I'm The Worst To Date

I try to be in the moment, but so far I seem to be failing.
Publish date:
February 11, 2013
Dating, being the worst

I had a lovely date on Friday. Thanks for all of your excellent suggestions (actually they provided me with wonderful tips on activities and outfits down the line as well). I wore red-and-black cheap but sexy lingerie underneath a low-cut black dress along with red-and-black snow boots. We ordered in Thai, watched movies in my bed, and -- at one adorable point -- the Comedian noted of my dog Sam who kept trying to snuggle in between us, "It's almost like he's saying, 'You see this, buddy? I get this all the time.'"

Sam also absolutely loved the snow. He pranced around in the miniature hills outside my apartment, and at one point, it appeared as if he were trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue -- or make some kind of doggie snow angel.

Then again, all of this is beside the point, really. Because I've come to a somewhat grave, somewhat disturbing recognition about myself, which is that I suck at dating.

I just have no patience. None. Whenever actual intimacy is involved, it is very hard for me to be that vulnerable and let someone in with an uncertainty of where it might lead.

There are only a few people who I let in to parts of myself that involve things like romance or tenderness or sweetness. I think part of it is having had a very defining long-term relationship from the age of 20 to 30 (the latter five years spent married). I believed so much in that relationship. It was everything I believed in, which is of course, what made me sick in it. That's not a healthy relationship.

You have to be okay being by yourself to have a relationship where it is two people who are coming together in their "adult ego states" together rather than one person in a "child ego state" and the other in perhaps a more "parental ego state." And I wasn't.

I liked the control and the discipline and the emotional abuse of my ex-husband because it made me feel safe and it was what I was used to and I knew my boundaries: to please, to not get yelled at, to not screw up, to try not to get yelled at. Which makes my ex-husband sound far worse than he was. He's a great guy. We were both young, but he would also acknowledge, as he did when we spoke one time after a TV special on emotional abuse, that this was a problem he had.

In the relationships I've had since then, it's the ones where I am not vulnerable where I feel the most powerful. Because if I don't open up my true self, if I don't let myself dream and get close and think that another person cares about me, then I don't stand any chance of getting hurt.

And for the few cases when I have let other people in, it has tended to be with relationship-averse men. Perhaps the distance is what I feel comfortable with. Or perhaps it's that relationship-averse men are the most intelligent, funny, charismatic kinds. Or perhaps I just don't make enough time for dating to meet the right person. Who knows.

Like I said, I had a fine date on Friday. Lovely, really. It was a third date, the kind where you recognize there might be something there.

Earlier in the week, I had texted the Comedian to warn him that Dan Lyons had put in that ReadWrite article about my slightly tech-ish quest to crowdsource a gigolo that "I was in a relationship." This was accurate, but what I specifically told him was that I just started dating someone I liked, we were using the term relationship, but he was definitely not my boyfriend.

I texted the Comedian, "So you don't think that I am cray cray, I did not tell this guy you were my boyfriend." Dan then changed it to "had just started a relationship." Fine. Great. I have a relationship with the bodega guy, too. We are friends. Whatever.

I'm sure this post is going to draw advice, which I don't necessarily love, but it's part of the game, so that's fine, too.

All I know is that I do the best I can in my writing and in my life and in my dating, and the beautiful emails and comments many of you have given me have led me to believe that I am succeeding in this quest. It makes me glad that I am living up to my expectations of myself. But when it comes to uncertainty in what might happen with a man where there is an emerging intimacy, I find it very stressful. I find myself failing.

I think that I have this conception of what it means for a man to be very into someone. I can think of several women I know whose now-husbands or boyfriends have very much been the steam engine in a relationship, propelling what they desire when they find the woman who is right for them. Perhaps this isn't a healthy form of love, I don't know.

I just know that I am so aggressive in my entire existence, which very much turns some people off, but I like how and who I am. It all comes from passion and focus -- and has at least led to being a "mostly embarrassing, sort of successful" writer in the world.

