Friday, September 18, 2015

The Tourist Local Mating Dating Strategy

 The Value of Boundaries... 

I’d seen him a few times at last house on my street, shirtless, sweaty, crouched close to the grass, taking sips from his camelback between intervals of hammering away at the porch he was building. I’m often tempted to get wine drunk with girlfriends, bust out craft supplies and make a creepy collage of every man I’ve hooked up in the last two years. My pattern of white guys with dark hair, dark eyes, and groomed beards is hilariously consistent.

Porch Guy fit the profile. I was always on the phone or heading to yoga when I’d pass by, catching him at the edge of my peripheral gaze. I refused to look directly at him as if eye contact would display the soft-porn fantasy I had of being the resident of that house, bored and lonely in my philandering husband’s absence, serving him iced tea as my game plan to seduce “the help.” We looked at each other once and I could have sworn, almost spoke. But I wasn’t going to talk to him. I’ve racked up enough sexual experience to make my gay friends call me “Samantha Jones on crack.” But when it comes to initial introduction, I am a fumbling, jittery preteen.
           Technology has become my crutch. Like every civilized Millennial, I carry a single’s bar in my palm with my choice of dozens of apps that allow me to handpick my mates. I conveniently swipe though their make-or-break facts that used to unravel in initial conversation: age, physical appearance, education, career, hobbies, religion, taste in food, and all the other basics that roughly sum-up an appropriate match. But most importantly, digital dating has wiped out our obligation to be brave. We reject each other passively and anonymously. If we are talking, there is at least some level of attraction so when things fizzle, we know that we were pretty and appealing enough to be desired, but merely incompatible. Seasoned digital daters are like lions that have had their prey killed, butchered, and served to them on a tray in their artificial habitat for so long that they’ve forgotten how to hunt. Then it happened. Tinder served me Porch Guy, sliced and marinated.             


I hate dating. I hate the awkward introductions, the preliminary interview questions of where we are from or what we do for a living. I hate recycling my biographical monologue of a life story. I hate analyzing body language and facial expressions. I hate adjusting to new chemistry, new pheromones, new scents, a new dick, new territory, familiarizing myself over and over again. I hate walking away from a date so mundane that I’m cursing myself for skipping yoga, writing a blog, or that much needed grocery trip to Trader Joes. In fact, the only thing worse than a bad date is a good date.

           I am so emotionally selective that serial dating leaves me feeling dead inside. I’ll long for my soul to be awakened until it happens. The chemistry ignites. I’m lightheaded from giddiness. I’m nauseous from that butterfly combustion in my belly.  Really liking “him” feels like a hit of crystal meth. That initial euphoria makes me feel like the Empress of the Universe.  Then the date comes to a close and I am lying in bed, wired. The anxiety kicks in. From there, every scrap of communication from “him” is a quick fix that’s followed by a crash. Every chime from my phone amplifies my pulse, preparing my heart to race or drop depending on whether or not “he” is the one waiting for me inside my device.  The texts, calls, jokes, and dialogue that I’d barely acknowledged before becomes data for analyzing patterns and predicting outcomes. I like “him” so much that I’m longing for the end because the breakup recovery phase is the only thing I can control. The best-case dating scenario I know is putting a noose around my neck upon my cancer diagnosis.

I’ve dated every version of Mr. Wrong- the cheater, the compulsive liar, the sexually impotent. I’ve dated men addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and crack. I’ve dated men who cried after sex and a man who blew two-grand at a strip club on a Tuesday night because he was “tryna keep up wit Shawty Lo.”  I’ve dated adults who nailed black sheets to walls instead of curtains and thirty-something’s who smeared fake blood on the mirrors inside their Gothic middle-schooler zombie bedrooms.  I’ve been with men who insisted on always being the little spoon and men who slept in a fetal position when they were not plastered around my body like a tortilla around a burrito.

           Dating became more challenging once I moved to Seattle. As a gypsy through my twenties, geography has been the most common cop-out for dating difficulties. Singles blamed every city from the culture to the climate to the male to female ratio. But really, dating is generally just hard and even harder when dating with intention. I moved to Seattle a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday and it was the first city I planned on planting roots in. Before, every guy had been a “temp.” My future ex-boyfriends had a minimal requirement of moderate attractiveness and basic sexual functionality.  But once I was hunting for a long haul partnership, “functional” wasn’t enough. For my first eight months in Seattle, I went on nearly twenty first-dates and zero second-dates.
            “It’s sooooo hard to date in Seattle,” I often heard ladies whine, just as I’d heard in San Diego, LA, The Bay Area, Alaska, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Atlanta.
           But I disagree. During my two-and-a-half years as an active dater in the southeast, every man I went out with was a mild misogynist or a broken baby bird. My Seattle selectivity scored me employed, reasonably healthy, sound-minded, polite men. My most frequent dilemma was vanilla or incompatible personalities. Sometimes we clicked and other times that social obligation to sit down and try to talk to them was grueling. Sometimes it got physical, but not every time. The decision to never continue with a second date was sometimes mine, but not always. But it wasn’t until walk of shaming from Porch Guy that I found the root of my constant failure to launch: Me.
               Porch Guy hit all of the ideal check-marks: intelligence, politeness, reasonable age range, ambition, and clearly seeking a relationship. He opened doors, paid for drinks, and frequently delivered compliments. He also informed me about his lifelong friendship with Macklemore, his divorce that was still in the works, and his beautiful penis, even offering to send his “dick pics” to my gay friends to see what they thought of it. His failed marriage was the main topic of conversation. When I dared to tell him a bit about my past, he became edgy and defensive, remarking that he needed “something lighter.” But still, I slept with him- blankly and habitually. I didn’t understand how I could still remain friends with the guy I banged in a shed at a music festival the year before, yet the fore-play free, six-second, erotic charade with Porch Guy was the emptiest, dirtiest, and most melancholic sexual experience I’ve had in over a decade.


Hindsight quickly revealed my mistakes.
I didn’t have bad taste. I wasn’t blowing off nice guys while darting towards nightmares. My mistakes weren’t in my attraction, my conversation, or my sexuality. Time and time again, I was letting their initial, promising image blindside their flaring red flags. Porch Guy wasn’t evil. He was guilty of dating when his marital wounds were fresh. That uneasy ache in my stomach was the turmoil he took out on me. And I was guilty of knowing that and ignoring it.

People are potent drugs. In the haze of charm, attraction, hormones, emotions, bonding, and sexual tension, it is easy to lose sight of our standards. I needed to enter the dating game armed and equipped with precise boundaries.

My dilemmas:

I wasn’t ready.
 From what I’ve witnessed and experienced, doomed relationships are conceived when one or both partners come together during dark times in their life. When we are hurt, insecure, vulnerable, or broken, we are desperate for a companion to fill our emotional voids. But we cannot begin find our ideal partner until we know who we are, what we want, what we are worth, and what we deserve.
At thirty years old, I have had over fifty sexual partners, have been on over a hundred dates, and have had zero stable adult romantic relationships. It’s not that I wasn’t worthy of love.  I just wasn’t ready for it.  My grandparents remained in an unhappy marriage for over fifty years. My biological father wasn’t in the picture at all. My mother and stepfather’s marriage is a dictatorship rather than a partnership. My stepfather controls my mother and my mother caves into that control because it enables her to live an eternal childhood.  This does not mean I was romantically doomed. I just needed my twenties to break away from that toxicity and raise myself. I needed to travel, to get my education, to pursue my dreams, to sleep around, to make mistakes, to have my heart broken, and to gain the strength to halt the vicious, patriarchal cycle I hailed from. I wasn’t completely ready until my Porch Guy epiphany.

Blurred lines.

