Help Me Understand this "Dating" Thing of Which You Speak

Because it doesn't make any damn sense at all.
Publish date:
September 9, 2011
relationships, Dating, The Wire, not dating, Butterfly Kiss

I'm watching “The Wire” with a friend of mine (first time for my friend, second time for me) and sometimes characters use an expression I'd like to borrow with credit: “Help me understand.” Used to express considerable confusion politely, that turn of phrase is the shit.

So help me understand. Why do people do this “dating” thing that consumes so much time, energy, money, and shit? For real. Why?

As I sit here in this moment, it is absolutely inexplicable that we do this to ourselves. It is completely insane. It seems to make us miserable. (I'm not giving any links. Just look up “dating advice.” Done.) Most of the time that I talk to someone about dating, it's because they're miserable. People seem anxious about dating.

Maybe I can't effectively generalize from my experience; I seem typical to me. That's why I say: Help me understand. I'm open to other viewpoints.

I will give two examples of things that freaking terrified me in the last few days. There were more, of course.

People will use this “online dating” racket business to do and say horrible things. That shit is messed-up. Let's not do that.

  • Women are not allowed to age, which is a normal side effect of the living process. This conclusion I drew from an irritating series of pop-up ads that interrupted my New Jack Swing playlist to let me know about single guys in my area seeking women ages 30-39 for relationships. Even the 50-year-old guys max out at 39-year-old women, and I will not link to this evil.

Context: I am newly 39 and somewhat newly single. I am financially self-sustaining (knock wood) and fabulous. I have not yet defaulted on my mortgage, and I have an awesome ladymullet. Woo hoo!

Wait. What? I'm not supposed to be happy? Oh, right. I keep forgetting that I have one whole year until my expiration date.

For about 18 minutes, this idea terrified me. I began thinking of ways to reduce myself for quick sale. The Internet was very helpful. It offered me 10 things I was doing to annoy men without even realizing it, which made me wonder if it was possible for these annoyed men to speak up about these issues rather than enduring them silently, perhaps by prefacing with, “Help me understand.”

Once I had begun thinking logically, I realized that expiration-date crap was crap. I have x years left to enjoy, and I don't want to spend them obsessively focused on everything I'm doing wrong in hopes of making someone like me. I'd like to reflect on the things I've done properly and enjoy the fruit of my years. Is that really so weird?

When I was growing up, I did not imagine myself on the cusp of 40 without a partner. I did not imagine myself without a partner when I got married at 27 and had a kid. Yet here I am. Shit happens to people, and life changes. You can trust that. The point of it all is to stumble from the ashes of your crashes-and-burns; the expectation of rising from them is unreasonable. Just get by in the best way you can. I gave it all an honest try, and there's no shame. I tried again, and that relationship bit the dust, too, after three years of hoping.

At the end of all this, why would I fling myself back into that mess? Why would anyone? It just strikes me as a weird thing to do in a world where our social and sexual needs can be met myriad ways. I got a dog for companionship and a Butterfly Kiss, and my satisfaction rate is high. I don't argue with anyone about washing the dishes (I do them myself: same outcome, really), and the only other person I'm responsible for is my actual child. I socialize with peers in pairs and small groups, and I laugh often and don't feel lonely. This feels right to me.

But if there really is something I'm missing here, let me know. And let me say that as far as I'm concerned, being happy by yourself -- whoever who are -- is a viable choice.