OK, I truly do not know where this is coming from, but ... there seems to be, ahem, something in the air that is leading me to getting ready to dip my toe back in the dating pool and see how the water is.
Yes, I realize that just by saying so, I've probably condemned the entire operation, but I'm not going to do the same dumb things I've done in the past. No sir! I'm probably going to come up with completely new dumb things I wouldn't have thought I could do!
I am, however, taking in a little dating advice from so-called "experts" (OK, it's iVillage's dating latest maven), only this time, I'm actually doing the exercises. The results have been a little surprising.
First, they ask you to write down the qualities you are looking for in a man - and you have to come up with at least 10. Fine. Done. The idea is that if you want to find something (or someone), it helps to know what (or whom) you're looking for.
Then, they have questions for you to answer - questions like: Why do you want to start a relationship? What scares you about starting a relationship? What will change in your life if you start a relationship? and What feelings -- good or bad -- might you have to let go of?
Those are a little trickier - for instance, I thought the "why I want to start a relationship" question would be a no-brainer, until I realized that my answer was that I don’t want to live the rest of my life alone. What scares me about relationships was an equally troubling answer: so much of my answer was "fear" - fear that I would "settle", fear that I would get hurt, and fear that ... (deep breath) I will have to make room for someone else in my life.
That was tough to acknowledge: that I don't really want to make room for anyone else in my life. That dovetailed quite nicely into "what would change" if I were to start a relationship: I would have to make time for someone else’s needs and activities. I wouldn’t have the autonomy I’ve learned to enjoy.
The way my life is now, I can come and go whenever I want. If I don’t want to go someplace, I don’t go. I don’t have to make meals or do laundry or clean house on anyone’s schedule except my own, and I don’t have to rush home to spend time with anyone (except my dog).
The feelings I would have to let go of would also be pretty telling: I'd have to give up my autonomy - my control over whatever in my life I can control. I'd also have to give up my defensiveness about not being married yet - weirdly, that's a bit comforting.
I mean, come on: what better answer is there to the question from the well-meaning little old ladies in my neighborhood and church: "you're such a nice person/wonderful cook/(whatever)! How is it that you're not married?" How can you not love that question? It presumes such lovely things about you and your character and abilities, and it places all of the blame for your singleness on the stupidity of others? :) In a relationship, I'd have to give up that assumption of my quality and character. I'd have to be a wife. OK, girlfriend at first.
Maybe that's part of the underlying fear: that, with all of the expectations of marriage because of my age, there would be no room for enjoying courtship or choosing someone who was right for me. My mother's mother was good at reminding me of that: I might not get another chance, so I should snag the first one that comes along.
But in this society, how do you say you want to take things slowly or that you aren't in a rush to get married without sounding like you're interested in a FWB* relationship?
We'll have to see. For now, I have a couple of goals - for one thing, I will feel much more inclined to meet someone if I am in better shape, and while I know "round" is a shape, it's not the shape I want to stay in! :) (And really, it's not that bad - it's not where I'm most comfortable, but it's not that bad.....OK, maybe it's worse than I think it is, but that's beside the point!)
I also know that I will feel more like meeting members of the opposite sex if take a little more control over my schedule and actually schedule time to be out and about. The Dating Doyenne had a good tip: I'm not going to meet suitably eligible men if I stay home all the time or confine my walks with my dog to my own condo complex. If I don't make time to meet someone, how will I make time for him in my life if I were to find him?
The biggest challenge is going to be the conversation portion of the exercises. I can talk all day about lots of different things, but I am not so good with the small talking. (No. Really.) I guess that's why one of the first exercises (after the identification portion) is to practice saying "hello" to random strangers - to get over that feeling that every encounter has to mean something.
The next stage after that is to practice light conversation: the weather, the surroundings, etc. Again, the goal is not to get a date or even a phone number, but to practice the art of conversation without it's leading to anything. Since that is probably about all I can keep straight for a few weeks, I'm going to work on those things first - as I'm heading out the door in my sneakers with my dog pulling at the leash!!
*FWB = "friends with benefits"