My biggest fear in life is ending up alone.
Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child with no close family besides my parents- I know, one day, it will just be me and Aria.
Maybe it’s because, at 37, I still find myself climbing into bed alone every night while my friends continue to curl up next to their person.
Until about 3 months ago, I was NOT ready to join the dating world.
You see, when Aria was born I made a promise to myself: that I would make sure she had as much love, care, and attention from me as I could give her. And, that I would not confuse her tiny little world by introducing a variety of men into it. After all, it was not her choice to be born to a single mother- so why should she have to suffer the consequences of men popping in and out of her young life who had no intention of sticking around?
The days since having Aria have become a blur of busy days, hard days, fun days and adventures just the two of us. I often feel like I blinked and somehow ended up with a 5 year old. Somewhere along those 5 years, I really lost sight of myself.
I realized about a year and a half ago that my entire identity had become EXACTLY what I didn’t want it to become: just a mom. I swore to myself I wouldn’t be that woman who completely lost sight of her needs, wants, desires and self care rituals because I had a child. Yet, there I was: someone I didn’t recognize in the mirror and someone who didn’t like herself much at all anymore.
I made it my mission to unfuck myself a bit. I got it together. I picked up new interests, new friends, cut some of the people out of my life who were not contributing to it in a positive way, lost 50 pounds, gained my confidence back, and began to love myself again.
Rewind the clock a few months. I was in the most positive place I had ever been in my life. I had found a peace within myself I didn’t know was possible. I was happy and feeling more myself than I had in a very, very long time.
There was JUST one thing missing: a partner to share it with.
So, after a GREAT DEAL of hesitation and fear of the unknown, I decided to step into the world of dating.
It’s sort of masochistic when you think about the whole ritual of dating: you’re choosing to be completely vulnerable with strangers in the hopes that you’ll be lucky enough to find a good one (and it’s SHOCKINGLY difficult to find decent people in the world these days as it is).
Like any busy, single person these days (or at least single, working from home, and with a child 24/7) I knew it would be nearly impossible to meet people out (because mom’s don’t tend to attend ragers on the weekends). I decided to give the world of online dating a try.
Online dating was something I swore I would never do. Mostly because it feels very inauthentic. Anyone can claim to be whatever they want. They can sit there and craft a message for an hour to be perfect. It’s not real. Nothing replaces that connection of the first impression in real life for me.
But, I was determined to soldier on.
I’m a nice girl, with big emotions- so dating isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the universe for me. I’m monogamous and loyal as all get out. I simply can’t date multiple people at once. It feels like it defeats the purpose of finding a partner.
Online dating also feels a lot like shopping at the grocery store….except for a human. You can easily swipe away based on superficial things. And, it’s easy to get caught up in the thought that maybe the grass is greener just another right swipe away. It really is pretty gross when you think about it.
That said, with each person I’ve gone out with, I learn a little something new about what I want, who I am, things I need to work on, and what I don’t want. I have hurt others and been hurt throughout the process. Has it been worth it? I don’t know yet. Ask me on a day I’m feeling a wee bit less bitter than I am on this particular day.
So far, here’s what I’ve managed to come across:
The Nice Guy: You know the one. He seems so nice that you believe he will become too attached to you and you worry that you can easily railroad him if you have a strong personality like me. In my case, I didn’t give the guy enough of a chance and, like many who had come before him, I decided ghosting was the way to go instead of having the courtesy to voice my concerns. Spoiler: you’ll regret letting this one go because, by the time you come around, it’ll be too late to salvage anything. We’ll call this one- the online date that got away.
The Ghost: You know, the one who checks all the boxes on paper. Good looking, friendly, funny, seems to have it together. If you’re me, you’ll give this one more than you should way too soon because you think you’ve found a golden nugget in a sea of giant turds. Then, they ghost. I had actually never been ghosted before. Mostly because I was too arrogant to believe it would ever happen to me (although I’ve done the ghosting many times in my life). I will never ghost someone EVER again because I think everyone deserves the closure of a conversation. And, it really kind of messes with you and your self esteem.
Remember the nice guy? I reached out at that juncture to apologize. I eventually caught some feelings and it was just too little too late. (Definitely the online date that got away.)
The Psycho: Oh yes. Men can be just as bat shit crazy as women. After one date they will tell you crazy, clingy things. (Think: “I’m going to marry you one day” and that’s just the start of it). Within the week after the first date, the psycho emerges through a series of texts which involve confessions of alcoholism and threatening to take their own life. You will block this person IMMEDIATELY on every avenue and find yourself calling emergency services to do a welfare check on someone you don’t really know beyond a name and town. (Apparently it’s fairly easy to track down someone with very little information.) As far as I know, he is still alive today and I’m better for running screaming from that situation.
The Man Whore: Yeah. This one spent a couple hours telling me about the women they’ve been with. I’m still confused as to why one would ever think that this is an acceptable topic of conversation but here we are. NEXT!
The Unexpected Surprise: You know, the human that seemed chill but you didn’t necessarily have an immediate attraction to. The more you spend time with this human, the more you recognize a ton of commonalities and that you are being treated the way every woman should be treated: as a person first with no expectations or timelines on things like sex, relationship status, etc. This one has taken me by surprise because I never realized how much feeling safe was important until I realized I wasn’t worried about what happens here because I won’t ever be intentionally hurt. So….story still developing? Maybe?
Each date has been a new experience and has taught me something important. And, if I can manage to pull a lesson out of each experience, it somehow doesn’t seem like such an exercise in futility most days.
So far I’ve learned that I still have some things to unpack from my past. The things that damaged me along the way I have had to force myself to reprocess now. Otherwise, I will screw up the good ones that come my way because I’m making my baggage their issue.
I’ve learned that when I don’t feel secure in my footing with someone, I need to walk away. There’s a reason I don’t feel secure and I need to trust my gut, instead of digging my heels (and, sometimes claws) in.
I’m more high maintenance emotionally than I realized. I need validation and reassurance that you care. It doesn’t have to be every minute of every day or even daily BUT, not knowing where I stand with people triggers my anxiety and that is not healthy for me. So, the occasional pat on the ass is required.
I am capable of being vulnerable and openly wearing my heart on my sleeve. There has only been one instance where I’ve done this (see: nice guy) and it was met with rejection. Which, honestly, felt pretty terrible. But, if I can do it once, I can do it again and hopefully, it will be with the right person for me in that moment.
I’m blessed and grateful to be able to say that I don’t “need” anyone. I’m financially self-supporting, I’m independent, I’m NOT looking for a father for my child, and I don’t think marriage is the be-all-end-all people make it out to be (legit…I just want a partner…we don’t ever have to get married!). Like I said, I don’t NEED anyone, I WANT that physical and emotional connection with someone. That’s all. Shame it’s not easier to find.
Three months into this crazy experiment in the online world, I’m emotionally spent.
It’s time to take a break and process. I’m working on unpacking some of those lingering issues from my past. I need a little time to heal up from this whirlwind of idiots and disappointment.
I’m done swiping. I want something real and I’m going to be ready for it if it ever materializes somewhere along the line.
And, maybe my biggest fear does come true at the end of the day: maybe I really do end up alone. Maybe I’m meant to. Right now, at the end of all of it, the one thing I do know is that I would rather be alone all the rest of my days than to end up involved in something that isn’t right for the sake of having someone.