• Relationships

Dater X: I’m (Drum Roll) In Love

Like a cat who constantly wants to be petted, I have an insatiable need for back rubs. I am forever asking significant others for them—a request that is usually obliged, but that is sometimes met with a “Maybe later,” an “I’m tired” or, worse, an “Again?” So far, The Young One has been happy to indulge each and every back massage request. But last Thursday night, as we watched TV at his place, I suddenly found myself sitting on the back of the couch, leaning over and kneading my hands into his shoulders. “That feels incredible,” he said.

He hadn’t asked me for a back rub, nor had I consciously decided to give him one—it was something I did without thinking. It was the first moment I realized that I am totally in love with this guy.

The Young One and I have clarified that we are, in fact, in a relationship—one that has us both feeling like we have contact highs in the other’s presence, and one that we both think has the potential to last a long time. We’ve even said the “L” word—no, not “lesbian”—something that for me usually comes six months into a relationship, but instead slipped out of both our mouths at the same time.

It’s been a week since you and I last spoke, and in that time The Young One and I have clarified that we are, in fact, in a relationship—one that has us both feeling like we have contact highs in the other’s presence, and one that we both think has the potential to last a long time. We’ve established that we are, indeed, boyfriend and girlfriend. We’ve even said the “L” word—no, not “lesbian”—something that for me usually comes six months into a relationship, but instead slipped out of both our mouths that back rub night. We continue to hang out and talk, oh, pretty much constantly. Honeymoon stage it is.

For the past five weeks, while I’ve been dating the Young One, I can’t help but remember something my friend Sabrina said to me in September, as she reassured me that all I needed to do was be patient and eventually love would happen. “Someday you’re going to stumble into the wrong bar, spill your drink on someone, and your whole life will change,” she said.

It’s shocking how true that statement seems at the moment. Only my story goes: “One day I went to see a band, said something nerdy to the guy next to me, and that was it.”

I’ve been a little hesitant to talk to friends about The Young One—just because I understand that, especially for those who are looking for love, it’s not always that fun to hear from someone in the beginning stages of it. (I very much apologize to all of you on this front, too, and recognize that you probably liked me a little better when I felt like I was trudging through the sewer. It’s what makes “The Bachelor” palatable—we can listen to the women gush on and on about their feelings because we know that 19 out of 20 of them will go home empty-handed.) But the other day, I decided to talk in detail to one of my good single friends about my new relationship.

“This is so exciting,” she said, something I very much appreciated. “Can I ask what feels so different about him?”

It’s an interesting question, because obviously The Young One is special and with each successive thing I learn about him, I like him a little bit more. But it has less to do with him feeling different and more to do with our vibe together being something I haven’t experienced in a long time. Our differences are complimentary—his laid-back tames my (sometimes? frequent?) neurotic, and my energetic ups his even-keeled. And we both hve the same vision of what we want our relationship to be: an adventure.

In describing other guys I’ve dated—in convos with friends or even looking back at my old columns—there would be a lot I adored about them, but there was usually a “but” or an “although” mixed in. Even if I was excited about someone, I felt some hesitation. If it wasn’t something specific about their personality or lifestyle, the hesitation was often about not knowing where I stood with them. But with The Young One, it’s like we both were excited to step up to the plate in equal measures. I never had to wonder “Will he call?” because my phone rang before I had time to think it. I never had to ask myself, “Does he want to hang out again?” because we always made plans—usually several—before we parted ways. I never had to question “How does he feel about me?” because he always just told me. Even last week, when I wrote about being in relationship limbo, all my questions were answered within 24 hours of posing them.

Here is what I learned as a single woman: dating can be fun. But it can also sometimes feel like emotional warfare. It can feel like you’re a piñata sitting there patiently as you’re whacked with a baseball bat over and over again. (To extend the metaphor: Until you crack and your candy spills on the floor.) I’ve been thinking a lot about why dating is so troubling—I mean in the past year myself, Amelia, and Ami have all gotten to the points where we felt like we had to take a significant break from the stress of it. Here’s what I think can be so troubling: dating violates our sense that we are special. We know our value, but when other people don’t stumble all over themselves to be with us, we question ourselves. When they show little to no interest—or, gasp, disinterest—it’s mind-boggling.

Here is what I would like to pass on, both to the singles gals out there and to myself, should I ever be one again: you have to approach dating and meeting people from the angle of looking for a right fit. It’s not about “he’s just not that into you” or even “you’re just not into them” so much as it is about, simply, “you don’t match.” Nine out of 10 times—heck, maybe 29 out of 30—one of the two of you won’t feel the rush of emotions you need to jump into a relationship. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, or that he’s a jerk—it’s just that it wasn’t it. You’ll get to “it” eventually.

I have no idea what will happen here in the future. I hope things with The Young One continue to be amazing, but I know there’s always the chance things can change and you might see me on the dating safari again. But for now: green zebra found.

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