A few weeks ago I glibly referenced my early childhood eating disorder, to someone I was beginning to trust. And mentioned that when I was a tween my Dad used to joke that I’d end up obese because I stayed inside reading on sunny days. I tried to explain, lightly and casually, how those seemingly harmless jibes from him had impacted on the sensitive self-conscious bookworm I was. The response was a dismissive “…up north we just get on with it…we don’t need to talk about stuff like that…” Or something similar. And I considered the things I’d already mentioned. About my past and my history. I had consciously censored and filtered much of my story in order not to overwhelm, but gifted chapters, in my adopted anecdotal, yarn-spinning style. Clowning and story telling. Shared because I thought he was going to be important. In return I received bullet-pointed swapsies. But guessed that there was more and was happy to wait to hear the big stuff. It takes time for most people to build trust enough to unwrap their past and gift it to another human being.
I’m a bit different. For a myriad of reasons. I am, at my most ‘stagey’, an entertainer; regaling friends and acquaintances with random adventure tales or odd ‘Sliding Doors’ episodes. And they get it. They know it’s part of my coping strategy. I’ll share because it’s part of my process. Part of my healing and an acknowledgement of how I got here. In this, there is ownership but not regret. There is clarity in a retelling. And I share because I grew up with a diverse loving peer-group that were supportive; honest and open, we learned from each other – gifting wisdom, debating, growing and seeking together. Importantly, I share with people I am attracted to because the bonding, the exchange of words, communication, is my aphrodisiac. To hear someone else’s story is the ultimate beautiful prize for sharing mine.
I share, and always with a joke, because that’s my protection mechanism. It’s a smoke and mirrors strategy. It offers the opportunity to laugh at the hilarious or the weird situations I find myself in. Or the chunky-chewy bits of life. And while I share this noise, the real stuff is locked away. The private, scary, scarred, parts of me remain well-hidden. These are not for general consumption. They aren’t often for lovers. Or even most friends.
And I know my candidness can be challenging, not always endearing. Slightly outside my current community’s norms. It is me making fun of myself, shrugging off heart-break or disclosing my own errors in judgement to entertain or educate. I try not to hurt, implicate, or cause pain for others – they are my versions only and always. Self-deprecating, self-chastising. And this is hard for some. The attuned will sense it is all bluster and know that in quiet moments the real me will relax respectfully with my secrets. Upon occasion I will want to speak of them. But rarely will. Why would I? Better to play the goofy clown. Better to make it all one big joke. Less threatening.
The important stuff? I don’t easily share that. I haven’t shared the parts of me that are dark or sad. So while I yabber-on and share things that most people would baulk at knowing, let alone telling, I hold my real secrets close. Guarded and sacred.
This? This tedious love stuff I have been writing about recently? That seems like I am baring my soul? That’s just a tale of paralysing humiliation. An embarrassing consequence of foolish faith. The story of me ending up a passive passenger on someone else’s car-crash of a journey. But it’s not private. It’s not something to be protected. Hidden. It’s another silly interlude to add to my many stories of people and places and possibilities. And fuck-ups. They make me look very stupid. But entertain others. With my drivel and ditties.
So, while I may be accused of oversharing, be it known that I am cautious and careful. Well-positioned screens of haze. And those that are gifted insight into the darker places, the people I select, who I begin to trust? Who are chosen? They should not be fearful of me in my slow, honest moments, when I am not making jokes or flailing my arms in animated theme-threading. For it means I think you are important. That I am letting you in. And these far less frequent exchanges are precious.
So please don’t shut-down or dismiss them. If they become too hard to hear… Just whisper, just take my hand and kiss me quiet.
Bear with me. This is going to be a dribbling, random, thought-dump. I feel like I should capture them. In the moment, without edit or censure. A fleshing out of my behaviours. Acknowledge how I’ve responded to the past few months… get it out of my head. In the doing so there will be clarity and therapy. There’s also a drive to justify myself; a chance to explain a few things. It feels the time to explore my actions. Look at what I’ve understood to be my part.
