Editor's Note: Mandy is working with PlentyofFish and writing about her dating life in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. She is receiving compensation for the project. This is the third of three posts she'll write about the experience for xoJane.
What do you want out of a relationship?
What if you were to really articulate the first few things that come to mind as being important to you? I tried to do that — mostly for the visual gag of it I will admit (ha ha, crazy women!) — but it turned into a fairly meaningful exercise in self-respect.
I was on the phone with my friend as I wrote my relationship expectations out and she piped up before I even had a chance to write it, "HE CAN'T CHEAT ON YOU!" she yelled out. I laughed.
I once read her all these texts I had sent some guy a few years back where I said something along the lines of, "It would be okay if you fooled around on me. As long as you didn't humiliate me, I'd be okay with it."
My friend was legitimately horrified. I tried to explain to her that I've written about relationships, sex and dating too long to believe that infidelity doesn't happen. It just does. It always will. And I don't like having my heart broken so I guess I try to — what? Break it first, I guess.
But she said it and I put it down in my list. And I meant it. Because of course I don't want a guy to cheat on me in a relationship. Now I also felt comfortable in knowing: I'm worth that.
Which is I think subconsciously what my problem was when I was talking to that guy who I was flirting with a few years back: I didn't think I was worth a guy's loyalty. I didn't see myself as the prize that so many women are able to see themselves as from an early age. I've had to work very hard to try to build up that self-esteem, but I'm happy to say, I think I'm finally at the healthiest levels I've ever been.
The other qualifications that I put also felt difficult for me to articulate. I think I've always felt like so many guys only like me when I'm fun and happy, and to think that I was deserving of a man's comfort is an uncomfortable position to be in. It's uncomfortable because it's vulnerable, and it's vulnerable because I might be let down.
The saying "I love you" thing first I think I started to write because it was a bit of a gag (again, how crazy girl was I going to go with this stunt?) but I also meant it. I didn't want to feel like I had to drag some man who "always had a great time with me" (ugh, so sick of hearing that from men — as if that's a bad thing and disqualifies me from a serious relationship) into loving me and wanting to LTR it.
And the compliments, well, I'm a very generous person with my compliments and my kindness. (Granted, I can also be a vicious little snake, but only to a target that is not cheap or easy — but rather worthy of the challenge and the vitriol.) I believe it shapes the entire world around me. It can change the energy of an interaction from stressful and hate-filled to a softer, lighter more empowering thing. It's beautiful. And why not want to have someone be nice to me? It's okay to want that.
So when I met with my date — Pat Dixon, a 44-year-old stand-up comic (who I've seen perform before at Carolines and is very funny I have to say) — I was thrilled that we had connected via online dating. I felt like he was the perfect guy to test this out with because he's a comic, so he gets, you know, stupid gags like this one. I knew he wouldn't be weirded out or run screaming from The Grey Dog, which is where we ended up meeting in Chelsea.
I busted out with my list, and I watched as he read it. His eyes conveyed respect.
When he finished, he looked at me and smiled and said, "This all sounds pretty reasonable to me."
My stomach got all floaty when he said that. "Reasonable." I think that's the first time that's ever sounded kind of hot but it did.
My dumb little stunt ended up opening an entire richer, more wonderful breadth of conversation than I've ever had on a first date. Pat told me that he has been married twice before, and we talked so long and so deep that I can't even cutesy it up here and do it justice. But I will share one snippet that I found fascinating. One of the first things Pat said to me when we began talking was, "So have you ever been in a real relationship?"
I told him I was with one guy for 10 years and then I told him about a few relationships after that. Then I painted for him the picture of how different I was 20 years ago, and he said that he liked it.
I liked that he liked it.
There's a certain weight taken off of you when you are able to be yourself with another human being. I don't know what that's called. It's not love or like or lust. But it feels like a level of emotional intimacy that I didn't realize I craved so much until right then.