I had a date around this time last year. She was a teacher-turned-librarian in her mid-40s with two kids, a pixie-cut, and thrift store style.
Before we formally introduced ourselves, I recognized her from across the room and was immediately struck by the way she carried herself. There was a confidence when moving about; clearing a table to sit at without a moment’s hesitation as to whether anyone would mind; interacting with the staff; bumping into an old acquaintance. Something common among parents and people in the education system, lest they show weakness to a group of children (and the complete opposite of Heather, who’s shy and awkward and always tries to take up as little space as possible).
We both understood how difficult it can be to get to know someone through a screen, and agreed it would be better to meet sooner rather than later. That meant I didn’t know too much about her, aside from the details in her profile. I was comforted by the fact that she mentioned All About Love by bell hooks under “A book everyone should read”, because Tiana happened to recommend it to me earlier that year and it became a big influence on the way I approach my relationships. Also by the fact that one of her needs was “understanding of systems of oppression”; as I drift further to the left on the political spectrum, I’ve learned that I tend to get along better with people who have an awareness of social inequality.
We got to know each other over afternoon tea at a cafe that wasn’t far from either of our houses. Nothing too personal was discussed, even though I usually want to know everything about someone at first1. It was fascinating to hear about “dictionary dates” during her time in Asia; being secure enough to interact with someone in a romantic setting while needing a pocket translator/dictionary to communicate with them told me of a confidence I still find admirable.
The weather turned frigid as we sat on the patio and the sun left the sky. Eventually the dense blankets provided weren’t enough to keep the chill out. As I made my way home, I remember being proud of myself for pursuing my own thing at a time that I was trying to be more independent, and relieved to know that I no longer had the nervousness associated with being desperate for acceptance.
We tried to reconnect a few times after that, but our schedules didn’t match up. By the time the holidays came around, I realized I wasn’t feeling particularly excited about the situation. I enjoyed myself, but it cost me a lot of emotional resources to be out without Heather to rely on.
Fortunately, I wasn’t feeling a lot of pressure to make things work, although that was probably a sign that I wasn’t particularly drawn to this person2. It was the start of my lost weekend, and every time I tried to open up about how difficult things had been, she didn’t respond with the kind of empathy or commiseration I was looking for. I told her frankly that I didn’t think we were a good fit, and she unmatched me without another word.
Soon after, I deleted my OK Cupid account. The experience wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but interacting in that capacity was frustrating more often than not. Especially when something as simple as trading music or mixtapes — one of my favourite parts of dating — has been rendered impractical with the proliferation of streaming services. I decided that trying to form a connection with someone amongst a sea of profiles wasn’t an effective use of my limited energy.
The fact that I was sliding further into depression (and starting to look like my dad around the midsection) also compelled me to work on myself before I felt comfortable enough to be part of the dating world again. Then my panic attacks resumed; I was blessed with the gift of desperation, forcing me to acknowledge the depth of my struggle and seek a solution.
Clawing my way out of that hole meant learning to be self-sufficient, practicing self-soothing exercises, and showing myself compassion; skills I never developed as a child or lost over the last few years. It’s kept me busy enough that I haven’t felt compelled to date outside of my primary partnership. I’m discovering how enjoyable it can be to spend time with myself, to be the one to nourish my soul. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to the possibility that I might develop a strong connection with someone some day, but it would have to be a remarkable person to make me want to render myself vulnerable.
- Consequently, I tend to spill my guts, but I was feeling trepidatious about revealing too much after opening up and being ghosted a few times. [↩]
- It’s hard to tell if I was keeping an emotional distance or if I wasn’t especially attracted to her. At that point I was looking for friends more than anything, and trying to keep an open mind. [↩]