A friend of mine came to Medford this past weekend. We had a lovely time, went to a few restaurants and spots I’d never been to before, and after a good breakfast at a diner on Sunday morning, we went for a walk at Assembly Row. We walked along the Mystic River, and found a place to sit on a nearby bench. The sun was blazing, but there was a cool breeze drifting through the trees, welcoming those who were enjoying the shade. As we sat there, we discussed a number of topics, eventually landing on dating.
“People date because they’re lonely,” she said. I agreed with her, but with a minor caveat.
“What I’m going to say, the analogy I’m going to use, bear with me,” I said, extending my hands in each direction, letting her know I needed space to work. “I think that dating is like shopping at the supermarket. A wise man once told me to never shop when you’re hungry (or hung over, I can’t remember which, they both work). The point was that if you shop when you’re hungry, then you buy exactly what you’re hungry for right now, in this very moment. If you go to a supermarket on a full or even semi-full stomach, you’ll be less focused on your immediate hunger, and you’ll buy the things that you need for the week, for the long haul. You shouldn’t date just because you’re lonely, or that shouldn’t be the only factor, otherwise you’ll end up with someone you shouldn’t, someone that isn’t a good fit.”
I’ll level with you (the reader), it’s much easier to type up the words than it is to say them aloud, and I was definitely not this eloquent when I said it, but the gist is the same: date because you want someone, not because you need someone. There’s a monumental difference between the two. I’ve seen people date because they can’t be alone, or because their relationship has just ended, and they’re so uncomfortable with the thought of being by themselves that they need a quick fix. I’m sorry if I sound judgmental, but I’ve witnessed it too many times. I’m not saying that you can’t strike gold in that moment, but more often than not, the results end up being disastrous.
When you break up with someone, it is uncomfortable. I remember breaking up with my first real girlfriend, and feeling absolutely sick over it. There’s a void, and while that first week off from dating life is usually pretty amazing, after that, you start to wonder about what’s next. You have crazy thoughts, like maybe you’ll never find love again, maybe she was the one, etc. The self-doubt is incredible. I always take some time off to reset myself, and I like to think I come back better for it.
I’ve struggled with the idea of writing a post about dating. I don’t put a lot of effort into it, and to be honest, finding the one seems like a fantastic long shot. It seems more likely that I’ll get struck by lightning, twice. I also have an arsenal of online dating horror stories from friends of mine, and that makes it hard to want to get out there. I’ll admit that I’m on dating apps, but given the choice to swipe right or left on the entire concept, I’d swipe left. They seem like nothing more than a massive time-suck, but maybe that’s just my experience. Maybe I’m just reaping what I sow, getting back what I put out there.
People seem to be more distant these days. Maybe they’re afraid of that true connection, maybe they’re focused on other things, or maybe they’re afraid of picking the wrong person. I know that I am, afraid of picking the wrong person when the sea of choices is so vast. I’m afraid of ending up with someone, waking up some random morning, and realizing that I don’t love them, and having to break their heart. It’s happened before, and it’s enough to make me steer clear.
I asked a friend what it meant when someone, “Got serious about dating.” She told me that it meant that they paid for a membership on one of the more reputable sites, which seems like a smart investment, if that’s what you want. If you do decide to get serious about it, at the very least you have to put in the time. You have to want it badly. Most days I don’t have the energy.
Not every dating experience will be positive, and maybe that’s just life. You try and enjoy the good times, and learn as much as you can from the bad times. I remember being unemployed in New York, and telling my therapist that applying for jobs seemed like such a waste of time. I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I wasn’t hearing back from most of the organizations I applied to. She told me something like, “You’ll never get a job if you don’t put yourself out there.” It’s true, unless you put down chips, you’ll never lose, but you also have no shot at winning.
I do believe in love; I wouldn’t have officiated two ceremonies if I didn’t. I also believe I’ve witnessed it first hand. I’m at that point in my life where friends who have been in long-term relationships are tying the knot, and I have yet to attend a wedding where I didn’t feel the couple was going to make it. There is hope, but it still seems like such a craps shoot. I believe that it exists, true love, but that not everyone gets a shot at it.
Maybe it’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you maintain positive expectations and a positive attitude, then you’ll enjoy dating and meet someone that’s worthwhile. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve ever walked into it with that mindset. Maybe people aren’t afraid of each other, but they’re overloaded by the amount of choice in their lives. Maybe people are like me, in that they’re waiting for that one person to come and knock them off their feet, but maybe that’s unrealistic; I hope it isn’t. I hope that when that person comes into my life, I really am knocked off my feet, that I know it in my gut, the way my Dad did with my mother. I know you can’t force it, and so many people have hit me with the saying, “You’ll find it when you least expect it.” Until then, I’ll keep my eyes open. Thanks for reading.