Now that my singleton status has surpassed the one-year mark, I’m getting asked the obligatory question “When are you going to start dating again?” more and more. My normal reaction is to cringe slightly, but answer trying to sound as polite as possible with, “Oh, I’m not sure” while looking for a dark hole in which to crawl. It’s the elephant that follows me from room to room that most people seem tired of trying to avoid, instead inviting the pachyderm to sit in my lap and start trumpeting in my face “It’s time to get back out there!”
The idea of dating again quite frankly sends chills down my spine. The last time I went on an actual date, I was 19 years old and a junior in college. I’m 33 now, and after wasting almost 13 years on the wrong person, things are just a tad bit different. I feel like I don’t have the slightest clue how to even go about it, let alone be successful and find that one person meant for me in a sea of seven billion humans currently roaming the planet. I suppose I can knock that number down by at least half, eliminating the female population of the world. Then I can eliminate a couple more billion when I exclude children and the elderly, getting me down to a much more manageable number of around two billion. Take out the marrieds, eliminate geographical extremes, and cross any Chicago Blackhawks or Detroit Redwings fans off the list, and I figure I’m looking at about half a billion possibilities. Good thing most of my weekends are free from now until the end of time. It’s not so much the massive number that’s so intimidating; it’s the undeniable fact that so many of the people in the available group are whackjobs, psychos, nutbags, and assholes. How in God’s name do you weed those people out, or better yet, avoid them completely when you re-enter the dating world after a 14-year absence? It makes me long slightly for the days of “The Scarlet Letter” when people could be publicly branded for the whole world to see. I’d definitely be on board for some kind of law that requires jerks and weirdos to wear a light-up flashing button declaring who they really are. This button would be popular: “Hello, ladies! I seem nice, but I’m really a condescending douche bag!” Or how about, “Greetings, single women! I’m a worthless loser who can’t support myself! Can you please make my next car payment?”
I realize there are (probably) genuinely good, nice people out there; however, I’m certain they’re outnumbered by jagweeds, and finding them most likely will require work that can often be frustrating, disappointing, and discouraging. So where and how do I begin? Many people have offered the suggestion of online dating sites. I understand this is the digital age. Computers are the way of the world today and it’s more common to communicate by text messages than actual person-to-person, or at least voice-to-voice conversations. But the idea of creating a profile and posting it online for all the world to see is terrifying to me. I mean, let’s face it. It’s a lot easier for some 400-pound sexual deviant to create a whole different persona and post it online to fool people than it is for him to trick someone in person. I’ve been told repeatedly about couples who met online, are now married, and will live happily ever after for the rest of their lives, so I’m completely aware that it really can happen. But, just last week, I also came across a news article about a woman who is suing Match.com after meeting, *AND DATING*, a psychopath she met on the site. When she tried to break off the fledgling relationship, her creepy “match” came to her home, stabbed her 10 times with a butcher knife and when the blade broke, for good measure he stomped on her skull a few times, eventually leaving her lying on her garage floor near death. When the psycho was arrested, he admitted to murdering another woman that he also met on Match.com. Oh, where do I sign up? Now if that’s not an exciting way to spend a Saturday night, well I don’t know what is! I just don’t think online dating is for me, at least not yet. I admittedly, and somewhat guiltily, hold the notion that online dating carries with it just a whiff of desperation. I know, I know. It’s an unfair stigma, and I’m absolutely not trying to disparage anyone who is or has been a member of an online dating site. Maybe I’ll come around to it eventually, but I’m just not there yet.
