About seven years ago, when I had just gotten out of two back-to-back, serious relationships, my good friend Sadie* was eager to get me to dip my toe back in the dating pool again. I was 26 years old and single for the first time in many, many years. So, basically, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I had never really “dated” before.
I’d met my last two boyfriends randomly through friends. I wasn’t looking to meet them, I just did. We got to know each other slowly, there wasn’t any pressure, and I knew they both really cared about me. I thought this was just the way people met; that falling in love was something that happened easily. Looking back, I realize how terribly naive I was.
All of my single friends (including Sadie) were doing the online dating thing. That seemed way too counter-intuitive to me. The only “dating” move I would agree to was the good, old-fashioned set-up. I enlisted Sadie, who was more than happy to facilitate my very first blind date.
Ryan* was a hip Los Angeles architect, who was an electro-clash DJ in his spare time. He was nice, good-looking, successful, and we had a few friends in common. Over samosas and saag paneer, we talked about the future of electro-clash and our futures. We continued our conversation over vodka tonics at his downtown loft. We shared a kiss on his balcony overlooking the Los Angeles skyline.
Setups are not that bad, I thought.
But there was no second date with Ryan. He never asked me out again. I don’t remember being upset about it, per se. Maybe just more perplexed.
What did I do wrong? I asked myself.
I did nothing wrong.
I just didn’t have the wisdom to know that in the dating world, this is just how it goes. People always have their own trip going on and their head space is not usually something you’re privy to. There are a million reasons that someone may not ask you out on a second date. Just broke up, in love with someone else, got back together with someone, preoccupied with work, struggling with family problems, broke and too embarrassed not to pick up the tab, missing a toe, just got out of jail, an emotional cripple.
I could go on like this forever but my point is that 99.9 percent of the time, these reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with you. Dating is not personal, although it often feels that way. Maybe because love is so personal. But dating is not love. We forget that.
I try to remind myself of the distinction when I get dissed, canceled on, ghosted. I try not to let the impersonal act of dating besmirch my very personal feelings about love. But it’s hard to remember when the process makes you feel so vulnerable. Even agreeing to meet someone for a drink can be an act of courage. It’s a very strange dynamic.
So … back to Ryan.
We ended up becoming acquaintances. I saw him at our mutual friends’ birthday parties and the occasional dinner. We would chat and catch up. There were no hard feelings on my end. At a New Year’s Eve party, a couple years after our date, I even met his girlfriend (who would later become his wife). Now they have a baby together.
So why am I telling you this story? Last night, I received a Facebook message from Ryan:
This is totally random, but remember when we went on a date years ago?
I always wanted to tell you that I was in no position to date anyone at the time. And I consciously thought about that while we were out. I felt pretty scared because no relationships I was having were going well.
I had this on again off again drama with this chick and during our date I had a minor panic attack realizing I wouldn’t be able to date someone until the crazy chick was 100 percent out of my life.
So yes, I never called you again, because I was protecting you. Crazy.
I wanted you to know, how funny, interesting, and great I think you are. And, I did at the time as well. But the timing was super screwed up.
The funny (psycho) thing about it, is I’ve always just wanted to let you know. For whatever reason, it just bothered me that I never explained it to you. Here I am married with a child, and it still eats at me.
I’ll finally just say it via Facebook. That I really do/did think you were great.
And I really hope you didn’t think I rejected you or something by not calling for another date, etc. It totally wasn’t that. I was just too screwed up at the time.
Keep on keeping on!
Reading his note, I was moved. Ryan didn’t have to reach out and “explain” himself, but he was a good guy for doing so. I’ll never get that kind of insight from most of the men I go on dates with — I’ll just never hear from most of them again. As I find myself at almost 33 and just out of another relationship, Ryan’s note gives me the reassurance I need to dip a toe into the dating pool again. And as I do, I will remember that it’s not personal.
* Name has been changed.