Is this a date or are we really just “hanging out?” Is this a romantic, platonic, or sexual situation?
I have spent nearly every night with a man, held his hand, introduced him to all of my friends, and kept an extra toothbrush at his place for a month, only to hear him refer to me as a “good friend.”
I’ve been in what I thought was a casual sex situation with a guy for two months before he asked me to meet his children and be a part of their lives.
I’ve had a man who didn’t even know my last name tell me he loved me and ask me to move in with him.
A man has picked me up, taken me to dinner, develop a mediocre connection with me, had decent sex with me, proclaimed his intention to continue dating me, and disappeared off the face of the earth.
Last summer, I met a man outside a bar, had an hour of great conversation, given him my number, assumed we were going to go on a few dates, only to meet at a bar near his house, accept his proposal for a sleepover, and deal with five-day delays of the thirty-four-year-old returning my text messages.
Six months ago, I Tinder matched with a man who lingered in the abyss of my Facebook friend’s list for months until his interest was piqued after reading one of my more sexually charged articles. We began chatting. He asked me to drinks. He came to my area of town. He told me he was casually dating a woman. He flirted. He paid for the drinks. Things never physically went beyond an instant where he awkwardly put his arm around me and then stopped himself. His body language and demeanor emulated “date,” while his habit of talking about ex girlfriends and relationship dilemmas emulated “friendship.” He is seeing another woman now. He will occasionally send me Facebook invitations to events and pick debates with me on my posts, but he never directly says hello or asks me how I've been.
Scoring a “soul mate” is not the end goal of every single male interaction, but I am too old, too busy, and too ambitious to waste my energy deciphering their mixed messages.
These men need rigid categories for friendship, fucking, and dating and their place needs to be abundantly clear for both parties.

-I am sexual as fuck.

Every person’s body chemistry is unique and measuring a “normal” sex drive is a naïve attempt. Whether with somebody or self-induced, I need to have an average of one to three orgasms a day. If I don’t, I will feel overly caffeinated, jumpy, and distracted.
I have been this way since I was nine years old. I have gone on sexual hiatuses of six to eighteen months before. But those gaps were due to me being slut shamed and self-deprecating. I was given a lot of hell for my promiscuity in my early twenties. The older I get, the more comfortable I become with my body. I enjoy experiencing men.
But I live in a society where my generation is coming of age in the hangover of the most drastic shift in gender roles of all time. For thousands of years, men have been programmed to divide women into roughly two categories: the wives and the mistresses. Their wives were primarily for reproducing and child-rearing, while their erotic pleasure remained isolated in brothels. I’ve grown up around men whose psyches carry a watered down version of this cliché. They have their Jackie Kennedy’s and their Marilyn Monroe’s. They have their wives and they have their lovers.
Growing up, I was taught that withholding my sexuality would secure love, while tapping into it would diminish my value.

Marilyn is empty because she is deprived love and respect. Jackie is empty because she is deprived passion and intimacy. John F. Kennedy is empty because he won’t allow himself the chance to find true fulfillment and compatibility in one partner.
This sexist mentality is outdated, but still very evident in today’s society. Every man presents himself as being more evolved than a John, but that is rarely the case. My sex-positivity has repeatedly shoved me into the Marilyn category.
I cannot single handedly shift the mentality of an entire generation, but I can certainly stop fucking John.

The only way to filter him out is to get to know a man mentally and emotionally before physically.
However, a fit partner may not come for another year, decade, if even ever. I refuse to put my pussy into hibernation.
Casual sex is a slippery slope. The dopamine released to the brain during sex is the same dopamine released to the brain when we are falling in love. The media’s constant depiction of casual sex evolving into love only feeds the destructive delusion that we should search for love through casual sex. No.
If I am going to have casual sex, it must be with somebody I am not subject to keep seeing on a regular basis. In man grazing through apps like Tinder, I am constantly coming across men who do not live in Seattle. Since I do not do long distance relationships, I divided bachelors into two categories: Locals and Tourists.
Locals are for dating and Tourists are for casual sex. Each category must have a different set of standards.

