My parents tell the story of my dad finding me on the couch, alone, four years old, hand to chin, staring off into space.
When he asked what I was doing, I said simply, “Thinking.”
It’s not as if I’m especially brilliant. I wish I could say that moment as a four year old was some foreshadowing of the great mental gymnastics I’m capable of doing today.
Well, I do mental gymnastics, but for a different, less important reason.
And those “gymnastics” are more like the accidental tumble a person takes when tripping down a flight of stairs.
(Which, incidentally, is hilarious.)
Last summer, as I participated in what was the most ridiculous, yet most helpful round of therapy ever, my therapist told me in our first session, “As a high-anxiety person, you’ll need to learn to self-soothe and regulate your emotions.”
WTF, dude. Seriously?? Me?? High anxiety? I’m not anxious! Intense, yes. Driven, yes. Nervous sometimes. Prone to stress, with racing thoughts and tightness in my stomach and chest which sometimes prevents me from going about my normal behavior and activities...
Oh. My. God. Fine. Anxiety. WHATEVER.
Therapy, working out, yoga, a whole lotta breathing and keeping track of my emotional state helped me to realize that yes, I felt anxious, oh, pretty much all the damn time.
So, after half a year of hard work, I felt like I had things under control. I felt pretty even keel. Confident. Relaxed. Playful. Unflappable.
Lately, though, I’ve been “thinking” again. A lot. I don’t know if it’s because I’m feeling a little like I’m in transition, or if I haven’t been as vigilant as I should be with taking care of myself.
(It’s probably NOT the two boxes of mac and cheese I ate this week, though. Or those donuts. Definitely not the donuts.)
I feel somewhat in transition because of a few things…
- I’m ready to date again, but I don’t want a relationship.
- I don’t want a relationship because I’ve got shit to do, and relationships are distracting.
There are days when I just want to say “fuck it.” I know I don’t want a relationship, so what’s the harm in taking the time to focus solely on my work and goals for 2013?
And then there are days when I want to go hog-wild on OKCupid and start the whole 3-coffee-dates-a-week cycle again. Because sometimes a girl gets lonely…and needs to get The Laidz.
...Then I remember that it’s likely that most of those dates will be “not good” and I’ll be wasting a lot of time deleting emails and meeting 40 year old dudes with unhealthy cat obsessions.
(Story: one man I met last summer was particularly invested in his cat. When he told me about his little guy, I said, “Aw, I like cats, but I’m allergic to them.” He responded by getting in my face and saying, forcefully, “TAKE A PILL!”
...THEN I think that I’m probably overthinking, that online dating can probably be enjoyable if I approach it with a positive attitude and focus on meeting new people, period, rather than hoping for an outcome…
…an outcome I’m not all that concerned with anyway, since I don’t really want a relationship.
And here we are, full circle.
It’s okay to admit that there is something nice about having dinner or drinks with someone you are attracted to who is not your friend (yet?). It’s enjoyable to have an evening filled with flirting and conversation and sexual tension.
There’s also something great about saying, “I’d like to jump your bones some time, but I also have work to do. And friends to hang out with. And an episode of Girls to watch. Alone.”
If you haven’t caught it already, The New York Times recently published an article titled "The End of Courtship", and bemoans how all the youths are on their texty devices all the time so no ladies are being asked on dates and wooed and stuff.
Major publications using anec-data to write entire pieces aside, the article irks me a bit because it assumes that I, as a grown woman, would of course want to be romanced all the way to the alter. That an “adult life” means that I would ONLY WANT to be scoping out the next Mr. Ex-Naked Redhead.
And let’s not get into this:
“Further complicating matters is the changing economic power dynamic between the genders, as reflected by a number of studies in recent years, said Hanna Rosin, author of the recent book 'The End of Men.'
A much-publicized study by Reach Advisors, a Boston-based market research group, found that the median income for young, single, childless women is higher than it is for men in many of the country’s biggest cities…. This may be one reason it is not uncommon to walk into the hottest new West Village bistro on a Saturday night and find five smartly dressed young women dining together — the nearest man the waiter. Income equality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male-dominated dating structure.”
OH NOES. TEH END OF MENZ.
And let’s not forget this gem of a quote:
“’It’s hard to read a woman exactly right these days,” she added. “You don’t know whether, say, choosing the wine without asking her opinion will meet her yearnings for old-fashioned romance or strike her as boorish and macho.’”
Uhhh, yeah, let’s go with option B here. Always.
I rarely yearn for the type of old-fashioned romance spoken of here…especially if it’s the kind of romance I think she’s suggesting: a brand of Don Draper machismo that assumes that all the things I’m doing with my life are super cute for now, but really, Sweetheart, you’re too pretty to have to work.
All that to say (didn’t I say, “let’s not get into this?” Oops.) I am not yet sure how to navigate dating as a woman without an “agenda”.
The world according to The New York Times (and Bloomberg, the Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal) thinks I have an agenda (meet someone, get married, pop out 2.2 kids, live the Disney Princess dream) and that the changing dating landscape is ill equipped to meet said agenda.
I’m ready to do something different.
Maybe that opens me up for a little criticism from people (men and women) my age who are in serious “finding the one” mode. Maybe it means that I have to be honest up front and say, “I find you attractive, and I enjoy your company, but only want to see you every two weeks.”
Maybe there are those who think that’s a sad way to live.
As my therapist would say, though, “It doesn’t matter what other people think. What do YOU think? What do you really want?”