So you know what’s fun? Dating after being in a relationship for almost thirteen years. Am I being sarcastic with that comment? By “fun” do I mean “more terrifying than anything I’ve ever done including chilling with the fine-looking 220 lb albino python you see above”? Am I simply writing down a shit-ton of rhetorical questions in order to avoid getting to the meat of this post?
YES, friends! Oh hell yes, to all of it.
When the knowledge first started sinking in, in early January, that I was single again (Single! ONE person! No relationship!) I was bewildered, confused and deeply afraid of this brave new world I was embarking upon.
Have you ever watched those videos of animals that have lived their whole lives in labs or testing facilities as they discover the outdoors for the first time? Typically these animals are rescued by well-meaning hippies of some sort or another and then trucked in crates to a bucolic field where they are re-introduced to their wild selves.
The cage door swings open and the animal stares at it with wide eyes, blinking into the bright sunlight. After a few moments, they begin gingerly sniffing around the edges of the opening, and after a few more they take their first tentative steps out of the cage. Those first few steps are incredible to watch – you can see them devouring this feast of new sensory information – the smell of fresh air, the warmth of the sun, the sensation of grass between their toes. You can see their minds being overloaded by this input until they simply give up trying to understand it or analyze it and wholly give themselves over to it instead. Something deeper and more innate takes over and they begin to run and gambol and play. It somehow all comes back to them and overwrites those years of pain and captivity, even for those who have never experienced it before.
It’s really incredible to see, and I would by lying if I said I don’t cry baaaaasically every time I watch one of these videos. I think at this point it’s clear what comparison I am drawing, yes? Those terrified animals are ME, internets. They are me. I am them. We are one.
It’s been seven months since things fell apart. I’m not sure I am quite at the “cavorting blissfully through the fields” stage yet, but I am definitely past the terrified, suspicious phase, and so far I am wholeheartedly enjoying my ginger first steps into this brave new dating world.
I have a funny story to tell you, but first let’s address the elephant in the room: This is a really strange thing to write about, given the history here, and the last thing I’m want to do is throw dudes under the weight of this blog and its years of words.
There won’t be any names or details, and this isn’t going to turn into a diary about the people I am seeing. That said, this shit is ridiculous. And me dating is even more ridiculous. You guys have been with me through the darkest days, how can I deny you the joy of laughing at me as I try to figure this shit out?
So, a small story then.
About a month ago I went on a date. A DAAATE. I feel exactly fourteen years old saying that. (Is there a different word I can be using? You guys would tell me, right?) We met at a coffee shop one sunny Saturday afternoon and then spent a few hours talking and meandering through a nearby park. He knew a bit of my backstory from previous conversations, but when we met in person he was taller than I expected and cuter than I expected and then, as we were standing in line waiting for our drinks, he looked over at me and grinned.
“What? No!” I said, too quickly, and then immediately recanted. “Yes. Okay. I am a bit nervous.”
He laughed, “Madeleine, when was the last time you went on a date?”
I swallowed, audibly. “Umm…never?” I mumbled under my breath.
He stared at me, “Seriously?”
I started laughing, and maaaaaybe couldn’t stop for an awkwardly long time. Like, oh my god of COURSE, seriously! Can you not see this sweaty, jorts-clad mess standing here in front of you? Does this wild-eyed expression look like the face of an experienced dater to you?! I am a caged beagle! I AM A CAGED BEAGLE.
I had been with Olive’s dad since I was 18 years old, and at that age “dates” are nonexistent, the closest thing I had to dates were loud bar introductions which gradually evolved into a sloppy sort of couple-dom. So no, I hadn’t really dated. Ever.
Luckily, this man was very sweet about it and we finally got our drinks and started the meandering. Our conversation flowed freely and we started feeling out the overlapping paths of our interests (books! yoga! vegetarianism!) and slowly began the process of spreading our history out in front of us like archeologists poring over ancient artifacts.
And I have to say, although at this point y’all know that I have exactly nothing to base this evaluation on because my sample size is still developing, as first dates go I think this one was pretty much A+. My nerves evaporated after those first strange few minutes and I started really enjoying myself.
That night, reflecting on the day, I began thinking what an unbelievably cool thing this is. All of these experiences that I thought were past me, shelved, have now opened up again. The nervous anticipation, the butterflies, the first kisses – and even just getting to know people, and go do interesting things you might not otherwise do…how cool is this?And without the pressure of husband-hunting it doesn’t feel like a mission or an interview process, it just feels, remarkably, like fun.