The non-allurement of the dating scene

Went out with my buddy yesterday for dinner and a movie and had a good night. But, after I’d dropped him off and headed back out to the bar, the rest of the evening unfolded in a way it sometimes likes to. Getting dolled up a bit attracts attention, and last night I attracted the attention of a man I briefly met back in the summer who remembered me and apparently has seen me around a number of times since. Got to chatting and he was pretty quick to express interest in me. Discussed maybe someday going bowling or playing a card game or whatever, as I typically suggest to those who wish to get to know me better. Though I admitted I’m reluctant to call most people despite taking down their numbers. Just not ready for the dating scene yet. Still have my heart attached elsewhere. I state this to people upfront, much as they all seem to think they’re the perfect antidote for what ails me and my current situation.

Well, he was a nice enough man, a working-class guy who at least seem fairly open-minded, so we continued chatting. He told me this and told me that, and I told him not to try to oversell himself. We discussed a bit on gender relations, a bit on learning from past failures in one’s personal life, a bit on what we each do for a living, etc. And he was adamant about wanting the conversation to continue. Asked me out after-hours to a breakfast joint — no, I’d already eaten. Asked me back to just hang out to smoke and chat a bit more. All right, I’m game so long as it’s all understood upfront that I’m not up for any hanky-panky business at this time. Understood — he proclaimed to be seeking more in his life than a one-night stand, though he balks at my insistence on befriending people before considering dating them in any serious fashion.

I’m not in my 20s and don’t typically have issues with the people I choose to converse with in private locations these days. Apparently I’m a better judge of character at least to that extent. And maybe nowadays I come across as less of a pushover. Either way, he remained respectful so there were no problems there. It’s just that while in the truck and then back at his place he began unfolding more of his story and told of his past arrests and failed marriage and then other relationships. Resonated with some of the things I’ve heard other men online complain about, like high divorce costs and unfair child support and alimony costs, plus a domestic violence charge somewhere along the way. He was pretty animated and needing to get it out, he being a very talkative man, so I mostly listened and related where I could.

Nothing much wrong with the dude. Overall, he actually seems like a nice person despite the way his history might comes across on paper. I try not to judge people too harshly since I am frequently judged quite enough myself for my own past. But I keep hearing men telling nearly the same story time and again about how they had kids young and married young and wound up in troubling divorces and how women are groomed to use the legal system against them when it all starts to unravel. Men have my sympathy on these matters. And yet, I’m one of those out here with a clean criminal record (knock on wood) and no kids who just struggles with relating to all of that, normal as it is among my peers. Such is the life of a fringe-dweller, I suppose. I understand it’s perhaps easier for a woman to stay free from parental obligations if so desired, and my own divorce was quite affordable on account of remaining child- and asset-free. And I understand that people don’t tend to recognize what they’ve stepped in until it’s too late.

But still. Some part of this is what makes it hard for me to fully relate with members of my own age group. It’s like everybody followed a script that I and only a handful of others chose to reject. And now they’re all very upset and disgruntled and financially strapped. Then they tell of the DUIs and/or drug charges that came during their times of depression. Could happen to any of us probably, I’m not too concerned with that. But still. Some part of me wonders if I’m surrounded by people living on autopilot, and I wonder why folks never seem to learn from the patterns they’re prone to repeat, myself included.

And that man, when it neared time to drive me home after we’d chatted that additional hour, told me how I come across as similar to most the women he’s been meeting in that I remain attached to somebody and involved in something that might not have much long-term potential. Okay. Well, ya know, we’re each into whatever we’re into and not much anybody else tells us will likely change our course. But I asked him to consider why that is, why he seems to be attracting toward unavailable women, particularly this one since I was upfront about my status. And I let that question hang as I called it a night.

