I haven’t been on a date in forever, but let’s just paint the scenario. So I’m meeting this guy for the first time, probably off one of those dating apps since that’s where some of my success has been (yes, even ‘yellow Facebook,’ which has ironically gotten me the closest to success in terms of relationship status). Anyway, we’re seated. He might order something specific, like an extra dirty Grey Goose martini, dry with 3 olives. I’ll probably ask for the wine list, which is something I’m not terribly sure why I do since when I get one, it’s simply a game of “Where’s Waldo” to spot Pinot Noir on the menu; and if they don’t, considering what he got, maybe I’ll get fancy and do a Manhattan up. Where are you from? What exactly do you do? Any siblings? For lack of a better phrase, we’re basically ever-so-gently hounding each other interview questions and our minds are hard at work making sound judgements for fit. All easy questions until appetizers are through, second rounds of drinks are ordered, and we’re midway through entrées. So, tell me about your past relationships.
I’m not sure why it’s assumed that everyone my age has even had past relationships. But I get it: I’m 31, an avid gym-goer, comfortable with the photos I take of myself, living solo in New York City and a freelance career that’s able to support me and more. How does someone with those stats who is actively (‘actively’ used really loose here) dating not have a history of wild affairs, tumultuous relationships, glimpses of true love, fleeting summer flings and first heartbreak? Apparently I was busy… busy and stubborn. A chunk of my early 20s seemed ideal, when now that I look back on it, they were filled one-offs and chasing poster boys, all the while running constantly into a wall that I’ve funded with time to now learn that that wall I built for myself was so damn high, I couldn’t get out… and no one could get in.
Until recently, I’ve blamed my 31-years-strong single life on my upbringing and family structure, stubborn to let it go and disconnect from it so that I can be free and live my life with open curiosity. My mother (in her second marriage) and father divorced when I was two; my mother in her third marriage divorced again when I was fourteen; my father had many girlfriends, none of whom stuck around until he had to leave the country due to financial matters, which actually ended up working for him as he’s now living his dream sailing the world (I just met his wife of seven years only two years ago over Christmas break in Paris); and my aunts’ and uncle’s stories simply fuel the fire of unsteady relationships (I’ll spare you the details). Anyway, all this to say with a big old W: whatever.
It’s not that I don’t care — I love my family dearly — it just isn’t my life. For so long, my angst for being perpetually single — more rampant as I neared my 30s (the pressure!) — was being coated with blame and helped give me reason for the way I was. It made me feel better to be alone, but only as much as stiff nightcap or a pizza-and-beer-over-Netflix one night can do. Eventually the coat would melt away leaving myself exposed only wanting ever so desperately to cover it back up. Blame was the only thing that worked, even if it was just a quick fix. The issue ended up being that I trained myself to believe that my being vulnerable needed to be fixed when nothing really needed fixing at all. It was what it was, I am who I am.
Relationship status isn’t hereditary, but without consciously knowing, it seemingly becomes so and you tie yourself with a blame chain staked where you came from. And damn, do those chain marks bruise.
So when opportunity struck — and it did from time to time — my mind would automatically travel light-speed to the future, presumptuously gathering all the ways things could go wrong or not work out with this dude and bring them back to fill my plush, faux-goose down, hypoallergenic pillow of a comfortable state I secretly wanted to be in: loneliness. I was protecting myself; it’s all that I knew. It’s all that I still know.
Filling my mind with a ton of what ifs and watercolor-painted scenarios over the years has made something so intangible as the future a believable reality, that the bridge I have yet to step foot on — let alone put into my peripheral vision — is convincingly way too rickety to traverse. Revert course.
I didn’t know what vulnerability truly meant, or even that it existed in the real world. To be frank, it’s still a concept that’s difficult to fully comprehend, but I recently discovered that its lack in my life was actually my drug of subconscious choice doing one hell of a good job (if you want to know where I got it from, I scored it from a reliable dealer who’s known around the block as Blame). In recent events trying to give myself to somebody and laying all my cards on the table, the situation ended up being so paralyzing — nonexistent past and future dizzying my mind — that I realized how strong the drug was and what it was so successfully fighting. Perhaps it was also in part a revelation from Brené Brown’s TED Talk that helped me understand the necessity of vulnerability and the vitality of it; not only for human connection, but for everything we do.
So, I unravelled the chemical composition of this drug, understood the side effects and reduced dosage. My world opened up a bit more.
I used to complain to my friends (which I later found out that I was secretly reveling in complaining!) about how single I was without realizing the more fun conversation would have been about the new and different people I had met. Later, I dreaded even talking about being single, let alone relationships in general, wanting to avoid the shame of it all. 28 and still single? 29 and no relationship yet? Almost 30 and no one’s ever been on the books? Now at 31, I don’t give a shit. Like I said, it is what it is. If my date sounds the alarm at my answer to the past relationships question — “Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve never had a relationship before,” I’ll reply — that’s his judgement trying to protect his unforeseeable future, which is ridiculous. And I choose to be present, forever and always.
So you’d think that at the end of this post, I’d end with a fun story about how I met some guy named… I don’t know, Hayden… but nope: still single. And that’s perfectly fine for now. One day I’ll get back to this article and update it with a disclaimer saying how I met this person or fell in love with that person, that my spell for singledom had been broken thanks to a certain prince charming and I could finally tell my “so how did you two meet” story; but until then, I’m going to get acquainted with Mr. Vulnerability: he’s already starting to feel like a keeper.