I finally did it. I put myself back on Tinder.
You guys… this is TERRIFYING. But also, very exciting.
My emotional brain says I don’t think anyone will swipe right on me. My logical brain says that’s ridiculous, and it’s silly to think men will not want to meet me.
I’m really hoping, in doing this, that my emotional brain will get the logical smack-down it so desperately needs.
I am not a fat, pathetic, emotionally repressed middle-aged spinster.
Well, okay… perhaps I am. But maybe that’s okay?
I was going to finish the “fat, pathetic, emotionally repressed” sentence with, “doomed to spend her remaining years living only with her cats,” but I didn’t. I’ll tell you why.
I DON’T MIND BEING ALONE.
If I were single for the rest of my days… if I thought (as, on some level, I do) that it was unlikely I would ever be in a relationship again…
IT WOULDN’T BOTHER ME.
I actually really love my life, regardless of my relationship status. I have a fantastic group of friends. I’m not terribly lonely because I enjoy having a lot of time on my own.
The times when I wish for a male companion exist, but they are not overwhelming.
I know I will enter into a serious romantic relationship again only if I meet someone who I cannot imagine not being in a serious romantic relationship with.
It will have to be someone who adds so much to my current already happy existence that the idea of NOT exploring future potential seems utterly ridiculous.
They’re going to have to be a very strong, emotionally independent person. They’re going to have to be someone who doesn’t in any way need me.
It’s good to be wanted and appreciated, but being needed is unhealthy. I understand that now.
I’m jumping ahead of myself even thinking about my criteria for a relationship, though. It’s good to be clear about what I want, so I don’t accidentally settle for less again. Yet, it’s not my current primary goal.
Goal #1: Remember how to trust.
I don’t mean in any foolish sort of way; for those who might be concerned, please know I have ample experience with online dating (since 2001! Crazy, no?) and my street smarts are legendary.
When I mention trust, I mean conversationally.
I need to remember how to not flinch at a compliment because in the back of my head I am expecting an insulting caveat to follow, or anticipating that something will be expected of me if I graciously accept the compliment. (The “What does he mean by that? What is he getting at?” reaction.)
I need to learn how to react with calm, nonjudgmental questions instead of fear when innocent statements trigger anxiety in me.
Have some initial trust that someone who has come out on a date is not an asshole unless they show otherwise.
I need to practice receiving positive male energy without suspicion or defensiveness. It’s not something I have recent experience with. I imagine I will stumble a fair bit at the beginning.
This will be my first challenge and I am looking forward to overcoming it.
Goal #2: Redefine measures of success.
In the past, I would measure men I dated against a list of “long-term potential” criteria. I didn’t consciously realize I was doing it, but I was. I would judge height, attractiveness, romantic history, family relationships, quality of life, their career, their apparent social skills, and so on. If the measurements were acceptable to enough items on my checklist, I would agree to another date.
My mistake was forgetting to relax. I wouldn’t sit back and determine whether I actually liked the person and enjoyed their company.
I didn’t consider my feelings at all. My emotions weren’t something I considered worthy of consideration.
My new measurements of success for a date will be whether I LIKE the person. I’m throwing out the checklist because when it comes to dating, I’m resolved to not care about future potential right away.
A new measurement of success: Is this person worthy of friendship? If romance is taken out of the equation, are they someone whose company is appreciated and valued?
Goal: Relax, explore, learn who someone is and make decisions about whether to see them again based on gut instinct; not some subconscious checklist they are being measured against.
Goal #3: Tell Well-Intentioned Friends to Fuck Off
In the past, I lacked confidence and self-awareness. A series of extremely bad (and, in the most recent instance, emotionally abusive) relationships were the result.
This is different now. My self-awareness and my confidence are vastly improved. My self-esteem isn’t fantastic, and I will continue to work on that. However, my understanding and awareness of my gut instincts are far better than they have ever been before.
So is my ability to tell well-intentioned friends to fuck off if they try to talk me into ignoring my gut instinct about someone.
Imaginary conversations with Well-Intentioned Friends (“WIF”):
WIF: But can you really tell that someone isn’t worth getting to know better after only one date?
Me: YES. Fuck off.
WIF: Maybe you should doubt your gut instinct and go out with them again.
Me: NO. Fuck off.
WIF: I bet they were just nervous. Wouldn’t you consider giving them another chance?
Me: Wait, what? Why would you want me to spend time with someone who is a dick to me when they get nervous? No. Fuck off.
WIF: I think you should do something different than what you’re doing.
Me: I trust you to manage those emotions on your own. And by the way… Fuck off.
Thank you, therapy. Crazy how well that shit really does work. Yay for therapists.
I am excited about starting to date and practicing all the lessons I’ve learned.
I am eager to see what this particular foray into the weird wild world of online dating will show.
Thanks to an utterly horrible relationship and a lot of therapy, I feel more than ready to do things differently this time around.
If nothing else… I am confident plenty of ridiculousness is about to transpire, and I am seriously looking forward to the comedy of it all.