Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Doubt Comes In

Doubt comes in
With tricky fingers
Doubt comes in
With fickle tongues
Doubt comes in and my heart falters
And forgets the songs it sung
Where are you? Where are you now?
- Anais Mitchell, Hadestown

When I never get past a first date with a guy and all my first dates are comically bad, it's easy to lose sight of the point of dating. My dating life becomes a source of entertainment for myself and others. That's how it's been for so long that it's become the norm.

When I get past a first date, I'm always cautious, because there's almost always a "but" - as in, "he's nice, but..." or "he's funny, but..." I try to keep an open mind, but I know myself well and I'm obnoxiously good at separating the wheat from the chaff.

Sometimes I make it to a third date, but it's rare.

Never a fourth.

I recently met a guy while out at an event. We made plans for a first date and that went well, so we made plans for a second... and then a third. Every date was a good one - we talked, we laughed, we shared bits and pieces of our life stories - and as time went on, bits of future talk crept into the conversation: "When you get your next statement in the mail, show it to me and I'll explain it to you," he said (when discussing what he does for work and me admitting I don't understand it). "Next time we go out, we'll have to go there," he said.

This was all new to me. I don't think about the future with guys I date for one of two reasons:

1. The guys aren't the type of people I could see myself with long-term.


2. They aren't talking about the future, and I don't want to jump the gun.

But this guy talked about the future. He made jokes and remembered things like what night I have class. He drove a practical car even though his income far exceeded mine. He liked to share food when out on a date. He had a million and one quirks that I found entirely endearing. He was thoughtful and funny, and he knew how to kiss.

And so a part of me that had been dormant for ages - a tiny flicker of hope - awoke inside me when I met this man and things between us seemed so easy and right. And I began to think about the possibility of a future with him... the possibility of not just a few dates, but an honest-to-goodness relationship. And I could picture it. I could really picture it.

It felt like it was actually going somewhere. And for the first time that I can remember, I stopped trying to talk myself out of or into a man, but just enjoyed being with him and slowly building the relationship.

It was during this process that I was reminded that dating is not just a source of bad date stories, but that if/when it works out, it's supposed to be a source of happiness and friendship. I haven't experienced that in so long that I had forgotten.

And then I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to feel excited about a guy, and to have a guy seem to be excited about me too. It was a new experience for me, and I was happy and optimistic about this quirky man who made me smile.

But then he wrote to me this morning to tell me that he met someone else a few weeks ago and wanted to "give it a shot" with her. He said he couldn't date two people at once, and that he hoped I would understand.

The funny thing is that my first reaction wasn't shock, or sadness or any emotion directed at him. It was anger at myself for letting my guard down. As though not imagining what it might be like to be in a relationship with him might have
somehow kept this from happening.

And so I responded to him with words that I truly believe, even though I hated that I had to write them to him. I told him that there need to be feelings on both sides in order for things to move forward and ultimately work out, so if one person isn't feeling it, it's probably not going to go far. And I told him I was bummed, but I wished him well.

And only then did I get sad. Rock-your-core, punched-in-the-gut sad. Because when I go on bad first dates, I am never reminded of what I'm missing. I'm reminded of how ridiculous dating can be. But with this man, I was reminded of what it feels like to connect with someone, and to enjoy being with him.

I was reminded of what I don't have.

In my everyday life, I make it a point not to feel sorry for myself. Though there have been times in my life when I've lamented my single status, those times are few and far between. I enjoy my independence, and I trust that I'll find a mate when I am meant to.

But just for this one day, I couldn't help but feel sad. Sad at the loss of something that on most days I don't even miss. But that today suddenly made me feel achingly alone.

And then the doubt comes in... is it me?

Am I too picky? Do I write off men too quickly?

Or did I do or say something that made this man write me off?

Was it the weird thing I said on the second date? Was it the fact that I insisted on paying for our third date? Was it that I wasn't in shape enough? Was it that I told him that I was good at my job? Did that make me sound too cocky?

I'll never know.

I just have to trust that for whatever reason, he was not my bus. And that things will all work out as they should, eventually. Because they always do.

Hold on
Hold on tight
It won’t be long
’cause the darkest hour
Of the darkest night
Comes right before the dawn
- Anais Mitchell, Hadestown