Last week, I went on a date. I haven’t been on a date in two years, owing to the relationship I was in that recently ended, and it was the most nerve wracking experience since the first day of high school. I tried on, like, six different outfits. I spent an hour and a half showering and doing my hair and makeup. As I walked to the restaurant where we’d agreed to meet for dinner, I forced myself to take long, deep breaths of the cold February air to calm down. It only kind of worked.
There’s no question my two-year relationship changed me from being the kind of girl who would sleep with two different men in one weekend just to have fun to a “relationship girl.” I feel like my wild oats were thoroughly sown — which is a good thing! — and that I matured a lot in the past few years. After the security, intimacy and love that I had with Ex-Mr. Jessica, I don’t think I could go backwards to being the rowdy girl I was before. At least right now, hopping in and out of bed with different dudes for fun just plain doesn’t interest me.
But I don’t know if I can do the exact opposite, either. The idea of dating someone seriously again, with the intention a relationship, is seriously daunting. Remember, I was dumped only a little over a month ago. Dipping my pinky toe into dating again — albeit briefly — has only shown me it’s too soon: I am still way, way, waaaay too messed up by all the things Ex-Mr. Jessica did to me to do this.
The guy I went on the date with — who I had been writing emails and texts to and talking on the phone with for weeks — is great. I have nothing but lovely things to say about him. I liked him a lot and I still like him a lot. But if I could go back and change my behavior during and after going out, I would have taken things much, much slower. We kissed on a bar banquette, made out in the street, and went back to his apartment that same night. All that I’m fine with; I’m no prude. But then we went farther with each other sexually than I later felt comfortable with, and to compound the situation, I also ended up sticking around the next day for a hell of a lot longer than I actually felt comfortable with. Somehow, within the span of one date, my feelings went from “this guy is cool, I’m having a good time” to “oh god, oh god, OH GOD, what am I doing?”
The couple-y behavior — the couple-y intimacy of it — really put me off. I wanted to get the hell out of there but I didn’t know how to do it without being rude and making it obvious I felt weighed down by pressure and was superuncomfortable. The last time I went somewhere deeply sexual and emotional with a man was with Ex.-Mr. Jessica. The last time I spent all day in bed eating breakfast pastries and watching the news on TV was with Ex-Mr. Jessica. The last time I woke up in the middle of the night and rolled over, the man laying next to me was someone I had been planning on being with for the rest of my life. Despite liking this new guy a lot, the whole thing freaked me out. It just felt … weird.
At the same time, I also found myself getting super-paranoid and over-analytical about his tweets and emails and the things he said. Ex-Mr. Jessica just torched my trust in him throughout the course of our breakup. He led me to believe things that he later took back in an instant. And while I realize Ex-Mr. Jessica is just one man, not allmen, I’m not sure I ever really gave this new guy the benefit of the doubt. Every sincere-seeming thing he said, or even every teasing thing he said, I asked myself, Does he mean that? What does he mean by that?
At one point yesterday morning, I was riding in the car with my mother and talking to her about him and I started sobbing because I felt so confused. My rational mind knew I shouldn’t be letting him get to me like this, especially since he seems like a decent person who genuinely wouldn’t want me to be crying over, for example, some stupid email.
It just seemed clear to me: I’m not ready to date yet. At least not to seriouslydate yet, but probably not to date yet in general.
I talked to him. He was cool about it. He said he could tell that I was emotional and conflicted and dealing with a lot. (Honey, a blind and deaf person could tell that I’m emotional and conflicted and dealing with a lot.) We agreed that we’d dial everything down, see other people, and date each other more casually. I feel good about that: I hope to still enjoy him in smaller, less intense doses, but also not to be feeling quite so coo-coo bananas.
In the days before my date, and in the days after, my friends and co-workers kept saying the same thing to me: “Good for you for being on the rebound!” or “I hope he’s a good rebound!” or “Everyone needs a rebound!” And in the days before my date, and in the days after my date, I just furrowed my brow when they said this to me. “He’s not a rebound,” I would say. “That sounds so calculated.” Rebound sounded to me like what you do at a party or in a club when you make out with some random guy after a breakup just to get it out of your system, or maybe a stringing-someone-along-not-quite-relationship with a person who you hope will distract you from your ex. Neither of those undesirable and icky situations is what I want or wanted for myself, now or anytime. I would feel bad if this guy did turn out to be a rebound to me, because I think he deserves more.
A few years ago, I had a really flirtatious relationship with a newspaper reporter who was coming out of a long-term relationship. I really had feelings for him and he seemed to like me, but he kept saying, “I wish I had met you two months from now.” At the time, I thought that was just some BS line he was using because he couldn’t make up his mind. It just seemed like the kind of a line a guy who doesn’t really want to commit to breaking up with his girlfriend fully would use, you know? But now I feel like a total jerk for believing that. In retrospect, I think that newspaper reporter, like me, was having a hard time figuring out what exactly his next move would be — feeling utterly weird waking up at night with a near-stranger lying next to you, but also wanting to dip your pinky toe back into the dating game and find romance again. Maybe he really was being genuine. Because you know what? I kind of wish I had met this guy I went on a date with two months from now.
Image via iStockphoto.