“What do you mean you don’t like dating?”
I was chatting with a new acquaintance, and that gap had come up, as it sometimes does: the one between the fact that I write about dating and that I not only am terrible at it but really, really dislike everything it entails.
We were walking back from watching fireworks in Northeast Minneapolis: the city a scatter of bikes and barbecues and punch drunk kids.
“But what about it don’t you like?” He kept insisting.
I reached for specifics: the uncertainty, the awkwardness, the extended periods of feeling unsure.
“You know,” I said. “All of it.”
A few days earlier I’d Skyped with a friend. Our chat had been set up urgently once she’d emailed that morning: she’d met someone. She needed to talk.
The story turned out to be far more elaborate and romantic than I could have thought: an immediate, fierce connection—complicated by distance. But the obstacles didn’t faze her.
Instead, she was elated. She hadn’t been so productive in years. Art was pouring out of her. Paintings and sculptures and poetry and ideas. She wasn’t sleeping. Her skin glowed through the 2D screen—barely able to contain this newfound inspiration and joy.
“But when are you going to see each other?” I asked, gently. “How are you going to make it work?”
She shrugged. “I’m not sure,” she said, glancing to the side. “We’ll have to see what happens when we meet, and go from there.”
Sure enough, things have already grown more complex. Uncertainty looms. She’s struggling to keep her head on straight.
But even more, she’s told me, she’s struggling to keep up with the flood of creative energy the encounter is still generating.
After our call that day, I got up from the porch couch (no small achievement these blissful, breezy summer days, I must tell you) and biked around. I needed to process. I was excited for her: not just because she’d met someone, but because of the way in which she could so overtly, ecstatically enjoy the place of excitement that it had spurred.
I realized (as I usually do with this particularly wise and soulful friend) how much she could help me learn.
I’ve learned some. I no longer (strictly) practice the kind of “kamikaze style” dating, as my friend D lately, brilliantly termed it, that was a habit in my early (and maybe mid…) twenties. (“Attack and destroy!” he recalled, shaking his head toward the bar over recent drinks. “You had so much going for you! I never got why you did that…”)
I’ve gotten better, at moderating myself: resisting the urge to catapult my heart at every passing prospect with undue (and undeserved) force.
But I can still find the whole process stressful—instead of exciting and energizing and inspiring and fun.
It’s a point that keeps arising along with the subject of finding love and how much of myself I should let drift to it: this question of is it still fun?
I always want the answer to be yes. But too often, it isn’t.
Too often, I let myself get consumed by the surrounding anxieties: where is this going? What if he doesn’t like me? What if I don’t really like him? When is he going to text/call/ask me on a godforsaken date? And then, the layers of guilt: why am I letting this take up so much space? I know: boring shit.
But, annoyingly, irresistable shit. We are biologically programmed to crave intimate connection. Also, some of us are Libras, which means we can’t help but obsess.
I know that it will always be hard for me to evade that sort of fretfulness. I will work at it, and it will be better, but it will never come quick.
Some days, though, it does feel easier to convince myself that there is a way to focus more on the fun: on the brief flirtatious encounters and bursts of excitement and attraction and feeling that, as my newly enamored friend put it, have that unique power to make us feel alive.