I Fucking Love Being Single

Fuck, I love being single so much.

Maybe too much. I was, for all intents and purposes, single for the first 23 years of my life. Not entirely on purpose, but mostly on purpose. I had crushes that didn’t work out. I felt lot of unrequited feelings. I also had offers, not infrequent offers, that I wasn’t interested in for whatever reasons.

And so, I was single. It was all I knew. When, at 23, I started dating my first boyfriend, it was a terrifying transition. I had many panic attacks. I had also just moved not just countries but continents. In that strange new land he provided me with a social anchor that I couldn’t let go of easily, and so I forced myself to work through the panics. That wasn’t the reason I was dating him, but it is the reason I stayed despite the fear of so much change. Anyway, this post isn’t about him. That’s for another time.

Since being 23 I’ve dated on and off, and my longest single period was probably between 28 and 30, about two years in which I moved back to NYC and dated a LOT but never anyone for longer than a month or so. I don’t remember that time super well, but for various reasons (also, perhaps, for another post) I wasn’t very happy. Moving back to NYC and figuring out how to live there was a lot of work.

I’ve now been single for, well, it’s hard to count exactly but let’s say for roughly ten months. And finally, once again, I fucking love it. I remember how much I loved it when I was younger.

In fact, it’s possible I love it more now. I love it with a kind of ferocity that comes from thirteen years of being in and out of relationships that weren’t quite right, of struggling against that, of thinking something was wrong with me, of taking on far more than my fair share of the mental load for running those relationships, of taking on far more emotional labour than I should have. Of losing my autonomy, and myself.

Not that I think you lose your autonomy in relationships – I don’t think you do, or not as easily anyway, when they are the right relationships. (Also a topic for another post!) But what are ‘right’ relationships, and how the hell do you spot them? Turns out, I had to go through a huge roster of wrong ones in order to figure that out.

And here I am. I wrote about how I went on a few dates in May, and then stopped – I’ve still stopped. This break might last longer than I had originally anticipated.

Last year was a difficult year, personally. Between what I refer to at times as ‘my injury’ and at others ‘sciatica’ (it’s kind of neither and both), my movement has become restricted. I have to be careful not to make that worse. It’s finally, finally, getting a lot better, but it’s a slow slog, a daily process of figuring out where to sit and how to sit and focusing on standing correctly and then noticing that I’ve lost the right posture and figuring it out again and getting frustrated because my core isn’t strong enough to stand up easily yet but I can’t work out my core because I might do damage and just ughghghghgh. It’s a painstaking process especially for someone as impatient as I am.

There were also other stresses: I dated two people in the fall of last year, both of which ended, one in a particularly stressful and ambiguous way. I was teaching more students than I’d ever taught before, having to manage TAs for the first time in my life with zero institutional guidance, in an area I was teaching myself about frantically as I went along. There was just a lot of intellectual and professional and social stress. I felt boxed in by various pressures. I felt sedentary, and my symptoms got a lot worse between December and February. I didn’t have enough time for my own work, but I set myself external deadlines so that I’d have to do it anyway. I pushed through, but at the end of the year (April) I was exhausted.

And then TC didn’t work out, and that was disappointing, but it’s rare I like people as much as I liked him, and so I just cannot imagine picking up and dating someone else anytime soon. Not because I’m pining for this man, I’m not, I was finished with pining in my early 20s because it’s such a waste of good time and energy. What I mean is that my stores got maxed out last year in general, and I think it will just take a long time to replenish that energy.

And so I’ve been taking the space that I lost last year back. I’ve been doing more yoga to try to strengthen muscles that have weakened/frozen into positions that are perpetuating pain/damage. It’s not as much as I’d like to be doing, but it’s safe for my body and it’s something. I’ve been doing an overhaul of all of the clutter I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve been a part of a reading group that keeps me feeling grounded in a university community. I’ve been writing my dissertation almost every day, and it’s coming along really well. Still super slow, and in lots of ways frustrating, but good. I’ve also been writing loads of other things: other academic stuff, blog stuff, review stuff. I’ve hung out with friends and on my own. Mostly with low-stress friends, people who are not work to be around. I can’t do a lot of emotional work right now, not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have it in me.

