Fresh to Market

When I started this blog, I was in my 20s — a woman who came of age watching “Sex and the City”, trying to decide if she was a Carrie or a Miranda (or maybe a Samantha, but definitely not entirely a Charlotte) and whose actual generation had yet to be defined by “Girls.” It was the era of “Gray’s Anatomy,” and not yet “50 Shades of Gray.” Tinder and Bumble had yet to hit the online dating market, meanwhile the bottom had just fallen out of the stock market.

All my friends and I were dating. The longest term relationships anyone had been in had been ones that started in college, when life was easy and a twin bed was good enough. Now, my friends are partnered-up, maybe toddler-totting, and likely mortgage paying.

So, in case you didn’t get where I was going, when I started “They Told Me a Rich Husband,” it was a different time. And I was living through a different life decade.

i-dont-even-want-a-boyfriend-meme1.jpgPutting aside that I’m now more likely to be matched with someone by my thumb than by a friend, I realized that dating in your 30s is different. It’s different not because the dating pool is smaller (to be honest, I’m not sure it’s any smaller… it’s just shallower, and access to the deep end is more frequently denied… and  when you are let in, you don’t trust that there will be a lifeguard on duty to throw you one of those red floaty rescue things if you need one.)

By the time you’ve reached your 30s, you’re either frantic for a partner, or accepted that you’ve been single most of your life, are happy and can handle being on your own for the rest of your life… or you vacillate somewhere between the two. Dating in your 30s is different because more often than not, you or someone you’re dating is just getting out of that relationship that was supposed to last forever… but didn’t. No one walks around wearing a sign that says “emotionally damaged, handle with care,” and yet more often than I can count since crossing the decade line, I have found myself trying to date someone who was only fresh to market and suffering broken engagement PTSD.

That was me at 27. I get it. And we often don’t give men enough credit for having feelings, or broken hearts, or for loving deeply.

” Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death,” says Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s final masterpiece Persuasion, a story of a rare second chance at love. “…there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating.”

In one of my online dating profiles (because now I, like, have them all) I close by saying: “We’ve both done this before. It can’t hurt any worse than it did that last time. Let’s give this a go?”

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

TFW You Step on the “Text Messages with your Ex” Landmine

I got a new phone this past October, just before I left for a two week sojourn in Germany and the UK. It was supposed to be faster and have a better camera than my previous phone. It had a lot of improvements and features I expected, and a few I didn’t… like all the text messages from my old phone. It seems that in transferring all my contacts, apps, and photos, I also transferred thousands of exchanges between myself and friends and family and exes.

I’ve said it in past posts, but I’ll say it again: text messages and emails with your exes are emotional landmines. Even when you think you’ve got them all safely contained, you stumble on one unexpectedly, and boom! Some part of you get obliterated in a cloud of smoke and verbal shrapnel. mobile.revolution

In this case, I had stumbled on an exchange between myself and Clark. It had been just about a year since we had dated and then not dated, and a few weeks since we had crossed paths and decided to start anew with a different tone. And then there they were — every text message sent from our first to our last.

One thing I’ve gotten very good at is moving on after something ends. With Clark, it was difficult, largely because we ended abruptly.  I had allowed myself to fall fast and hard for him, knowing that eventually, I’d hit the ground and that it might hurt. The ground came up on me faster than expected.

Lights on.

Lights off.

Thud.giphy (6).gif

I didn’t linger long on or pine for the sweet moments we shared. I stood up, shook it off, and pushed forward… with a visible emotional limp that would handicap me in what came next: a real relationship.

And then I read the texts. All of them. Separated from the exchanges by a year and a serious relationship, I was now a detached 3rd party — a voyeur looking into someone else’s relationship. I was sad for the couple in front of me. There was so much joy and promise in them. The chemistry was palpable. Then the final “hey. You up?” from her which triggered the break up email from him, and then a month later she said: “hey, I have mono. Pretty sure you gave it to me. #SoThisIs30.”

