When I take a look back over the last 5 years, I realize that I’ve gone on a lot of first dates. I think I can say without much contest that it’s one of the most difficult parts of being single.
I’ve gone on some good ones. The ones where you go and and realize that you have countless things in common, and conversation comes naturally. There’s that indefinable “something” in the air. Maybe it’s chemistry, or the elusive “spark” that people wax romantic about. Maybe it’s the awesome mojitos. In any event, you feel that there’s a possibility. That this could actually go somewhere… Some of those led to relationships. Some didn’t. But I can look at those dates and think “Wow. That was fun. That’s what I need to be looking for in the future.”
I’ve gone on A LOT of bad ones. I’ve known before the date has started that it’s not going to be good. Either we have nothing in common, or I’m not remotely attracted to the person, but for the sake of the guy for having the guts to ask me out, I’ll go. For the sake of the individual that thought “just maybe these two will get along”, I’ll go. I’ll go when I don’t feel well. Or I’m having a bad hair day. Or I’m feeling fat. Just because I never know if the next first date is going to be “the date”
It takes courage, going on all of those dates. I always find myself getting into that mode you get when performing a difficult task at work, or taking a test. I warm up my conversation skills, preparing to keep the talk flowing even if the guy is dreadfully boring and I could care less about his habit of collecting rare vintage buttons. Or if I’ll have to bite my tongue because he brings up religion, or politics. (Note: if you see an Obama sticker on my car, it is really not necessary to ask “Did you VOTE for that guy?” Obviously I did. And if you didn’t, I don’t care to hear why not.) For the next two hours, I will give it my best. I will be charming, and witty, and even if I never see this person again I will feel satisfied that I did my best to make the evening a fun time.
Sometimes, though, it’s just exhausting. I’m TIRED of feeling like I’m in that mode all the time. I’m tired of going to some restaurant that I don’t particularly like, to spend time with someone I feel no connection with. I wonder why I don’t just stay in, put on my comfiest pair of Life is Good™ pajama pants and watch “Pride and Prejudice” for the hundredth time. I’ve got about 25 books in my room that are unread. I could clean out my closet and organize my pants by color or in size order, so that I don’t continuously reach for a pair that’s too big (yes!) or too small (what. I’ll be that size again someday.)(shut UP).
I was reminded of that feeling today when my phone lit up around lunchtime with a txt message from Army Boy. Since I’m being horrible and not necessarily blogging my “dating odyssey” in order, I need to preface this with the fact that Army Boy is going through a divorce. (And calling him Divorced Guy just strikes me as too insensitive)
So when I unconsciously crack a little smile to see his name on my phone, I have to step back a moment. As natural as it feels for me to be in this place, of slowly getting to know someone and doing on dates, it must feel totally alien to him. He never thought to be here again. The very thought of dating again must be indescribably daunting, after spending a long period of your life with the same person, and never expecting to be tossed back into this chaos again.
How utterly disappointed he must be, to have thought that he was moving on to the “next stage” of his life, and to suddenly find himself back at the starting line with the rest of us poor suckers. How can he not sit each day and watch as The Marrieds go about their days, taking care of each other and starting families, and not get bitter. How can he not think “that should have been ME”?
Yet he does it. He sends the little messages throughout the day to let me know he’s thinking of me. He introduces himself to my father, looks him in the eye and shakes his hand, even though he has already had to deal with a father-in-law. He asks the right questions and remembers thoughtful details, when he already majored in someone else. He makes the effort to look nice, and clean his car, and come pick up some girl who has no idea the depth of heartbreak that he has felt, having to watch something that was supposed to be forever come to an end. What strength it takes to go on after that…
It was an eye-opener. Looking forward to future “first dates” doesn’t seem so scary. As sick as I am of the whole thing, it can’t possibly as hard for me as it is for Army Boy.