I was not looking for a relationship. I was seeking good company. Companionship and adventure. Respectful, kind, ultimately offering fun. But things seem to have become over-complicated, undermined with so many undercurrents of another person’s inability to be honest. Either with himself or others. No, that’s not fair. More, his own confusion and indecision. And the toll this has taken on me is more than I would have guessed. It is taking too long to slough off. And I laugh; all I wanted was to meet interesting guys who were ready to enjoy my company and get bit sparky occasionally.
Throughout I’ve played casual. Aloof. I have distanced and given space whenever requested. Never pressured or become possessive. I’ve disconnected and disappeared at all the appropriate times. I’ve never chased, fixated, or stalked. I have carried on with my journey and gifted them the respect deserved. I have disagreed with the choice to end things each time, but done so in private. Not argued or fought. I am not obsessive, nor an emotional renegade. I am kind and forgiving. I understand from my own heart-history, that you cannot force attraction or a love connection where there is none. Where there is denial or refusal or so many broken bits that need assembling. My caring and energy is wasted on those that don’t want it. I know this and remove myself accordingly. Maturely and with courtesy.
I have not chased. I have retreated each time I’ve been ‘ghosted’. I have continued to move forward and do things that give me pleasure. For what else can we do? I’ve kept dating, kept my humour, and protected my own independence. Aggressively so. And I have kept my dignity.
Yes, I think I fell in love. Maybe? Possibly. But it’s hard to tell. So little healthy interaction and so few pure moments, have made me wonder how I could know this. The connection and chemistry was undoubted. And I do believe there was a world of wonderful possibilities. But the exhaustion from all his coming and going, from the inability to communicate his truth, and his confusing behaviour towards me, has left me sitting with hindsight wondering today, what my heart thought all the fuss was about?
I never asked for anything. At the very beginning, when I knew that he was going to be important, I still suggested he date others, to get out there in the world. But he chose me. And then later, with his continued erratic behaviour, I only ever lightly joked with him – never reprimanded. I admitted how I felt much later; shared mistakenly after an escalated bout of his attentiveness and apologies. But under duress and prompted by him. I believe my feelings, especially given I was not seeking him out, were none of his business. My behaviour didn’t change with the realisation that I may be more engaged than I wanted to be, didn’t impact him. And that is as it should be. I knew the score. And with the caring comes a responsibility not to make my feelings his concern. I stayed light and funny and continued my state of distance. Happy to work towards a semblance of friendship – something I would have felt blessed to be gifted.
It was him that made the moves, sent the invitations, made the opportunity for contact and progress the intimacy. Not me. It was him that planted kisses, and took my hands, and made ordinary sentences seem filled with laughter and hope. In fact, looking back over our communication, I remained reticent. Even when we were laughing and sparking like lovers, I put up a fight not to be dragged back in each time. Gave him cues to cease, options, and ‘outs’.
And this is all moot now. Given he has clearly and finally stated his lack of thought for me. I am hoping that with writing this, I give myself permission to stop wondering what I did wrong or why I allowed myself to be played so badly. It is what it is. The heart goes where it must. But I am able to decide not to hang around or mourn for something that was, in reality, neither fun nor worthy of either of us. And truth be told? I hope this particular muse is exhausted. This is now boring me to tears.
Updated: Monday 16 November 2015
My 10 most important Lessons Learned over the last 6 months dating.
Quotes from dating. Most of these I heard in the last month, on the same night, from one particular guy. Who disconnected only a week later with a clarity that left me in no uncertain terms as to his feelings. Finally. Lots of learning and understanding; one person’s presentation, even with the most sincere intention, can still need de-coding and translating.
I was on my way to healing, being happy, ready for new adventure. I had moved on and was looking forward to meeting someone who could give me the respect I deserved and a shared passion. And then he reconnected. Again. Looked into my eyes, apologised. Spoke of futures and possibilities. Took my hands, kissed me, led me a merry dance. And I thought these were words of promise. Except they were not. Except they were very obvious misrepresentations of his truth…
“You make me happy”
My future plans do not include you.
“We have lots of time”
Actually, about 24 hrs, then see ya.
“Can you imagine yourself living here with me?”
Tomorrow you’ll never hear from me again.
I say this to everyone, all the time. They like it. It’s my thing.
“Well I could move to the coast too”
A breaking-up / ending-it conversation. I don’t want to go anywhere with you.