And I’m not even lonely? I mean, okay, let’s be real, I have moments of loneliness. But, it’s by far not the dominant theme. I’ve gone from feeling boxed in by my life to feeling like I have room to move again, room to breathe, both literally and figuratively. I feel more in control of the things I’ve let go of for too long. I finally feel relaxed for the first time in well over a year.

And who knows when I’ll date again, but I just don’t really care right now. I’ve had a few offers this summer, and the offers were wonderful and flattering and heartwarming – and something almost came from one of them, but in the end I chose not to pursue it. I just feel too good right now, like I really need this time and space for myself, to reset and to figure out how I want my life to look. And let me tell you, it feels fucking amazing.

 

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A Break.

I think I need to take a break from dating.

A friend suggested this yesterday, and at first I bristled at the suggestion. I am not getting any younger, and it’s been ages since I’ve been in a relationship (okay it’s been like 9 months but still) and if I stop trying then it feels like I’m giving up hope.

And yet, when she suggested that, there was something in me that relaxed.

I’ve been on three dates in the last few weeks. They were all fine. They were all with men who are smart and doing interesting things. But even as I write these sentences, I am sagging inwardly.

The first guy I went on a date with is doing his PhD at York, and we had a decent hour-long chat about movies and politics and Toronto and New York.

The second guy – well, I still don’t know what he does, tbh. That was a weird experience, because he started off doing that thing guys do when you are a lady and doing your PhD, which is to try to prove to you how smart they are. I managed to subvert his attempt at doing this by actually telling a couple of stories of dates where this has happened, and remarking on how exhausting it is. He responded well to this, and seemed to relax a bit. But, then he started trying to explain his theories of the universe to me, and showing me diagrams and dialogues he’s written to explain them, and I wasn’t sure how to respond to these. It eventually came out that he’s got a mental illness (which is cool, so do I) which explained some of the kinds of things he was saying, and he relaxed even more when I revealed that I have an anxiety disorder. Eventually I managed to direct the conversation away from the initial awkwardness, and more towards movies and politics and books and stuff like that, and we had a decent conversation for about an hour after that. By the end of that date, I had developed a genuine affection for this man, and I wish him well. I hope he falls in love. With someone who isn’t me.

The third man was also fine. He works at a music library in Toronto and it sounds like his job is actually pretty cool. He seemed kind and thoughtful and tuned in. And he was attractive, but in a way that I am still unsure about. My attraction to people is something I have spent the last twenty years figuring out, and I have a much better handle on it than I used to, but even so I still have some anxiety and confusion about it. I know, for example, that I have a pretty obvious ‘type’, although I also know that now and then I’m super attracted to people outside of that type. I know that my attraction to someone’s personality is something that can come entirely apart from my attraction to their body. (This has led to many unfortunate dating decisions.) I also know that when I am attracted to someone’s personality AND their body, the two end up blending together in a way that is very intense and powerful. (This is what happened with the crush, and doesn’t happen super often.)

I also know that my attraction to people can grow over time if I don’t experience it initially, but often it doesn’t. Often I know immediately if it’s a yes or a no. And I know this in my body, not my mind. So I can see that someone, for example, is very typically attractive, but not actually be attracted TO them. I’ve learned, over the years, that most of the time my initial physical impression of someone is right. I’ve learned that my body knows things, and that I should trust it to know those things.

And so as I was talking to this man, this kind and intelligent man, I was imagining kissing him and something inside me recoiled at that thought. I also found myself wondering who, amongst my friends, I could set him up with. Neither of these things feels like evidence that I should go on a second date.

