In the past four months I've had three men break up with me. The first suddenly realized he wasn't in the right "head space" for a relationship. The second didn't give me a reason. When I asked for a better explanation, he said he would get back to me. I'm still waiting. The third, in an email I received this morning, wrote that he "didn't know" if he wanted to continue seeing me -- after three dates, each of which seemed to increase in intensity -- and that I didn't have that "extra level of indefinable," that apparently he was also looking for. If he can't define it, how will he know when he's found it?
Two years ago, I left San Francisco for the East Coast, and with it, I left a California state of mind. Dating in the foggy Bay Area was easier, perhaps even a bit more fun. These guys proffered more then an hour between work and taking the A-train home. When I traded them in for New Yorkers, I assumed it would be for men with strong minds and serious careers -- men who knew what they wanted. But I'm beginning to wonder if I didn't know how good I had it...
When I go out with men in New York (all via various forms of online dating), I ask them what they are looking for. The first two assured me that they wanted something that was meaningful. The first told me he was definitely looking for a "companion." Companion made it sound like he was looking for a gray-haired old lady to sit with on a park bench, but I believed him when he said he meant a long-term partner. The second said he wanted someone to share his life with, and he confidently said he had time for that. When I asked the third guy what he was looking for, he replied that he was looking for "what everyone else is looking for." That didn't answer my question and raised a few alarms. He was 41 and had never been in a relationship longer than six months, yet he had lived in the same fabulous apartment in Greenpoint for fifteen years. He came off as a bolter for sure.
Why are these men on dating sites if they aren't prepared to date someone longer than a few weeks? Why do men break things off when they're "not sure" or before they've even seen me in the daylight?
But, OK, I suppose I should be looking inward. What am I doing wrong? How can I change what by now seems like a predestined outcome? How can I break my pattern of disappointment? How can I find someone who realizes how great I am AND wants to stay with me longer than it takes to make out three times?
My mom recently texted me this tidbit: "Heard on CNN this morning that Martha Stewart is on Match.com. Wants to find a man." You and me both, Martha. When I got Mom's message, I spent a few long minutes wondering if Martha would go through the same aches and pains I was going through. Would a man text Martha after their first date to tell her he had an amazing time? Would he ask her back to his place after their first date, and then nod with understanding when she said she didn't want to move too fast? Would he dare tell Martha that he just wasn't feeling it? Am I foolish enough to think that Martha will have to operate under the same dating laws that I do?
After an early date with guy #1, he sent me this text message: "Want to go back to the moment you said wowwwww because that sums it up for me too. Hope you had a good meal and a good night's sleep. You are such a beautiful woman and a sweet person and there are many other great things about you such as your work ethic, frequent attendance of literary events and bravery and vulnerability."
Apparently, my frequent attendance of literary events wasn't enough to keep him hooked.
After my first date with guy #2, he sent me this text message: "Wow. I'm a photographer Larissa, so I don't have the capacity to describe my experiences in words very well but as for tonight, all I can say is 'Wow!' Good night."
Apparently, I wasn't wow enough to last past the fourth date.
The third guy wasn't as verbose with his emotions, but each time he saw me, he wrapped his hand around my waist and pulled me in close to his body so that no light could pour through the space between our bodies. In Bikram yoga they have a joke about a pose where you need to glue your torso to your legs, tight, they say, "Like a Japanese ham sandwich." I don't know what it means, but that's how close we were. Was this his way of showing me he wasn't sure about things? When he kissed me it was with such passion that I sometimes felt his teeth. Was that his way of telling me I was lacking in the aforementioned indefinable?
These three men all had potential, but I don't know how much was possible because they all ended before they had truly gotten off the ground floor of dating. Guy #1 saw my apartment in the Lower East Side, but I didn't see his. He could have been a hoarder or collected Star Wars action figures. I saw Guy #2's apartment in Brooklyn Heights, but he didn't see mine. For what it matters, and it doesn't, I really liked it. Guy #3 saw my apartment on our last date. Was it too nice, too clean, too something? Maybe he didn't like me because I had furniture that was bought somewhere other than IKEA?
I saved the first guys name in my iPhone, along with his contact information. Every once in a while, I'll scroll down through my text messages. When I see his name I'll remember our dates in a flash of pain. After guy #1, I stopped saving their names. Following this new strategy, Guy #2 and guy #3 are logged by their phone number alone, and are only memorable by their area codes: (718) and (917) respectively. Soon, I will delete all of these men, but not yet.
I wonder if Martha will feel like she has to lie about her age? I'm 41 years old, and frequently have occasions where I consider lopping a few years off my age so that I can be "under 40." Will it help me out there in the rough world of online dating if I am 38 or 39? I consider the odds of that helping (not much -- I probably need to be at least 34 for it to really help), and then decide against it.
Friends suggest I am too strong for my own good, and that this "strength" is intimidating to men. It seems clear that men are attracted to me, and I have a hard time believing that they're running away because I can take care of myself. That can't be it. (Please don't let that be it.) It's hard not to go down the path of thinking I have to somehow change in order to find a man that wants to be with me long term.
This topic of change is an interesting one. While I crave new experiences -- and don't run from scary ideas (like moving to New York for graduate school), I also look forward to having a kitchen I can cook in, a desk I can write at and a comfortable bed to sleep in. I'd rather change for a man that I've met than the man I have yet to meet.
Home is where my heart is, and right now, my heart is in New York. But it's also getting a bit pummeled in this big city, and what I want to know is this: Should I continue to hold out for a man out there who is ready to be with me for longer than a few dates, a few weeks, a few months? If they are out there -- and I really want to believe that they are -- then I want them to know that both Martha and I are available.