“Whatever we become, friends or lovers”
You’ll be lucky if you get a call on your birthday…
I’m not attracted to you.
“You were invited too, we both were”
I don’t want you there, I’m just being the ‘good guy’.
Nope, not couple language. I am drunk and keep forgetting I’m not into you.
“I care about you, but I’m not ready…”
I will keep coming back. Don’t know why. I don’t want you.
I am now working through how I got things so wrong, and indeed how this will inform my interaction and behaviours with others going forward. I have relinquished hope, as he demanded. How could I believe something good of something so laden with mixed-messages, indecision, and insincerity. I know there was genuine care, and I know that it was important to us both. But not important enough.
So this dating lark. It’s been a strange few months; a bit of a learning curve for me. A re-learning about how social etiquette works and the expectations of others. And my own responses to some not so nice experiences.
I’ve had the sad and somewhat heart-jarring privilege of being ‘ghosted’ three times in the past year. Most recently by someone that by all accounts, is a well-rounded, empathic, thoughtful man, with a vast amount of challenging and interesting life experience and even counselling qualifications. So. You would have thought that between us we could have had a fairly honest conversation. And because it’s me, a light-hearted one. About the end being nigh.
It’s pretty simple. “He’s just not that into you…”
Even with the weight of the world, the baggage of previous lives, or the inability to pay attention to one person for more than a week at a time – there is still a need for a modicum of respect to be extended.
Don’t get me wrong. I now understand my assumption that men in their 40s have developed a little compassion, is utterly incorrect. First lesson learned. That by offering my humour, company, friendship, intimacy, and eventually sharing my bed, this does not in any way guarantee I will be treated with kindness at the supposed demise of the dating dance.
I do however realise that this behaviour links closely to a guy’s emotional maturity and communications skills (or lack thereof). Which is why the last one is still a surprise. But maybe I read that wrong too. His behaviour fits with the pattern of the others: All in, all in, all in, nothing. I also know, that I am expected just to go away. Second lesson learned.
“He’s just not that into you…”
So how do I feel when this happens to me?
The first time it happened, earlier this year, I wasn’t engaged enough to really take it personally. Before him, I had not dated anyone long-term for three years and spent that time healing, being healthy, enjoying my own company and learning that I was going to be more than ok. I had worked through feelings of shame absorbed from a previous relationship, realised I was able to engage in a new one with happy self-awareness and had regained my sexual confidence; something almost destroyed by accepting someone else’s judgement and limited referencing.
So, I figured his ‘ghosting’ was just one guy not being mature enough to cope with ending the casual thing we had created. I didn’t feel anything romantically for him, so when he didn’t have the care or skill to attempt a conversation about not seeing me again, it didn’t really matter. And while I thought he was a fine kinda guy – rough and ready, in the moment and enthusiastic, fun in a bawdy, carefree way – I knew we didn’t have the connection that would progress into anything more than weekend drinking buddies. I didn’t miss him particularly, and I didn’t guess at the time it was an epidemic.
And so I continued dating. Embarked on a fun and interesting list of first dates. Meeting new people, making them laugh, helping them relax and enjoy a no-pressure evening. I never progressed to a third date, rarely wanted a second, though was always asked for one. So this helped my confidence. I didn’t expect to find ‘love’ nor indeed more than a fun night and maybe someone to join me on the adventures I had planned for the year. And I never ghosted. I always had the conversation. It isn’t easy, but it is the responsible and natural requirement of dating. Especially if the other person may be more invested. There’s an implied duty of care, surely? It’s a scary and anxiety-ridden experience for some. This dating thing. And I truly believe we should do our very best to make it as harmless and scar-less as possible for each other. And hell, it’s just basic manners, people.
Then my second ghosting. This one still brings a sadness. In cushions of dull ache. Because I liked him. Really liked him. Thought there was the chance at something very cool for both of us, and he said he felt the same. Not serious in a way that would forge our story in steel for generations to re-tell, but heightened. Connected. Good. And also a bit dark. Exciting. And charged. Made me feel ok to embrace my free-spirited independence. Tapped into my need for adventure and movement. He was wily-clever, and street-smart. Worshipped by some, adored by all. The social centre of a large world; fun-time guy, with a contagious laugh. And a body I wanted to climb all over, pay homage to. Someone who was teaching me things and finding connection in things I already knew. He was relaxed enough to take the piss and receive it. I could have fallen in love with this one. Maybe I did? It was only a brief thing. But they felt like months that could easily lead into a year of adventure before we knew how the time had sped by. Days that held laughter and flirting and sparking with each other. He was all in, all in, all in, nothing.