And I find this so exhausting and disheartening. Like, is it that these guys are just not a match for me? Or is it that I’m actually not in a place right now where *anyone* is going to feel like a good match? Does dating just suck until it doesn’t? Or should I just take a fucking break?

I don’t know for sure the answers to these questions, but I do know that although I feel some weird obligation to keep dating, that the idea of taking a break from it feels really fucking great. The idea of spending my evenings with Tom Hiddleston movies and watching the last season of Sherlock that I never got around to watching and hanging out with my friends who I know are definitely interesting people – all of that sounds fucking amazing. So I think I’m going to trust my body on that one right now, and step back for a bit. I’ll still be posting here, though, in the meantime. I’ve only scratched the surface of all the dating stories I still have.

Set Up

I seem to have reached the age where my aunties are trying to set me up with men they know. Or, men they don’t know, as the case may be.

A few days ago I got an email from my aunt about the son of a lady in her building who is ‘very nice and very interesting’. He’s an artist, and (I’m assuming) single. And he owned a dog once. She told me to google him and tell her what I thought.

Mildly amused by this, and not 100% sure yet that this was, in fact, a set up (my aunt also likes buying art, so I thought there was still the slim possibility that she genuinely just wanted to know what I thought of it) I googled him. There wasn’t a lot about him on his website, but I browsed through some of the pics of his art, which, to be honest, look pretty interesting. Having said that, visual art is not my forte, so I don’t have a lot of experience talking about or evaluating this kind of thing.

I wrote my aunt back and said something similar, deliberately playing stupid because I was still feeling out her intentions, and asked if she was thinking of buying a piece. Oh no no, she wrote back, too expensive. She then mentioned how great it is that ‘he even cuts his hair!’

Well that clinched it for me, she was trying to set me up. (The last comment is a jab at two or three of my ex boyfriends who at one time or another in our respective relationships had long shaggy hair). She then followed up again, asking me more about the themes of his art. (Tbh I just have no idea how to talk thematically about this kind of art, and I was headed out the door, so I haven’t replied to that yet).

And I mean look, there’s nothing wrong with this man (probably) and there’s nothing wrong with set ups THEORETICALLY  – my parents met because their friends set them up. My friend’s sister just got married to a man that she had been set up with via a mutual friend.

AND YET. And yet. I mean, this man looks interesting, and he probably is? But I just… I find online dating hard enough. And that’s already after someone has provided several photos, answered profile questions, answered survey questions. What do I even know about this man? It’s like being on bloody tinder, where I have one photo of him and I know what his profession is. Part of me wants to send my aunt a survey for him to fill out before I’d even consider this. (Is religion important to you? Do you think abortion should be legal? Do you think women are obligated to shave their legs? What are your views on Brexit? etc)

Even then… I mean the chances that he and I will really like each other are so slim. The chances we will fancy each other are even slimmer. And then if I decide it’s a ‘no’ (which, let’s be honest, it probably would be, just statistically) then NOT ONLY do I have to reject this man (unless we reject each other) I ALSO have to reject my aunt’s plan. And she is a great lady in lots of ways, but hearing soft ‘no’s is not one of her strengths. And I don’t want to have to justify why I don’t like someone. That is just like, so much stress.

If a good friend of mine wanted to set me up, that would be one thing, because they know me and my values better than my aunt can, and I’d hope they’d know the person they wanted to set me up with pretty well also. I love my aunt and while I think it is so, so sweet that she wants to help, that she just wants the best for me, she really doesn’t know those things about me on a deep level. While it’s fine that this man cuts his hair and once owned a dog, these aren’t actually the top of my list of things to check off about someone? I get the sense that she likes the idea of this person, and I understand that kind of reaction, and I appreciate the thought. But I suspect she doesn’t quite understand the layers of complexity and stress this might cause for me.

In the meantime I’ll amuse myself by imagining what his mother might be saying to him, about me.