I was telling my therapist a month ago how I was jealous of my friends who got to have successive relationships even if they were of the crash and burn variety as, at least, they temporarily got to enjoy the feeling of shared mutual attraction, something that usually eludes me. Either a guy will really be into me and I won't care or I'll be very into a guy and he'll want to just be besties. The pleasures of truly horrible romance are routinely denied to me for whatever reason.
I don't have trust issues. Or any serious "daddy" issues. (My father is a constant symbol of stability, duty and stoicism in my life, sitting in a chair right now, watching "The Andy Griffith Show.") I'm reasonably understanding and patient. I'm driven, passionate and (mostly) well-meaning. If I have any flicker of wickedness it is a wickedness I've surpressed in order to do good in the world. (But occassionally sneaks out for mischief.) But I always said the ideal man was a guy who was brilliant enough to be evil, but chose to be good instead. That just means so much more. Especially if being evil meant you would have gotten everything you wanted much faster, but you still did it the hard way out of some sense of self-worth, morality and altruism.
So I, wrongly, thought this would make it easier for me to find significant others. After all, I'm reasonably attractive. Which never hurts when it comes to dating! Yet my love life, despite the ability to get first and second dates, is largely a wasteland of "meh."
Sometimes I think it's me and other times I think its bad luck, but what follows is basically the result of every relationship I've half-assed pursued since 2003.
To be fair, from about 2000 until 2007 I was mentally unavailable to date. So much of that nothing was self-determined nothing. But all seven of those years took place during my 20s. The years when you're supposed to be dating and flirting and learning what works and what doesn't. I'm only 33, but it still looks exceptionally bleak to not have had a significant other since the end of the Clinton Administration. The World Trade Center towers fell the same year my last relationship fell apart. People have bee born and died since then.
When I was younger I used to think I'd never, ever get a boyfriend. Heck. I didn't even think I could make friends at times. I spent most of my youth, until about 10th grade, isolated, singled out as decidedly uncool among my peers. I never stopped trying to make friends, though. Even if most attempts were unmitigated disasters. And to this day, because of that trial and error I have an effortless time making platonic friends. But it continues to be hard to develop boyfriends because as a teen I was so conflicted about whether it was even right for a 13 year old girl to have crushes and want a boyfriend.
My parents, to devastating effect, had made it very clear that my job was school and to graduate from it. They focused almost all their energy on this and inadvertently, comepletey shamed and retarded all my interest in the opposite sex. To this day, any mention of dating makes my mother largely uncomfortable even though I'm almost positive she would like me to get married and give her grandchildren someday.
To very loosely paraphrase what my father said of this, my mother wanted her grandchild sausage, but had no desire in hearing about what has to be done to get that grandchild sausage made.
But I never talked to my parents about romantic love, dating, marriage or relationships -- not until I was grown anyway, because they forbade me to have these kind of inclinations as a child and any talk of myself posessing any kind of romantic love for a boy made my mother uncomfortable. "Boys are trouble" was her second favorite thing to say. That the root cause of all discontent in the Belton household was due to "boys," even though none of us were allowed to date until we were 18. I didn't have my first boyfriend until I was 20.
There's nothing like your mother telling you your feelings towards a boy are invalid because you are 16 and don't have the maturity to divine what your feelings mean. And when you ask her what the magic key is in fully comprehending "real" love feelings from "teenage hormones," her response was something ever frustrating like "You just know!"
And it was frustrating since I was so fascinated by everything -- from history to interpersonal communications -- but flirting was the one skill I couldn't healthily develop out of my own fear no one would take me seriously in life and my mother's complete paranoia that we'd all get knocked up simply through hand-holding. Or, worse, run off with the first guy who ever paid us any real attention.
Which is exactly what happened.
My point is -- I was always single. Always. I had no mutual schoolyard crushes. I never "married" a classmate in kindergarten. My mother did not find these things "cute." And was very much against them. The first time I realized I had a crush on a boy I felt awful and humiliated, like I'd failed my mother. Hated that I found myself thinking about the boy constantly simply because he was the first boy who hadn't mocked me for being smart. But I was far too afraid to talk to him (or any guy I liked for that matter). So I spent nearly all my teen years keeping these crushes to myself. I asked one guy out to the Turnabout Dance in 1995, he said yes, then my mother -- HIGHLY upset -- forbade me to go to the dance with him. Then he ended up ditching me anyway for his ex-girlfriend. Then, his ex-girlfriend upon finding out I had asked him out, threatened to beat me up. Terrified by her clearly unstable self, I avoided them both. Then, after he graduated he called me to say that she had dumped him right after the dance and had only taken him back because another girl was interested in him. Classic.
My dating life was very much like the play "No Exit." (As in, it's a hell of other people you don't want and who don't want you.) And it had always been that way, and we were all trapped in a box for perpetuity, to never go steady or get laid.
After I finally got my first boyfriend in college I thought my fortunes were changing. We lasted a year-and-a-half, then broke up. Six months later I was dating my future ex-husband, man of my mother's nightmares. Then that failed horribly and I went into that self-imposed drought for seven years.
Foolishly, I thought I could just pick up where I left off. But that wasn't going to happen. The options you have at 22 are quite different at 32. For one, it's like all the men just left one day. All of them. En masse. And I was drowning in womans' group after womans' group. But coming from a household dominated by women, having nothing but female friends and being a member of a sorority, I just had no desire to be around anymore vagina than I had to be.
What was hilarious was every woman I met was tired, frustrated, sick of men due to spending their 20s routinely disappointed by them. Maybe that's why they all wanted to hang out together, in packs, so much. They all seemed to be coming five minutes off the worst relationship of their lives and five minutes from getting back into another destructive ball of toxic love. People told me I was lucky that I'd been spared the chronic heartbreak of cheaters and liars. Even if I reminded them I had been married and had it blow up in my face, it was kind of pointless. Someone thought I was still stuck on my marriage because I mention it when writing about relationships. I didn't really know how to tell them I hadn't been in any other relationships since then and never really thought about being married anymore. Shit, sometimes would even FORGET I was once married and would say, all the time, "I hope to get married someday," not realizing I hadn't said "again" afterwards.
There were only two guys to talk about during relationship talk time! Oh, unless they wanted to hear about all the "nothing."
The Nothing is distinctly all the men who seemed to be interested and just disappeared or faded away or never showed up or stood me up or became my BFF or ran away or just wasn't interested. As I seem to have reverted back to childhood, only instead of being too afraid to talk to the boy I liked, I was now finding that love was difficult to come-by, even if you were no longer afraid of rejection.
I was back in the land of unrequited love. Of "No Exit." Or, you could call it Washington, D.C.
I'm wiling to accept that 50 percent of this is probably me. Me, who is oblivious to when an attractive man is flirting with me and me, who sometimes completely sucks at flirting. Me, who never thinks to ask for the guy's number. Me, who is pretty much relying on a guy to follow-through and divine my intention.
So I tried being more forward. But that didn't seem to solve it. So I tried being less subtle, but still let them take some kind of lead. That didn't fix it either.
From what I can tell is men seem very interested in me. My online dating profile is always being winked at by the loving, awkward, heavyweight lover nerds of the world and homeless guys regularly ask me for my number. But these men, hiding behind the safety of the Internet and abject poverty, have nothing to lose in asking me out.
What's frustrating are the ones where attraction seems obvious to the point of being comedic. To where hours are spent in initial conversation, actual flirting takes place, drinks are drank and information is exchanged, to be followed by ... nothing. Or when dogged pursuit of me takes place over months until it finally sinks in that someone is trying to date me, I get two pretty good dates and, again, lots of attraction and giggling and flirting and then ... nothing. Guy you danced with for three hours who told you his life story ... nothing. Guy who made so much sense on paper, who you thought was kismet because you just kept meeting, on accident, over and over ... nothing. Guy you have everything in common with, even birthdays and the things you hate ... nothing. Guy who says he loves you so much he could never date you because boyfriends come and go but a friendship is forever. So ... nothing.
What's funny about the last one is that I don't have enough boyfriends to even know what that means. The grand total of two looms over me like the raven looms over Poe.
When others listen to Marsha Ambrosia sing songs of hoping her ex gets cheated on by Ray J's ex-girlfriend and think of heartbreak, I hear "what an odd, but fun song." When others listen to Mariah Carey scream "We Belong Together," I thought about how much I then missed my career in journalism. (I was on break when the song came out.) When I dig up some old En Vogue after listening to some K-Pop chicks butcher "Don't Let Go (Love)" I focus on the amazing feat that is Dawn's voice. When I hear an autotuned Jamie Foxx warble abut how "Fall For Your Type," I always think "Falling for the same person over and over again. What a concept. Does just falling for unobtainable people and ending up in the 'and then nothing happened' situation count as falling for a type. Is non-existent a type?"
I don't have a frame of reference for real romantic hurt or exitement or frustration anymore because I haven't had that kind of love in so long I don't even remember what it felt like.
You can't miss what you haven't had in a decade.
It's almost like it never happened. I'll read old lovelorn poetry and journal entries and wonder what happened to that person. I'll cry, but when I cry it's over the nothing. The frustration with the nothing. The anticipation and the constant let down of not even getting to lies and hurt feelings because I can't even get to a date or kissing or flirting. That it can't be because of the made up reasons guys didn't date me in college, because I'm not remotely that person anymore.
Plus, in college I had those two relationships. College, with all the hurt feelings and disappointment that came with it also came with at least being in failed relationships. I don't even get the chance to do anything meaningfully wrong to ruin my chances. I don't even get the opportunity to completely botch the thing. It's like I show up for tests only to find signs that say "test cancelled come back next month." But the test is always cancelled. There is no month where the test is available for me to take and get a more traditional dissappointment of a broken heart like others.
It's weird to gripe about not getting the pleasure of being lead on and jerked around. But at least there some fun leading up to that horrible about face. I'd like to have some the fun. Just once. For a little while. And to have it be blessedly mutual. Not all the those times where he's divorced and married me in his mind and I'm waiting for the check to arrive.
I know that the key to romantic success is to just keep trying and meeting people and getting out there. But, shit dude, can't you at least play along for a little while so we can both find a reason not to date each other, rather than having one really great conversation, then never seeing each other again? It's starting to freak me out.
Sometimes I think because my mother was so uptight about romantic love that all my adult relationships have been tethered by the same mix of daughterly duty and self-control. That maybe I can't find romance for the same reason I can't beat people up in my dreams. That despite being an adventurous, open-minded person, I am still bound by some subconscious level of believing this is not for me. That's just something other people do. That I still have rules for myself and I have to follow these rules and the rules are forever. I can't let go. I can't get caught up in a moment. I can't relax. I can't just let myself get lost or carried away. I can't let anything happen that I can't control.
But if it is me, it truly must be subconscious as I really wish I would stop it. I'd really like for love to be more than the car crash I drive by while it happens to everyone else but me.