Nothing. Nada. Off-radar. And I was left confused. Worried. For him mostly. It never crossed my mind I would be considered so disposable that he could drop out without a glimmer of guilt or concern.
“He’s just not that into you…”
So how do I feel when this happens to me?
Am I ugly? Was I not fun enough? Do I not drink enough? Was I too old? Does my wonky smile annoy? My big hair repel? Is my accent too harsh? My butt too saggy? Was I too stupid not to understand? Too intense? Not engaging enough? Not ‘feminine’ enough?
Am I so dislikable, I’m dismissed without a look backwards?
What’s wrong with me?
He did come back. On the proviso he would talk to me; tell me where he was at. Never just disappear again. And though hesitant and wary, our faces reflected intrigue at the possibilities. Taking it steady, slowing it down, setting a pace he was comfortable with – it had been his pace the first time, but I was too happy to point this out. He promised care and respect and more fun. Said he knew he needed to “step up his game…” and we grinned at each other across our tapas. Dates, calls, kisses.
Then see ya. Well, not even a see ya. More than a week of radio silence. Then the ‘we aren’t looking for the same thing’ spiel. And I’m grateful I received that at least. By text. Of course. I didn’t agree. Still don’t. But this beautiful creature with the quick smile and hands that fitted mine perfectly, at least offered a tiny but honest apology for going blank. Made the missing of him a little easier. The grieving less acute. I watch from a distance now and am happy he is happy. I know he doesn’t miss me, know he’ll fall for someone soon. But every now and again, the thought of him makes me smile. And that makes me wish I had been what he wanted – whatever that was. We never had that conversation. I will never know. And I miss him. With a rueful sadness. And maybe that’s just because I feel like we didn’t get the chance to explore what we could have created. But that’s another story.
“He’s just not that into you…”
So how do I feel when this happens to me?
So second time? The second time he ghosted? Humiliated. Stupid. Vulnerable. Delusional. Desperate. Like a mug… broken-hearted. A sweeping sense of premature loss, rather than any self-loathing. Until recently; it changed, re-established itself with creeping sabotage. And the old inner questioning raised it’s ugly voice; how can I compete with all the gorgeous, young, available, women out there? How can I tone down my sassy and be compliant and happy and cute? Non-threatening? Coy and addictive? How do I stop being so… Me? Hide the Me bit that they don’t want anymore. When this guy seemed so into me, then… wasn’t. What’s wrong with me?
The next one? The third one? A sexy, accomplished, grounded, man walked into my life. This is the one that has blind-sided me. Left me all reeling and unstable. Wobbly on my feet and teary in my day. This man, the polar opposite of the last. Softly spoken and self-aware. With a past that hosts deep knowledge and an emotional strength beyond most mortals. A statue of a man, with the most gentle gaze. Physical prowess that plays at extremes; kind or coarse. His hand, in intimacy, stroking my cheek or holding my throat.
A counsellor, and wise-man. A Gentleman, with heritage and a history. And we moved well together. A slow-burn, the beginning of understanding. A story being unveiled and shared. And we made each other laugh. Bright smiley giggles amidst the serious chat and the getting to know one another. The Me in this story was circumspect; hesitant but willing. Careful. I joked off serious questions, honestly but lightly answered requests for the relationship to progress. I wasn’t making the same mistake. And if I took it unhurriedly and respectfully, why should I expect anything other than like in return?
Good conversation, fleshing out hopes and beliefs, and each other. Little adventures accompanied by talk of big commitment. Learning about our people and our journeys. It seemed natural, healthy. Worthy of both of us. I felt safe. A sexy place to be; in his arms and on his arm. He wanted to rush, but said he was happy to wait for me to catch up. Making plans. Letting me get my bearings, feel my way. And I wanted to look after him. An odd, rare, lovely response. Strange to me; not felt for a long time. I wanted to care, to be his person. Not just a fumble or a frolic – as much fun as that definitely was with him. Maybe even let him guide me toward a future.
