Monday, January 28, 2008

The look

I have a lot to say but I don't know where to start. The story of the wedding and how I missed the ceremony (blame NJ Transit) but had a great time otherwise? The story of my day in New York City (aka New Yarn City)? My New York moments of casual conversation in lines and shops? How I over packed, stayed warm, and bought too much yarn? How friendly my one niece is, how uninterested in me my nephew is and how annoyed at everyone my other niece is?

Or I could write something more abstract about my (non) dating life.

I'm in the mood for abstract.

I've been feeling discouraged on the dating front. Discouraged and…relieved? Relieved that I'm not spending time worrying about men and relationships. Grateful to be relieved of the terrible anxiety that plagues me when I'm only just inches into a relationship. Being single is mostly good. I'm mostly contented. I'm a bit of a grump but that's nothing new. I just feel strongly about things! (Oy, politics.) And not socializing tons means that my edges are sharper than usual. I blame winter.

I had a totally random chat with someone the other day and it made me think about dating, attractiveness and all that mess. I sent this person a pic of myself, smiling, dressed in a wool shirt, jeans and an old-school Mariners cap. The reaction: "You're a cutie pie!" And I thought, "I am, aren't I?"

Please recognize that I don't suffer from low self-esteem. But I do sometimes suffer from self-forgetfulness. I don't have a good sense of how others perceive me. I usually think I'm pretty and have a nice shape. I look hard for my flaws and sometimes I think, "It's just not that bad." I see a lot of good in me.

Let me say it: I'm attractive. I have a very pretty face, a decent body and a great smile. I'm a winner!

But I'm single.

My good friend Audrey used to tell me I was picky. I'd always argue with her. I'd cite the many different types of men I'd dated: short, tall, fat, thin, bearded, clean-shaven, shaggy-haired, intellectual, working-class , blonde, brunette, redheaded, military, radical, etc. Seriously, name a type and I've dated him. (Admittedly, there are a disproportionate number of assholes in the bunch. They come in all types of packages.)

Thing is, she's right. I'm picky about who I spend time with. I'm picky about my friends. I'm picky about my kitchen, my house, my records. I have a carefully constructed image, life, style. I'm more open and flexible as an adult. I'm more likely to stick to doing things I enjoy rather than things that are "cool" but I'm not above it. I'm fairly relaxed these days but I have strong preferences. I'm never going to be everyone's cup of tea…and, by the same token, I pick my friends carefully. Yes, I'd like more friends and a boyfriend, but given my low tolerance for almost everyone, I'd rather stick with what I've got than be annoyed by who knows what.

(It's not that I don't like meeting new people. I loved my jury duty experience in no small part because I got to meet people who I never would have met otherwise. I was totally open to the experience and, with one exception, I got along well with everyone. But that was a lot different than wanting to socialize with them.)

To actually accept someone into my life, is a big freaking deal. I don't do it lightly. It's not that I plan to change my picky ways, but it's important that I realize why I am where I am. I've written this before but it's a lot of choices that have taken me where I am. Where I am is a good place. I would choose my current single life over any of the unhappy relationships I've had over the last several years. What a great point! If given the choice of getting back together with a past boyfriend or my current situation, there is not a single guy I'd choose from the last several years. In fact, I can only think of one ex I'd even consider dating again. See, I really am picky! But in a good way.

Just because I'd like a boyfriend now doesn't mean I want any old boyfriend. I never do. But wanting a boyfriend NOW can sometimes lead to less than ideal boyfriends. Oh well.

The next time I meet someone I like a lot, I'm determined to do something about it (was there ever really a question?). But being picky means that there just aren't that many people out there who I will like. (I don't think I'm unique in this.)

On Sunday afternoon, I was walking home from Union Station rolling my suitcase behind me, carrying some fancy yarn in a brown paper bag and trying to remember who I'd liked enough to date in the last year or so. Besides Sailor, there was the guy I met at the memorial service for my dad's friend a couple of months ago. If that guy were geographically accessible, I would have called him right away. I would have made my play. Given that he lives in California and we've met exactly twice in 15 years, I did nothing. I'm practical and picky.

Then there's Sailor. When I see him at work, I inwardly sigh with deep regret at what might have been if only he were interested. I've rarely met someone who is so on my wave length. He's perfect for me in every way (except that he's the perfectly wrong religion for a nice Jewish girl), so why doesn't he get it? Who knows. He may have a girlfriend (current consensus is no), he may be gay (unlikely), he may be a 2x4 guy (if so, I'm out of my depth). Or he may just not find me attractive.

And this is where I had a hilarious thought: I'd rather he were simply not physically attracted to me than not like my personality.

I mean, it makes sense, right? I like this guy so much that it's more important to me that he like me as a person than think I'm pretty. (Anyway, of course he thinks I'm pretty. Who wouldn't think I'm pretty?)

It made me think about all the stories I tell about guys. So many of them are about guys who liked me and who I didn't like. I've been rejected many times—I've felt unrequited affection all too often—but the truth is, I'm more often the object of unwanted affection than the giver of it.

What does that mean? When I tell my stories, I'm afraid that people will think I'm subtly trying to boost myself by always being the object of all this affection. I always undersell myself because I don't think I'm better than anyone else. I know I'm not better. It's just that I tend not to have unrequited crushes. Don't get me wrong: I've had several doozies; legendary saga-esque unrequited crushes. But when I'm the object of such a crush—it always surprises me and I don't enjoy it (because I'm more object than subject?). I feel bad for the guy and annoyed that he is forcing my hand. I hate having to "let him down easy." I'm not good at it. I'm abrupt and sometimes unwittingly cruel. I wish those guys would just go away. That's why when I have my unrequited crushes, I don't push. And that's why I've let go of my crush on Sailor. (Yes, it exists, but it's not a source of anxiety or even thought these days, except in the context of a long, rambling blog post.)

I need to stop worrying about whether or not men find me attractive. While I care, I don't really care. My attractiveness is not the issue with Sailor. Or it is my attractiveness to him, not my attractiveness in general, that is the issue. There are plenty of objectively attractive guys out there who I just don't like. The Sailor situation is a head scratcher because I know he likes my personality (we get along well) and how could he not think I'm pretty (I'm pretty, dammit!)? But it's a riddle that can't be solved so I put it down, walked away and we're friendly and chatty when we meet. The end.

I'm trying not worry about boys and not care about when (or if) my next relationship will be. And some of the time I succeed and I manage to be happy and content doing my thing. And sometimes I forget to try not to worry and I just live my life and it's even better. Realizing that I'm possibly above average in the realm of physical attractiveness makes me feel better. I'm not scaring the boys away with my looks—it's just my abrasive personality that I have to blame. Heh. Yeah, but I like my personality too, so I'll just have to wait until a suitable suitor comes along. I guess wondering if he ever will come along is just part of the price one pays for choosing a certain kind of life.

Grateful for: re-thinking, unthinking and liking myself.

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