It’s been two weeks since my birthday, and since the breakup. I’ve been working diligently on getting things back in order – buying groceries to restock my pantry since I hadn’t needed to over the last year, replacing things that I’d left at his place and didn’t want him to return (for the singular reason that he bought them for me when things were good and I didn’t want the reminder). I’ve spent my time catching up with old friends, sometimes being the sympathetic ear they needed – and incidentally I’ve found that the fastest way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else out. I’ve also spent a large amount of time familiarizing myself with the DVR setup on my cable. Anything to distract myself, since the quiet times are the hardest. And since I’m unequivocally good at entertaining myself, distraction hasn’t been difficult .
But the fact remains: to say I’ve fully recovered, I have to get back out there. And I hate dating. Being a woman, you’d expect the opposite – free meals, good conversation, a good excuse (sometimes) to play dress-up. But being independent it’s difficult to let someone buy me a meal, I’m not much for dressing up, and often the conversation on a date feels like a more casual job interview. And certainly a less definitive one. With a job, I know what I’m there for. I come away from a date, at least usually, no clearer about what this person wanted from me than I was when I went into it. And no matter how well (or not well) the date went, there’s the agonizing after-party effects. Will he call? What will I say if he does? If he doesn’t, why? Did I say something wrong? Was my mascara smeared? Lipstick on my teeth? And I’ve already noticed a distinct difference in the amount of interest I get as a thirty year old woman – which declines even more the minute I tell them I’m divorced (even though the marriage itself didn’t last that long and I don’t even think about it anymore). Yes, dating this time may be an uphill battle.
To top it all off, it’s been nearly a year since I last went on a “real” date. The kind where you didn’t have any real idea of where anything was going, you weren’t in a relationship, and you didn’t have the security of knowing that since you were in a relationship you could just as easily end the evening by sitting on the couch in flannel pants, vegging out to potato chips, and watching some crazy thing on the TV rather than some awkward moment spent at your front door, trying to determine whether or not you were about to get kissed. I remember the rules, but I don’t know which of them apply to this new situation. In my twenties, it didn’t matter that I was divorced (or seemed to matter less), unsettled, in transition. Now that I’m thirty, even though I still look like a twenty-something, that divorce combined with my age often becomes more or less a dealbreaker – even from men who are also in their thirties. Those days of vegging out on the couch in my flannel pants with someone… I’m worried they’re gone forever but am attempting to remain optimistic.
It’s the optimism that had me sitting in a Starbucks on Sunday, writing this post. An earlier entry divulged that I reactivated my OKC profile – albeit to less pomp and circumstance than I had when I activated it last year. I’m chalking that up to being thirty and also to posting fewer photos of myself scantily clad in a swimsuit. One of the first to message me was someone I’d been talking to last year, but hadn’t met. We talked a little, he asked me if I wanted to meet, I said sure, and there I was – an hour early, so I could blog – waiting for him. The confirmation text came in an hour ahead of time, I responded. Here we go.
This would have been simpler, though, had I not logged on to OKC Saturday night. When I posted the profile this time, I’d gone to great lengths to protect myself. Since that’s where 3.0 and I had met, it was only natural that he would go back to it as well. Eventually. It was a gamble to put myself back up there at all, but I was betting on having more time. And I thought that if I created a completely new profile, I’d be safe. That if he put his back up, I’d be none the wiser about it, we’d travel in our circles, one of us would hook up, that’d be the end of it. I lost that gamble. Call it shitty luck, call it fate, call it history repeating itself, but the exact same situation presented itself to me when I logged in. There he was, in my recent activity feed, reactivating his profile, adding new pictures. And because I am a masochist, I clicked on it. And then whatever recovery progress I’d made was done, over, gone. I’d been holding it together so well for the last two weeks, and then that dissipated. I was reduced, for a second, to tears. And I cried about the same amount of tears I’d produced when it actually ended. That’s a lot for me. I hastily made myself stop, hid his profile, made sure he would never appear in that feed again – that is the last thing you want when you’re trying to move on. And I tried to forget, but I couldn’t. But god did I try –I watched TV, called some friends, did some laundry and cleaning, even thought about putting together a hookah but realized that I didn’t need to use my vices to forget it. The pain would still be there when all of that was over and done with anyway.
