What a loaded topic to start out the week with…
Firstly, I’d like to say w e l c o m e b a c k after your extended spring weekend. I don’t know where *yinz* were for it, but it was absolutely beautiful in Pittsburgh. How beautiful? Well, I left my car’s sunroof open all day on Easter and it torrential down-poured for a solid hour. The worst part? I completely threw my instinct out the fucking window when I had a gut feeling that I hadn’t closed it.
It’s not only about less-important things that I throw instinct to the wind, things like I probably shouldn’t have a third Old Fashioned or thirty Starbursts is probably twenty too far, but also more important things like dating. And the problem with dating is that it takes a lot of personal and heavier bits of you that came before this person to create how you are as a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/husband/wife/insert-whatever-you-self-identify-with-here.
What are you getting at, Vaughn?
Today while I was getting my usual vanilla latte at my favorite coffee place, the barista brought up dating and how it’s hard to actually figure what in the hell to do with it or even find someone. Mr. Barista, you are incredibly and completely 100% right.
I’m going to focus on dating from my own level, though. And I will readily admit that I hesitated on writing this article because this could open a can of worms that absolutely cannot be sealed back shut. But that’s why I’m writing this blog, isn’t it? To be fiercely truthful and open with you. Can’t do that without talking about the hard stuff! So. Here goes nothing.
For dating, I only think back to 2012 because dating in high school does not count. I dated girls in high school. Shocker, right? I thought my valiant effort was cute.
We gays have this ‘magical’ app called Grindr that divides our community into a few sections: the ones who judge you for using it, the ones who judge you for it but use it themselves, the ones who are in the middle ground that utilize it casually, and the ones who are very fluid in the Grindr-verse. I will be honest about this, but it’s primarily used for hookups, which I’m sure only the people not well-versed in our culture norms would not know, but now you do. And that begins my dating life.
Back in 2012, coming out of a very sheltered experience through high school, how else is an eighteen-year-old supposed to meet guys/friends/etc? Remember my blog about making friends? I was still the same awkwardly shy person then as I am now. Grindr streamlined the meeting process and allowed an opaque wall to be put up that I could learn about someone from afar and then maybe meet them in person if things felt normal. I made some interesting and questionable life choices during this exploration phase, with all this newfound freedom and no one to tell me to be cautious. Unlike some, I shook myself out of this stage with a boyfriend that ended up being an exhausting two-year-too-long toxic fiasco.
One of my oldest and really close friends, back from my Starbucks Barista days, asked me last night during our unplanned boxed wine night:
“What happened to you? I always looked at you for your strength and confidence. It’s just not there anymore..”
I was genuinely surprised and flattered at the fact he looked to me for confidence but it followed with a dull ache that I just couldn’t shake, even now writing this. Where did it go? And why did I never see myself as how he saw me?
I won’t place blame on any sole person, but being in a mentally abusive and destructive relationship for so long where, truly, we both made terrible mistakes, I do blame those two years for the fall of the guy I used to be. Especially when that relationship was the first real taste of actually loving someone. It is not my place to speak where his problems hide. The problems with me, though, hide inside my overly accepting personality, my uncanny ability to make excuses for behavior that any normal person shouldn’t and/or wouldn’t accept, and a half-lived social-phase I think every gay person should experience before starting to seriously date. I physically cannot help giving too many chances; it’s built into my hardware and, even though it causes a lot of pain most times, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Finally and thankfully so, when I was away from him for an extended period of time, a blast of self-worth and confidence hit me in the face and I decided to be rightfully selfish and end it.
Nothing is more powerful and more freeing than realizing your self worth. It’s stronger than any man or woman, stronger than any love/lover or random hookup.
Figuring out how to casually date again
was is an absolute nightmare. I still don’t have a handle on it. It comes with the same doubt and endless apologies for feelings and things that I became familiar with being wrong when, in reality, they weren’t wrong at all. Fear was one of those feelings that I still, to this day, am apologizing for.
Talking about fear takes me back to a quote from my one of my favorite authors, Veronica Roth. “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.”
I will hesitantly but openly admit I’ve totally used this during a late-night heart-to-heart with someone I barely know but feel very strongly for. But isn’t fear how dating begins?
Fear of the unknown and uncertain? Fear of making the wrong choice and having to pick up the pieces on your own? Whether you’ve been in a personality-crushing relationship or not, whether you were divorced once/twice/three or twelve times, whether you’ve never felt the exhilarating rush of throwing instinct to the wind and showing yourself without the walls, whether you have done so and it worked or you were left to pick up the pieces once again; it always begins with fear.
Patience keeps dating alive and thriving. It’s a cycle of gives and takes until trust is built and you can walk with someone that makes your series of life-crises feel not so terrible or crushing. Where you can share both good and bad. Where they can take you for who you are and reassure your sense of being enough.
This is part one of many because I have, in no capacity, figured this complicated web. I don’t think anyone has completely figured out dating. There are so many different kinds of people out there in the world who have dealt with endless heartbreak, hurt, soul-crushing relationships, and almost everyone has had to pick up the pieces by themselves again. If there is anything I could tell you, reader, and definitely make a solid attempt to listen to my own advice, it would be this.
Any concentration of fear will be inherently weaker than any amount of regret of a choice not taken.
So be open with him/her, throw instinct to the wind and be yourself. It’s not easy, but it can’t rain forever, and the interior of your “car” will dry, just as my physical car finally had (thank goodness). You will find that person that stays no matter how crazy/doubtful/scared you are. Chances are, you both are scared and that is okay. Be scared together. Be open together. Even if it’s hard, trust them until they give you reason not to. And never stop learning about each other.
We’ve made it this far, guys. What else do we have to lose?
Song: Haze, by Amber Run.