When I considered the end of my last relationship was near, I would sit on the metro on my two-hour commute from Bethesda to Baltimore, attempt to hold back the tears, and tell myself over and over again: Just be brave. Just be brave. Just be brave.
It’s amazing how far these three words got me, and it’s even more amazing to think that a young woman ending a long-term relationship should be considered brave. But even though I’m an introvert and a loner, I had been in back-to-back relationships for five years. I was scared that if I gave that up, I would forever be alone. Silly, I know. But true.
And yet a year and a half after I first told myself to be brave, I have re-entered the dating world. I always imagined from the many stories I heard that dating would be horrific and merely a means to an end. But in the past few months since I’ve re-introduced myself to this world, I’ve actually enjoyed it (well minus the awkward non-break-ups).
Not only do I get to meet a variety of different people, but I get to do all the things in DC I’ve been meaning to do like have a picnic on the Mall, check out the free museums along the Smithsonian, visit the Great Falls Park, try new places to eat and the wine bar down the street, etc., etc.
It’s not such a bad life. The only downsides might be the awkward spaces in conversation, but I’m surprised to learn how much I like getting to know different people and how much of myself I can be around strangers. So far I haven’t met any crazy ones, and I make a point to take some time for myself, too. Because in addition to everything else I have going on in my life, adding dating to the mix eats up my social calendar, and as my parents have so often taught me, if I’m going to remain sane in this world, I need my “me” time.
I’m also hesitant to open a certain part of myself. I didn’t like how vulnerable I was in my last relationship and how crazy it made me. I didn’t like that I lost a part of myself in that relationship and only in the past year have I found that part again and hence a certain indescribable peace and happiness.
But it doesn’t matter. Because most of the guys I meet are just looking for good conversation and honesty. In the end we are all just looking for a specific type of companionship and at this age we know what we want even if we’re blinded by superficial lights. So I’ve tried to be more open and see where the next date will take me.
In fact, this past Friday, I had a third date with this guy I met online. We’d had good conversation the first two dates, but I hadn’t seen him since prior to Memorial Day weekend. In fact, I had changed the locale of this date to make it short and sweet as I anticipated I would end things after this meeting.
After a long week, I wasn’t really looking forward to it, and even though I had enjoyed our conversation, I suddenly felt tired of the whole idea of dating (yes I realize a complete oxymoron to this post). I wanted a break from putting myself out there because in this DC scene it’s really all that I do.
But when I entered the Japanese restaurant running late as usual and saw him sitting there at a table by himself, cute with his red hair and glasses, I smiled. This guy was merely doing the same thing I was doing, putting himself out there in the hopes of finding someone for the short- or long-term.
And when I sat down, I felt right at ease, excited to hear about his recent bike trip to Harper’s Ferry and blabbing on about my own week of book publishing, work conferences, and of course the latest kerfuffle from Norm. I was talking in fragments, and my hands were going everywhere. My palms were sweaty, and I kept apologizing for everything.
I realized then I was being nervous awkward, that for the first time since we met, I was actually trying to impress him so as not to lose interest. In the nine months since I broke up with Briston, I haven’t felt this way on any date. I never cared before. But in that moment, I could feel a different type of attraction and respect for this guy.
So instead of ending things, I met up with him for lunch on the Mall a few days later after volunteering at the JDRF One Walk in DC (more on that later). And even though I was exhausted from a 6am wake-up call on a Sunday, the conversation never dulled. I’m still not sure if this will develop into anything.
But I am comforted by the fact that I can feel something again. And I think that is brave.