The next morning, per the advice of my friends, I shut him down. I didn’t block him, and I won’t block him. But I hid his Facebook statuses from myself – all of his posts, everything. I debated on whether to block him altogether, but decided against it. For the moment, he hadn’t done anything to warrant that – he wasn’t trying to contact me, wasn’t trying to be in my way. But as some of my stuff is still at his house, I needed to leave those lines open. For the time being, not having any idea of who he’s with or what he’s doing seemed to be the most advisable path to take. If I need to shut things down more, the option is always there to do that.
Even still, though, I realized the second his profile came across my feed that that discovery would make this first date particularly difficult. It would have been difficult anyway, the first date after a breakup (no matter how long it’s been) usually is because you realize that you’re going from the luxury of the full disclosure that comes with a relationship to the awkwardness of meeting someone new. But that understandable awkwardness combined with the hurt I was feeling was a challenge I was unsure I had the stomach for. But the plans were there, they’d been made, and they were probably a year coming. And so I kept them. Partially because I don’t break dates and partially because I felt that this person might actually be a fit. If I could bring myself to acceptance and a better outlook within 17 hours, that is.
A little about him: he’s 31, and a second grade teacher. He grew up in Clearwater but has a house here in Tampa. We live in the same area of town and both have cats. He designs and manages the website for his elementary school and also does the technical education for the other teachers – a task he says can be as difficult as the job I have with the insurance agents. When we talked last year there were plenty of levels to connect on – when we talk this year, we find the same. I guess it doesn’t hurt that my family is full of teachers – that’s actually a career I sort of understand. And he sort of looks like Matthew Broderick. To that end, in any future posts (if there’s anything to post about), I’ll be calling him Broderick. Until I think of something better.
I sat there, in that Starbucks, waiting for him and wondering why I was even doing this. Broderick is a nice guy, and yet I felt like I was cheating, even though there is no longer anyone to cheat on, and despite the fact that I have been having conversations and chats with 2.0 that I would never have had with anyone while in my prior relationship. 3.0 is still so prominently in my mind that even though I’ve come to terms with the fact that the reasons why things ended were, for the moment anyway, too large to deal with within the confines of the relationship itself. Ultimately, though, I do not want to be alone – I am not a woman that defines herself by the man she is with, and I don’t need a man to be happy, but I can’t ignore the fact that a relationship is one of those “nice to have” things that I really don’t want to do without for the rest of my life if I can possibly help it. The only solution to this is to get back out there. And sooner rather than later, as the clock on my availability seems to be ticking – who knew that your thirties could be “no man’s land” (literally)?
I pride myself on my acting abilities. And I am a firm believer in the “fake it till you make it” concept. This is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do, not by far. But this singular blip of drama in the last few years of a relative drama-free existence is still a challenge. I know that half the battle to being okay is to convince myself that I AM okay, to get back out there, pretend that it’s all a non-issue, and it will eventually BE okay. The “fake it till you make it” concept might not have worked in my previous relationship when I was walking around, coping by pretending that he’d already told me he loved me when he hadn’t (and never did) – I didn’t take into consideration the fact that there was another person’s emotions involved in the overall success of the concept in that situation – but in this phase of the game, in this era, the only factor I can control is myself. Fortunately, when it comes to the dating game where everything else is so fickle and unstable, I am the only factor that really matters.
And surprisingly it went well. Like we thought, we did hit it off on so many levels. We agreed that we should do it again, but I am stifling my “jump the gun” nature and will wait for his texts. Maybe he’ll call, maybe he won’t. But no matter what happens, this date has already done a couple of things for me. First, it made me realize that I really can do this. I can meet someone else, I can have coffee with them, and I can find things to talk about. I can smile, I can laugh, I can joke around, and I can spend an hour and a half meeting someone new and not thinking about what I could have or could not have had. Secondly, because we did hit it off so well, I realized that the end of 3.0 is certainly not the end of everything. It’s not easy to find that connection, especially not now with so many black marks against me, but I can get along with other people. There is a chance. And like so many other things with this decade, I do not know what the future will bring. But I do know that no matter what it throws at me, I’ll be okay.