A month ago I posted that I knew it was too soon to try to begin dating again because my foray onto match.com ended with me crying. But healing is a powerful thing and I’ve spent much of the last few weeks feeling more and more sure that I was ready to dip my toe back in the dating pool. So last Monday night, after sufficient liquid courage (red wine) I did it. I logged onto match.com and filled out my profile and uploaded photos and waited. The good news is that I got all kinds of messages and winks and stars but was informed I had to subscribe to the tune of $40 to see who sent them. Blackmail. I was not going to become the dating industrial complexes latest hustle (plus everything I talked about in this post), so I went to okcupid.
Okcupid was where I met my ex. Logging back into my profile (yep, they never go away) took me to our original messages exchanged three and a half years ago. I was reminded of how fun that period is. The getting to know each other phase. I also noticed how many of the men who had messaged me in 2010 were still on there. Grim. But I got to work. It was immediately apparent that this is where the cute men are. I was reassured. I updated my profile but realized I had no new profile photos to upload (it turns out when you’re in a couple most of the pictures you have include your partner) so I left the old ones on there. I’m pretty sure I look essentially the same as I did in 2009. After day 2 I began feeling apprehensive. I was noticing that most of the men described themselves with so much sarcasm and irony that you can’t help but feel that you’re reading the class clown’s page in his senior yearbook. For example, “About me: ‘saving babies and old women at night and wearing suit and hipster glasses by day.’ The 5 things I could not live without: ‘coffee, sarcasm, my goldfish, cheese sticks, the Simpsons.’ You should message me if: ‘You have great taste in men!’” And it wasn’t a few here and there. It was the vast majority. I was beginning to feel that I had stumbled into the cyber waiting area for the most acute cases of peter pan syndrome. I also was feeling less confident in my approach. I swear I told myself I was willing to go out with anyone, to stay open- but the vast majority of the men who emailed me were either creepy or unimpressively curt. Like the guy who just wrote, “Hi.” But there were a few that sounded like they’d be nice, despite their slightly dorky attire and Star Wars pun profile name “obi-want-to-know-me?” But I didn’t. I started to sense something else looming. I began to realize that being back in the cyber dating world was taking me out of my I-just-moved-to-Oakland-and-want-to-get-to-know-it mode, that I had come to really love. I was getting home from work and poring over the catalog of emotionally unavailable rock climbers and Burning Man aficionados and not getting outside and actually meeting people. I remember being able to orient the two seamlessly (or so I thought) but that wasn’t now. So I deactivated my account. Again.
Today my therapist asked me what I was afraid of, just generally in life (you’ll have to take my word that this was in context). And though I feel like society (and some relatives) would expect the first thing out of my 34 year old single mouth to be “that I’ll be alone forever and die in an EZ lounger surrounded by 30 cats,” that wasn’t it. That’s not my worry. I have such firm faith it will work out. I look around me and ask how I could possible conclude otherwise. It’s almost silly to waste time thinking it won’t. It takes away the joy I feel when I’m out exploring and the elation I’ve felt at getting to spend quality time with lovely people and also with myself. Three years in a frequently challenging relationship will teach you things. And without some down-time to let all of that sink in and have space, I risk losing the wisdom of it. And that risk is not one I am willing to take. Even if it means Luke Cybertalker has to wait a while.
For nearly three and a half years I worked in a legal aid office as a housing attorney. People would come into my office saturated with fear- of losing their homes, of being homeless, of being bad parents/wives/children- and my job was to assist them. To assure them that there were laws that protected them or programs to soften the blow. I stood up in court to defend them, to argue their cases and try to persuade the judge to side with us and let them remain housed. I fought terrible slum lords and their often jackass attorneys who condescendingly implied that I could not possibly know what I was doing because I was a young woman…until they realized I did. It was powerfully rewarding work to stand up for people who are so often bullied. But it came with concessions. It paid nearly nothing and burnout became a close friend.
But now, after I have relocated to Oakland to do much of the same work, I am realizing that perhaps there is a middle ground. This job does not come with the grating stress of the previous. But the pay scale is the same. I love my work, but hate that in some situations, I would qualify for the same programs as my clients. I have to believe there is a way to find meaningful work and make a little more than a liveable wage doing it. Last week I sat down to create a budget. And it was bleak. I, by no means, am complaining about being impoverished. For a single person I am doing fine. But I wouldn’t go further than that. And I’d like to do more than fine. I’d like to save and splurge and not wonder if my credit card bill will be repaid before I turn 40. But I’d also like to go home at the end of the day knowing that I helped lighten someone’s load a little. My clients rarely feel that anyone is fighting for them. I find so much honor in being the one to do it.
It’s sad the legal profession doesn’t offer more options. It seems my friends who make the big bucks are miserable and keep hours that would make your head spin. I am not miserable, and I realize that counts for something. I also know that inside of me is a woman who loves to write. Who believes that there may exist a way to use her words to help people. Whether that same woman can make a profession (and living) of it is anyone’s guess.
So I will bide my time. I will continue committing myself to this work and know that at some point in the future, a perfect opportunity will fall directly into my path and then, as always, the journey there will make perfect sense.
In high school I, along with my fellow dreamy-eyed girlfriends, used to oft quote the saying “Dance like no one is watching and love like it’s never going to hurt.” More than fifteen years later, with some life experience under my belt, it is worth unpacking this pithy precept a little.
I have always loved dancing. There is something that opens up in me when I hear music. One of my favorite places to dance is the Castro in San Francisco, where I know that my moves won’t become a fascination to any leering men. My other favorite place is in my bathroom- headset on, music blaring. I have discovered yet another amazing place to move. It’s a dance studio near my house. All women. Loose choreography. Amazing music. The atmosphere is oozing with female pride and a complete absence of judgment. Within this world I have watched my selftalk turn from frustration at not getting the steps to just dancing; Truly, like no one is watching (because honestly, no one is). It is the adage come true and has brought me a remarkable amount of joy. I stand behind it 100%.
The second half of that sweet yearbook quoted saying, I am not so sure of. As I am finally seeing what appears to be a glimmer of a light at the end of this heartbreak tunnel, I am still the most committed cheerleader for love. I love love. I love the look on people’s faces as they sit together and revel in the joy that comes from just being. I love the wonder in the eyes of the pairs that can hardly believe what they have stumbled into. For better or worse, I am a most devoted romcom movie watcher. Yes, the plotline is very nearly the same 90% of the time, but the ending always makes me happy. People choosing love. So I believe in risking loving, but wisely. I think I have so rarely kept my wits about me when entering relationships that I tend to find myself 6 months to years in, wondering how I got there. These days, I believe in treading cautiously into love. Testing the waters and making sure that all of the things you bring to the relationship always have a place on the boat- that if the thing starts to take on water, it isn’t your interests and priorities and the stuff that makes you uniquely you that go first. But I do believe at some point, when there is enough to go on, to make you sure of at least the depth of the pool and that it is indeed full of water, you jump. And you love like it is the most beautiful thing on earth. You embrace the wonder and the joy and even the challenges that come up, and sink into the moment. And for as long as possible, perhaps months or a lifetime, you let go of the fear that it could all end in heartbreak and own the beautiful present that it is.
Image: Isadora Duncan