I've been seeing The Rugby Player for a few months now. I'm not seeing anyone else. But if I were asked out on a date by someone I was truly bowled over by, I would probably say yes.
Because he's not my boyfriend. And he doesn't have to be.
I used to be a "DTR" (define the relationship) lady right away. What does our dating mean? Is this just fun and games? Is this going anywhere?
I know. The worst.
Now I kind of don't really care. Maybe it's being 37 years old and starting to see patterns in life clearly -- people are together, people are not together -- and recognizing how cyclical everything is. I've seen myself get married and divorced. I've seen friends get married and divorced. I've even seen my parents get divorced and then remarried. The only relationship that is ever truly stable is the one you cultivate with yourself.
The Rugby Player is coming over tonight to watch "Breaking Bad" with me again (I know, I'm such a romantic), and he's booked us a trip this weekend to Frenchtown, N.J., at a cute bed and breakfast. A few weekends back I spent the night at his place for the first time, and during that visit, he also took me to a shooting range because I had never been. (I'm a scary good shot, too. I haven't completely retired the idea of becoming a professional bounty hunter.) So far, so good.
I suppose I haven't seen him as much as I have other guys I've dated in the first few months. That's mostly because of my work schedule right now. I've canceled on him a few times. Why? Not for some other guy. But because I needed to catch up, and I'm trying to not pretend anymore for guys.
As in: If I'm exhausted-busy, I'm not going to pretend otherwise. If I can't afford to pay for boarding my dog for the weekend without his help because I have to pay a $2,000 tax bill this month, I'm going to tell him that, too. The old me would have done anything but reveal such imperfections on my part. I mean, I'm already so flawed, what if one of these additional factors proved the tipping point?
But I can't help but think that this weekend away means something. For other serious relationships I've had, it usually does. It's almost like a test run. OK, ladies and gentleman, we know you liked spending ONE NIGHT together but what about two? Think you can handle that?
I've had guys say too early for me "I'd like to call you my girlfriend." And I've dated guys who still called me a "friend" after a year and a half without a sharp squeeze to their elbow. (My line then: "I don't have sex with my friends.") But I think my new reality is just going with the flow.
I used to be obsessed with the 40-year age mark as my deadline for needing to not only DTR, but to put a damn ring on it. No longer. I'm now at a place where I have no idea if I'll have kids (by myself or by adoption) or even if I'll get married again. I'm wedded to the idea of being happy in my life, and in making sure that I feel alive, stimulated, nurtured and valued -- by myself. I also try to make sure that I have plenty of love in my life. From my dog, from my family, from my friends, and if it applies, from the man in my life, too.
I think that my main realization in embracing the whole go-with-the-flow philosophy is that it is a healthy approach for Type A personalities like mine. You simply can't control relationships the way that you can control, say, work ethic. I've often joked with a friend of mine that overachievers tend to apply this same voracity to everything -- and that a relationship partner, like say a flower that you are watering, does not respond to a water hose being pointed at it as you scream, "GROW!!!! WHAT AREN'T YOU GROWING??"
And with the hilarity of recognizing these tendencies and realizing the ephemeral nature of everything, it's nice to look forward to this weekend with The Man That I Am Dating and not with My Official Boyfriend.
I do wonder if other people have tests for when the DTR needs to occur. Here are a few arbitrary ones from doing a short survey of my friends:
- the Facebook "in a relationship" conversation
- the tee-hee ever-so-nonchalant mention of "Well, so my friend was asking me what the deal was -- and I didn't know what to tell her."
- a deadline
- passive-aggressive presentation of facts such as other people wanting to date you
- just incorporating it all NBD style like, "Hey boyfriend!"
- a three-month rule
- a 20-date rule
- a meeting-the-parents rule
- a spending any major holiday together rule
Do you care if you're called a "friend" still after a multi-year relationship with one man? Do you demand the DTR occur immediately? Have you never had an issue because every man wants to lock you down immediately -- and could you perhaps comment elsewhere?
I have one friend who says that if she doesn't get a proposal after six months, she breaks up with him. She's about as carefree and easygoing as I am, clearly. Then again, she's actually gotten quite a few, so bully for her. Thoughts?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.