This week a married friend asked about dating and what it’s like right now.
I want to say thrilling but my words are more likely exhausting? Frustrating. Weird. Really weird. Soul sucking at times. Still-foolishly-hopeful? Occasionally fun? Is there one expression to capture of all those?
This is what dating would be like in my imaginary world:
Meet someone. In.real.life. Probably through friends or a common interest. He’s cute. He thinks I’m cute. But also thinks I have said something that is profoundly wise or witty (Basically depth. Please like me for more than just my butt.) and wants to get to know my grand sense of humour or sharp intellect or love for Jesus. I have noticed his kindness and excellent communication skills. We go on some dates, decide to commit to something called a relationship. We eat food, make out, spend a lot of time together for some undetermined amount of time until he proposes, we get married, have babies. The end.
There is attraction, healthy communication, commitment, and it lands somewhere in forever-land. That’s what I want.
This story could be changed up with “We were friends for ages and then started thinking each other was hot and whoops… we were no longer just friends.”
My imagination is very simple. The real world is not.
I never imagined I’d be single in my late thirties. I would have liked to have been married and with children by 25, max 30, but here I am.
Don’t get me wrong. I have lived a cool life. I have lived well. I have traveled more than I deserve and seen the world. I have had jobs that I have been passionate about. I have had the free time to invest in my personal growth be it through education, reading copious amounts of books, therapy, time to spend with friends who sharpen me, fitness, learning new skills, and the availability to invest time in my nephews and niece. I have experiences living in another country for over a decade and befriending people from around the world that have broadened my horizons.
However, I am ready for my forever person. I have a thousand reasons but even really dumb ones like…
I’d love to not do taxes by myself every year (there was a whole post about this the last time I wrote about singleness a few years ago).
Singleness pains come at weird times. This week, a friend, the bride, was asking for my significant other’s name for a destination wedding that is next May.
I had no name to give.
The wedding was originally going to be this year and I had hope with where I currently was in the dating world awhile back when I RSVPed originally so I did an RSVP for two.
I never get to RSVP for two.
It was really hopeful and exciting that a “two” seemed possible. Now? Nope.
It’s only August. The wedding is in May. Surely I’ll be dating someone by then? Yet sadly, I don’t feel hopeful. I’d like to be confident, but time and experience wars against that hope.
In the last year, I don’t remember the names of all of my dates. People say, “you should meet someone at church,” or “you should go online.”
I go online from time to time until I get to the point it is sucking my soul dry and then I delete apps and websites until I go a signicant period of time and don’t meet single men or date any of the men I do know and then I download them again.
What about your church, people ask? I think I have met maybe 4 single guys at my mega church the last 4 years. None have asked me out. I tried being set up with one. I liked another and asked him for lunch. No dates came out of any of them. In fact, church has been my most deserted experience of dating. Zero dates from my churches in Ohio, Newcastle or Liverpool. I got matched with someone I kinda know from the Christian org I worked with a couple years ago and messaged playfully, “so… when you get matched with someone you kinda know? What do you do? A little awkward but should we just grab coffee?”
He said no and informed me he never dated women he already knew in real life. Yeouch.
And then there is just the weird behaviour that goes with dating. On one end are the people who never want to go beyond texting to dates. And the other end is well, this.
I spoke at a conference in May. I gave out my business cards and on the way to the airport a guy texted me and said he noticed I wasn’t wearing a ring “was I single?” Bold. But hey, way to be courageous. It was cool to be bold until we spoke on the phone two days later and he TOLD me we were going to get married. He didn’t even introduce himself at the conference. I had to look him him up on Facebook to put together which guy he was and he just up and declares our impending marriage. I wanted to run away very quickly but tried to get to know him a little longer. Yet every conversation the next week or so of my “get to know you” game was him telling me we were going to marry until I finally called it quits, because, well, I don’t know you. It was just too intense. And weird.
Some days I think it’s me. I am just profoundly broken. That must be why it never works out. I mean. I am profoundly broken. But you feel a particular brokeneness and tenderness when you go this long with relationships never taking off.
Other days, I am convinced that it’s not me. I am healthy and have healthy standards on what I want. I communicate to people. I don’t ghost them. If I don’t want something, I always tell the guys it’s not going to work out. I don’t vanish. However the world of communication these days is profoundly broken and that is not how everyone is operating. People don’t say what they want or have a hard time saying a real yes or a real no. Guys start conversations on apps and you reply and then they never come back for the rest of the conversation. Or they start by asking to see your boobs or telling you that you are going to marry after 5 minutes of conversation. Where is the normal pace of get to know you that seems, well, healthy? Present. Curious. Relational. Conversational. I have a half a dozen people I met on apps this summer that were interested, we texted, and then they vanished before we could go on a date or they said something so bizarre and offputting I had to say “this isn’t going to work out.” Or I’ve had guys ask me on a second date and then not follow through, just stop texting. Why would you ask for a second date if you had no intention of going on one? Or you end up texting strangers for weeks and then say “let’s grab a drink and …..” tumbleweeds. They vanish. Sometimes there’s a great date. But those haven’t gone anywhere, and some of my best dates have stopped communicating after a date or three so you are left confused and with no idea why this fun, banterful date with some chemistry and good conversation fizzled with no word. The exhaustion of it all.
