Dating is the single most infuriating and confusing socially sanctioned human activity. Who came up with this nonsense? It makes my introvert-hermit-Walter-Matthau-in-training skin crawl. I suppose there might be some extroverts out there that enjoy meeting up with strangers. But for this grumpy old man, leaving the house all gussied up annoys me. I’d rather be at home doing something worthwhile, like reading or surfing the net for top-rated travel guides. But no, let’s pretend we’re both normal human beings that look fashion runway ready on a random Tuesday night. Oh, then comes the joy of small talk. I’d rather pull my own eyelashes out one by one. I used to care about presentation and how I came across but the more I dated the more I thought “fuck it” and let my real self shine. Why pretend? Bad dates morph time into a different continuum and the rare good ones don’t last long enough. Dating is like sifting through petrified poop to find a fleck of gold. Sometimes you come across it, but the gold doesn’t mean what you used to think it meant. Teenage dreams turn into jaded reality and as time marches on, and it gets more difficult to justify any type of courtship. To me. I understand there are hopeful people out there. Like I said, I’m a grump in training.
Dating was always a mystery. It wasn’t something my very strict parents allowed me to do as a teenager. They let me go to Winter Formal and Prom but I had absolutely no social skills and hid out in the bathroom for most of those events. By the time I got to college and the culture of ‘hook-ups’ many of the niceties of dating was lost on me. My college boyfriend and I met at a house party and basically started hanging out. I met my late husband when I was 22 and we clicked instantly. I was married at 26 and thrust back into the single world as a widow at 30. Everything I knew about dating I gleaned from friends or watching TV and movies. Gentlemen opened doors and picked you up in their cars. Maybe they paid for dinner, maybe you split it (the ONLY dating advice my father ever gave me was ‘pay your own way’). “I had a nice time” might mean several things depending on if you were watching NBC or Cinemax. And this nightcap business, what the heck is that? I’m an immigrant’s kid and totally didn’t understand the saying. For the longest time, I thought there was a hat you gave to someone at the end of a good date that mysteriously hid somewhere past the obstacle course of a drink and sex.
Another thing I also learned through the dating process is that it’s only as good as you allow it to be. It always takes two to tango, and it’s much harder to admit to oneself that perhaps openness, emotional stability, and vulnerability are skills that YOU need to work on. Always easy to point the finger at someone else’s behavior, isn’t it? It took me a long long time to get to where I am now, and by no means are relationships easy. But, I had the choice between “Bitch and moan about how there’s no one out there” or “Put yourself out there, warts and all”. Not easy. Scary. Some say it’s very punk rock to throw yourself into the mix. Maybe, but it feels safer to go it alone. I did alone very well for a long time. It was nice. Opening myself up to someone was nice, too. I’m still learning and still making mistakes in my current relationship. Being with my current person is the single scariest thing I’ve ever done. There’s no guarantee I won’t get hurt or hurt him, but, fear not, my dear readers, because romance is an illusion! You either break up or one of you dies first. The only salvation is death.