If pressed, I would say there are two questions that my single girlfriends and I most frequently pose. One: why am I still single? And two: should I keep going out with this guy even though I’m not that into him?
That the answer to the second question often winds up being no, you might suggest, may not be insubstantial in providing some answer to the first.
Probably you would suggest this, at least, if you were my happily married brother Robbie, who declared to me over the phone last weekend that he can summarize my blog in one (compound) sentence–this sentence being “I am very particular about who I date, and I don’t understand why no one wants to date me.”
Demoralizing as it is to have one’s work reduced to a single sentence, even a compound one, his pronouncement made me a tad defensive. Also because it is hard for the phrase “no one wants to date me,” even when rendered as the absurd and blatently ironic clause in said sentence, not to trigger immediate insecurity in someone who is already insecure.
“It’s not that no one wants to date me!” I immediately assured him.
He said, “I know.”
“It’s just that I don’t want to date the people who do!”
He said, “I know.”
I took his point.
But, assuming for a moment that my predicament is not of the Groucho Marxist I-don’t-want-to-belong-to-anything-that-would-have-me genre, which I understand is no small assumption, let’s consider the complexity of that second question: that when-do-you-know-it’s-not-right question.
Because at this point I, and I think it’s far to say most of my single girlfriends, have figured out that our prince charming is not going to come along without a few charming, or not-so-charming, imperfections. By this point, most days we’re hoping he comes along without a history of alcoholism, heroin use or herpes.
Most days we’re just hoping he–and by he I mean someone whose companionship we can not only tolerate but might actually desire–comes along at all.
Well, let’s amend that: most days we’re hoping he comes along at all, and that we have any fucking clue when he does.
Or: most days we’re hoping for someone to come along who may or may not be him, but at least who may be worth our time for now, and that we have any fucking clue whether he does.
It isn’t easy.
What if you’re initially attracted, physically, but then certain gestures, certain bad jokes, certain laugh patterns or facial tics, turn you off?
What if you aren’t initially attracted, physically, but certain conversations, certain idiosyncracies, certain good jokes, turn you on?
What if he sounds perfect on paper and seems perfect in real life for a couple of months, when suddenly his neurotic tendencies emerge and start to freak you out?
How much of a chance do you give someone?
Personally, I always struggle to answer this question. Cause I know lots of happily coupled people, happily attracted to their long-term partners, who–for whatever reason–were not initially. You want to be patient, to be open, to allow for the possibility that such things can develop and grow. You know, like the really minimally needy houseplants that I chronically forget to water and inevitably kill.
But you also don’t want to be the jerk that leads someone on when you know they’re into it and you’re not sure how much you are.
You don’t want to be the girl for whom nobody is good enough. But you also don’t want to be the girl who dates someone you’re not that into.
And you wonder when it won’t feel like a choice between the two.