Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Experiment of Grand Proportions

I hate dating.

There, I said it.

I hate dating.

The truth is that I’m not good at dating. Dating is all games and facades and illusions. It’s play. While I like to play as much as the next girl, I don’t like to play with people’s feelings. I think people’s feelings ought to be respected; to me, dating is inevitably a process of bruising people’s egos and breaking their hearts.

No, thank you. I’d rather pass.

The problem with not dating, however, is that you leave little room for love. I am firmly pro-love. I have the heart-shaped earrings to prove it. I’m wearing them right now.

After K and I broke up, I was deeply disappointed. I had high hopes for that relationship, and when it fizzled, I wasn’t really broken-hearted because the relationship ended per se. My expectations were crushed, and that broke my heart. I knew that it was going to take me a long time to recover from it. About two years, in fact. I needed that time to find myself again, to be comfortable being alone, to not feel like there was something missing. At times, I felt lonely. At other times, I felt exhilarated. I hated being alone, and I loved being alone. But most importantly, I started feeling whole again.

Once I felt whole again, I was ready to feel something other than numb. The Brazilian jolted me out of my numbness, and even though things with him didn’t get beyond a second date, I was suddenly and ravenously hungry for love and sex. In that order.

The irony about the Brazilian is that he was the catalyst for the romance that has developed between Matt and me. Matt and I were friends for over a year before the Brazilian came along, and in my lusty confusion, I turned to Matt for advice, reassurance, and empathy. He’s good for those things.

In the months that followed, our friendship deepened until that fateful October visit when we gave up all pretense of a platonic friendship. I haven’t looked back since.

Yet, there are caveats to this romance. We are not monogamous. This fact has not posed any problems for us yet. We also live very far apart. This fact has posed problems for us. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Our love has blossomed in letters, which is terribly romantic. Distance gives us both plenty of space to live our own lives, which, I imagine, makes our conversations that much more interesting. Somehow, Matt manages to be very much present in my life, even though he is rarely with me in person.

But missing him can be very painful. I miss him every day, but some days are worse than others. And there’s a certain sadness in living from visit to visit, which seems unavoidable despite the fullness of my life. Even his visits are a little bittersweet because they always end with him leaving.

My friends are mixed in their opinions about Matt. That’s okay. It’s difficult to understand a non-monogamous relationship if you aren’t living in it. My friends are not mixed, however, in their opinions about Internet-assisted dating. “Go for it!” they all say.

And so I am.

My friend Ian, doom-sayer that he is sometimes, says that dating will be very hard because I will always be comparing the new guys to Matt. He’s probably right; comparisons are hard to avoid. But I feel like this situation could work to my benefit. I’m happy now. I feel loved, I’m not stressed about my paper, springtime is approaching. I’m ready to try dating without the pressure of finding the love of my life.

Last night I set up a profile on OkCupid. It’s a free Internet dating site; it was recommended to me by friends and acquaintances. It attempts to find good matches for you in a three-step process:

1) You answer a slew of questions.
2) Give your ideal mate’s answer.
3) Rank how important your mate’s answer is to you.

I breezed through 100 questions last night and chatted for a while on OkCupid’s instant messenger with some guy in Naperville who found me through the site. I’ll admit it: it was pretty fun. This morning I found messages from three different men. Thus starts the screening process.

I’m really not interested in meeting every single guy who sends me a “Hey, what’s up?” (Naperville dude, I made an exception for you last night.) I want to be impressed. Entertain me! Tell me something interesting! My first attempt at screening will be to limit my replies to men who answer my question: What would you make me for dinner?

So far, no man has answered this question.

But that’s okay. I can afford to be patient and picky these days. I have already found love and sex, in that order. But I’m willing to give local love a chance.


JD said...

I like the approach... You have to keep me updated. This is like watching a soap opera live :). I wish you all the best.....

Rosiecat said...

Hi JD! My goodness, I'm a little surprised at myself that I've taken the plunge into Internet dating. I'm surprised and pleased.

So far, I've received messages from several different men, but NOT ONE of them has answered my dinner question! Can't a girl get something decent to eat? Can't wannabe suitors pay more attention to my love for food than my science career? Clearly they don't realize the way to my heart is through my stomach, not my brain. Or maybe it's both.

Hopefully the drama will be of the happy-fun type rather than the painful-gross type. I've always found soap operas to be a bit over-the-top for my taste.

daphna said...

Aww, I might be late to the party, but can I disagree about the "games" thing when it comes to dating and relationships? If you're talking about spending extra time on your outfit and makeup, flirting, or trying to engage in fun and witty conversation for the first few dates, then I might agree. In my experience that newness is enjoyable and fun, although nerve wracking for some people. But completely misrepresenting yourself, toying with someone's emotions so you can get a little action, or leading someone on for weeks while you hope someone better comes along seems to be the realm of early teenage dating or maybe a consequence of regularly meeting people who are actually not interested in a long-term, loving relationship.

In my experience with dating (and this definitely applies to non-Ian relationships too!), the facade is lifted quite quickly (definitely within a matter of 2-3 dates) if there is a degree of compatibility and mutual interest. If things are feeling forced, unnatural, or tenuous after three dates, well it's probably time to cut your losses and move on to the next guy, ya know? :)

Have fun!

Rosiecat said...

Hey, Daphna! Of course you aren't late; this project is on-going.

I think I completely agree with you! It's those first few dates that are really hard. They make me really, really nervous. It's possible to start liking someone very much during that time, but you don't really know each other very well, so I feel like there's some degree of apprehension early in the relationship.

I like your suggestion to use three as the magic number of dates. It's a large enough number to give yourself a chance to get to know someone a little bit (and to let them get to know you), but it's a small enough number that if things aren't going well, you haven't spent a lot of time and energy in the process.

This is the first time in my whole life that I've made a concerted effort to date, so I feel like I have a lot to learn. I'm going to take it slowly and try to enjoy it. I will have to learn how to end things gracefully; this skill is not something I have mastered. But people's feelings are important to me, so I feel compassion for anyone going through a break-up of some type, even if I have to be the one doing the breaking.

Rosiecat said...

Hey all,

My secret copyeditor, Matt, told me I wrote that I was "hungy for love." Any idea what this means? He thinks it's a Freudian slip. I think it's a typo! I have since rectified this odd mistake.

May you all find satisfaction when you are hungy for love!