I am 30 years old, single, and have been that way for a while. As I approached the big 3-0, starting around mid-28, I began to panic about my singlehood, asking myself some tough questions: “What am I doing wrong?” “Are my standards are too high?” “Do I have too much baggage?” I made a new dating motto for myself: “No guy left behind,” ensuring that all dudes got a chance. This equal opportunity dating model led me straight into the jaws of a string of freaks, losers, liars, a-holes, guys with girlfriends, and one very, er…unique guy I’ll call H.
It was one month before my 30th birthday when I met H at a work event. At first I was convinced he was gay (maybe it was the white canvas topsiders and linen pants?), but when he continued to flirt with me and asked me for my number, I played along. I didn’t find him particularly compelling, but I reminded myself of my motto and…30 was fast approaching. So what if he wore linen?
When we met for a drink, I hugged him and immediately smelled his body odor. Feeling fearful, I proceeded ahead bravely, determined to play the part of the open and optimistic single chick that I had been perfecting for the last two years. “I’m sorry I’m late, I just got back from my internship at [insert hippie-type organization],” he apologized. Wait…he was an intern? He’s 36!
“Is that your full-time job?” I asked, trying not to sound too condemning.
“For now, yeah, totally,” he smiled.
We were no more than two minutes into our first drink when he dropped a bomb. “I’m Polyamorous,” he said.
I coughed slightly and rolled my lychee martini around in my mouth. waiting to feel shocked or react at all, but instead I kicked into dating survival mode. “Okay!” I said with genuine enthusiasm as if he had just told me what college he went to (but that wouldn’t be possible since H never went to college).
After he explained the concept of polyamory to me — people who are involved in multiple relationships simultaneously — he told me about his sexual involvement with a lesbian couple that were committed to each other, but saw him on the side. He was committed to both of them, but to one more than the other. Huh?
Before I could even begin to process this information, he dove into the lighter stuff. “I’m going through a nasty divorce and I have an 8-month-old son. My mother and my wife both have mental illnesses and I am embroiled in a custody battle. Oh, and my sister is obese.” And I thought I had a lot of baggage.
The hot couple next to me gazed into each other’s eyes, giggled, and then the smitten girl fed the guy a piece of sushi. Why wasn’t that my date? Not knowing what to do or say – nothing in my dating life had prepared me for this — my desperate dating facade cracked open like the Hoover Dam and I started laughing a deep guttural, no holding back, cutting loose laugh. H looked at me with a wounded expression. “I’m sorry,” was all I could manage to get out between snorts, giggles, and tears. I couldn’t stop. People in the bar were starting to stare. I was laughing out all of the pain, frustration, and disappointments of the last two years – no, the last decade of dating. There was no good way to tell him that he had just inspired me to give myself the best 30th birthday gift ever — to let go of the past and reinstate my standards. “We should do this again if you want,” he suggested as I chugged the rest of my martini. “No, I’ll never do this again.” And I meant it.