Now that we’re safely just friends, I’ve been tempted more than once to delete them all — especially the ones where he calls me beautiful or says how much he’s looking forward to seeing me or talks about kissing me in the ocean. I don’t want those around when I’m trying to forget that at one time, I thought I might have found a forever guy. And then I read this one and decide to keep them, because this is a good reminder of how I want to feel with each new “something”:

You can never tell if things are going to work at the start, but if we get to be our best selves for a while, then it will have been worth it. You make me smile. 

What you already knew about other people’s weddings.

“How do you feel at weddings? Because I feel pretty fucking awful at them.”

Oliver was hungover and sitting in a Midwest airport, a few days after his 30-something birthday and the morning after a close friend’s wedding. He continued before I could answer, drawing a comparison to being 30 and single at a friend’s wedding to being 80 at a friend’s funeral. Suddenly you’re aware that you’re the one left behind — the loneliness is palpable.

“I love weddings. And I love flying solo at them,” I chirped in when he done with his melodramatic imagery. But then again, I had accepted the possibility of a life lived sans co-pilot. He was a chronic monogamist, who for as long as we had been friends (now more than a decade) was always pining for a wife.

Our conversation brought up a few memories…

68cfb72ba7
It’s really easy to be that kid at someone else’s wedding. Really easy.

Memory 1: When my best girl got engaged, I was terrified about how I would feel at her wedding. I expected to feel a mixture of sadness and jealously — both selfish responses to your best friend finding a happily ever after. I was present when she met her now husband, and as we all joke, I get to take some credit for their meeting (it was my idea to go to that bar, after all.) But there’s another way to tell the story: two girls walk into a bar. One walks out with a husband, the other with a hangover. I never think of it this way, but I was afraid that come her wedding day, I would. I was the only unattached bridesmaid, and wasn’t offered a plus-1. Would I feel all alone?

When the day arrived, I was relieved that all I felt was happiness — happy that I was there, happy that I got to be a part of the day, and happy that the friend who was like a sister to me was happy. (If I was starting to feel low, it helped that one of the groomsmen asked if he could take me to dinner one day…even if he was nearly 20 years older than me, and was rocking a soul patch… soul patches are unforgivable facial hair decisions.)

Memory 2: It was the middle of October and I was milling about the first floor of one of Amsterdam’s most luxurious department stores, stocking up on Christmas cards with yuletide greetings written in Dutch (because, of course.) A text message came through — my Ex with a capital E wanted to know what I was doing on Saturday.

Kat: Flying home from Amsterdam.

Ex: What time will you be back?

Kat: Why, what’s up?

Ex: I wanted to know if you were free to be my plus-1 at my sister’s wedding.

Kat: That’s rather short notice! Suddenly feel like you need moral support?

Ex: Don’t need moral support. Just want someone at my side who I would want at my side at these kind of important things…

I didn’t make it back in time to be his plus-1, but if he had asked me sooner, I would have been willing to book an earlier flight. Not because I wanted to fall back into the role of girlfriend, but because I understood.

When you’re single, other people’s weddings trigger complex emotions. We get a front seat in a real-life fairy tale, and that can inspire in us everything from hope to despair, happiness to loneliness. We can revel joyfully in the moment of the party, or wander aimlessly down memory lane, reliving all the relationships that could have made it to the alter. The ones that got away are specters that hang behind centerpieces and under place cards. For some singletons, all they need to weather that whirlwind of feels is a strong drink (or an open bar) and the right song to dance to (all hail the Wedding Singer!) Others meanwhile need a companion. My Ex and Oliver are of the latter. I’m in the group that hands them a drink and makes them join me in the macarena/hokey-pokey/electric slide. At least, that’s where I am for now.

 

The Dragon at the Table

It’s official. I am Bridget Jones. (without Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver)

It was a quiet Saturday night, I had just spent the day with nearly 200 high school students at a multi-school fencing meet and my body ached with the kind of fatigue that can only comes from being the surrogate sport parent (err… coach) to some 40 kids. All I wanted was a gin and tonic, some Chicken Tikka Masala — because, you know, I’m a child of the Commonwealth, and that’s our version of comfort food — and a mindless Rom-Com.

