When I started this blog in 2004, I was single and dating. In 2008 I got married and felt happy for a while. Then I felt not so happy, and then my husband ended our marriage. Earlier this year we got divorced. So guess what it's time for now? More dating!
Thus do I join the ranks of divorced women who are "back out there." Carrie Fisher tells Bruno Kirby in When Harry Met Sally, "Please promise me I'll never be out there again." In popular culture and conventional wisdom, being single is characterized as being on the outside, as lacking a permanent relationship. It's lonely and scary and feels like a wilderness you can't find your way out of. No one wants to be there.
But in real life there are plenty of us who want to be on the outside. I'm one of them. Having run the experiment of being married and finding out how I do as a wife (not so well), I have no interest in getting hitched again. That's not to say that if Johnny Depp looked me up I wouldn't change my mind, but having just completed one marriage, I'm in no frame of mind to seek out another one. This probably puts me in a common demographic since divorced men are often more eager than divorced women to find another spouse. Men wanting marriage more than women makes sense to me. When I moved out of the apartment I shared with my husband, my list of household tasks went down. The amount of energy I put into his well being decreased and I was able to put that attention on myself. I felt the wonderful freedom of not being accountable to anyone for my time or money, of not having to buy groceries for anyone but myself, of not having to listen to anyone's radio but my own. My sleep habits were no longer influenced by someone else's work schedule. I no longer lived with the daily smell of alcohol.
There's a rule of thumb that you're not ready to date again until one month has passed for every year you were together with your ex. For me, those months were up in September. Having made the decision to be open to the possibility of dating, I feel -- well, I'm not sure. Somewhere towards the beginning of this decision there was some excitement in feeling like the world is full of possibilities. But the insecurities are also back and I'm disappointed to find that one set of difficulties has been replaced by another.
Twelve years ago my dating was hindered by my active, major depression. It made me obsessive and moody and unable to find anyone satisfactory. No one felt right, I rarely went on a second date and I became convinced that I'd never settle down. My mood disorder caused me to fixate on finding a man, and dating was an almost reflexive response to what I saw as my miserable life. But in spite of my depressive symptoms, I did well on dates. I was young and beautiful and came across as funny and charming. I disappointed many men by turning down a second invitation. I just couldn't let anyone in.
I finally fell in love with the man who would be my husband after I pulled out of that depression, and I fell for him partly because I simply decided to. I made a conscious decision to stop this bullshit and make a commitment and get that ring on my finger. In this way, I enjoyed the age-old tradition of marrying out of insecurity and low self-esteem. I truly felt some of my self-hatred lift after I got married and it hasn't been back.
Maybe not many will say this, but huge numbers of American women get married because we just can't stand to be alone any more and/or we think we'll never find anyone better than the guy who's asking. Those were pretty much my reasons, but not many women admit that, even to themselves.
These days, I manage my chronic depression much better. Now what I struggle with as I wade back into the dating pool are the more common insecurities: am I too old? Too fat? Is the game over for me because I blew it the first time? Will I ever meet anyone ever again who I can have a real, satisfying, romantic relationship with? Do I have to date wrinkled, gray, tired-looking men who look like Dads because those are the ones who are in my age group? I'm not even looking for a permanent, long-term relationship at this point. I just want to go out for a cup of tea or a meal and have a good conversation. I just want to sit across a table from a man who isn't secretly seething with resentment and buried anger towards me. Yeah. That would be really good.
I believe (hope) mine are the common fears of women who start dating again after divorce. I believe (hope) these aren't delusional insecurities that few people can understand. Frustratingly, it seems to me like when I was young and beautiful, I was psychologically unequipped for the mature relationship I pined for. I now feel much more capable of a mature relationship, but I feel old and not very attractive. I'm 48 years old and 40 pounds heavier than I was at the height my previous dating experience. I don't know where to find the party anymore and feel doubtful that there is a party waiting for me.
Before anyone concludes, "Aha! Being single and out there does suck!" I remind anyone who's been reading my blog for any length of time that my insecurities and self-loathing aren't caused by being single. They're what I struggle with in general and they were right there while I was married, too. Sometimes they're triggered by my job. Sometimes they're triggered by how well I can bend and tie my shoelaces. Sometimes they're triggered by the relationship I'm in (or not in). So it goes.
So I keep on getting up in the morning, hoping for more good than bad, and feeling the sharp distinction between me and dead people: they're done. They don't have to worry about any of this anymore.