Boy Meets Other Girls
The world changed when I had to realize that it would never be about the story of Beautiful and I. We were not meant to be. I had to pick up the pieces of what was left and continue on. I became restless and insecure. My confidence was shaken. I had held the greatest love in the world in the palm of my hands and let it slip through my fingers like fine sand. I was even given a second chance, but not knowing or not realizing the significance, I only came to truly miss it when it was finally, and completely, out of reach. My love for her had been one of the strongest foundations of my existence for the past four years. I had constantly leaned on it for support during times of struggle personally, academically, or professionally. She was one of the few, if there even any others, who truly understood me and to whom I could trust to help relieve the weight on my shoulders. My life had been built on three legs. My love for Beautiful, my future career as a teacher, and my small but still critical social circle. In a perfect world, I would end up being married to her and we would have created a family and home together. I would have a steady and reliable and respected career as a high school teacher. My friends and family would be there always to support and to celebrate through good times and bad. But then I had to realize Beautiful was completely out of the picture, and like a stool with only two legs to stand on, I fell. I had had plans to marry her, find a home and live together, and after a few years of bliss just being completely engrossed in each other, we would start a family. It was all supposed to be a part of my grand master life plan, which saw me supposedly happily married by twenty-eight. I have of course learned since then that while the idea of having goals and aspirations can be useful and in fact motivational in creating and finding and recognizing opportunities, the strict idea of ‘having things done in a specific order over a specific period of time’ can only cause stress, grief, and disappointment. Very soon after, the second leg of my stool was knocked off as well. In May I learned from my school that I would not be asked back for another year and that they would not fully sign off on my teaching license. If I wanted to continue on this path I would have to go through the gauntlet of applications and interviews and demonstration lessons and join a large population of hopeful potential teachers vying for more than just a maternity leave only unlike them I would not have a full license, which would mean having to go through another year of development, increased visits, and extra scrutiny. It had been a tough year in a school I had never experienced myself, full of students who I could not fully and personally relate to, and I was terrible at balancing the fine line between my professional life and my personal life. It pains me to say this, but for as much as I loved and was passionate about English and literature, I had turned out to be one hell of a disappointment as a teacher. To not sink into despair and debt, I took on a job purely out of necessity. There were no illusions of nobility or grandeur. I did not love who I was or what I was doing. Although I could see it in the way my parents and my friends saw me, I did not need their stare to feel the judgement of how low I had gotten. So much of the spark that was lit because of Beautiful had died within me. And now not only was I a shadow of the lover of life I once was, I was living an illusion of home in the tepid shell of a career that held no possibility or pleasure for me. I worked because I needed to, and because it allowed me to afford the luxury of pursuing that which did make me happy. If only I could find something again. Without the one leg, everything else just was not strong enough to support me. I was always, and still am, a man who defined himself by the love he had in his life. I was always a believer in the ‘missing piece’ story, that one day someone would come along and teach me how to feel whole. Without Beautiful’s love to define me and to strengthen me, my resolve weakened. I could not turn my passion and energy and vigor to my career because I was in one I had none of that for. My friends and family were having to take on the excessive brunt of all my frenetic frenzied energy but even they could not handle it. I lived too much for relationships, too much for love. I could not release in myself the dreams and hopes and aspirations I held privately and exclusively reserved for my relationships. I had to begin again.
The question was of course, of where and when and how. It had been years now since college, and I could no longer rely on the comfort and convenience of classes and clubs. I had to relearn how the modern world connected with each other and how I would find a partner who could help me. Since up until this point my experience had been exclusively schoolyard dating, I went first with what was most comfortable and most natural for me. I went back to school. I decided that perhaps I would want to re-enter the education field but at a higher level. I would pursue my Master’s degree and perhaps apply to teach at a college level. The dignity and pomp and prestige of a college professor still held the romantic ideals and notions I once had for high school teaching. I could imagine my closet full of brown blazers and turtlenecks already. I lasted only one semester. Eventually my guise was thrown and the veil lifted. I couldn’t fool myself any longer. I knew that I honestly had no more ambitions or hopes for an academic career. I had tasted the water of the well and it was now bitter and tainted. I wanted nothing more of observations and other people’s expectations. And once I could no longer fool myself, I realized what I was really doing was setting myself up to be paying upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for what was basically a glorified dating simulation with a diploma at the end. I didn’t sign up for a second semester and saved myself the money; there were cheaper and more efficient ways to meet women and I did not have to stay up writing papers to do so.
Many said to me to try and meet someone at work. It isn’t like I didn’t have any examples to draw on either. My parents actually met in the workplace. Let us not forget that Bill and Melinda Gates met in the workplace as well, and they are now one of the wealthiest couples in the world. Former president Barack Obama met Michelle when she was her superior at a Chicago law firm, and they were for eight years the most powerful couple in the world. Dating in the workplace can seem like an irresistible and sometimes inevitable temptation. Outside of home or school, work is perhaps the third place we will spend most of our lives. It is difficult not to imagine that in the often eight hours a day, usually five days a week, that one spends in the same place over and over again that certain connections and relationships would arise. Interestingly enough, up to sixty-percent of adults will have admitted to ‘dipping their pen in the company ink’ but eighty-percent of the very same adults will say that they believe office relationships are often a bad idea. I think this is perhaps due to a lot of regrettable office Christmas parties and messy breakups that result in filing in together at the unemployment line. Of course meeting in the workplace is just like meeting anywhere else. As long as two responsible mature adults can agree on certain things, working on communication, space, and avoiding conflicts of interests, it can be just as viable an option as any other. The problem for me was that the workplace was never an ideal possibility. As a teacher I was only surrounded by young students, angry parents, and other stressed out teachers. I wouldn’t ever dare risk my career for one, risk my life for the other, or risk my sanity for the last. Teachers are one of the professions with the highest divorce rates. As a travel consultant, it would have been grossly unprofessional for me to date my clients, and being the youngest in my office by decades, I was a bit starved for choice for any possible romps in the copy room. Honestly this wasn’t exactly a great loss. While the appropriateness and legitimacy of office romances have been set and made credible, I remain skeptical of their longevity and practicality.