I was in luck. I had timed my take-out TV dinner and booze just right so I could catch the last half-an-hour of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Mark Bloody Darcy.

Swoooooon.

I was 13 when I first read Helen Fielding’s cheery, timeless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In the back of my mind, I knew I was at least a tad more Bridget Jones than Lizzy Bennett, but I was too young to really relate to all the emotional ups and downs Bridget traveled along as she tried to make her way through work, family, and love.

Enter age 29. 

You know your 20s are basically over when 22-24 year-olds attempt to pick you up with the following lines:

– How do you feel about being hit on by a younger man?

– While you’re searching for Mr. Right, how about having some fun with a younger guy?

– I know I’m probably too young for you, but can I buy you that next drink?

I’ve officially moved out of the age bracket that qualifies me as the “young play thing” — the desirable, elusive object of affection from professional men in their 30s to mid-40s. This is not inherently a problem. I am on the verge of entering their age bracket, which makes me more of a peer and less of a fresh-off-the-collegiate-boat co-ed. I am no longer doe-eyed and naive. I am savvy. I know better.

You can’t pull a blindfold over my eyes… well you can, but you have to ask nicely. 

Readying myself to move on to a new decade doesn’t really require much prep-work, but I admit that there are a few things I need to acknowledge now that I could previously ignore — both realities and absurdities of life.

family-party-bridget-jonesI’ve reached an age where most of my friends are comfortably domesticated — if they’re not married and making plans for baby, they’re in the kind of relationships that seem destined for the altar. As you move further away from college, you move further away from the all-nighter, 4 parties a week (a night?) lifestyle. You lose one kind of social endurance and replace it with another. 10 PM seems a perfect bedtime and laundry is a perfectly acceptable weekend activity. You haven’t grown boring. You’ve grown more selective. Your friends grow more selective too, and as more of them find themselves in couples, your find your social life naturally changing.

The challenge with being the last single girl at the party is that everyone finds a way to let you know you’re the last single girl at the party.

Cut back to Bridget Jones. 

“Wednesday 1 February
11:45PM … “Yes, why aren’t you married yet, Bridget?” sneered Woney (babytalk for Fiona, married to Jeremy’s friend Coasmo) with a think veneer of concern whilst stroking her pregnant stomach.

Because I don’t want to end up like you, you fat, boring, Sloaney milch cow was what I should have said, or … Because actually, Woney, underneath my clothes, my entire body is covered in scales.”

Bridget asks her reader, why? Why is it that married/coupled-off people feel the need to corner us single folk about our love lives?

“Tell me all about your men and dating adventures! I feel like you have a new boy toy every time we meet!”

“Thank god I’m done with all that dating stuff I mean, how DO you DO IT? I mean, how DO you meet people!?”

“We have to find you someone. You’re so great! I’d set you up with one of Bob/Phil/Rich/insert-generic-male-name-here’s friends… but they’re all married too!”

“Mary/John is away Friday, so I’m free. Entertain me! Let’s go out like we used to… I’ll be your wingperson!”

Sigh.

“Maybe Smug Marrieds only mix with other Smug Marrieds and don’t know how to relate to individuals anymore. Maybe they really do want to patronize us and make us feel like failed human beings. Or maybe they are in such a sexual rut they’re thinking: “There’s a whole other world out there,” and hoping for vicarious thrills by getting us to tell them the roller-coaster details of our sex lives”

The truth is, us single girls approaching and in our 30s are the dragons at the dinner table — beautiful to look at, exotic, but no one’s sure when we’ll start spitting fire. We aren’t covered in green scales. But as we’ve watched our friends move on into happiness, and as we’ve trained ourselves to answer the inevitable “is there someone special?” we have had to develop a pretty thick skin.