about setting up our own dating site, and I think we could make a killing off it. I’ve also said that I should start a business offering to write people’s profiles for them, especially dudes, because so many of them are terrible at it. I should be a romantic coach! A Cyrano de Bergerac, if you will. Yes, I suck at romance, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be a good coach. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. (I kid, my teacher friends, I kid.)
Anyway, I might as well throw in that I think I might be aromantic as well. I say think I might be because I’m not 100% down with the term. I’m old. Some of these newfangled words seem to me just a way to say–never mind. Not the post for that. But, when I read the description for aromantic, I realized that much of it fit me. I have never wanted to live with a partner. I don’t like living with anyone except my cat. I remember reading an article on married people who didn’t live together, and it was gratifying to see that I wasn’t completely alone in my desire to live alone. I don’t want to get married for many reasons, and I don’t want kids. The last will shortly no longer be an issue, but it still is a problem for me in society. No matter how far we advance, the idea that a woman should want to be a mother first and foremost is still prevalent.
I have often joked that my idea of the perfect partner(s) is someone (or three) with whom I can have dinner, watch a game, laugh, fuck, then send them home. There can be a little cuddling, but I don’t want them to spend the night. I don’t sleep well with someone else in my bed. Hell, I don’t sleep well with someone else in my house, let alone bed.** I don’t want to put all the work into a romantic relationship, and I feel like a failure for admitting that. I’m forty-seven years old, damn it. I’m supposed to be all about having a committed relationship, right? At least that’s what society has been telling me all my life. And now that I’m probably past the halfway point of my life, I can’t help but feel a bit like a loser for not doing any of the essentially womanly things.
Side note II: I struggle with what it means to be a woman. All my life, there’s been this litany of things I’ve been told I *had* to do in order to be a woman. They include but ar not limited to: get married, have children, wear makeup, care about clothes and hair, do all the emotional labor of all your relationships (I’m actually really good at this one), be a size zero, don’t be a slut–but don’t be a prude, care about your looks, never let a guy see you do naturally body functions like fart, don’t ever show a guy you’re better than them in anything, don’t be too smart, have more than three pairs of shoes.
Side note to side note II: I’m sure that some of my zero interest in ‘feminine’ things is because of the relentless push from society that I *should* care about them (because of my contrary nature), but some of it is just that I don’t give a shit. Truly.
Back to side note II: I don’t feel like a man, so it’s not that. It’s just that I don’t feel like a woman as dictated by society. At this point, I don’t really care. It’s like the term bisexual. I use it for convenience, but it’s not really how I think of my sexuality. I just think I’m sexual and would like to leave it at that. I call myself a woman out of convenience and because it’s the closest to how I feel, I guess. Like I said, I’m definitely not a man, and I don’t feel any affinity for nonbinary or genderfluid. So it’s more like woman out of default.
The thought of online dating fills me with anxiety for other reasons. I’m an excellent writer (one of the few things I’ll give myself credit for), so I worry that I’m making myself seem better than I really am in person. In addition, I will side-eye a poorly-written missive. Not so much typos because I understand how those happen or online short-hands (I use them even though I don’t love them), but consistently bad spelling/grammar and the inability to tell a story with words is difficult for me to overlook.
Then, there’s the problem with my looks–I think I’m…not ugly–I’ve gotten over that. It’s more that I don’t see how I could be attractive to someone else. I see all my flaws and wince when I add them up. The biggest is that I’m fat. I not slagging myself by saying that–I’m objectively fat. And I hate it. Why I don’t do something about it is another post. But, the fact that I don’t do all the typical womanly things like wear makeup, obsess over my hair, and try to follow all the newest trends doesn’t help.
Now, add to all that that I don’t want be married or have kids (or be with someone with kids), and you can see why I’m discouraged before even trying. It’s hard to believe that I can find someone with compatible interests. I keep self-selecting out until there’s no pool left. Let me give you an analogy. I once knew a vegan. This was twenty-five years ago before veganism became a known thing. We were in Asia for a semester, and he didn’t like the Chinese spinach that is offered in almost every Asian non-meat dish, either. He would complain about how hard it was to find something to eat, and I have to admit I wasn’t very sympathetic because he wasn’t a vegan for a medical reason. Then, I had a dinner party with a bunch of people that included him. I busted my ass to try to cover the range of diets I had to cook for (and I will NEVER do that again), and when I told him the menu, including sticky rice (half vegan and half with meat), he said, “I don’t like sticky rice because it sticks to my teeth.”*** I nearly told him what I would make stick to his face.
My point is that he was doing a diet that was already very restrictive (vegan) and then adding further restrictions to it. With every new restriction, he was going to find less and less that he could eat. It’s the same with me and dating. I’m the vegan who doesn’t like mushrooms, tofu, and lentils–and can’t eat gluten, either. I keep adding things to my already restrictive diet, and pretty soon, I won’t be able to eat at all.
Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let me throw a curveball at you. While all these concerns are valid, what I’m really worried about is that I’m using these an excuse to not date because I’m afraid of becoming my mother. I’ve written before how my mother is an amazing woman who has accomplished great things in her life, and yet, she’s wholly focused now on my father’s health. 90% of all our conversations are about him. They’re visiting now, and it’s even more difficult to watch it right in front of me. She caters to his every need, and he just takes it for granted like it’s his due.
She’s spent their entire marriage shaving off all the parts of her that he finds annoying (well, most of them), and for what? I asked her if she thought he thought about her even a third of the amount of time she thought about him, and she couldn’t answer. It kills me to watch her put herself through the wringer for someone who can’t give her much in return. She even says she’s like his slave, doing everything for him (in the context of him blowing up at her over some incidental thing ‘coz that’s how he do). She dumps on me for hours about him (an issue in and of itself, but see, my own codependency issues are showing), but then she says she can’t imagine leaving him. He’s 79 and she’s 76, so, yeah, I don’t see it happening now.
But, I look at her, twisting herself into pretzels over him, and I feel a cold stab of fear in my heart. I know that could be me. Easily. I was raised to provide comfort for others, and, yes, I phrased it that way specifically to provoke the image of a comfort woman. I feel oftentimes like that’s all I’m good at (and I’m VERY good at it). I wouldn’t do the physical things like cook, clean, and do laundry because I barely do them for myself, but the emotional succor part? Yup. That’s me to a tee. When I’m into someone, I’m all in. That person is all I can think about from morning until night. Lovesick is the term, but it’s more like lust-sick/fear of abandonment. I can turn down the intensity with effort, but it’s always there. That person is always in the back of my mind, and I always have at least 5% of my energy dedicated to them.
I get obsessed if they don’t answer my messages within any number of minutes, and I worry over every word in every message. When we’re together, all my focus is on them, and I know it can be uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of such energy (even though I’ve become more adept at hiding it). I was talking to my bestie the other night about this, and she said she thought I’d gotten better in the last seven years. We talked about my last ex and how dissatisfied I was after I went to visit him. He dumped me, but we agreed that I would have done it within another month. My bestie said back in our twenties, I would say I didn’t want to be in a relationship while secretly really wanting one. I readily agreed with her because it was true. She said it was different now, that I really enjoyed being on my own. She said I was less willing to put up with the bullshit and viewed romance as a nice perk, but not essential.
It’s true. I’ve been better able to set limits, and it’s also true that I love being alone. Probably to an unhealthy degree, but I like that I can go days without talking to another actual human being. But, my girl is also an optimist (one of the things I love about her), and I’m not as sure I won’t fall back into my bad habits. It’s the same with trying to lose weight. Every time I try to do it in a sensible fashion, I get pulled back into my destructive mindset. I’m afraid it’s going to be the same with dating. I will start out with good intentions, and then it’ll just go straight to hell.
I know I have very strong codependency issues. No matter how much I work on them, I can’t stop putting other people ahead of myself. In part it’s because I have two parents who are narcissists (in their own ways), so I’m expected to cater to them. With my father, it’s because he’s so prickly, if you don’t do things on his schedule, he will make you pay for it. He also doesn’t think that other people might actually have lives outside of him. With my mom, it’s more complicated. She’s a psychologist, so she spends most of her time thinking of others. But with me, probably because I’m also psychology-based, she dumps all her feelings and expects me to take care of her. It’s been that way since I was a preteen, and it’s only gotten worse since my father retired.
My father is basically a two-year old child. He sulks and pouts if he doesn’t get his way, or worse. I’m ashamed to admit that there’s a bit of him in me as well. I can be sensitive to criticism or get sharp when something doesn’t go my way. I have been known to give the silent treatment, but it’s because I’m trying not to let my rage get the best of me. I have a terrible temper, and it’s hard to always keep a tight rein on me. Yet another reason I wouldn’t be good in a relationship.
There’s a saying that you can’t love someone else until you love yourself. I don’t think that’s true, but I do think it’s harder to love someone else in a healthy way if you don’t at least have warm feelings for yourself. How do I feel about myself? It’s hard to say. I don’t love myself– I know that much. I don’t hate myself with every fiber of my being as I used to, so that’s good. I like my hair, and I think I kickass as a writer (though I struggle with thinking anyone will ever want to read it). I don’t think I’m toxic as I once did, and I don’t think I’ll leave the world in a worse place than it was when I came into it. I like my singing voice, and I like that I can be empathetic (though I wish I could calibrate it better). I think I’m a decent person, though, of course, I could be better.
I don’t want to wrap my entire life around one other person and whittle myself away into nothing. I think it’s a real possibility that I might do that if I date again. Still. As my bestie said, it doesn’t hurt to at least install the Bumble app and just see what it’s all about. I don’t have to go any further with it if I don’t want to. This is how I often end up doing things, and it works fairly well for me. We’ll see.
*I’m not against threesomes. I’ve done them. It’s just that there’s something icky about someone who can only be with a woman with her partner participating.
**With a few exceptions.
***Coda to that story. I complained about it to a friend of mine, and she brought him a waterpick, saying it would take the rice off his teeth. I laughed like crazy.