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He’d glimpsed it over those three hours and had high-tailed it out of there as fast as he could. With no warning whatsoever, I was 13 again, certain that the “cool kids” would never let me join their group, listening as they said, of course they’d love to come to my birthday party while harboring no intention whatsoever of showing up. I’d asked him some pretty blunt questions; writers are always looking for the story behind the story. My students think I’m amazingly cool because I ride a Harley. I sat with the feelings, talked them out with friends, meditated, and decided that the dating experience was here primarily to teach me about myself. I checked email regularly, looked at my Facebook page, hunted for texts that might have somehow been overlooked. I had foolishly thought that a date now and again would enliven my life, would give me something to look forward to, a reason to buy a new blouse, a more active social life. I began to consider how little experience I’d had in this realm.
I was certain I’d made a fool of myself, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how or where. I was already learning what I might one day want in a partner (if I were ever to decide I’d like to be partnered again), what I didn’t want, what I found attractive, what bored me, and had come to appreciate how much I enjoyed my own company. I was old enough, experienced enough, and happy enough on my own to not take any of it too seriously. My dating history, if all pulled together, added up to about a nanosecond.
Not a relationship per se—this business of being on my own and caring only for myself is intriguing and I’m learning too much to want to abandon it.
I wasn’t interested in Match.com, nor a friends-with-benefits setup. Or so I thought until I went on the one and only date I’ve had (outside that marriage) in the last quarter century.
Rule #1: When I feel the impulse do something for “him” (whomever he might be), I will look at my own life and ask if that nurturing thing is something I need to do for myself.
I have no confidence whatsoever that this tactic will work, but I hope to try.
As a friend of mine put it to me later, &mmp;ldquo; Dating is like adding Miracle-Gro to every character defect you possess.” He asked me to dinner.
After living with bone-crushing aloneness within that relationship for a decade, followed by months actively grieving that loss, I found myself ready for some companionship.
Rule #2: When in doubt, I will remind myself of my assets.
Even when I’ve done that, though, I still can’t stop checking email like an obsessed idiot, as if the concreteness of my assets requires someone else to confirm them.
All this occurred in the time it took to blink my eyes.
And lest we lose track of things, let me remind you (and me) that this was a man I hardly knew and by no means was planning a relationship with.
Rule #3: The next time I’m tempted to go too far, I’ll try texting myself a photo of my glorious chicken soup.