-I have a bad habit of seeing the world for what I want it to be rather than what it is.
In a perfect world, seeking love and partnership would not be about rules, regulations, and deal breakers. We could all just immediately let our guards down and open our hearts to one another. But we are dealing with flawed human beings, capable of hurting, deceiving, or abandoning us. In order to provide the sincerest love possible, we must be the best version of ourselves. Continuously walking into dating with blind trust is emotional masochism.  I compare my rules to going into combat with a bullet- proof vest. Praying for world peace won’t prevent me from getting shot.  In casual sex, I have to be shallow and a bit greedy. In dating, he has to earn his passage through my heart’s gates.

What do I want?:

It was very difficult to admit to wanting a relationship. My self-worth was so negative for most of my life that I genuinely believed that it just wasn’t an option. I made the best out of my status and convinced myself that I was only capable of casual sex.
Two years ago, I was at an all time low. After moving to the south to be closer to family, my life fell apart and a lot of truths from my past that I buried resurfaced.
I was unemployed and living with my grandmother when everything came to a head with my parents. (See Mother Burning for more details.) When I tried to open up to my mother about my stepfather, she cut me off and burnt every bridge she could behind me. She told my grandmother that I was crazy and “fantasizing about shoving her down a flight of stairs.” My grandmother, being a frightened, eighty-year-old widow, kicked me out of her home. Besides my younger brother, my entire family cut me out of their lives. I was left with poverty, homelessness, and dealing with every horrible, traumatic aspect of my past alone. My sanity was hanging by a thread. With nowhere to go, I decided to escape to an organic farm in Tampa where I could work in the garden in exchange for food and board.
Halfway there, my timing belt snapped and my car broke down.
           Every person who should have played an unconditional, supporting role in my life has abandoned me. Even if members of my family try to trickle back in, they have proven how flimsy and fleeting our relationship is.
            Sitting on the side of South Georgia highway waiting for a tow truck, I realized that I wanted the real, substantial, dedicated love I’ve never had. It would take me two years away from my toxic family to know that I deserved it.
Coupling off was once essential for survival. The male’s role was to hunt and protect, while the woman’s was to bare and nurture their offspring to ensure the continuation of the species.  Today’s society has long surpassed that necessity, but phrases like “two heads are better than one” and “it takes too wings to make a bird fly,” still ring true. But those wings must carry equal strength. While an incompatible counterpart will make me crash, a compatible one will make me soar. I want a partner- not somebody to be the center of my universe. My goal isn’t to find a man. It is to find a man who will support my goals.  My Tourist Local Mating Dating Strategy sets up a guideline of bare minimal requirements for the men I choose to date. Although meeting up to those standards makes a polite man, it doesn’t mean that we are well matched.
The biggest mistake my dates and I have made is going into it with no clue of what we are looking for. The following is what I want from a partner: 

-Knowing how to be alone: Not “technically single, but serial dating, sleeping with anybody who will let me, and dwelling over my ex,” but somebody who has spent an extensive period of time on their own, figuring out their identity, and enjoying their own company. That is the most common flaw I find in great guys. I want to be chosen for who I am- not because I am a warm body. 

-Be about something: He needs to have a sense of purpose, a reason to live, a passion, a motivation to wake up in the morning. I do not want to be the center of a man’s universe any more than I want him to be mine. I want us to both have other things to strive for so we can support one another on our paths.

-Be ready: I don’t want to “Netflix and chill,” while I coax him through his male aloofness. Fellas:  don’t date me until you are ready to date. If we are going on dates, we are dating. I refuse to introduce you to my friends as, “this dude I’m regularly sleeping with.”

-Be on my level mentally, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually.

-Take an interest in my writing and be evolved enough to not let the sexual content drive you crazy with judgment, jealousy, or sway you to objectify me.

