I wasn’t going to write about dating anymore, despite a number of people asking me to on a semi-regular basis (you know who you are). The people who want to hear about my dating (mis)adventures are usually in long-term relationships. Personally I think they should spend less time giggling about my well-thought-out personal rules for online dating and more time setting me up with their single friends, but if they want to continue living vicariously through me, so be it.
There was something that felt not quite right about publishing my thoughts about that delicate dance of desire and uncertainty that occurs between meeting someone you want to “get to know” and being “in a relationship” with them. Or not, as the case may be. Many people appear able to traverse this period quite well, with a combination of socially accepted flirting cues, alcohol and steely determination. My ever-questioning brain – and usually inaccurate hyper-analysis of how what I’m doing might be interpreted – makes it pretty fucking awful. This can all be dulled with alcohol, but in my humble experience that rarely if ever works out for the best.
Back then I was writing about my hesitant first forays into online dating, after frankly about five years of pulling myself apart and seeing how the pieces fit back together. In my unconfident younger years (as compared to these supremely confident middle years I now find myself in) I leant heavily on the moral support of my peers, and writing was one of the main ways I did it. The problem was typically that at some point when you’re dating someone they generally find out your surname and can google you to engage in a bit of cyberstalking. A very modern dating conundrum that can cause issues of its own.
So I stopped writing about dating years ago, breaking out once or twice in the throes of emotion, be it joy or despair. But when I think about it, those times weren’t really about dating, or the other person, they were about me feeling so much emotion that it was impossible to contain it. I had to release the valve, one way or the other.
So yeah, anyway, here I am writing about dating again. Kind of.
The trigger that brought us here was a comment made to me over dinner earlier this week. I was on a second date. So in my carefully formulated dating rules, this means that we ‘clicked’ enough during the first date to see if there was something more in it. And the first date had been lovely. At the last minute a friend of mine had given me two free tickets to the opera, and so our meet up for a drink had turned into a night at the opera. Not a bad basis for a first date, and it was a lovely evening, and I was hopeful that it would be followed by a connection worth pursuing into a third and beyond.
It wasn’t, unfortunately – it’s a shame, but these things happen. It’s generally nothing specific. It’s kind of just a feeling. It’s certainly never a reflection on the person themselves – everyone I’ve ever met has been excellent and interesting. But, as gun lawyer Dennis Denuto says in The Castle, explaining to a judge why the eviction of the Kerrigan family from their home is unconstitutional, it’s “the vibe of the thing”. Or in the context of dating, the lack of one.
Pinpointing the exact ‘why’ of why I feel it’s not going to work out is not usually something I do, but in this instance it can be summed up by one thing she said. To be clear, this was not the “defining moment” – it wasn’t when I knew that there wasn’t going to be a date three, that ‘moment’ didn’t occur (see explanation of ‘the vibe of the thing’, above). It was:
“I can’t stand it when people share articles on Facebook, I just want to see updates about people’s lives”.
Now, for me, social media is ALL about sharing things with people I know – things that I think are amazing, or moving, or make me laugh. And this may be a shock to you, but those things aren’t always about my personal life – even though I am quite frequently amazing, moving (albeit literally) or making people laugh.
That very day – in contravention of accepted rules of the amount of Facebook posts that should be shared in a day – I had shared two articles (and a couple of First Dog on the Moon cartoons). The first was an Overland article from last year critiquing the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, highly relevant considering the growing possibility of a US-NATO ”intervention”, (nee invasion), of Syria. The second was a really fascinating article by Ariel Dorfman about Martin Luther King, Chile under Allende and Pinochet, and the general struggle for freedom and democracy.
I shared these articles, and I share things in general, because they resonated with me in some way. And I wanted to share that with people I know. Maybe the people I know would be interested in reading and engaging with them too?
I don’t begrudge people who don’t think that politics or art or social change are awesome or important to them and so don’t particularly want to engage with these things outside of carefully scripted encounters – like polling day or a trip to the opera – but I’m afraid that’s not me.
So did I say any of this to my dinner companion, and trigger a potentially riveting conversation about the nature of social media? No. I moved on to talking about something else. You could say this was me not making an effort really, or giving up, or not being honest about who I was. You could say that. You might be right. Because yes I did hold back, judging in that moment that the discussion wasn’t worth the effort.
I’m a busy guy with a great group of friends and a half-baked plan of where I’m going to end up in five or so years. Sure I’d love to meet someone to spend a whole lot of significant time with. And I’ve come around to the idea that I might not make a terrible father. But I’m not in so much of a rush for any of this. I don’t need someone else to feel real or whole or alive. I ain’t that lonely anymore. It took a while.