I used to have a joke with a girlfriend of mine where we talked about women who had dated men for three or four or five years and then the boyfriend broke it off, the woman was heartbroken and then the guy married someone else. My girlfriend said, "There should be some kind of Scarlet Letter on these men. As being Time Wasters."

There was also the essay that I read in the book "Things I Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me" by Tom Shillue who wrote about the perfection of the "fake marriage," whereby you get all the benefits of dating a woman (the sex, the companionship, the love, the affection) but you never have to marry them. Some of these ideas stick with me.

So when it comes to dating, it's hard for me to feel comfortable with the "Let's see where it goes" route, which is a perfectly logical, perfectly sound, perfectly healthy way to approach a relationship. It's the only way really. It's not even a rejection. But to me, with my invisible comparisons in my head of these women who have been pursued by men trying to "lock them down," it stings like one.

The Comedian likes me. I like him. And that is good.

I asked him if it was weird, this whole writing about my life thing.

"It's surreal," he said. "But I don't mind it. You're a great writer. I will say reading that article on ReadWrite was funny. I've never had like a press release about a relationship before." Which I understand, and like I said: bodega guy. I have relationships with many people. Whatever.

I said, feeling tense, "Well, why don't we not see each other until after Valentine's Day, and then we can see what's up. Oh, and if you want the writing packets I mentioned, I'll give them to you anyway."

"Wow," he said. "I would not be dating you if I was just using you to get packets. This is hilarious. I feel like we're negotiating terms of our breakup. 'So you get custody of the packets...'"

He then said he liked me. He thought I was spectacular, and he just wanted to see where it went. Because he, too, used to rush into things, to project into the future, but he was not a bullshit guy and he thought it was bullshit guys who threw down a load of game and promises, which isn't nice to anyone. Fair.

I folded my arms and shut down, as I always do. Ice. I can't handle giving any kind of emotional intimacy that is genuine and loving and not just sexual where I feel like I am that naked and vulnerable. It feels weak and exposed and stupid and embarrassing.

Then the Comedian said a lot of nice things, and since I have a show on Valentine's Day (I'm performing at Jon Friedman's Rejection Show, how choice) and he does too, we'll see each other Wednesday. Great. Fine. Whatever.

I'm not even dangerously infatuated with the Comedian as I have been with other guys. I just like him, but I have some fantasy concoction of how the arrow is supposed to be progressing upward on the chart of desire and affection and words on his end. Which is not a fair expectation to put on someone.

And this whole writing about my life? It's stupid. I know that. I mean, that being said, I also know personal memoir is the right thing for me to do.

Sure, it might mean I am single the rest of my life. I by myself put so much pressure on everything, including relationships, and then add to that writing about my life? It's pretty much an equation for a lot of odds to be beaten for anything to work in a long-term way.

And it's OK. I know that may sound weird to say, but it is. You don't have to live your life the way someone else says that you have to.

Right now, I have an ex-boyfriend in my life who has become a dear friend, and he said maybe down the road we can be closer, but right now my job is making it difficult. None of these silly gigolo crowdsourcing antics, in other words.

You see, to me, love doesn't work that way. Love is not conditional like that. I will always love this guy, and that's all I can do, but I don't have an expectation for that relationship to be better or worse or to even exist. All I can do is be the best me possible, and try to be my authentic self and bring whatever joy I can to the world -- even if it's giving people a stupid story or tale to laugh at or helping someone maybe feel a little less alone by revealing my own imperfections and journey along the way.

To me, this is a great life. It is a wonderful life. I think I have more real friends than I've ever (friends who are really there, unconditionally), and the censor in my head that might say "bad bad bad" or "what might people think" has been told politely, "That doesn't matter. This is your life to live -- so make the most of it."

And I think that's all I can do. I can try to get better about dating. Be more patient. More in the moment.

I have various men who exist in various states on what I've always jokingly called my "secret husband list" with my friends. It's fun. It's the idea of possibility. But I suppose the nice thing is that I do not have a "secret career list." I just have a career.

One that is mostly embarrassing, sort of successful -- and that I love, unconditionally.


Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.