-Show up: I am all about having individual lives, hobbies, and friendships, but I don’t want to be that woman dating this mysterious man my friends have never met. Make an effort to play a major role in my life.

-Take care of yourself: Exercise, eat healthily, groom yourself, smell nice, do your laundry, wash your dishes, and keep your home clean.

-Have something to contribute: I’ll just say it. I’m a particularly interesting person. I’ve had a crazy life that I’ve seen and done a lot with. My appropriate partner will be just as interesting and have just as much to contribute to the relationship. I have, time and time again, stood as the “entertainment” on my dates. I want somebody to entertains, impresses, and teaches me things as well. In fact, I want much more than that. I want somebody who motivates and inspires me. I want somebody whose existence amazes me.

-Friendship, intimacy, and passion: We must have all three. 

-This strategy is custom made for me. This is not meant to be a rulebook for every female to follow. The point of the Tourist Local Mating Dating Strategy is to establish boundaries and guidelines to end the repeated mistakes you keep making.
-Every human is their own unique individual, so boundaries will vary. That is how they find somebody compatible with them.
-My strategy is not meant to change male behavior. It is meant to filter out incompatible partners.
-A man who does not meet up to these standards is not necessarily a bad guy. He is just incompatible with me.
-You are always allowed to fall in love- no matter what.
-Even your Local behaves perfectly, you are not obligated to love him or continue dating him. These rules will not necessarily bring you love. The behavior can be wonderful, but lacking true spark.

A rule for both Tourists and Locals: You are not allowed to get involved with anybody who is in a committed, monogamous relationship. You are not the morality police. You are not responsible to find out any secrets a Tourist may be keeping, but if he makes his infidelities known, you are not allowed to participate in them.
Always use protection. The only time sex without condoms are permitted is in an established monogamous relationship after both parties have been STD tested and show one another their results.

Tourist rules:-A Tourist is anybody who resides outside Seattle’s King County. Their primary purpose is for casual sex, but they are also potential friends.
-They come to me: Unless they are staying at a nice hotel that I want to go to, they must commute to my area or meet me at my convenience. For safety purposes, I never give out my address.  They will come to cross streets near my home and I will go outside to confirm that they are the people the presented themselves to be.
-If I meet them online and am not attracted to them in person, they have to leave.
-Dinner or drinks are not required with a Tourist, but if they propose it, they have to pay. If they do not pay, I will leave the area immediately and never speak to them again.
- In the bedroom, they must go down on me before I so much as touch their manhood. If they refuse, they must leave my home immediately.  -The quality of my performance on them is based on the quality of their performance on me. If they rock my world, I’ll rock theirs. If they are mediocre, I will perform like an awkwardly freshly flowered, pillow princess. If I am dissatisfied, I will send them home.
-There is no set rule on whether or not they are allowed to spend the night, but I prefer them not to.

-We can part as friends or strangers.

A common dispute voiced towards my Tourist rules:

-Why are your standards to shallow and selfish?
Casual sex is a shallow act. Because most casual sex partners have no emotional investment in me, they are much more concerned about their pleasure than mine. When I leave a casual encounter having given more than received, it leaves me feeling dirty, used, and devalued. Even if I didn’t like the guy, I feel empowered when I get pleasure out of the experience. I have to have strict rules with casual sex because they are strangers. I don’t know them, don’t trust them, and do not have faith in their compassion or morality towards me. If they had intentions to give me a good time, they will.

