Recently, I had a nightmare that I was getting married. I couldn't see my groom's face; he was turned away from me in the dream. My mother was in the dream, and she was thrilled that I would no longer be an "old maid" (one of her favorite insults for me ever since I entered my thirties). The church was full of smiling people who were all happy for me, and all I could feel was a sense of dread and the realization that this wasn't what I wanted. In the dream I started walking down the aisle towards my groom, and then I woke up, relieved that it wasn't real.
My dream more or less confirmed something I've suspected for a while now but didn't want to admit: I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone. I'm not saying that I never want a boyfriend, but I've been on my own for so long that I've grown accustomed to my independence. I like that when I got the job in College Town, I was able to just pack up my stuff and go. I didn't have to consider how it would affect my significant other because I didn't have one. I like that if and when I get a new job and leave College Town, I can just pack up my stuff and go. There's a sense of freedom in being single, and I'm not prepared or willing to give it up...at least not yet.
I think that's one of the things that drew me to the Model. He made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't looking for anything too serious and that he just wanted to have fun. And it was fun with him, until I developed feelings for him, texted him that I wanted to see him again, and he never answered.
One thing I've observed about dating in my thirties is that it's very different from dating in my twenties or my teens. When I was in my twenties and still living in Chicago, people dated because they just wanted to have fun. But I didn't get to have fun in my twenties, not really. While other people were barhopping or clubbing and staying out all night, backpacking across Europe, or taking cross-country road trips with their friends, I was going to graduate school and working three jobs. I taught at various schools around the city and worked retail jobs, where I regularly resisted the urge to bitch-slap rude customers and twenty-two-year-old supervisors on power trips.
While I definitely have no desire to go clubbing and stay out all night (especially not when I have to teach an 8 AM class the next day), at the same time I just want to go on dates and have fun. (But I feel like since I'm 36, I'm not supposed to say that and am supposed to be looking for someone to settle down with.) And as far as having children goes, I think of it as like winning the lottery: it'd be a wonderful life-changer, but it's okay if it never happens. And I'm not going out of my way to buy lottery tickets.
Now that I'm in my thirties, most of the guys my age that are on the dating scene are divorced and/or have children. The Artist and the Musician were both divorced with children. I'd never dated anyone with kids before, and it's hard to picture myself as someone's stepmother. Whenever I try, I just get this image of myself as one of those wicked stepmothers from a fairy tale, talking to a mirror while stroking my pet raven.
On both Tinder and Bumble, you can only message (it's basically the equivalent of texting, unlike the e-mails that are exchanged on eharmony and match.com) someone if you "swipe right" on each other. On both apps, you can choose to "unmatch" people that you've matched with if you change your mind. What often happens to me is that I'll match with a guy, and if I send a message, he won't answer or will unmatch me soon after. I can't help wondering if maybe my age (36) is working against me, since I know that most guys, including the ones my age, prefer younger women.
Sometimes, the guy will initiate the conversation, but then he'll disappear for days without saying goodbye, and then he'll suddenly pick up the conversation where we left off. Recently, I got messages on Tinder and Bumble from guys who disappeared in the middle of our chats three weeks ago, and then messaged me again without apologizing for or explaining their prolonged absence. I didn't answer and unmatched them.
Another thing I've noticed about guys in their late thirties and forties is that a lot of them want to be in relationships ASAP, and they'll reject me in the middle of our conversations (or sometimes I'll unmatch them if the conversation gets too intense) because I don't want what they want, like this one guy I'll call Loverboy. Here's an abridged version of our chat:
Loverboy: So what are you looking for on this site?
Me: I'd just like to meet new people and go on dates. You?
Loverboy: I'm looking for my SOUL MATE. I want to find a woman that I can adore and spend the rest of my life with. Does that sound good to you?
Me: Um, well, I'm not ready to be in a serious relationship right now, but I'm not opposed to being in one eventually.
Loverboy: Well, then you're not the one for me because I don't want to love somebody who won't love me back.
Me: Aaannnd we're done here.
It's one thing to go on a dating site looking for love, but I think it's weird to say something like that in the first conversation with someone you haven't even met in person yet. My reaction to guys like that is similar to the reaction that most guys would have if I posted a picture of myself in a wedding dress in my profile with a tagline that reads, "Now all I need is a groom!" or if I posted a picture of myself holding a baby doll with a tagline that reads, "I can't wait to hold my real baby."
What I want is to go on casual dates with several guys, get to know them, and then figure out which one I like most and am most compatible with. And it's fine with me if they date other women, as long as they're not already in serious relationships and want ME to be the other woman (THAT would NOT be fine). But I'm not sure how to convey that to the guys who ask, "So what are you looking for on this site?" I figure that it will take time, at least several weeks, for me to figure out which guy I like best, but the problem is that a lot of the guys on these sites want to get serious sooner rather than later. I suspected that one reason the Artist texted me every night wasn't just because he wanted to get to know me; he wanted to keep tabs on whether or not I was on dates with other guys.
I'll keep my Bumble account open for now, but I deleted my Tinder account (though I might reactivate it later), partly because these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for me and I need a break. And partly it's because of Tinder profiles like the one below (which I initially thought was fake but it included the guy's pictures, so methinks he was actually serious):
After seeing THAT profile, all I could think was, "Aaannd I'm done here."
What about you? When it comes to relationships (as Carrie Bradshaw would say), what do you really want? How would you answer the question "What are you looking for on this site?" if you weren't ready for a relationship but didn't want a casual hookup either?
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