So I’m sitting up on a Monday night at 11:00, in a house that isn’t mine, listening to a dog that also isn’t mine snore on his pillow beside the bed. I’m trying to wrap up some work, and I’m distracted by this twinge of regret I can’t quite set aside over a Stupid Thing I said in an unguarded moment while hanging out with friends over the weekend. I could write an entire encyclopedia set of all the Stupid Things I’ve said in unguarded moments, so it’s not like this is anything new. It’s just that in this particular instance I’ve had a revelation.
The revelation has occurred during the process of an internal dialogue I’ve been carrying on with my better self over the course of this evening.
Sweetheart (my better self says condescendingly to my unguarded self), Sweetheart, you can’t go ’round saying to men, “I hate dating” and then wonder what you’re still doing being single.
I’m just being open and honest, my unguarded self retorts.
But of course, we both know–my better self and I–that this isn’t quite true. Open, indeed. Honest? Well, halfway.
Dating as a topic of conversation seems to come up a lot in my friend circle. Maybe it’s a Freudian slip, since so few of us actually are dating, and we’re certainly not dating one another. Now I know full well, when I’m in social settings, that the wise and prudent course would be for me to put a lid on it and change the subject when I “can’t say nuthin’ nice.” Instead I end up going on and on and on. And on. Until I fall into all sorts of hyperbole and heightening-of-situations-for-effect, and I’m saying all sorts of things I don’t actually mean, especially on the topic of dating, because a) I’m on a roll and b) people are laughing and c) see a) and b). Thus I found myself spewing unnecessary vitriol about dating in general to a poor guy friend during a side conversation we were having while at a small house party over the weekend. Fortunately, he’s an old friend and probably knows by now to take every word I say with a generous grain of salt. Still, I thought later, cringing, did I have to say all that? Did I even mean it?
The trouble is, I say that kind of thing a lot, in all sorts of settings. Girls’ nights, house parties, hanging out in mixed groups of friends, even on this blog. “I hate dating” or something like it seems to come dribbling out of my mouth before I have time to suck it back in, whenever the topic comes up. In my usual take-no-prisoners way, I make snide comments about dating in general, I tell jokes about my worst dating experiences, and I realize only hours later, long after the damage has been done, that I’ve run my big mouth again and said all sorts of things I don’t actually mean. Because “I hate it” is a lot easier to say than the reality, which is: I’m terrified of dating, and I’m reeeeally bad at it. (Apparently fear inspires hatred, though, so maybe I’m not too far off the mark.)
I’m so far beyond the traditional fairytale princess trapped in a tower guarded by a dragon: unlike those classic chicks, I’ve hired and trained my own dragon. I’ve spent the past five years diligently setting things up so none of those pesky princes can possibly come riding in here on chargers to make me unnecessarily uncomfortable. I like my tower. I like my dragon. I feel safe here. No one requires me to make stilted conversation, to talk about myself, to ask about them, or to deal with ridiculous, inexplicable emotions.
As you may have noticed, I’ve written pretty sparingly on dating over the course of this blog’s life. Quite simply, that’s because I don’t do a whole lot of it, and I can’t really write too openly about the little I do, because it would be unfair to the good, God-fearing men I’ve been blessed to know and even (on occasion) go out with.
That’s not necessarily going to change any time soon, but I did want to use this space to set the record (at least the record in my own head) straight: I do not “hate” dating. Going on dates makes me incredibly uncomfortable, yes, but that’s not really the same thing. All the most important things in life seem to kick off with something unpleasant. Life itself gets a jumpstart after hours of a woman’s labor, doesn’t it? Really, anything worth having or doing requires a certain death first. There’s a reason why initiation into the Church begins with Baptism (which symbolizes death); why good wine requires crushed grapes; why real love necessitates the humbling of oneself and “dying to” oneself.
I don’t necessarily get it. It freaks me out. But I don’t “hate” it.