I haven't been feeling a lot like writing lately. I've been in a funk, unable to convince myself to do anything other than sit in front of the t.v. and eat Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars. And while I know doing something - cooking, going for a run, writing something, anything - would make me feel better, more energized, productive, I just can't. Because that would be doing something, which would ruin the nothing I have so effectively cultivated.
Internet, I'm bummed. And it's not that I don't have things to look forward to; tomorrow is my last day at the hated summer temp job, my parents are coming to visit, and then I'm going home for a week and will hopefully reconnect with some lovely old friends. And yet, I'm bummed. I'll tell you, Internet. This dating thing is not all it's cracked up to be.
When you start dating again after three years, at first it seems overwhelming, and then it seems exciting, like a world of endless possibilities. Hundreds of six foot plus guys, all within a 5 mile radius, there for the taking! A veritable cornucopia of potential boyfriends; do you prefer biologist, chemist, or engineer? Brown hair or blond? Classic and refined or free spirit? They're all there, and they're all looking for someone too. But what you don't think about in the midst of this whirlwind of excitement, of winks, and e-mails and first date planning, is what happens after. No big deal, you think. Either we'll both hit it off, or we won't. If it doesn't work out, you just move on to the next one.
I have been on, at last count, nine first dates in the last two months. That must set some sort of record. It's almost like a part-time job at this point. Nine first dates. Two second dates. Zero third dates. The numbers by themselves don't mean much. My issue here is not with numbers, my issue is what no one tells you about when you start dating again, and I'm talking about Rejection. Capital R Rejection.
It started with my third first date; Ryan. He seemed to have it all; a chemistry post-doc in his last year at Harvard, and he was even cute. His only fault was his vegetarianism, but hey, idealism can be sexy. We seemed to hit it off right away; we made easy conversation, and soon discovered a shared love of quoting the Simpsons. At the end of the first date there was no beating around the bush; "I had a good time," he said. "Should we do it again?" Definitely, I said. "Ok, how's Thursday?" he said. Though the goodbye was businesslike (no hug, not even a handshake), he sent me an e-mail that same night apologizing for his seeming "standoffishness," explaning that it takes him a little while to warm up to new people. That was fine with me, and his e-mail confession only made him more adorable in my eyes. The second date was, as the first, full of good food, wine, and conversation. And this time, at the end of the night, I got a hug. He's warming up! I congratulated myself. A very good sign. He right away proposed another date; this time he didn't know what day yet, but he would e-mail me. In the week and a half or so since we had first met online, we had been exchanging e-mails multiple times each day, back and forth conversations that provided a nice respite from the humdrum cubicle world for me, and I suppose the lab for him. They were interesting, colorful snippets of insight into the personality of someone I was just getting to know. I liked him a lot. We planned a date for Monday. On Sunday, I sent him an e-mail. Two hours later, I hadn't received a response, which seemed strange, considering the usual rapid-fire nature of our electronic conversations. All day long I kept refreshing my e-mail, only to find my inbox still empty. Damn you, Yahoo! I cursed. I know this is your fault. I was so sure that the problem was a glitch, evil technology conspiring to keep us apart. It was the only explanation. And now he probably thinks I'm not replying to him, I thought. I raged and gnashed my teeth, and waited. Monday morning I woke up and got ready to go to work. Normally I wait until I get to the office to check my e-mail in the morning, but this time I couldn't wait. I fired up my computer, and there, finally, was the long-awaited e-mail. For some reason, I got an uneasy feeling as soon as I saw it. There was no subject heading. It didn't bode well. It started out: I don't know how to say this, but...I blinked. There was no good way this sentence could end. I kept reading. ...I just don't think "it" is going to work. I don't know whether it's a timing thing or due to my fragile mental state, but you deserve someone who's as nice as yourself. And then, I burst into tears. Horrible, rending sobs of disappointment and anger. I threw myself onto my bed. I couldn't believe this. And to top it all, the greatest indignity was that not only had I been dumped via e-mail, by a guy I really liked, hours before what should have been our third date, but now...now I had to go to stinkin' work?! I indulged myself in tears for a few minutes longer, dragged myself up, dripped in some eye drops, and went to stinkin' work, where I proceeded to mope and feel sorry for myself for the next eight and a half hours in the non-privacy of my cube. And that's what I mean by Capital R Rejection.
And oh, Internet, I wish it ended there. But it goes on and on like this. While I haven't let myself become quite as attached to any of the new guys I've met (I've stopped imagining our weddings, although that is a hard one to break), the ending is generally the same. In fact, what happened with Ryan was actually one of the better scenarios. He led me on, but at least he had the decency to tell me that it was over. Dan, the groper? Four days went by and I heard nothing from him, so I sent him a casual e-mail, telling him I still sported a bug bite on my foot as a reminder of our evening together. He wrote back and said that his sister and her three kids were in town, and he was entertaining them. A decent enough excuse, I thought. He said he would like to go out again sometime. He'd bring the bug spray. I said great, give me a call. That was over a week ago. He's not going to call.
Oh, and Ben of the amazing good night kiss? I know, he seemed so promising, right? I, stupidly, let myself get really excited about him. Great conversation! He walked me home! He told me to call him! He asked me for a good night kiss! He asked me! There's no mistaking that situation, right? I mean I can't possibly be reading this one wrong, can I? I agonized three days before I called. (I know, we all hate when guys pull that three day thing. I mean, who came up with that rule? And now I'm doing it myself. But I didn't want to look too pushy). I was ridiculously nervous as I dialed. It rang. No answer. But it was ok, I had prepared for that. I left what I hoped was a cool, casual yet interested message. I went to a bar to meet some friends, and became the obsessive compulsive phone checker that I hate. Nothing. Still nothing. It put a cloud over what should have been a great night. The next day I looked up his profile and saw to my dismay that he was online at that very moment. And definitely not e-mailing me. So much for him being out of town, or stranded on a desert island. To make a long story short...he didn't call back.
It's only making matters worse that I e-mailed an old friend recently, telling him I would be in town, and I'd love to meet up, meet his girlfriend, his dog. He wrote back describing the hectic nature of his life at the moment; between balancing work, the girlfriend, the dog, he didn't have any time left at all. So while of course he wanted to see me, the reality is he probably wouldn't. Considering the fact that I haven't seen him in years, that I would be in town a solid week, and that I gave him a good two weeks of warning, I read his response more as "Sorry, I'll be washing my hair...No, every night." Just one more rejection. Maybe not capital R, but more than I could take at the moment. I sent him a rather snippy response and retreated inward, licking my emotional wounds. Remembering how we had planned to see each other a couple days after Christmas last year. Then, that day, he cancelled, saying he couldn't come because his dad had "moved Christmas," something about a present not arriving in time. He sounded very blasé about it. I was fairly outraged over the notion of "moving Christmas," and why couldn't he just tell his dad he already had plans?
It's hard admitting to yourself that a relationship is over, whether it's after many years, or only a few days. It's hard to deal with the loss of what was, or of what will never be. And it's particularly hard for those of us with an already delicate sense of self to reach out to someone else, only to be left reaching, again and again and again. It makes each new date a new potential for disaster, each fraught with a new level of anxiety. It makes me want to curl up with a remote control and a box of ice cream bars and watch What Not to Wear until my eyeballs sizzle. It makes me want to give up.
But first I have a date on Saturday with John. I'll let you know how it goes.