For the first time in a few months, Philadelphia wasn’t a frozen waste land this weekend. I couldn’t be happier. I had a brunch date at a local doughnut and fried chicken joint (yes that is a thing, Non-Philly readers.) I put on a light sweatshirt and sauntered out into the beautiful day where I would be greeted by an animated bird that rested upon my finger and joined me in a jaunty tune on my front stoop.
The Chicken/Doughnut shop was about a 30-minute walk from my place. Four days prior, I would have been grumbling about it being too cold and too far from easily accessible public transit, but this weather had me head over heels in love with my city again. I needed to strut.
So I’m whistling Dixie, on my way to a pile of deliciously unhealthy food and a guy I’ve been seeing with regularity when a few paces ahead I notice a man jogging towards me. (Pfft, runners, am I right?)
As the runner got closer, I realized I knew his face. I went on a date with him a few weeks ago. He texted me a few times after that attempting to plan a second date but I never followed through.
This was the first I had seen him since that date. I held my breath and felt a twinge of guilt in the back of my neck as I braced myself for what would be an undoubtedly awkward conversation. I may have been a touch unclear about my lack of interest. You see, I did that thing I always do when I’m not feeling it; I politely explain I’m busy whenever they say they want to meet, promise I’ll get back in touch in a few days once I “get a better hold of my schedule,” and then never make contact again.
Somehow I’ve been able to convince myself that I do this because it preserves their feelings so they aren’t broken by the news that it’s not going to happen. But really, I do it because I’m selfishly avoiding hard honest conversations. And it’s making me feel like shit.
The runner passed me and without breaking his stride or smiling, greeted me with the coldest wave you ever saw. I should have been wearing my winter coat.
In the past few months, I’ve dated a number of guys. Very few of them have made it to the second date with me. I keep taking an “All or Nothing” approach; either they are my Future Husband or I never need to see them again. And their FH potential status is decided probably in the first ten minutes.
For some reason, I can’t seem to reconcile a place for them in my life if it doesn’t immediately involve a ring… wedding ring to be clear. I started this post ready to argue that this is analogous to all gay men, but I don’t think that’s true.
Over the past year, I’ve been developing a close knit group of friends, all of whom are gay men and the greatest people you will ever meet. (Yes, that is a Mean Girls reference.) This clique has been together for a few years before I came into the picture. I’m the new girl, the Cady Heron if you will. (Don’t roll your eyes, Brian, I’m the Cady.)
In the early days of our friendship, I had a lot of catching up to do. I adopted the group jargon easily enough and studied our herstory. What I still find most surprising is that most of their friendship origin stories began with a date. Their romantic encounters with each other turned into deep but (mostly) nonsexual friendships.
I don’t know that I’ve ever successfully made that transition.
Which causes me to realize that I am the anomaly. I am the one with the issue. I’m the asshole.
This is uncharted territory for me, this single, city life. Seriously. I moved to Philly in November ’09, fell in love the second weekend I was here. Four months later it totally and utterly fell apart, I met the Ex maybe two months after that and was spoken for until this past July.
So maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I should be able to turn my luke-warm feelings into a friendship with my various gentleman callers. Maybe it’s okay to keep a line of communication open even after I’ve firmly decided I don’t want to date. I mean it couldn’t hurt.
I don’t know.
I don’t know if I want to. I don’t know if I should have to. I don’t know that I need to.
I passed by the chilly runner and all of this was swirling in my head. When I first moved here, I was 22, heart broken, wandering without direction, and working at a coffee shop. I was every Taylor Swift song. When I was overwhelmed by all the ambiguity of my early twenties, I would go on what I called my “Crisis Walks” where for hours I would roam the city streets reflecting on my choices.
The lush and unique landscapes of my city were always the perfect cure for the 22 blues. Inevitably, I would applaud my bravery for taking this risk, moving here without a real plan, and enthusiastically dream of the possibilities that lay before me. All of that terror and anxiety would wash away.
My walk to the Donut/Chicken Joint became a Crisis Walk. (Sorry, fella! Though don’t worry, I got it together by the time we met.)
I started asking myself what is it that’s missing from my life right now. What is this specific role I’m trying to fill that these duds aren’t satisfying? What do I want? I have a job I love. It fulfills me artistically, emotionally, intellectually often to the point of happy tears. I freelance for another theater company on the side, which I totally dig. I have a fantastic group of hilarious, ride or die friends. My relationship with my family couldn’t be better (except, sure, I could visit more often!) I have a great living situation with one of my oldest and dearest friends in a killer row home.
I’m pretty damn lucky.
But still, something is missing. Something important.
This is a strange moment in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I really love my life and to sit here and bitch and moan is not my point. In fact, punch me in the face if I ever do that. But I’m starting to contemplate my independence. I’m totally free. As much as I love my family and friends, we don’t need each other in any measurable way. And with the exception of my professional responsibilities, no one actually relies on me for anything significant. The success or failure of my life will only have a direct causal effect on me. Suddenly “independent” feels very lonely.
So the short answer is a boyfriend. That’s what’s missing. But you all knew that, that’s why I’ve called you here each week. I don’t mean some one to go to dinner with, or sleep with or see my shows or hang with my friends. That’s easy. I can make a patchwork quilt out of these silly boy swatches for that stuff. It’s deeper than that.
What I’m missing is my partner in crime. Some one that I can build my life with. Some one who cares if I succeed because when I do, we do. Some one who, when I fuck it up, is there to help me make it right. Some one who makes me feel as important and capable as my work does, who makes me laugh as much as my friends do, who supports me like my family does, who wants me even when I have eye boogers. Some one who is there to share the often crushing weight of existence.
Each day, I’m going it alone. And I’m handling it. But like Olivia Pope: flawlessly empowered while hopelessly fragile hoping Fitz is going to get it right. And I’m not looking to rush into something because it feels safe and cozy. I’ve been there before and it ain’t cute. I know this thing I’m looking for is rare and special and I’m picky. I know it takes time.
Restlessness, Anxiety and Disappointment are all names of magazines in the waiting room of Dr. Love’s office.
I reserve that right to be disinterested for any reason at all. Because at the same time that I think I know exactly what this man will be like, I also have no clue. I’m a fickle pickle. And these boys that I could give or take, I am not obligated to make space for them in my life because they bought me a beer. I don’t need to turn boring conversation into a life long friendship. Besides, you would have to be pretty damn amazing to join the pantheon of my loved ones.
But in the meantime, I could stop being such a scaredy cat, put on my big boy pants and tell these boys up front, thanks but I’m not interested right now. And maybe they will become a friend instead of another person I’m trying to avoid at Woody’s.