Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Disappearing Acts, Unmatching, and What I Really Want

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?

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Genuine Connection

I did end up seeing the Model again, and um, another time after that. On the one hand, the rational side of my brain was saying, "You should stop seeing him. You know you want more than what he's offering you." The other side of my brain said, "Dang, he looks really good without his shirt on."

What I felt for him was all-consuming. I'd literally never felt anything this strong for anyone before. It wasn't love. It was desire. Most of the guys I've gone out with have been attractive, but the Model has the kind of looks that literally gets him thousands of likes on every one of the selfies that he posts on Instagram.

The last time I saw him, he answered the door wearing nothing but his underwear. It's a good thing that none of his neighbors saw him because otherwise they would have either whipped out their phones and taken a picture or shrieked, "Cover thyself, devil worshipper!" (College Town is actually pretty conservative for the most part.) When I saw him, I said, "Well, I guess we can forget talking first." He just laughed and then led me to his bedroom, where he immediately started tugging at the button on my jeans.

After that last time, I didn't hear from him again. Initially, my reaction was like this:


I also spent some time listening to Taylor Swift and Adele's songs about their exes and sniffling, "Their music just speaks to me!" I was tempted to text the lyrics to Alanis Morrissette's song "You Oughta Know" to the Model, but I didn't.

Even though I always knew that whatever happened with the Model was not going to end with "happily ever after" (and to be honest, I don't know if I really believe in a "happily ever after" anymore, at least not for myself), I'd hoped that I'd get to be with him for longer than I was, and it makes me sad that I'll never be with him again.

On the one hand, he has several good qualities. I was always self-conscious of my plus-size frame (my body is more like Mindy Kaling's or Amy Schumer's than one of those Sports Illustrated Models, whom I always want to pinch to see if they're actually robots), but he was never judgmental of me. Instead, he said I was beautiful. I was able to tell him things that I had never told anyone, and I knew that I could trust him with my secrets. He was very patient and kind, except at the end, when he stopped responding to my text messages.

He was very private and rarely opened up to me about his own life. He's led this really interesting life, and I wish that he had told me more about it. I wish we could have had a genuine connection, rather than a mainly physical one.

But for whatever reason, he didn't want that, at least not with me. And I thought that since I wasn't in love with him, it would be easy to just move on and date other guys. But when I look at profiles on Tinder or Bumble now, I don't feel excited at the prospect of meeting someone new; I just feel depressed. (Also, seeing profiles where guys literally write stuff like, "First things first: are you into bondage?" not only makes me roll my eyes but also makes me Google "chastity belts" to see if they still make those.)

I was talking to this one guy on Tinder who seemed to be the opposite of the Model in that he clearly wanted a relationship (Carrie Bradshaw would have called him the Marrying Guy). But that turned me off. Similar to the Artist, he messaged me every day, which irritated me. The second time the Marrying Guy and I messaged each other, he asked me where I wanted to travel someday. When I told him, he said that we could go there together someday. Instead of being charmed, I thought, "We haven't even met yet, and you're already talking about taking a trip together? Slow down there, pal!"

The Marrying Guy was going away soon for a months' long trip for work, which is why I questioned whether we should go on a date since he was leaving and that he might meet someone else while he was gone. He said, "Relationships are based on trust and loyalty." That freaked me out even more. I said that since we hadn't even met in person yet, it was too soon to talk about being exclusive. After I said that, he stopped messaging me, which made me feel relieved.

It also made me wonder if maybe deep down, I really don't want to be in a relationship with anyone.  In most cases, when guys I dated made it clear that they wanted me to be their girlfriend, something inside me recoiled. But on the other hand, if the Model had wanted a serious relationship with me, I would have been more than willing. So I guess it depends on the person you're with, which seems obvious, but I know people who just want to be in a relationship with someone, anyone, just so they won't have to be alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being with the wrong person does.

One thing I learned from the Model is that even though physical attraction isn't everything, it does matter. I dated several guys I wasn't really attracted to (like the Artist) but who were "nice enough". But dating someone I'm not attracted to isn't fair to the guy or myself. I want someone who I not only physically desire but who I am happy to hear from and want to talk to every day. I don't want to settle for anything less that, though of course the guy doesn't have to be as good-looking as the Model is. (But dang, he really did look good without his shirt on, sighhh...)

What about you? How important is physical attraction to you when it comes to relationships? Would you have gone out with someone like the Marrying Guy?