Dater X: Wish Fulfillment

We’ve come a long way, baby.

This week’s title refers not just to the many commenters who have called – nay, pleaded – for the search for Dater X 4.0 to begin. It also refers to the surprising path that my life has taken since I started writing this column.

Looking back at my first installment, I was excited. Optimistic. Maybe a little self-defeating, but eager to try, try again.

Chronicling this very personal part of my life hasn’t always come naturally to me. I’m a person who is inclined to use words as weapons and shields; to color each story with my own interpretations, however fallible; to duck behind a sentence when I feel like there are too many eyes on my emotions. Writing this column every week felt like picking a scab off a raw nerve and holding it out for a healthy pour of lemon juice.

It wasn’t always fun. And it wasn’t always pretty.

Along the way, I met some characters that might never have otherwise entered my life: the guy who wasn’t over his much-younger ex; the guy who wanted a mannequin, not a living, breathing woman; the guy with whom I had absolutely no chemistry but who just seemed like such a nice fellow. I learned, from reading your comments, that many of you have met these guys, too. Dating may be a uniquely personal experience, but it’s also a universal one: the search for someone to walk alongside for a while, whether for an evening or a lifetime. And as I realized – and confessed – early on, I was looking for the latter.

I met The Big Easy, who opened me up and then shut me down and made me teach myself how to let love in and let it go. I spent some time with myself, treading the paths of the life I had built and examining whether there was room beside me for someone else. I invited friends along for stretches of the path, from El Guapo (who is still working 100-hour weeks, for those who asked, but who delightedly poured tequila shots for me and The Bartender and talked soccer with him when we came in to visit his bar a few weeks back) to my softball team (who The Bartender will meet en masse a few weeks from now on Opening Day). And then, when I least expected it, I found that someone else actually did fit on my path with me, and we fell right into stride in a way that I still can’t quite believe is real.

I made some memorable missteps along the way, as well; I have often misspoken (or over-spoken), and while the dialogue was not always positive, it was always progressive. Today, I’m relieved to step away from the conversation about dating and towards an ongoing, one-on-one dialogue with someone who makes me happy, every single day.

Life with The Bartender is not without its ups and downs. We had a real fight this weekend, though as is our style, it was more quiet discussion than knock-down, drag-out screaming. We got to talking about kids again, and without any warning, I started to cry. Far more unnerving was that, after a moment, he did, too. He told me he doesn’t feel ready to care for another person that can’t take care of themselves, an unsettling glimpse into the parts of his childhood (mentally ill mother; alcoholic father) that we haven’t yet discussed in detail. But looking at one another with tears in our eyes, we reached out and took each others’ hands and agreed that we’ll keep talking about our differences, and sharing our stories with each other, and that we’re in it together. It was deeply unsettling, but ultimately deeply rewarding, to feel like we were getting closer to the things that separate us without losing any of the things that conjoin us.

I said it last week, but it bears repeating: I don’t feel like I’m riding off into the sunset. And it’s hard not to look around and see how different my life looks from when I started this journey. But the things that are the same are good, and the things that are different are better. My job situation is changing. I may be moving soon. And one of the constants in my life, albeit an often difficult one – this column – is coming to an end.

As I step away from the screen and out into the world with The Bartender, I am excited. Optimistic. Maybe a little self-defeating, but eager to try, try again. I don’t know what’s coming next, but I feel confident that I have a partner who will stick with me while we find out. And that is far more than I could have ever hoped to get out of this column, and makes me feel relieved, rather than disappointed, to stop sharing with all of you and keep sharing with him.

Best of luck to all of you, wherever on your dating path you find yourself, and please be compassionate with each other – and with Dater X 4.0.

Onward and upward,
Dater X 3.0