Don’t know what to tell us all. On the occasions I do meet child-free men, I’m often confronted with someone who’s turned his attention to material acquisition and attached his identity there. That’s not of much interest to me either. Not much is of interest to me these days, to be honest. And maybe it has little to do with their individual stories and more to do with a lack of chemistry and general unease with the whole dating scene. All I know is the more I look out there, the less comfortable I feel. I could probably play it and play it well, but I have no heart for that game these days. Seems so daunting getting to know people and figuring out the areas of incompatibility and realizing another woman continues to rule the situation from afar thanks to legally-binding obligations. And everybody’s so quick to project onto you what they wish to see, setting themselves up for eventual disillusionment. I’ve learned to observe this latter concern more closely, seeing as how people never seem to really see me but only figments of their imaginations regardless of what I happen to say. And that was the problem with my situation with the man I refer to as my former companion — and he’s still upset that I couldn’t live up to his hopes and dreams. Not too interested in dashing them again for somebody else who’s caught up in the fantasy that if they can just find that right person then all will magically work and turn out fine. Relationships don’t work that way, I’ve been finding out.  I refer to this as the “Disney fantasy” where my generation and the boomers who came before bought into dreams that just aren’t realistic but were heavily promoted to where we came to accept these delusions. I mentioned that to that man as he pulled up in my apartment’s parking lot last night.

He’s just one man among many I’ve spoken to over the last several months. All think they like what they see, think you’re somehow different, think they just need a good woman by their side. But I’m not even sure what good even means anymore. Too subjective to do me much good. And most of what people proclaim to want isn’t entirely consistent with what they actually pursue. Same goes for me too probably. All I know is I feel this wall erected around me that may lower for a while and allow me to converse with someone new, but that draws back up as the evening progresses. Not because I’m pursuing perfection, no. Not because I have a huge laundry list of expectations. Just because there’s a lack of resonance. I hear them and see them and sympathize with them, might even like to befriend them, but that is usually all. I don’t want the pressure right now. Don’t want too much hinged on me with someone new. It always leads me back to missing my own situation, chaotic and dysfunctional as it might be. And probably I am like a lot of other women in that regard, won’t dispute it since it matters not. I just don’t know what to do with the dating scene these days. Daunting is the word that keeps coming to mind. I don’t want other people’s kids getting attached to me or disliking me. Don’t want the pressure of other people’s dreams being entrusted to me right now. Nor do I necessarily wish to play the field. I don’t really want to do anything other than sit where I already sit and to try to get better within my own skin and within my own mind without the added weight of some new person’s agenda.

And that’s fine. It’s allowable. But then again, time ticks on and one worries about winding up alone at the end of it all. But that still doesn’t seem like reason enough to pursue that which doesn’t feel right. Some say I’m settling for what I’m in already, and maybe there’s some truth to that. But I don’t really want anything else, upset as I get on a routine basis. But maybe I don’t have much of a choice either since this continues to erode. But still. Every time I desire to go back to him, to lay down beside him and to shut out the rest of the world. I don’t trust any of us all that much, but I still can’t imagine moving on beyond him. Even when he says it’s probably for the best. Even when others beckon and offer to take me out. I don’t know — this is just my current state of mind, right or wrong. He may drive me crazy, and vice versa, but I do love him regardless. Just wish I knew how to navigate effectively at this point to where it all could unfold in a better way. Maybe that’s guilt and anxiety talking there. Or perhaps stubbornness and persistence. But I just can’t fully imagine it any other way at this juncture.

Not sure what to think of compatibility issues or what it means to find the “right one” or whether romantic love is enough to pull a couple through their trials and hardships. Everybody seems to be driven by a dream, and I’m just not sure what dream I have anymore. Other than to work on myself and to hopefully someday make amends in my own situation.

Update a week later: Nevermind. My situation imploded once again. I have been trying so hard to hold it all together and to try to improve the relationship, but I have clearly failed. We drive each other up the wall more often than is tolerable. And he knows just how to push my buttons to get a major reaction, which then winds up leaving me feeling humiliated time and again. Can’t fix that. And apparently his resentment toward me will never lift. Still he says he may never be able to forgive me for my past bad choices. Still he periodically defends that other woman and their going behind my back, acknowledging no relation between emotional infidelity and sexual infidelity. And still our situation remains so incredibly volatile from day to day to where the inconsistency has me behaving erratically and in ways I’m not proud of. Undoubtedly he feels the same way about his own behavior at times too.

Never again should I ever beg a man for anything. Life on one’s knees is depressing and embarrassing. I understand it’s my own fault for allowing this guilt to carry me down this far. Should’ve walked away a long time ago. Should’ve said “enough,” and then went my own way while striving to become better. Because it’s virtually impossible to get back up when someone’s intent on seeing you thoroughly and unceasingly punished. Whether they are even fully conscious of that drive in them or not.

This has all gone too far. And hopefully today marks the day when we quit it for the last time.

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