Local Rules:     

A Local is anybody who resides within Seattle’s King County.
-       The Local needs to make an effort to come to your area, unless you want to go elsewhere.
-       You and the Local need to make it clear that you are not just “meeting up” or “hanging out.” You are going on an actual, non-platonic “date.”
-       The first date with a Local can be drinks at a bar, but no physical activity beyond a hug is permitted until he buys you dinner (Chipotle does not count.).
-       Although he is free to Google me and read my writing, we do not discuss my book in depth on the first date. This is because my writing subject matter often overrides the opportunity to get to know one another.
-       If the Local has been previously married, he must be legally divorced for a minimal of six months.
-       Unless he is referencing an event or a period in time, the Local cannot mention an ex girlfriend, prior sexual experience, or elaborate on his romantic past on the first date. If he does, there will be no second date.
-       If the Local gives any indication on being addicted to alcohol, medication, or any other type of narcotics, there will be no second date.
-       If the Local gets intoxicated on the first date, there will be no second date.
-       If the Local talks about sex or seems overtly flirtatious on the first date, there will be no second date.
-       The Local will fully pay for the first two dates. Do not pretend like you are going to pay. Do not play the “grab wallet” game. Sit back and wait for him to get out his credit card. If he doesn’t pay, never see him again.
-       The Local has a maximum of twenty-four hours to follow the date up with an “I had a great time. Let’s do it again,” phone call or text. If he doesn’t, there will be no second date.
-       Before and after the first date, the Local must initiate communication at least half of the time.
-       If the Local goes on a hiatus of a week or more without communicating with you, he is permanently friend zoned.
-If you like him, don't add him on Facebook.

A common dispute voiced towards my Local rules:
I thought you were a feminist. Why do you expect the man to pay for dates?
-Feminism is about establishing gender equality, but that does not require dismissing all traditional gender roles. It’s about having the freedom of choice. I, not as a woman, but as an individual person, happen to enjoy wearing makeup, skirts, dresses, and heels. I shave my legs every day because that’s what makes me comfortable. I am attracted to traditional dating chivalry. I want to someday be with a man who will buy me flowers when I’ve had a bad day. I find it attractive when a man can fix things around the house.
My dating hoops are what my imaginary father wants for me because yes, I want a man who wants to pick me up, opens my door, takes me to dinner, and pays for it without question. I want a man who actually enjoys the courtship charade because it’s fun. It makes me feel respected and appreciated. It makes me secure that I am worthy of good treatment. It also filters out the men who will be lazy in any relationship we may develop. I live in a city that people travel through all the time. I can get unattached, casual sex when I want and as much as I want. I do not have time to date a man who doesn’t want to buy me dinner. Why? Because that’s a huge turnoff- Just like cigarette smoking, negativity, lack of ambition, bad breath, and overgrown grizzly beards are to me.
Financially speaking, if he is compatible with me, he will likely be attracted to the way I look. My $100+ makeup, my $60 bra, my $20 underwear, my $55 Brazilian wax, and the 30 to 45 minutes it took for me to get ready by far financially outweighs the $10 to $30 he will spend on me when we go out. I’m a light drinker. I’m not into fancy, overpriced restaurants. I’m pretty low-maintenance.
There are men out there with strong principles against paying for women. That doesn’t make them bad people. But I certainly won’t be attracted to him.
Luckily, there are women who smoke cigarettes, love foot-long grizzly beards, and hate when men pick up their tab.


What I am learning about myself through this process:

-I am very monogamous.
I love the idea of Polyamory.  I don’t feel that monogamy is a superior method of companionship. But when I genuinely like somebody, even after one date, intimacy with anybody else makes me physically ill. When I am dating with intention, I don’t juggle. The damage of serial dating is that, whether or not the man of interest is right for me or not, my fixation on him will distract me from other potentially great mates. I have to focus on one at a time, fully recover when it doesn’t work out, and get back in the game clear-headed and openhearted.

-I am vulnerable to self-sabotage.
I don’t know what it’s like to be in a healthy, loving relationship of any kind. I want it. I deserve it. It’s got to happen for me sooner or later. But I have a bad habit of expecting the worst from people because that’s all I’ve gotten from the ones I’ve loved the most. I unconsciously hunt for the bad signs so I can run away and shield myself from pain as quickly as possible. I have very stable friend that I call when my doubts and fears overwhelm me. I am coaching myself through this, but it’s not easy.

