My BFF pointed out to me recently that I don’t know how to date like a normal person. See, I’m finally starting to re-engage with the world after the breakup of my marriage earlier this year, so I’ve started to furtively peek over the edge of the singles scene again, kind of like a suburban prairie dog … or something. Anyway, I recently mentioned something about a certain fella to my friend, and she promptly laughed at me. “Uh huh. You don’t know how to just date a guy,” she said.
“Now wait just a second…” I retorted, then reconsidered. “No. You’re right. I am totally clueless.”
My relationship history has comprised only extremes. I have either, ahem, dallied casually with men who meant nothing to me (which I now recognize was not very nice to them or to me), or I immediately lost myself and my heart to men who, for one reason or another, were not good for me. I have never, ever gotten to know someone gradually, and/or built affection and trust in a healthy and mutually beneficial way. Historically, I either loved you to the very depths of my soul with no regard for my own safety or sanity, or I was lucky to remember your name. I am not proud of this, but it’s the truth.
(If this leads you to assume that I don’t do well with the gray areas of life in general, you would be dead on.)
Anyhoo, seeing as I’m single again at 40, it’s pretty dang obvious that my extremist relationship tendencies have not served me well up to this point. But thanks to 12-step recovery, its spiritual tools for living and an a-m-a-z-i-n-g support group who keep me from retreating too far into the dark corners of my own skull, I have managed to adopt a new and very effective philosophy – if it ain’t working anymore, do something different.
While dating like a normal person is a foreign concept to me, it really shouldn’t be that hard to attain. I’m in a great place right now. I am serene and content with my life, for one thing. For real and for true … not just saying that ‘cause it sounds good. I’ve set some goals, and I am taking small steps every day toward reaching them. I don’t need anyone or anything to make me happy ... I have enough and I AM enough. I don’t have a hole in my soul that needs filling like I did the last time I was single 5 years ago. In retrospect, that hole is probably why I ended up married to the same albatross, er, man a second time. (I know, I know… that wasn’t a nice thing to say. Sue me.)
Given the givens, I should be able to successfully cha-cha, ball change and lock step my way through the dating dance without following my usual M.O. of either obsessing or dismissing, right? (And dating like a normal person might actually lead me to men who are good for me, imagine that!)
By God, it’s about time that I give it a try …. I’m going to aim for genuine “like” in favor of soul-stabbing love or meaningless, um, athletic endeavors. (Get your mind out of the gutter… I’m referring to bungee jumping and gator wrestling.)
Yeah well, maybe if I say all this stuff out loud, I will actually succeed. Breaking old habits is hard, man. Although I will say I am more likely to care a lot these days than not at all. I cringe when I think about all those years I used men like Kleenex, arrogantly assuming endless unsullied tissues would pop up behind the ones I had just thrown away.
I think the key for me is to not get in any hurry – for anything, not just in the romance department. And truth be told, I’m not. My only son will be 18 and out of the house in less than a year. I gotta say, I am VERY much looking forward to living alone for the first time, well, EVER.
And I’m grateful to have a virtually unshakable faith that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to, and I'm OK with it not being on my timetable. Well, mostly. Impatience is still one of my top character defects, but I am WAY better than I used to be. I’m also no longer trying to force my will on the rest of the world -- men in particular.
My BFF is right, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to dating, but I also don’t have to figure it out right this minute. I saw a quote attributed to Will Smith the other day that for me translated into not only a good life lesson, but also great dating advice, and I’m going to try to follow it:
“Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your own thing and work hard. The right people – the ones who really belong in your life – will come to you. And stay.”
I’m too busy living a full life to go chasing people around anyway. But not too busy for dinner and a movie once in a while. Y’know, like you normal people do.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.