In high school (and earlier), I was completely boy crazy. I was never without at least one crush. Looking back, it was kind of pathetic and I'm embarrassed of some of the methods I deployed to try and get certain boys to notice me. I can't change any of it, and I suppose I wouldn't even if I could. Those experiences happened for a reason. Or reasons. Many of which are yet to be seen.
I spent a lot of my 20s searching for a guy to date. I tried meeting guys through friends. I tried online dating (so much online dating). I once even tracked down a cute firefighter after seeing him at the scene of car accident I went out to cover for the newspaper. I had some good times along the way, but I never found a relationship. It was frustrating and discouraging.
As I entered my 30s, I continued my search. Even when I said I was giving up, I didn't. I couldn't. My hopeless romantic heart wouldn't let me. But I began to feel like it was less and less of a likelihood that I would find someone who wanted more than a few dates. Who wanted a relationship. And I worried about if/when I did find that someone, how would I explain to him why I'd never been in a relationship before. Would he think that was weird? Would he think there was something wrong with me (a few "friends" warned me of this)?
I'm in a relationship now, and as I continue to navigate this new territory, I've taken some time to think about my past and how I got here. And I have some solid ideas as to why I needed to stay single so long.
:: I needed to be confident enough to make my own choices.
In the past, I know I would have worried about the opinions of those around me. I would have analyzed everything about him and tried to guess what my friends and family would think. I'm not saying the opinions of my loved ones don't matter. They do. But I think I would have discounted someone in the past over one perceived flaw or a non-committal comment from a friend. Now, I would listen but ultimately make the right choice for me.
:: I had to give up the idea of being perfect.
For a long time, I held this belief that I wouldn't, couldn't, or shouldn't find someone until everything about my life was perfect -- my job, my finances, my appearance, etc. It was very limiting. And maybe a bit of a self-defense mechanism indicating I just wasn't ready for a relationship. Either way, I know now that none of those things I listed will ever be perfect. They'll just be what they are -- parts of who I am but not the definition of who I am.
:: I needed to let go of the idea of romance as it is portrayed by Hollywood.
Connections don't always look like like they do in movies. Love songs capture one person's feelings about another. But that doesn't mean everyone feels what's described. And love at first sight sounds exciting but isn't realistic (especially for someone as overly analytical as I am). Sometimes the girl gets the guy, but he isn't the one she ever expected. This all sounds negative and cynical, but it's really not. I'm starting to realize real-life meet cutes (totally stole that term from "The Holiday") are far more interesting than the ones we see on TV or in movies or books.
:: I had to find myself.
This was the biggest thing. I spent so many years disliking myself -- my body, my quirks, etc. I had to get to a place where I didn't just love myself, but actually liked who I am. There's a huge difference. And I'm apparently a slow learner, so this took a lot of work. And I'm still working on it. I probably always will be. But I'm in a much much better place now than I was one year, five years, or 10 years ago.
I've never been someone who could date just for the sake of dating. When I choose to spend time with someone, it's because I think it has the potential to go somewhere. And I want it to. As you can see, I had a lot of work to do on myself before I could be ready for a relationship. For the right relationship.
With this guy ...
Say "hello" to Sean.
(He occasionally reads my blog, so he will see all of your comments if you do legitimately address him.)
We met via Twitter after I tweeted in to the local radio show where he works. Our communication was solely online until the start of May when we decided to see "Book of Mormon" together. Funny enough, we didn't even sit next to each other on our first date (because we bought our tickets separately and didn't plan very well). I wasn't even sure it was a date until the end of the night. After that, I've never had a question regarding his feelings for me. He leaves no doubt. We talk every day and see each other whenever our respective crazy schedules allow. We've watched a lot of baseball together -- he's a White Sox fan, and our second date was watching our two teams play each other. We survived it pretty well. He's met a few of my friends. We went to a Tony Awards watch party in downtown Des Moines and had a blast. I never thought I'd find a guy who enjoys sports and musical theatre ... oh, and also likes me. But Sean does. He is a unicorn. Then again, a lot of people have called me that over the years as well. Maybe we're both unicorns. Pretty well-matched unicorns.
The irony of all of this is that we arranged our first date on the same day I wrote this post
and subsequently had a long conversation with close friends about my
dating hang-ups and failures. Crazy, huh? I had no idea how much my life
would change about 36 hours after that post went live.
To be honest, I was completely unprepared for him and this relationship. For those who are new to this space or me, this is the first time I've had someone call me their girlfriend since I was 18. I've been on a lot of dates in the interim, but this is the first real adult relationship for me. I'm still learning how to let him in. After so many years of being on my own and kind of giving up on finding someone, I'm more guarded than I suspected. Fortunately, he's very patient and seems to think I'm worth it. And, in my opinion, he's worth the work of letting down the walls I spent so many years building.