-I have a hard time being affectionate. Even text flirting is awkward for me. I am so adapted to being in the casual zone that carrying on even a semi-romantic demeanor is out of my comfort zone.

-I need to work on my faith in humanity.
I believe wholeheartedly that I am worthy of love, but I have a hard time believing that somebody else will feel that way.

-I am a constant work in progress.

-Every failed courtship is a learning opportunity. 

What has happened since implementing my Tourist Local Mating Dating Strategy? :
With the Tourists: I’ve had much greater sexual satisfaction and more empowerment than ever. I have zero qualms about my casual sex boundaries. They tend to get a kick out of it too.
My guy friends call me a "player." I'm enjoying that.

With the Locals: After firmly establishing my rules, boundaries, and standards, I went on my first Local date with red flag radar sharp, strategically equipped to write him off at the first slip-up. After all, my strategy was designed from the flaws in every single date I’d ever been on. I was certain it would be another awkward cocktail, digging for interesting conversation, dodging his creeper glances and sexual advances with my thoughts drifting off about the errands I needed to run the next morning. I had basically written down the ideal man I’d never met. After a decade of mismatches, I could not expect my first, post strategy Local to magically embody my fabrication.

We made it past the first two dates, which was as far as my standards went. He met up to every single one of them. However, after three dates in the span of a month, I backed out. I liked him a lot and saw a great deal of potential for a partnership, but things felt very one-sided. We didn't fight, insult, or burn bridges. We parted cordially and I am open to having him back in my life later down the road if he learns to truly recognize and appreciate my value, but I'm not holding my breath. I could analyze the situation to death, but I will never completely know the depths of his perspective. What I can do is learn as much as possible from my experience. 

Lessons Learned through dating a man who covered the basics: 

-The Local and Tourist rules are only the bare minimal requirements:  Because Local #1 was the first man to meet the basic standards I set, I put him on a pedestal. We should never get gushy over somebody who merely meets our initial standards. We should get gushy once they go above and beyond them. 

-Look past the first dates: I had so many disastrous first dates that I never anticipated making it past two. The preparation for the long haul is even more important than the preparation for your first impression. I needed to really think about I wanted beyond the initial Local rules.

-Be on the same page: The questions, "What are you looking for? Why are we on this date? Do you want something casual or something serious?" seem a bit intense and only add to the typical job interview feel of a first date, but they are essential. The sooner you know whether or not your mind frames parallel, the better. There seems to be this stigma against admitting to seeking something long-term, as if we should all fake nonchalance and pretend to stumble into commitment. But I refuse to compromise what I want. 

Local #1 never ignored me or flaked on plans. He was always a gentleman on our dates. I enjoyed his company a lot. But I noticed him gradually drifting the moment he captured my interest. It took me a very long time to be truly ready for a partnership, so I don't blame him for not being in sync with me. But regardless of the nature of any relationship, desires need to correspond for both parties. 

-Actions speak louder than words: What has fucked me up the most in dating is basing a man's value on his words.  Often, chemistry can merely be the somebody on their best behavior.  I've found a lot of men tend to present themselves as being more emotionally invested than they actually are. They'll throw out subtle, empty invitations and promises of distant plans like camping trips months from now or being your date for your friend's wedding next year. While I was focusing on Local #1's remarks on the "babe" that I am, his enthusiasm for the hikes he wanted to go on with me, and the jokes about the politically incorrect Halloween couple's costumes we could come up with, I brushed off the fact he managed to reach out every day before our first date, yet dropped off the face of the earth for days after our date. I should have taken his words with a grain of salt and observed the gradual fade of his efforts to initiate conversation. I praised him for making time me in his busy schedule, but I failed to acknowledge that he never initiated or suggested any of those dates. The reality was that those stints of absence got longer and longer. I had the constant feeling that he was this bird who would fly away if I didn't pin him down with a date he felt obligated to attend.  By the way, that hike never happened and he had plans to be out of town for Halloween long before he met me. His actions showed me that he enjoyed the chase rather than the kill. The more interested I was, the less interested he became. There's nothing wrong with that. But he wanted to play a game I've outgrown. 

