Huffpost Divorce
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Deborah Coonts Headshot

Deep In a Shallow World

Posted: Updated:

I'm just not a casual sex kind of gal.

Which is sort of a problem. Newly re-single, older by decades than the last time I swam in the dating pool, I now live in Las Vegas, where the length of a relationship iThes generally measured in hours. A long-term gal in a short-term world. So, how does one find deep in the shallow end?

Certainly not in the local watering holes. A few glasses of wine and all the men seem to look better. While it might be fun, the last thing I need right now is to kiss another toad expecting him to turn into a prince. Been there, done that, bought the tee shirt.

And, to be honest, my luck sorta runs the other way -- I find an apparent prince paddling around the dating pool only to discover he's, well, really comfortable in the shallow end.
They say a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing expecting a different result. Yup, I'm a dating fool.

Something needed to change. I needed to change. A daunting task considering I've been me for a very long time. But, you see, that's where I was wrong -- sort of. Let me explain.

I'm a fairly logical thinker, so my first step on the path through this morass of human interaction was a drink with a local shrink. He explained to me that most of us treat dating as a game. Perhaps unwittingly, but we all do it. When confronted with a new relationship, we all try to put on our best faces. We trot out our best manners, we accommodate, we facilitate, we supplicate to the detriment of what we want and feel, of who we really are.

As a result, the first part of a relationship is like a Cary Grant movie -- a handsome man with a great . . . laugh track . . . and free-flowing Champagne. But, eventually the movie ends and you're left with a scruffy Cary Grant with morning breath, scratching places even baseball players don't touch, no clever dialogue, no real mutuality of interests or values, and a pounding Champagne hangover -- okay, I could still handle Cary Grant like that -- for a little while. Bad analogy, but you get my drift.

Reality rears its ugly head. You're in bed with a stranger. And it isn't him. Okay, maybe it is him, but it's also you.

Oh, the games people play -- with each other, yes, but mostly with our selves. We pretend in order to perpetuate the fantasy. This is called the masking effect -- and apparently it can last for the first eighteen months or so.

That got me thinking. Did I do that? I certainly didn't intend to present a different me than the me I wanted to be. But, come to think of it . . . Heck, I was raised in the South -- I might as well have "co-dependent" tattooed on my butt. Pleasing others, elevating the needs of others, putting myself waaay down the list, is part of my genetic coding.

So, if I'm hiding me, how can I dare hope for the kind of relationship I dream of -- one of mutual respect? Yes, yes, along with all the other stuff.

I needed to get real. The world isn't a Cary Grant movie and I better quit scripting the parts -- especially my own. No more pretending to be a pretty pin-up content to play second fiddle. No more going along in order to keep the peace. No more putting up and shutting up. No more hiding the fact that I have a brain stuck in overdrive -- an insatiable curiosity. My career and my dreams are as important as anybody else's. In short, I turned me free. Heck, if I couldn't like myself, my real self, who else would?

Unmuzzled and unshackled, I began living the life I imagined.

I also quit worrying about the whole dating thing and began to enjoy my own company. I hadn't spent quality alone-time with me in, well, in forever. And, while I can be a pain in the ass, I'm not all that bad.

Several months into my relationship with me, I had taken myself to the gym, as usual. This particular day, the gym was quiet. Pounding out miles on the treadmill, I was alone except for two guys on ellipticals behind me. They chatted about work, and I couldn't help but eavesdrop -- stories are my life's work. Call it professional interest. Right.

Apparently one of the guys taught at the local college and he was waxing poetic about a website called Rate Your Professor. Much to his delight, some of his students had not only given him high marks, but had also awarded him chili peppers -- evidence of his "hotness".

As I stepped off the treadmill, he said to his friend, "Can you believe it? They think I'm hot."

Call it oxygen deprivation, or an inability to resist swinging at a hanging curveball, but I stopped, looked him up and down, and said, "They're not the only ones."

He turned bright red. I wanted to crawl in a hole. I figured he'd turn and run the next time he saw me. I was wrong.

We're engaged. We've made it through more than eighteen months and we still laugh, love books and movies, travel, and sharing life. And he's still hot.

So, find yourself, like yourself. The right guy will show up and like you, too -- the real you.

© 2011 Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff