I drove south on the expressway, my stomach in knots. I was sweating profusely and fully prepared to pull over at any given moment if my overwhelming urge to vomit actually came to fruition. I was going on my first date in…ever, really. I was scared shitless.
I started dating my ex when I was 18 years old. Prior to that, I’d had a steady stream of boyfriends since the age of 14. I wasn’t exactly primed and ready for the mid-twenties dating scene. Truthfully, I was indignant at the prospect of dating in general. But dammit, I was going to do this. If only to prove to myself that I could.
It was late-July. We’d met at a cafe inside a quaint bookstore. I noticed him at the counter as I sat quietly nursing a chai latte and reading yet another memoir. As I glanced up from the pages of my book, we locked eyes and exchanged smiles. He walked toward me, coffee in hand, and asked if he could sit. After several minutes of pleasant conversation, he asked for my number…
Just kidding. We met on Tinder. Because it’s the 21st century and apparently people don’t approach one another organically anymore. But damn, that would have been a perfect “meet cute.”
In any event, a friend dared me to try Tinder and after a few glasses of wine one evening, I decided to give it a whirl.
It took approximately seven minutes before I lost all faith in humanity. “Connections” established, the smut started rolling in like a bad 1998 chat room. I couldn’t believe some of the things I was reading…one guy simply sent an obscene photo of his junk and an address. I shit you not. I know, I know. It’s Tinder. But still – I. Was. Shocked.
Ready to erase the app and, lord willing, my memory of the entire ordeal, I received another message. It read something like, ‘Hi Brittany! I’m glad to have connected with you. Are you enjoying your evening?’
I won’t bore you with the details. Long story short, he wasn’t a creep. In fact, he was a really sweet guy. We chatted for a bit before exchanging numbers and after a few days of texting, we started talking on the phone. I successfully procrastinated for several weeks until finally, I agreed to go on the date.
My guts were in my throat as I approached him standing outside the restaurant. He saw me, we smiled, we hugged, and on the evening went. It was pleasant enough…there were no lulls in conversation or awkward silences. I do, however, remember feeling an ache for something more familiar. It was just too soon for me.
When dinner was over, we walked around downtown. He retrieved flowers from his car, which I thought was incredibly sweet. He walked me to mine and we kissed. A really good kiss, too. Thanks, Tinder.
So there it was. My one and only official date in 15 months of single-dom. Thankfully, he turned out to be a pretty decent friend and we keep in touch sporadically. It was enough to prove to myself that I could do it…I could date if I wanted to. I simply didn’t want to.
I told you that story to tell you this story: the reason I’ve decided not to date.
I recently traveled to Nashville to spend time with one of my favorite humans – my soul sister. Typical of spending any length of time in her company, I left with inspiration galore. Several years ago, she went through a bad breakup. During that time, she created a list of all the qualities she hoped to find in a partner one day. Years went by, she entered a new relationship…that list all but forgotten. In preparation for a move, she was cleaning out her room and found the list. She couldn’t believe how closely her now-boyfriend resembled the qualities she’d hoped to find years before they connected. She encouraged me to do the same.
I started my “want” list at the airport on my way home. It was more difficult than I originally anticipated and I was suddenly struck by the realization that in over a decade of dating, I’d never given this much thought.
“What do I want in a partner?” It’s a heavy question.
I took the project seriously…writing specifically and purposefully. He began taking shape with every swipe of my pen, this hypothetical man.
I started feeling hopeful — perhaps this person exists somewhere out in the world and maybe, just maybe, he’s writing a list about me.
Whoa. Pump the brakes. Hold the phone.
A list about me?
It hit me like a mack truck. Surely the man I described wouldn’t be interested in my hot mess. I mean that quite literally. I am still, in many many ways, a complete wreck. I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know where I want to live. On a good day, I feel like a 20-year-old still trying to pick a major.
That’s when I decided to flip the script and add another layer to this project. Screw dating. Screw the dream man. The only thing I knew for sure was I had WORK to do.
I thought I knew why I’d decided to stay single…to “work on myself” (says every single person in the history of ever). But until I started writing about my ideal partner, I hadn’t considered writing about my ideal me.
I started a new list immediately.
She began taking shape with every swipe of my pen, this best-version Brittany. I fell in love with her on paper. I couldn’t wait to start putting in the work. She is confident and assured. She is goal-oriented and focused. She’s spiritually fulfilled…an adventurer and brave and content. She practices healthy habits and maintains a sense of balance. On and on and on it went. I wrote more specifically, of course, but those are some of the qualities I realized with unabashed honesty I wanted to improve.
The truth is, I spent a year telling people I wasn’t dating because “I wanted time to be single and work on myself.” I didn’t have the vaguest idea what that actually meant. The truth…the ugly and pathetic truth…is that anyone interested in the “me” I’d become, is someone I wouldn’t want anyway.
If you’ve never taken the time, I strongly encourage you to make a list of the qualities you want in a partner. Single, dating, engaged, or married…I believe this exercise is warranted and powerful. Write that list.
I would encourage you to take it one step further. Ask yourself if you’d pass your own test. Are you worthy of the qualities you seek?
Perhaps more importantly, I encourage you to describe your ideal self. On paper. With ink. Write it with specificity and intensity and passion and resolve. What does your ideal-self look like? I promise, you’ll be surprised what pours from the inner-most honest portion of your soul.
I’m thankful for my first date. It was soft and gracious proof that I can do it if I want to…and it won’t be terrible. I’m thankful for the encounters I’ve experienced as a single person. I’m not interested in dating. I’m not not interested in dating. My primary focus, however, remains selfishly on my own list. I hope to continue in relentless pursuit…my best-self on the horizon.
Single or not, isn’t that the best any of us can do?