-Trust your gut: The early dating phase should be a blast. That is the time for butterflies and giddiness. But I immediately felt anxious after my first date with Local #1, which only amplified over time. Something gnawed at my intuition, as if telling me to get out. My appetite plummeted. I began having issues sleeping. I rationalized it. I blamed my stress on PTSD from my past until what I needed to do became too obvious to ignore.  

-If you're not hearing from him, you're not on his mind: Local #1 had a tendency to disappear. He would never ignore me if I reached out, but I began to feel like an invasion in his life. If he was out of town, he was completely MIA. At the end of the day, a text takes two seconds. No matter how busy somebody is, there is always a moment to say hello or send a photo. There is always time to touch base. I noticed that I heard from Local #1 every single day before our first date. It wasn't much- just a few texts to see how my day was going. At that time, I could have taken or left him. I wasn't that interested. I could tell that he was reminding me of his existence just enough to keep me from forgetting about him. The fact that those efforts ceased the night we met should have been a major red flag.

-Your priorities need to be compatible:  Local #1 travels a lot for both work and pleasure. He's highly ambitious and career oriented. He also has a lot of strong friendships and a busy life. I really liked all of those things about him. I prioritize my career over people, but a love interest is always included in my social priorities. But he didn't seem enthusiastic about making time for me when he was free. In fact, he never once was the one to initiate dates. The final straw for me was when he had just returned home from town. He would be leaving town again soon after that. He had a cold. I offered to cook him dinner. He declined the invitation, saying that he just wanted to "lay low." That really hurt. It was the only time I'd ever offered to do something so intimate for a man and he brushed it off with nonchalant indifference. 
 When I realized that he wasn't even willing to pop a DayQuil to come over and eat food that I would spend all day cooking, I knew that I was wasting my time. He wanted me on his terms and at his convenience. Even if we continued to see each other, he would have never respected me. The situation was a lose lose. My only way was out. 

(Note: Local #1 isn't a dick. He either wasn't into me or wasn't in a place to date. Regardless, I wanted something he either couldn't or didn't want to give. And that's fine. He was never obligated to be what I wanted and I was never obligated to continue dealing with it.) 

-Be honest with what you want: I've never had romance. I've never had a man leave flowers at my doorstep on a day he knew I'd be sad. I've never had a man take mental notes of food I liked and randomly leave it in my refrigerator. I've actually never once had a man surprise me with anything. Those things are incredibly valuable to me and I'm completely worthy of them. I want to be romantic with somebody. I want to form a partnership in which we make our lives more exciting. I am dating for the long haul now. The early courting phase is the foundation for a relationship. That's when people are on their best behavior. If I don't see a hint of effort, romance, or spontaneity in the beginning, I know it will never happen. I don't want to be robbed of that opportunity by wasting my energy on somebody who won't give me that.
Not everybody is a romantic, but I am a diehard one. I am a writer. I love a good story. I don't want my love story to begin with me forcing my way into somebody's heart.

Don't focus on whether or not he likes you. Focus on whether or not you like him: Ladies, we don't have to get married anymore. The next time you are stressed in the height of your anxiety in the early stages of dating or in the midst of a relationship rough patch, coping with abandonment, betrayal, or having your heart broken for the hundredth time, I want you to look back in history and what it was once like to be a woman. Merely one hundred years ago, a woman's options were marriage or poverty. Never mind love, passion, or sexual chemistry- she was just grateful when he didn't beat her. For the first time in history, women can pick and choose their mates and live a reasonably happy, comfortable life if they never find the right match. Women of the past would have killed for the option to rebound with a solo vacation to Fiji and a fling with the pool boy. Remember, this is your absolute worst case romantic scenario. If the courtship is not making you happy, it serves no purpose. 

1 comment:

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