I've noticed that a side effect of dating in midlife, particularly post-kids, far too often involves shining a flashlight on all of my perceived personality deficits and physical flaws. When I'm not dating or in a relationship I tend to be just fine with the fact that I'm not a big party person, that I have no legitimate hobbies, that I'm not very outdoorsy (my favorite outdoor activity is coming back inside), that I've never run a marathon, or that my chin is too small. Yet get me out on a first or second date, and suddenly I find myself fretting about every little shortcoming. I really should socialize more, read more, paint more, hike more, ski more, run more, bungee jump more, and really, how much could a chin implant cost?
I'm not sure why, but for some reason dating seems to evoke feelings I thought I'd parted ways with in middle school; that in some indiscernible way, I just don't measure up, I'm less than, I'm "other than."
Last year when I first started online dating with the serious intention of snagging a boyfriend, I had a series of really great first dates, but no second ones. I found this rather unsettling and wondered whether there was something perhaps undesirable about me that was causing this trend. This was before I developed my "online dating/car shopping" comparison theory, where online dating can create a disincentive to settling down with one person, since there's always a newer, shinier model rolling onto the lot. So I called a good friend, whom I've known since high school, and who knows me better than almost anyone else in the world, and asked for her opinion. "Tell me the truth, it is me? Maybe it's me. What's wrong with me? I think it must be me. Is it me?" She assured me that it was most certainly not me, and that she'd had similar experiences with online dating.
Why does dating seem to elicit these middle-school-spawned feelings of being different, less than, or "other than," where unreasonable self-scrutiny so quickly evolves into the slippery slope of thinking if I just had, were, could, was, wasn't...then life would be just grand?
A few years ago, when I first poked my head into the world of online dating, I was perplexed by the seemingly global "no drama!" admonition I was seeing on most men's profiles. As someone with a rather animated personality, I was certain that the no-drama-dating-deal-breaker and its no-emotional-baggage cousin were signs of most men's self-centered, commitment-phobic nature. In fact, I was certain of it.
"Why do virtually all men's online dating profiles emphatically disavow drama?" I asked my date one evening. He responded that not all drama was good, and that there were some women out there who were carrying around excess emotional baggage, and what was worse, they were often indiscriminate in their projection of said baggage. "Well, maybe the cumulative effect of years of men's emotional unavailability coupled with their unceremonious departures results in said emotional baggage, which then causes some women to become drama queens. Did you ever think of that?" I responded to this man on our first (and last) date.
Most of the women I know have spent the bulk of their lives in search of some magical relationship formula that promises a lifetime of lasting love. The formula that most women seem to have settled on, and that's supported by about 500 of our favorite romantic comedies, involves the rather traditional notion that men are by nature, hunters, and the nicer a woman is, and the more available, the more bored a man gets in a he's-just-not-that-into-you sort of way.
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This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.