I thought of asking my friends for advice, as that seemed to make the most sense to me. After all, apart from my family these were the people with whom I’ve spent the most amount of time. I have known my best friend only three years less than I have known my own brother. They know my interests and passions and they have their own social circles beyond my own, which is admittedly very small. The women they could recommend to me would already have passed their own credentials and would have my friends already to vouch for them. I’d imagine we would have a lot in common and have the support and encouragement from our friends to succeed. But behavioral sciences would say otherwise. For one, having friends try to set up friends can often hurt friendships. There is the unrealistic idealism that comes from having someone you know and trust vet for someone. It is dangerously easy to fall into a daydream about double dates and joint weddings. When expectations fall short, you could take it out on the friend who was trying to help. This could then affect your relationships, as you question why your friend would ever have recommended someone clearly so disappointing. Dating someone who is perhaps already a part of your friends group can also make it harder to break up, as you feel obligated to soldier on just a little bit more for the sake of your mutual connection. And when it does eventually end, there is only bitterness and awkwardness as you are forced to draw borders and draft friends on each side, and no one wants to be put in such a situation as to split friend groups. I chose to recuse my friends and save us all the potential strain.
Ultimately, I decided to rely mainly on online dating. The marvel of modern technology. This was more than the questionable online chat rooms or forums of the desperate and needy. For most people, modern online dating has removed the stigma of earlier versions by focusing on creating lasting, legitimate relationships. Between 2005 and 2012 thirty-five percent of married couples say they met online. With the numbers only going up, more and more adults are relying on online dating services to meet people. By joining this community I would have access to a far greater potential dating pool than my local neighborhood Barnes and Noble could ever provide me. Obviously the global nature of the internet was appealing and promised me more opportunities: a definite plus. Because of the purpose and specific goal of online dating sites, I also never had to worry about wondering what the other person was looking for. For the most part I could feel confident knowing that anyone I would or could meet was single and looking and interested in a relationship. There are of course some services and sites that offer alternatives other than relationships, like casual hookups or simply meeting friends, but I steered clear of those and only went where it was very clearly understood what each party was interested in. It was also great for my social anxiety/awkwardness and reserved nature, as I could project myself in a certain way and manner and carefully approach someone with the benefit and comfort of distance and time. I set certain rules for myself as well. One, as I mentioned, was to make sure I only contacted people I could very clearly see were seeking a serious relationship. Second, when meeting up in person for the very first time I made sure it was during the day, in a public area, and close to where they lived. I knew the fears and worries of women on these sites, and I wanted to help them feel safe and comfortable. Third, I always made it very clear up front what my intentions were and what I was hoping to build. I didn’t want any confusion or false pretenses. Of course I also knew of the downfalls that I would need to avoid. The very same variety and infinite possibilities promised by online dating were also one of its worst features and most difficult obstacles to staying happy. A large body of studies has shown that when we are given with too much choice, we lose the ability to find lasting happiness in one. With how easy it is for someone to continue to keep looking and finding, especially given more distance or less characteristics, it’s hard to shake off the idea that perhaps there’s someone else, someone better. I also found that most profiles on these sites relied heavily on physical appeal. Perhaps buying into that idea of ‘love at first sight’. I would hate to ever consider it, but I should probably admit that I used physical attractiveness as the first and most important characteristic when viewing potential online matches. Only when they might be very clearly presented as highly likely matches or had some other very interesting or significant feature would I stay a bit longer to browse and read and learn if I initially found someone physically unattractive. I maintain no illusions that I’m by any means an Adonis. I am at best average. So I would hate to imagine how many potential matches I may have had or have reached out to who have rejected me for the very same reason. And I can’t ever hold that against them. But if my best feature is my sense of humor, cooking, and great storytelling, sometimes an average face can’t suffice on online dating. I also sometimes missed the pace and patience of real life versus online. I happily courted Beautiful for four months before even our first official date. I doubt anyone who is enjoying the speed and convenience of online dating would have been happy with that.
Ultimately I did meet some very wonderful, attractive, interesting women. I went on countless first dates and got to have that rush and feeling of excitement and anxiousness all over again. I got to meet women from Connecticut, New York, and all parts of New Jersey. They were anything from accountants, secretaries, bankers, to artists. Of the many matches, many exchanged messages, many calls, many meetings, and even many dates, there were even a few budding relationships and romances. I was a hurt and broken man but I could never live without love. I was hoping any one of these incredible people could give me the same. I dated a few of them for a while, and one or two even lasted longer than a couple months and met my friends and family. But there was always something to shoot down. She lived too far, and I would remember how often I would visit Beautiful and loved spending time in her living room lying on the floor watching movies with her. I wanted that same luxury of seeing her as often as I could and would want to. Or maybe another one was too giving. She would constantly inconvenience herself to help her friends and family, taking them out or spending on their behalf or devoting of her time to those who needed it. It brought up my insecurities about Beautiful not making us a priority or spending more time with others or using what little she had for others and not us. She was too boring, or too unpredictable, or too wild, or too safe, or too clingy, or too aloof, I could never find my porridge or my bed. I had shot myself in the foot too many times, seen myself sabotage too many possible romances, and even seen a few be ruined all on their own. Infidelity, insecurity, I experienced it all. The truth was, they were all of them not Beautiful, and could never be. After all these years I wasn’t looking for love, I was still looking for Beautiful.
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