Love is important to me. Believing in love is important to me. I read an article some time ago (which I have just spent a futile 45 minutes searching for, so I could hyperlink it) written by a man who found the love of his life. (1/18/16: I FOUND IT!) He described how he treated dating like a job. He went balls out on his search, asking every woman he met on a date. Women he met at the library, at the coffee shop, in the elevator. It was inspirational. In June, I ended a 3 year relationship. It was heavy. Families and rings were involved. It was beautiful. He’s a good man. But it wasn’t right, and we weren’t happy. 3 months ago I put myself back out on the dating scene. Since September, I’ve test driven all the dating apps, Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel being the ones that work best for me. I skipped the online eHarmony/Okay Cupid sitch, because I didn’t have the energy to create those long, extended profiles. Taking a page from this man’s book, I began my job hunt. I logged onto Tinder and CMB at least twice a day. My M.O. for swiping right on a guy was he had to have a picture that made him look like a normal human being and he had to have a profile that made him seem like a normal human being. If a guy messaged, and wasn’t creepy, I always messaged him back. If he asked me out, and wasn’t creepy, I always said yes. I’ve had a hodge podge of experiences since then, and quite honestly a lot of them have been great. What hasn’t been great is the rejection.
What I’m finding is that getting used to rejection is the same as building up a muscle. Some days, I want to wallow around in the pain of it. Like really, really wallow. But I can’t. Because I have a job to find.
Since September, there have been 3 people who have touched my heart. Each of these relationships (a term I use loosely) progressed to varying degrees of both physical and emotional affection. Within a few weeks of us seeing each other, each of them stopped calling/texting. I don’t know why. To be honest, it’s not my business. “We were so good together,” my brain would say. Bullshit. Relationships are co-constructed. If they didn’t feel I was right for them, then that’s it. There is no we. A fortune cookie moral I frequently have to repeat, when my brain gets hyperactive on the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s. I still think about them, because I’m a fixator and my brain does that. It can be hard to let go when you feel it wasn’t finished. It’s hard not to look at their Facebook profiles, taking note of all the activities they’re doing instead of calling me. But that’s the point. They’re doing other things. Instead of calling me. Peace.
After each fizzle, I use two rituals to bring me back to center. The first is to reflect on all the things I have gained. These have been good men. Each of them have gifted me with some new insight, a new angle of being. Raul*, the labor organizer. He reminded me of how important it is to harness activism with deep, resonant compassion. That love is key to effecting change. He was also one of the best first dates I’ve ever had. I’m thankful for that. Then there was Jamal*. Being with him was like being at a sunset on a perfectly warm, perfectly calm, perfectly perfect beach. One time we talked on the phone for 6 hours, from 11 pm to 5 am. He made my heart feel like high school. We slept together on a Sunday afternoon, which led into a Sunday evening, and an early Monday morning. There are the fucks you have to forget. And then there are the fucks that ask you to remember. Jamal was one of these. He asked me to remember the power of touch. How it heals. How it opens. He asked me to remember the way I love, deeply and freely. I am SO thankful for that. Most recently, there was a man whom I will call Marvel*. So named because this man was and is a marvel. Easily one of the Holy Grails of men. A rockstar feminist, a goofball, and a man who is the perfect counterpart to this woman. (Click the link; it’s SO good.) I learned more with him in two weeks than I did in two semesters of grad school. I learned:
- Solace over escapism. As a woman who cares about the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of trauma and injustice that exists. When that happens, my tendency has been to seek release through escape (shitty music, shitty TV, more shitty music). Marvel introduced me to the idea of taking solace in how much I care. Because I don’t want to care less. I want to care more. And I want to care better. Escaping won’t help me do that.
- On that note, I learned to monitor when I am using substances to escape versus facilitate. There’s still a place for alcohol in my life, as there is for Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj. The trick is asking myself, when am I using these substances to get away from something, to avoid a feeling of pain versus when am I using them to really enjoy and live life to the fullest?
- I learned to love my body better. This is a big one. Remember how I said this man was a feminist? Hardcore. All the way down to thinking my moustache and chin hairs were sexy. (What??) Yeah. HOLY GRAIL. My acne scars, my decidedly Sri Lankan hair, the lines and folds that my fat makes around my hips. He celebrated them. This reflection gently steered me to a way of loving myself better.
- The weird, no-holds-barred freak in me has a place to be. Marvel is the first man I’ve been with, probably since my first boyfriend, who really invited her to exist. Our conversations and interactions around sex normalized and helped ground who I am, without pressure or judgment.
The second ritual I perform is a reflection on all the red flags. They’re almost always there, the writing on the wall if you’re willing to read. With Raul, it was that odd thing he did the first time we slept together. With Jamal, it was when he messaged me in the middle of the night to tell me how beautiful I was, without expressing any interest in hanging out. With Marvel, it was when I left his place in the morning, and he kissed me goodbye. Without walking me to my car. Without walking me to the door. Without even getting out of bed. Those red flags are the best. I want to get better at acknowledging them in the moment rather than in retrospect.
There have been other things that have helped me clear the rejection blues, but I am going to include them in Pt. 2. Trying to find love is painful. But so what? Love is the best. Love is worth more than my pride. Love is worth more than my comfort zone. When it comes to this life’s quest for love, this girl give no fx.
*All names have been altered to protect the stellar.