I guess one positive aspect of online dating is that it’s a centralized location, so to speak, to meet lots of different people. That’s something I have a hard time with as an adult. When I was in school, I had no problem meeting people and the abundance of them were single and available. Now, my little world has shrunk considerably and consists mostly of the small law office in which I work, home, and the weekly trip to the grocery store or Walmart. (Have you seen the website peopleofwalmart.com? Enough said.) I don’t get out a whole lot. I don’t drink and therefore don’t go to bars. I’m much more of an introverted homebody than an outgoing reveler, and I’m perfectly content to be snuggled on the couch in my PJs watching an episode of “Downton Abbey.” (Side note: I am completely addicted to this show. I could sit and watch it for 10 hours straight every single day if there were enough new episodes. Who knew PBS offered such uh-may-zing greatness besides “Sesame Street” and Ken Burns’ “The Civil War?” Those Brits are onto something.) I don’t often find myself in situations where I’m meeting a large number of new people, and even when I do, I often make myself fade into the background until it’s time to go home. I hate to be the center of attention. I hate to be under a spotlight. I took years of piano lessons as a kid and never did I become comfortable with anyone listening to or watching me play, even my parents. I just don’t put myself out there, and I’m not usually the one to approach someone else. I guess this goes back to my last blog about opening myself up and trying new things, meeting new people. I am going to try, I really am. But there’s 33 years’ worth of shell to get through, so it’s going to be tough.
Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it really is, but attempting to date again seems like a big mountain to climb. Like trying to scale Mt. Everest wearing flip flops. And to start again at my age seems almost impossible. I’m not saying I’m old, (really, I’m not old!), but I’m in a weird age bracket for dating. Everyone I know who’s in their 30s is either engaged or already married, raising their young families, living in so-called bliss. I’ve already been through dealing with a late 20-something going nutso during a quarter-life crisis, and I’d much prefer not to do that again. Maybe I should just crawl in a cave until my 40s when half of those happily marrieds I know start to get divorced. Ugh, I don’t know what the answer is. It’s just too freaking complicated. Then throw the family, career, financial responsibility factors in there and it’s bordering on nightmarish. I remember when my very first boyfriend asked me out when I was a 14-year-old high school freshman. He literally passed me a note in between periods in the band room that said, “Will you go out with me?” and even had little boxes with “yes” and “no” written above them for me to provide my answer. I checked “yes,” and that was that. Done! Hmpf. I wish it was that simple again.
I do want to date again, and I think I’m ready, although I won’t ever know if I’m really ready until it’s happening. And I will never discourage those around me from asking me repeatedly when it’s going to happen. Those questions just might be the push I need to get me moving forward. Besides, I know that when asked, they’re well-intentioned inquiries from people who just want me to be happy. I’ve been told to make a list of priorities that I want in someone I might date. Right now, there’s only one thing on that list: No Assholes. It’s broad and vague, but it covers a lot of ground. I guess I do have more to add to the list, but I feel like I shouldn’t be too terribly specific. I could definitively add No Smokers because smoking is just an absolute deal breaker for me. They have to be able to take care of themselves and financially support themselves because I’m no one’s mommy, maid, cook, or bank. The amount of money they have doesn’t matter to me, just as long as they’re self-sufficient. I don’t care about social status. I don’t care what kind of car they drive. I have my own preferences when it comes to looks, but honestly physical traits rank much, much lower on the priority list than the way they treat me and treat my family. Which brings me to another important list item – they have to pass my family’s sniff test, which will probably be much more grueling than my own. I guess what matters most to me is that the person I end up dating treats me well, as an equal, with respect and dignity. The rest is mostly superficial (except the smoking thing. Just can’t do it.)
So, maybe dating again is in the cards for me in the near future. Maybe it isn’t. I think I’ll just take things as they come and see what happens. The thought of it certainly makes me nervous. It makes me cautious. The last thing in the world I want is to go through a heartbreak again like I did a year ago. I don’t know if I could withstand it. But I also don’t want to end up a spinster who only has her 45 cats to talk to. And I don’t want to end up like the infamous “Cathy” of comic strip fame, desperately and constantly seeking a date and shouting “ACK!” at everyone. As long as I keep my wits about me and my head on straight and level, I think I’ll be ok. Maybe it’s time I found out.