Monday, January 24, 2005

I've been divorced a little over six years now.
In the first two years following the divorce, I had a (small) flurry of wildly romantic and ill-fated dating experiences. You could call that my refinement phase I guess, eliminating various scenarios from the "I can live with that compatibly" list. Here's a couple of things I crossed off:

Self-esteem deprivation
Constant reruns of their past
Married but not happy
Controlling with answers for everything
All talk, no listen
All listen, no talk
Lacking capability for physical or emotional intimacy
Angry at the world/victim complex
Mortally wounded and/or dependent on numbing agents
Overly materialistic

I don't think the list is particularly unreasonable. I guess I should add dumber than dirt and bigoted/narrow-minded have always been obvious no-gos.
I would suppose that leaves a whole lot of possible candidates, and given that I am intelligent, emotionally healthy, stable, witty and generous, you'd think that finding a partner would be just a matter of dating enough.

So I'm frustrated. Because it does seem that finding a partner should just be a matter of dating enough, and I've done a lot of dating in the last four years. Enough so that I've gotten my hopes up many times, to find that no matter how good the odds seemed, the outcome is unpredictable. Which comes down to a shift in my thinking over the last year (a question elck posed last week, which I am late to answering.)

I used to think if I did the right thing, I'd find the right person.
Now I have come to think that finding the right person has no rationale, no luck, no formula, no odds associated with it at all. I would bet money that every day when I walk out my door, I have even odds of finding a viable candidate. That tomorrow's odds, whether I change jobs, go to a church, lose weight, join a club, go to a bar, spend time on a hobby I love, take a class, talk to friends, smile at a crossing guard are no different than Friday's odds, when I try out the internet ads, volunteer in the community, dig up my dahlia bulbs, take my dog to the dog park, help coach my son's baseball team, change my hairstyle, dress up, flirt in the produce section. It is just flat out random.
That is different than saying I don't think it can or will happen - I'm not so much cynical about it, as I am cynical that analyzing or trying to control it will make any difference other than making me crazy.

Nonetheless, I feel perfectly reasonable in seeking, wanting a relationship in my life. I suppose my odds are slightly lower if I become reclusive or become desperate, but beyond that, I dare you to tell me which route guarantees success, and I can tell you which route wasn't snow plowed when I got there.

So I have a list of things I'd rather not be told. I know how hopefully intentioned these statements are meant to be, but each of them whispers: "If you do the right thing, it will happen." I guess I sort of relate to the bloggers who are dealing with infertility, who get tired of people recommending prayer. Recommending diets and herbs and postures and they do all that stuff and still, no baby. Recommending adoption, as if some God was trying to push them in that direction (My son is adopted and it is wonderful but I'd never presume it was the way another person was destined to build their family.) Recommending acceptance, which seems to ignore all the heartbreak that goes with the situation of longing for something that just seems to not happen.

My really well meaning co-worker stopped me after a lunch out with a friend last week, hopefully asking if he was a new prospect. Don't I wish! But I tell her he's married, a good friend, and when she asks if there is anyone special right now I tell her no. Her response was "Maybe it's right there in front of you and you just haven't seen it yet". Which is the flip side of the other usual comment I get: "Maybe if you stopped looking." Or if I don't talk about looking, "Maybe you aren't getting out there enough." The thing is, you can't closet-quarterback love when the ball hasn't even entered play yet. One more that makes me crazy: "Maybe you need to love yourself more first." Oh my gosh, so I need to move into full fledged narcissism before someone's going to find me attractive? Nah, I think I'm fine. Enough so that I think I'm worth someone good. I don't think that flies.

This is what I wish people would say if the topic of my latest (insert: bad date, lack of date, nearly right date, excruciating date, let-down date) came up:

"That sucks Susan, it's great you keep trying." Then, if I had a blank check, I'd ask for a hug. The kind of hug that hangs on an extra second or two and says things that are too difficult to say like "I know it is depressing to get into bed alone every night" or "hang in there, odds are even on your chances tomorrow" or "don't worry, I'll be here for the next seven rolls of the dice" or "damn, I'm sure glad I found someone because I'd hate doing what you're doing."

I am awfully glad I'm in such good company though. I find it terrifically reassuring, if at the same time sad, that Leslee is facing the same thing. She's a catch. Someone's got to figure that out SOON.

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