Some of the worst stories of the last 18 months include the guy I spoke to for three months on the phone who drove 10 hours to spend the day with me and meet. He didn’t hug me on greeting or leaving, he didn’t ask me a single question the whole day, he ordered a $15 appetizer, and had us pay for our own meals and his appetizer ended up on my bill and he didn’t correct it. He complained about two of the places I took him: a fav cocktail bar wasn’t cool enough and the “bluegrass band at a fav coffee house was “been there done that” for a guy from Virginia. When he was asked what he did for work he ignored my friend and blanked her question three times and then ranted about how he hated those questions in the parking lot. (He was a teacher, not such a weird job to at least be polite to a stranger.) On his drive home he sent me photos of his food and beer at a stop he made, didn’t ask about the talk I gave the next day for work that was a big deal to me, and then I didn’t hear from him again. When I asked him sometime later for feedback. “I am trying to grow in my dating skills could you give me some feedback?” Why did you drive all that way to not talk to me again or even interact with me much in person that day? He replied a month later and said he would get back to me and I deserved an answer and then unfriended me on social media. Bizarre.
There was the guy I met in NYC – he flew, I drove, it was like 9 dates in a weekend. I saw him pretty much the whole time except we stayed in separate accomodation. Don’t tell my parents I did that. They would freak out. It was a ridiculous amount of time to spend with someone new. I was tired of texting forever with people who vanished. I was tired of texting with strangers. We both liked NY. If it didn’t work out we’d both still have fun in a city we loved. He said he wanted to date me at the end of the weekend, went back to Texas and never picked up the phone when I called him. He didn’t call me. Every few days he’d text me how “he couldn’t wait to see me again,” and then not pick up the phone when I tried to ring him. After a few weeks of that nonsense, I said it wasn’t going to work out.
There was the guy who goes to a large evangelical church in downtown Akron (and is in a men’s bible study) who made racially charged comments about Mexicans at the halftime show of a football game we saw on our second date and then started ranting about sports team name “political correctness.” I tried helping him empathaze for how people felt when team names were insulting or brought up painful history. He started ranting that it would be okay for him to call a team “The Nooses” as “a tribute to hanging black people in the 1800s” and carry around a noose on his keychain for his made up horror sports team. I informed him that more than 4000 lynching’s happened when our PARENTS were alive and not just the 1800s and was horrified at his worldview and lack of compassion. At this point I stood up and walked. I tried helping the guy empathize for quite awhile when he felt like an average jerk, but by the end of the conversation when we got to the “noose” part I was shaking with anger. He sent me angry texts for walking. That conversation started because I asked “What a Zip was?” (Akron Zips). It seemed like a casual second date innocent question. It was not an innocent conversation that followed.
There was the cute charming guy I met in person salsa dancing who asked me on a date last year. He lived in another city so it was a few weeks before it happened and we spent a lot of time on skype before the first date. When the date arrived he spent the entire evening trying to get attention from other women, including the first five minutes of dinner when he whippped out his phone to create an instagram story of us to “make his ex jealous.” I can count at least 5 women he did weird things to get attention from on our date. The date ended with him disappearing and me finding him getting another woman’s number. It was awful. Should have walked from that one but I was just too stunned. When he texted me the next day to ask me to pray for something for him I said no. He could pray for himself. I had finally woken from shock and found my voice. When I told him he was terribly rude to me with his obsession with other women’s attention, he told me, “Of course that would have been rude, but we weren’t on a date.” When I said he had called it a date at least three times before and during our date he said “Ohhhh no. I mean, only the dinner was a date, not the second venue.”
No words. Gaslighting in shocking display. Glad I dodged that one but a terrible date none the less.
All of that and more has been dating for me in 2018 and 2019. It’s exhausting.
But I keep doing it. I tell people to set me up. I am open to possibility when I meet new people. I get on those damn apps. If no one in real life is asking, or you aren’t meeting anyone put yourself in a position to meet more people. I tell other single friends to do it as well despite it having not worked out for me so far.
Despite my discouragement, I still get a burst of hope that someday, somewhere, I’ll meet someone who I click with and the feeling will be mutual. I don’t know if it will happen but hope is good. We need it. Hope drives us to give people chances, to give ourselves chances. Hope drives joy. Hope melts away jadedness and helps us smile and continue to open our lives to possibilities and new people despite X,Y, Z having not worked out.
Hope is my prayer for how I continue to move forward with dating in 2019, 2020, or however long it takes…