It’s weird when your father asks if you are dating. It’s even weirder when he says “Don’t worry. It will come.”
Thing is, I’m not dating. Deliberately.
My father was merely making conversation. However, my simple no and nothing more, brought our long-overdue talk to a temporary standstill.
It’s a lot like when I was married and people would ask if I had children. That uncomfortable silence after I answered no. When neither of us could conjure up a single possible commonality or interest between us.
But here’s the rub. More often than not, I feel like I have to explain. As if I have to save us both from this awkwardness. (This may be one of the reasons people tell me I put them at ease. Go figure.)
I wish I was one of those people who can sit in the silence and smile while the asker twists in his or her own discomfort. My friend Angel was a master at this. She had perfected that patient, semi-smile that says, “I can wait this out all day. I’m not rescuing you.”
I am not Angel.
Standing in the pregnant pause following “no (I don’t have children)” I’d usually follow up with a light, self-deprecating statement like, “Cats are enough,” or “I can barely take care of myself.” Which is not quite true. At least the second statement. I do a pretty excellent job taking care of myself. My rabbi often marvels at how I intuitively know how to ask for help. To eat well. To write. To make time for meditation and prayer, dancing and being in nature.
But I don’t usually offer any of that up. I never say, “No, I don’t have children. But I have a really full, gorgeous, sexy life. Would you like to hear about it?”
Perhaps I should.
This, “No, I’m not dating” – it’s a conscious decision, made for the first time in my life. I was never a serial monogamist. Or a woman never without a man. I spent many years alone in my 20s. It wasn’t my choice. It just worked out that way. And I was always pretty miserable – looking or lamenting and looking again.
And now I’m not. I don’t have a profile on Match.com, OK Cupid or JDate. I’m not asking to be fixed up.
Let me be clear, this doesn’t make me “better than,” “holier than thou,” particularly evolved or healthy, or even really excited about being alone. It means I love myself enough to not invite any more pain in my life.
The few dalliances I’ve had in and after divorce have been painful to the extreme. My heartbreak disturbingly incongruent to the situation. I know it. My friends know it. I am too vulnerable right now. And too graspy.
And when I do meet a man who is available, seems I cannot complete a sentence without including the words “ex-husband,” “Lee,” “marriage” or “divorce.” It’s as if I’m waving a huge flag that reads, “Make no mistake, I am not healed. I am not available.”
Surprisingly, I’m finding aloneness doesn’t hurt nearly as much as my needy romantic obsessions. That feeling the feelings of dissolving a 15-year relationship is less painful than prematurely putting myself out in the dating world with what my friend Lynn calls “a broken picker.”
More than once she has said, “You can’t pick available because you are not available yourself.” I believe that that is true. For now.
I have this image of my old cat Maude. She’s a big calico with a pink nose like an eraser and a disturbingly human face. I see her licking her paws, cleaning herself up a bit. I think that’s what I’m doing.
And while I’m doing it, I’m getting to do all sorts of things I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t if I was dating. Spending countless hours writing, editing, reading. Collaging. Taking photographs. Taking myself on Artist’s Dates.
Spending a lot of time with girlfriends. Considering a trip to Dublin this fall for Tim and Martin’s wedding. Or a volunteer stint in India or Italy. Or a long road trip. I don’t have to run it by anyone for approval either.
I can stay up as late as I like. Listen to the same songs over and over again. Eat breakfast for dinner.
My friend Zina recently asked, “What would your life look like if you believed G-d had you?”
I think it would look like this.