I’ve been going down the rabbit hole in the archives of Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager, and I recently realized it’s because they’re my version of soap operas. I don’t mean that in a denigrating way because there are real people writing those letters and real people commenting. I mean it in the sense of watching the communities interact is fascinating from a psychological perspective, and it’s now my joke if only to myself that it’s time to hush up because my stories are on. In addition, it’s interesting to feel like I have a handle on someone’s personality just by reading a lot of their comments, at least the regulars–and it’s always exciting to spot a crossover. It’s reached the point where I can read a comment and think, “I bet so-and-so wrote this” and usually be right. This is both the plus and minus of having a dedicated community–and the reason I usually move on from a website after a few years. I’ve moved on and they haven’t, but that’s another post for another day.
The Awkward Army (the self-given name for the Captain Awkward commentariat) is aces in supporting someone who is in a bad relationship. They are mindful of reasons why she (and it’s usually a she) may not be ready/be able to leave, but they’re supportive of her as a person. They remind her not to let her partner gaslight her or point out the strengths they see in her from the letter she’s written (or even just the fact that she wrote the letter in the first place), and if I ever needed to break up with someone, they would be the first online community I would seek.
However, one thing that bothers me is this. Oftentimes, the letter writer (LW) will say something like, “This is the only person who will tolerate/love me because I’m so weird.” They will rush in to reassure her that of course this isn’t the only person who’ll love her and offer stories of how they once thought that way and now are with the loves of their lives. Once in a while, someone will say, “Even if you don’t find someone, it’s better to be alone that with someone who makes you feel like shit all the time” which I really appreciate because well-meaning or not, the constant reassurance of you’ll find someone else is bullshit. For many people, this is true. But, for some, it isn’t.
I am one of those people. I’ve been in several relationships in my life, and I have not yet found someone who will tolerate/love me for the weird, fucked-up person I am, and it’s been five or six years since I’ve dated someone. There are a whole host of reasons for that, but I’m not sanguine that if I started dating again, I’d find someone whose luggage was complementary to mine (thanks, BFF for that description!). I don’t want to fall into Geek Relationship Fallacy (#5), but it’s hard not to feel with my particular combination of likes/dislikes, wants/do not wants, hobbies, etc., the chance of me finding a long-term partner is slim.
More to the point, that kind of mentality reinforces the notion, even if it’s unconsciously, that it’s better to be coupled than it isn’t. I do think most humans to a certain extent have a desire to be with someone romantically, but I also think there’s a lot of societal expectation that it’s desirable over it not being desirable. I was listening to NPR, and they were interviewing an actress (can’t remember who) about a movie she directed. It was anti-marriage when she started making it, and then she married while she was making it, and she was talking about the change. She said something like, “Like everyone cynical about marriage, it was because I was hiding my deep down desire for it.” I don’t take issue with the fact that she was doing that–I take issue with the fact that she made a blanket statement about it. I think that many people who are single would prefer to be coupled, yes, but I also think it’s partly because being uncoupled, especially as an adult woman, is seen as inferior. I’ve written before about how even as other assumptions about my personal life fell to the wayside (kids, marriage), the assumption that I wanted to be in a long-term monogamous relationship remained well past the point when it should have been questioned.
That said, I have been thinking about dipping my toe back into the dating pool, and it’s made me realize the things I wish I could change about myself to make it easier. Here’s my wish list of things I’d change* if I could in order to make it easier for me to date.
I wish I could be the kind of woman who can rock the long coat/flowing scarf combo and not look like a total frump in it.
I wish I liked movies.
I wish my skin didn’t crawl at the idea of cohabitating.
I wish I didn’t get so deep into a relationship, I can’t find my way out.
I wish I wasn’t fooled by a pretty turn of a phrase.**
I wish I were more conventional.
Wait. No I don’t. But it would make things easier. See, that’s the problem with me and dating. It’s not that I’m a special snowflake and no one understaaaaaaaands me (though I am and no one does), but it’s just when I look at my quirks and my personal issues and my desires in dating, well, it looks grim. But, you know what? For now, I’m fine with that. One of the reasons I don’t date is because it’s not worth the investment to me. Many of my personal issues stem from anxiety about interacting with people, and dating is a great way to feed into those feelings.
I think the hardest thing for me to unpack in my own brain is to feel it’s OK that dating is not a priority. It wasn’t for a long time because I was seriously depressed, and it isn’t now because of the questions I’m asking myself about long-term relationships. I don’t think it would be fair of me to date someone if I don’t know what I want from a relationship. Also, meeting new people. Ugh. It’s so not something I enjoy doing. In addition, I know my issues when I’m trying to find someone to date, but that doesn’t stop me from being attracted to that type of person time and time again. I think I’m in a much better place emotionally now than I was five years ago, but I thought the same thing then, and I ended up in one of the worst relationships in my life. It was short because he dumped me (though months later sent an email saying he still wanted to sex me), and I would like to think I would have gotten out in less than a month, anyway because I could see the writing on the wall, but it shook me because I had thought I would be spending a good long time with him.
I fell for all the typical traps, and I acted in a very immature way, and I’m still a bit ashamed when I think of it. I am very glad I realized it in a short amount of time, but I’m hoping to circumvent being in it in the first place. I know the fact that I’m thinking more about dating now (and let’s be honest, when I say dating, I mean fucking) means that I’m getting restless. I’ve been fine without it (dating this time, not fucking. I miss fucking), but it’s starting to become an issue. I didn’t really feel I was lacking something in the last five years for more than a fleeting moment (and there are many reasons for it), but now, yeah, I can’t deny the hunger.
I know I’ve written about it before, but every time I flesh it out, I make it clearer to myself what I’m actually looking for. First and foremost–sex. I’m not really into one-night stands any longer, but I’m not against them, either. Ideally, I’d like to have someone(s) with whom I can laugh, joke, go out to dinner once in a while, watch a game while cuddling/making out, fuck, then send the person happily on their way. I am open to the idea that maybe I’ll want to be in a more permanent situation one day, but I’m not there yet. Do I wish I were? I don’t know.
*Not really. Sorta. Kinda. Maybe.
** I had the recent realization that while I’m really good at spotting charming narcissistic persons in real life when I can see them in action, it’s harder for me to spot a charmer who is good with the written word. Because I’m a writer, I am impressed by good writing, and I have to remind myself that just because someone is a good writer, it doesn’t mean they’re a good person.