I woke up on the morning of my 39th birthday to find an email from one of my blog readers saying something like this: “I love your blog. Someday I’ll have the courage to ask you out.”
Awesome gift, right? (Thanks, dude. Betcha didn’t know it was my birthday, didja?) I mean, I’m thirty-farking-nine. I have two kids. I kind of assumed that, like … no one was going to want to date me. I mean, people even told me that. Apparently I was doomed before I began because I committed the Cardinal Dating Sin of Being a Mom. (No!) And not being 26. (Aarrrgh! The horror!) And people also told me that the guys who were out here were all going to be horrible losers.
But you know what? None of those things have been true. (Single women: Listen up! It’s not the barren desert you think it is out here!)
So yeah, the inventory is there. I have had a lot of fun. It’s been great to rediscover myself and to dress up a little bit and have nice men tell me nice things about myself. But that’s not to say that it’s been easy. I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I’ve possibly hurt some feelings and I’ve definitely had my feelings hurt a time or two.
The thing is, I hit the ground running. I got a lot of invitations. Way more than I ever expected, to be honest. And I said yes a lot. It sort of felt like there was a grand opening sale at a store and everyone was coming over to check it out. And I was like, “Hey! People are asking! They’ll probably stop asking after I’ve been out in the marketplace for a while. I better get in on this while I can! This is probably all going to dry up soon!” (Yeesh. Right now, let’s promise each other to never, ever again use the phrase “dry up” in a post about being 39 and dating.)
[And here I want to take a slight detour to address something that came up in a conversation the other day with an old friend. The question was, does it seem like I got back out there in the dating world too soon? And I forget that people don’t know certain things about my marriage because I tend to think that everyone knows everything I’m thinking at all time — but I’ll be very nonspecific here and say no, under the circumstances, it wasn’t too soon. As a factual matter, we were having trouble and then we separated long before most people knew about it. By the time I was actually really single and free to date, I felt like I’d been single a long time.]
I felt like I took the Total Immersion Course in Dating 2.0. And I admit that it was cool to find out that I had a little more game than I realized. Back when I wrote this blog (https://tinyurl.com/4kbj22e) I would’ve been shocked to hear that in less than a year I’d have gone on a buncha dates with a buncha guys, especially within the first six months of moving out of my house. So I’ll admit that there’s a “Go me!” aspect to that. But something was … off.
It turns out that I don’t love multi-tasking in the dating world. Yep, I tried dating more than one guy at once. Because you know, you’re “supposed to.” Everyone tells you that. “You can’t get involved too soon. You’ve been in a relationship for 11 years. You should play the field. Blah, blah, blah.” But in my mind, all that advice sorta sucks.
(And right now, I know that I’m going to regret what I’m about to write and I’m sort of hoping that a meteorite crashes through my ceiling and lands on my keyboard so I can’t write it. God: This is your chance to stop me. No? You sure? Fine, then I’ll plow on.)
I have had some of the best conversations with men over the past few months about how they date and what they think and what their motives are. Several have given me some inside info into the Dude’s Playbook (and have sworn me to secrecy — a vow I have absolutely no intention of keeping). So here ya go, guys, I’ll give you a little glimpse into what’s goin’ on under the ladies’ skirts in all this dating hoo-hah. I think this is going to scare the shit out of some of you but it’s real and true and honest and maybe you deserve to know. Maybe you don’t. Whatever.
Women do not date casually. Even when we think that’s what we’re doing — even when we convince ourselves that that’s what we’re doing, we’re not. Because we always have this little hope in the back of our minds that just maybe you’ll turn out to be our soul mate. And if we manage to actually pull off the casual thing, it’s because we’re using you for sex or for a place filler or for an emotional crutch while we’re looking for something better.
Let me explain just exactly how NOT casual women are: I remember being in junior high and having crushes on various guys and wondering if they’d make good husbands. No chiz. I was 14 and thinking about who I was going to marry when in actuality I didn’t get married until I was 30. Every boyfriend between 14 and I-do got sized up in exactly the same way. I mean, it’s warped, right? It sounds completely nuts.
But I’m not going to run away from that weird little truth. This is how women are wired. We just are. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t explain it. It’s just the fact. Now you can go out there and talk to women who will disagree with me and I’ll tell you this: They’re either lying to you or they’re lying to themselves. In the back of our minds, we are always sizing up men and going, “Hey, could I love you? Are you a potential?” Because for us, that’s what dating is about. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. Maybe men can date for sport but women can’t.
So I’m done fighting my true nature. I’m going to own my truth: Trishy wants some love and some lovin’ to go along with it. I’m still pretty sure I don’t want some guy moving into my domicile and messin’ up the joint but I’d still like to find that guy who, a few days a week maybe, will lay in bed with me and stare into my eyes and have to pinch himself that he landed me. And meanwhile, I’ll be doing the same. How disgusting is that? I can’t help it. That’s what I’m shooting for.
And another thing I’m not going to fight: I hate “playing the field.” What a loathsome bunch of crap that is. That’s not to say that I want to jump into a serious relationship right away with some guy after a date or two. But I think after a handful of dates, there’s got to be a tipping point — there has to be a decision about, “Hey, let’s try this thing on for size and see if there’s anything here.” And maybe there is and maybe there isn’t but I don’t think you can really make an honest assessment about a person if you’re looking over his or her shoulder the whole time trying to hook something up with someone else.
Here’s the harm in playing the field: It turns people into commodities. Over the past few months, I saw myself doing that and it scared me. It turns dating into shopping. Like, “Well this model comes in blue, which I like, but THAT one has an extra cup holder …” It might as well be a math equation. I’d rather go by feel. I want to put something on and go, “Am I happy in this one? Does it make me smile?” If I can answer yes to those, then I need to take a step back and decide if it’s practical and if I can afford it. But it’s got to start there, on the gut level. And I have to give it an honest read, which means that whomever I’m dating needs to have my undivided attention. And I need to have theirs. And you know what? I think I’m worth someone’s undivided attention.
I recently got the best validation for this. I ran across something in a book called What French Women Know by Debra Ollivier. This book is awesome in a thousand ways but one section in particular really blew my hair back. Ollivier talks about how the French sneer at the all-you-can-eat buffet aspect of American dating — especially online dating. She says that no French woman (or man, for that matter) would accept an invitation if she knew she was one of several options and, as a consequence, expected to “compete” with others. It’s also assumed that once you have that first romantic encounter (whether that’s going to dinner or simply ripping each other’s clothes off under a bridge while the rain falls meaningfully around you) there is the expectation of fidelity until the relationship runs it course — even if the relationship isn’t serious. The idea is that the dynamic between two people is fully explored to see if it works. My favorite quote from this section: The French generally “date” the way they eat: one course at a time, preferably hot.
What’s not completely tantalizing about that?
Now that I’ve said all that, I will completely contradict myself and disclose that yes, I just signed up for an online dating site. God help me. But it’s a small site and it’s local and there’s a focus on group meetups, which is kind of nice. I want to keep my wits about me with it. I want to be real and genuine with people, as I would hope that they will be with me. We’ll see how it goes. So far, my first search for guys between 35 and 45 brought up about 50 dudes, two of which I’ve already dated. So I figure I can spend the next few months working through the other 48. (Kidding, kidding, kidding.)
Wish me luck.
Curious about what you think, readers. Do you agree or disagree that women can’t date casually? You can head over to my According to Trish facebook page (link on the right) to join the discussion.