Last year, I openly contemplated the possible reasons I'd been single since my 2006 divorce. It's been 17 months since I wrote that, and I've been single that whole time, too.
I know women who'd question their self-worth if they were single for 17 months, let alone eight-and-a-half years. I'm not one of those women, but, to quote something I said last March that's still true today, "I don’t go on first dates blatantly, desperately looking for love. I’m ambivalent about marriage and children. I really just want to find someone I enjoy hanging out with recurrently to see if it could go somewhere sort of special."
And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Some people I've talked to about my desire to meet someone and develop a relationship seem to think it's somehow embarrassing or desperate. I think wanting companionship -- especially after so many years on my own -- is natural and understandable; desperate would be entering into a relationship with just anyone who'd have me, whether or not I'm really into them.
I have, of course, received plenty of advice over the last few years, both solicited and unsolicited, and it's usually one of the following two clichés: "You'll meet someone when you're not looking," and "You have to put yourself out there to meet someone." Well, shit, which is it?!
I've started to wonder -- after being a girlfriend on and off since sixth grade (shout-out to Jason GaNun, fellow middle school cellist) -- if something about my relatively short marriage transformed me into someone who's just not "girlfriend material."
The only demographic that hasn't offered me advice is the men I've gone out with over the last few years, even though I've stayed friendly, if not become actual friends, with many of them. So I decided to ask them why they think I'm not girlfriend material. In return for their brutal honesty, I promised first-name-only or pseudonym anonymity and no hard feelings.
Here are the six most insightful answers I received.
We went out, I had a good time, we made out. If I remember correctly, I was interested in going out again, but it just wound up not happening.
Also, I love dogs, but for some reason, I've found it annoying to date girls who own dogs. It's like they have a fraction of a kid. But that's not a deal-breaker.
You were a delight to date. Although our tryst was brief, it was exciting and enlightening. I don't think our ways-parting had anything to do with your qualifications as "girlfriend material." I wasn't looking for a girlfriend. Perhaps more importantly, I was -- and still am -- in a place in my life where I don't want to be anyone's boyfriend.
Did you ask me to be your boyfriend? No. There was no such pressure along those lines. But I didn't know how to casually date someone and not have that lead to a serious relationship. I hadn't mastered the dark arts of casual dating, nor have I mastered them now (although I'm a little better at it). As a result, I turned the stove off because I felt I didn't have the skill to keep the heat at a simmer.
I think the main reasons would be that you seemed a bit further along in life than me, maybe socially and possibly culturally, and I guess not having so much of a career at that point, more living for the moment, it made me feel a little uncomfortable, or at least mismatched.
Additionally, I'd also have to say location was an issue. You lived so far uptown, and I wasn't too excited about your neighborhood.
And I think the nail in the coffin was the horrendously frustrating situation I found myself in with your dog interrupting relentlessly. Otherwise I'd say we didn't really get a shot, but the sex was pretty fun, and I enjoyed your body greatly.
To start, it was a Tinder date -- a platform I hadn't really used to actually meet people in real life, let alone use to find the love of my life. Or even the like of my life. It was always more like a "Hey, let's see if they want to have sex" type of internet tool.
The date was fun, I had a good time, but given that we lived relatively far away from one another (by New York standards) and the fact that I didn't get the same "I'm kinda also just in this for the orgasms" vibe from you, I figured that was about it.
Messy apartment and dog hair all over me in the morning.
"Ruddiger"/"Steve" (He couldn't decide.)
You struck me, as you likely do everybody else, as a very sharp and funny woman who is quite easy to talk to. You also happen to be extremely good-looking. All positives, in my book. You also struck me as unique in how immediately frank and forthright you were in conversation. Your frankness was refreshing and exciting and often funny, and it certainly didn't ring any alarm bells when you talked openly about things like career, family, sex, etc.
That said, your frankness often drifted into straight-up confession, as if you wanted to lay out everything that was potentially difficult, disappointing or problematic about yourself on the table immediately. As someone who also has a confessional streak, I can understand this, but I know from experience that it's best to play certain things close to the chest when hanging out with someone new, especially a potential romantic partner.
You have a ton of remarkable weapons in your arsenal –- smarts, looks, wit, a cool job, a justly celebrated rack –- but you strike me as a woman who can't resist undermining herself from time-to-time. Perhaps you like to air your self-doubt and less flattering qualities off the bat in an effort to preempt greater disappointment or embarrassment down the line, or maybe you've developed an attachment to the idea of yourself as a tragic romantic figure, or maybe something totally different. I don't think it's a great strategy, though, as people tend to believe anything you tell them (me included, apparently).
When a person is eager to catalogue their faults early on, it's hard not to start instinctively thinking of that person as TROUBLE and anticipate a fraught experience with a lot of complications and psychic tension and gloom. It's also hard not to think of that person as simply not being happy and/or not feeling good about themselves (as everybody knows, confidence and a high self-opinion are very attractive in men and women, unless you're some sort of sociopath).
Of course, most of my relationships HAVE been filled with complications and psychic tension and gloom, but I, like most others, like to adopt a kind of willful ignorance of these eventualities on early dates to set the goodwill groundwork. It seemed to me that you were unconsciously trying to undermine this rosiness by really running with a warts-and-all technique. I think this here article is actually great example of your confessional streak and eagerness to air your perceived faults and troubles.
I saved "Ruddiger"/"Steve" for last because, although I learned a lot from the others about guys' fussiness regarding dogs and getting around New York City, he had the most to say in terms of both length and insight. He touched on something I already knew but seem to have a very hard time changing: that I sabotage myself by spotlighting my flaws, telling myself that I'd rather they know I'm imperfect right off the bat than just putting only my very best, albeit edited, self forward.
What he said is in tune with the only recent advice that has truly stood out to me among the same two hackneyed phrases I keep hearing. It came from Baze, actually, who has regularly shown me she's one of the wisest people I know. She told me that even if I only mean to do it lightheartedly, my tendency to wear my single-ness on my sleeve has inadvertently come to define me, both to myself and others. When I consciously stop putting that out there, I may start seeing myself in a way that draws in the right person.
And that's why, in addition to deleting all of my online dating profiles, this is the last you'll read about my being single for a very long time.