Then guess what?
Yep. You know. Again. A “Morning, sweet cheeks. Have a great day…” at 7am on a Monday morning, then not another peep. Off the radar and offline. I worried. This guy must be in pain, must be struggling with something – he wouldn’t do this to me if he wasn’t. He is too fully-formed and respectful. This must be serious. And it must be about him. It can’t be me? He would have said something; taken my hand and explained. So I messaged. And worried. And became upset. I called. No answer. I was genuinely anxious about him. Listed scenarios. Checked my own behaviour, fearful I had hurt him in some way.
The weekend came around and I texted, offering a chance to meet, a hug – no pressure, no accusation. Just the opportunity to be in each other’s company. And he accepted. He joined me. And we reconnected. Relaxed. Smiled. He was fragile, but apologetic. Discussed boundaries, helped me gauge where he was at. There was stuff. His stuff. Not me. And he seemed so sincere. A little lost, sad. I wanted to hold and comfort him. We touched on his story, and remained touching all day. Walked, and kissed, bonded, lunched and talked. Smiled and listened to each other. He took me to his sanctuary, offered me a view of his life I hadn’t seen before. Asked me directly, if I thought it would be somewhere I could share with him. And I thought, this is something I am almost ready for. This is a person who will cherish me and I will be excited to have that privilege. Maybe this is the direction I want to be moving; he is certainly the person I want to explore it with. I thought, this man makes my heart lighter and eases my worries, he gives me attention and allows me to gift it in return. He wants my love. And I can do that.
This may be a Big Love.
And I left him that night, chatting with him by text on my journey home. He told me he missed me already and I realised I felt the same. So I let myself enjoy it. Let it sink in. Let myself get excited. And then on Wednesday morning at 7am “…hope today is a good one, sweet cheeks”.
And he disappeared.
“He’s just not that into you…”
So how do I feel when this happens to me?
Even the most laid-back, careful, reticent people, will be hurt or distressed or crazed by this kind of behaviour. If they are invested, and feel it was reciprocated. Even the least obsessive will do stupid things that seem over-reactive or melodramatic to the Ghost. But I am not a naturally high-maintenance girl. I am not an obsessive who will fixate. I sent messages – I asked for guidance, requested kindly that he help me understand. Deaf ears in return. Stilled fingers. Nothing. Took days to read my messages. Didn’t reply. And then he was back online, but not with me. ‘Active’ at unsociable hours. So. Just offline to me.
And I have gone from debilitating chest-ache to indignant anger and back again. I am shakey and struggling. I never intended to fall for any of these guys, didn’t want to relinquish my independence for a man. Am happy on my own. I took their lead, thought I read the cues. Cautiously listened and watched and let myself go at the speed they chose. Slowly unfurling and making myself open to possibilities. Was never looking for love. Certainly not demanding it. And maybe this is about it happening three times (or five times if you seek the bounce-backs), but I truly believe it is because I actually cared. Thought they cared. Thought what these guys were telling me – verbally and non-verbally – were honest reflections of our relationship, or the beginnings of one. Where their heads and hearts were at.
I am generally rather casual; easy-come, easy go. Let acquaintances cruise in and out of my life without holding grudges or being possessive. Though I will nurture and defend dear friendships to the death, and prize honesty and loyalty above most else. I also know we outgrow or evolve beyond our social spheres, and our loved ones, sometimes. That is the way of things. I have been loved well and have loved in return, but have also allowed myself to be hurt by those I’ve given my heart to. So over the years, this Me, has functioned with a strong wall built up for a long time; to get around or over that, has taken some work. And to do so, they are made of something pretty special. So. That means it must be me?
But why not take the five seconds it requires to send a text?
Why not pick up the phone and impart the sad news gently and with caring?
Say you don’t want me any more… to my face…
After all, this is the face you were kissing only yesterday, the eyes you were looking into last night.
