A report from the over the hill dating scene.
I’ve been married for twenty four years, though for the past four years, I’ve been separated, and for the last two and a half years, until about a month ago, in a long-term, long distance, monogamous relationship. Everything I know about dating, beyond junior high, I learned from romance novels, reading Cosmo, rom coms, and, of course, Sex and the City.
I will admit here, as I have before, I always kind of wished I were a bit more like Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, or a “Cosmo Girl”; sexually over confident, courageous beyond reason, merciless and mercilessly unapologetic. I’m not. I’m me. I tend to be a bit more like Carrie Bradshaw; looking for my Mr. Big, with big, diehard dreams of lasting love, lust, a lifetime supply of Manola Blahniks, and a head full of slightly neurotic rhetoric about life, people, and relationships.
This is my chance. I’m free, I’m unattached, and I’m on practically every dating site that exists. My phone is about to explode! If I don’t figure out how to turn the email notifications off for Match, I’m going to spend more time marking emails as “read” than I ever will on actual dates. I certainly don’t have time to read them all. I actually got an email from OKCupid telling me I was hot, and because of the extraordinary number of clicks on my profile, I like , “unlocked” more, better, hotter matches. I’ve been too scared to log on and look, because I was already totally overwhelmed.
So, it seems, perhaps, for a middle aged, not quite divorced, woman, with considerable baggage, I’m rocking this single thing, the dating world is my oyster. I could easily embrace my Samantha-ness and just go wild!
But I can’t. Some of us just aren’t wired that way. I’ve been “matched” with, no joke, hundreds of dudes. I’ve texted with scores of men who all seem fairly nice, I’ve chatted with dozens of guys on the phone, who all seem charming. I’ve gone on dates with a handful of men who I thought were interesting, charismatic, and fun. But there’s always the few who behave so typically and predictably bad, they give “dating” that whole player, stigma, thing. They are the reason I have hopelessly, single, lady friends who occupy their entire lives with cats, Pinterest, and celebrity gossip.
Men who behave badly. I’m being unfair, there are women who behave badly, too, right Samantha? The ones who are out for one thing and will do and say anything to get it. It’s no different as an adult than it was in junior high. Or high school. Or college. It’s a timeless and ageless pitfall of dating. And the Carrie Bradshaws of the world, every now and then, fall for it.
And then, “the walk of shame.”
Harken back to all those books and movies and Sex and the City episodes where someone is ashamedly walking out the front door of somebody else’s abode, disheveled, disoriented, disgusted, in disbelief. Duped. Or waiting, waiting, waiting for the promised phone call. Or text. Or smoke signal. We know the plot, we know the story. But, it’s real life. Really. Still. Always.
But, really, why the shame? Why are WE ashamed because someone else misrepresented their intentions at some point leading up to, or during, the date? Force and date rape and “no means no” being a whole other topic, when it’s consensual, but misunderstood, why the shame? And, really, who is misrepresenting what? One party is in it for the hookup, the other for a relationship. And the one who wants the relationship is all ashamed and butt hurt, perhaps literally and figuratively, because somehow, the act implied longevity, or at least a phone call. Very few dating profiles say “I’m in it for the hookups”, but, some do. A few do. I have yet to see a single profile that says, “if we do it, I expect a ring and a prenup”. So, really, who is misrepresenting what?
Dating, without shame, is about being clear in your expectations, your communication, your intentions, your boundaries and your actions. Clear with yourself, clear on your profile, and clear in your words, actions and deeds. Then, there shall be no shame.
I know, I know, in sexually charged situations, it isn’t easy to be rational, clear thinking, and reasonable. But, as adults, if we know we’re going to be ashamed of our actions if things don’t work out just the way we think they should, or, if we’d be embarrassed to not hear from the other person ever again, and then bump into them on the street some day, then perhaps we should just not go there. Really. Are we adult enough to go to work (almost) everyday, to pay our rent, to buy tires for our car when the old ones go bald, to remember to wash our hands and brush our teeth and do laundry when we run out of clean underwear. Okay, I’ll admit, on more than one occasion, going to Vicky’s and buying new underwear to not have to wash. Okay, I’ll admit, going commando to avoid both. The point; get a grip, get real, and be honest with yourself and your date.
I’m saying, put it all out there, like truth in advertising. My profiles say, clearly, I’m not into hookups, I’m new to the online dating thing, I want to make friends, be courted, have fun, experience adventures, and see where it goes from there, but, ultimately, if the timing and chemistry is right, I’d like a long term, if not forever, relationship. BAM!! Said it. That’s pretty clear, right?
So I get this guy; we text, we talk on the phone, his profile goes on about finding friends and maybe finding the woman to share life with. His first text responds, point by point to my profile; friendship, courting, fun, adventure, etc. after a week of crazy travel, I meet him for our first date after my second date with another guy (my life is chaos right now). He is super funny, super charismatic and so much fun! Somehow, we end up in my mother’s family room, drinking the remnants of a bottle of wine we bought at a bar a little too close to closing time, in front of her totally kitschy, seventies, avocado green electric fireplace, making out. For the record, he was not that good of a kisser. It all got pretty intense, but I denied total access and managed, eventually, to get him to go home. I got a “sweet dreams” text, then nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And I felt like Carrie Bradshaw on a walk of shame. But, wait, I allowed it, didn’t I? I consented, didn’t I? I enjoyed it, didn’t I? There is nothing to be ashamed of here. It was mutually enjoyable and mutually consensual. I guess we (I) just sort of misunderstood the intent of the date, I thought it was the first of, at least a few, if not many, not the first and last. Over it and moved on. No shame. There are much better men and much better kissers with much better intentions. He should be ashamed, who kisses like that?
In dating, as in life, we really need to be clear about our goals, to ourselves and to others, and our actions need to be true to those intentions. And never shall there be shame, walk proud, carrying your Manolas, your Burberry coat, and your Birkin bag, as you walk down that New York City sidewalk towards home, bleary eyed and sleepless, well after dawn.
Prologue: bad kissing guy texted weeks later and wanted his “pet” (me?) to come over. Ah, gee, sorry, found a much nicer guy who is a much better kisser.