I have a little achey hollow feeling in my chest today. It is less than it was yesterday, and I am pleased to say I can sit still for more than 10 minutes at a time. Which is an improvement on earlier in the week. This is what heart-sore feels like. And it brings with it a dull memory, sharpened in pulsing waves if I am inanimate too long. It feels a bit silly. This wee grieving thing. For after all, it was but a brief and barely tangible thing. A non-relationship in a Summer’s month. So I wonder at my sadness. I wonder why I am feeling some kind of bereft. And I think “What is this actually about?”
What is creating this sorrow and how is it after such short moments in the company of him, might I feel this? After all, it was fun but not exciting, it was good but not overwhelming, it was entertaining but not enlightening, it was growing but not all-consuming… so what?
I’ve walked away from more respectful interludes, extricated myself from better bedroom romps, and prised my way out of the mind-meld of shared intellect. So what’s this one about?
Chemistry. Faith. Possibilities.
Well, they aren’t much of anything to base your hope on. Yeesh. Could you be more wishy-washy, lady?
Oh, but that Chemistry! Damn. The instant hurricane in my head and nethers. Interesting and powerful and fun and a little bit dark.
I was ready. I took a step. I had Faith. Still do. Still think that this one could have been pretty damn amazing. Hell, I came out of retirement for it. I wasn’t looking for a happy-ever-after (it doesn’t exist), or a wedding ring (I don’t do marriage), and I certainly wasn’t thinking about longevity. But I had faith that we could build great adventures and make each other smile.
I don’t dream of spiraling towers and fairy-tale journeys, but I do want to share a colourful vision of possibilities. Maybe that’s the problem.
If you are with an unavailable man, who is not ready… to let you paint those landscapes; of pleasure and respect and adventure and love, then it doesn’t matter how great the chemistry or how strongly you feel it’s right or what you think the future may hold. And even if the future you are talking about is just next week, it wont matter.
He’s taking your gifts, but not accepting them. He wont allow you you to seduce him with the thrilling, or shower him with spontaneity, or let you be so amazing he can’t stand for fear of falling for you. He will not forgive a small error or wonder how you are feeling, or ask a personal question. He wont want to know your dreams or see if there’s something you need. Hell, he wont even ask if you’re getting cramp in that position.
He is going to create domesticity and speed up timelines and sweep you up in his enthusiasm. Avoid emotional intimacy with deftness, divert around sharing of wants and hopes and hurts and crazy. All without a glance. Straight to the sex and throw in some domestic bliss. You are going to equal his energy because you are awesome, and ignore the niggling feeling that this seems way fast… and suddenly you are at home every night snuggling on the sofa and he’s cooking you dinner, and you think…
“This isn’t sexy or fun any more and certainly happened very quickly but it is nice, and he seems happy. He’s the one driving this outfit after all…”
He’s going to say things like
“We have plenty of time, there’s so much I want to show you..”
and he sings to you and says you’re gorgeous…
And you create little in-jokes together and still, you’re thinking he is wonderful but what’s in his head? Where is he? Why doesn’t he ask me about my past or my people or my passions? Instead, he skips the part where you entice and capture and develop and enjoy each other… and gives you the dubious role of ‘home’. Which, in a dopamine addled brain you accept unthinkingly. Of course. You know he is scarred. You can smell his fear. You are both cagey and careful and cautious of letting go. But the difference, lady, is that you wanted to. You were ready.
He kisses me goodbye one morning with a skip and a promise. Then he shuts down, goes off radar, and I never see his face again. And what I feel, is cheated. I feel like I wasn’t given the chance to be amazing. That I could have blown his mind as a lover and a co-adventurer if he’d given me space to be the enchantress, create my own role. I am neither demanding nor high maintenance. I am independent and happy in my own company, others gravitate to me. Strong and flexible, funny and empathic, I am the best kind of thing. Ah, so some of this grief is the acknowledgement of rejection.
If this one was fully present and healed and ready, I would be honoured to cherish him at his own pace. To care quietly or love profoundly, playfully partner or with a mad-consuming passion. He is good and wise and knowing. He is kind and generous. He is beautiful and ridiculous. But he is not ready.
I can believe that this was going to be big and powerful and a giant adventure of the senses. But life, with all it’s emotional obstacles and relationship residue, is always going to get in the way.
And if he isn’t ready… he’s going to let it.