Besides doing some cross training and reading post marathon season, I’ve found myself going on more dates recently through an online dating service. The experience has been interesting.
As I approach middle age as a single man I’m finding I’m not falling as hard or as quickly for the first pretty face I meet as what I once had. I’m meeting women for coffee or dinner, we chat, and I tend to have a decent enough time. If we click we might go out again. So far, those instances have fizzled out by the third or fourth date. One of us finds the other uninteresting or incompatible after the truth of who we are is revealed (stinks when you are the one interested in that situation).
And, yes, there is occasionally the woman who I like, but soon discover wants to be pursued so hard, or is so impossible to please or win over that I finally give up. I call these situations the Prince Charming Syndrome cases, where my date is likeable, wants to be liked, but lives under the delusion that all men are supposed to act as some super-charming perfect snapshot of their favorite Disney fairytale. I’m learning I am too told for cartoons; not romance mind you, but cartoon idealism. And I’m hoping the Prince Charming Syndrome isn’t that uncommon a phenomena for as many times as I fell in it. I mean, I like to chase, a little, but there must be some reward to it. The disheartening alternative might be that I am just attracted to difficult women.
Overall though, the companionship of dating has been nice, but not consuming.
While on a first date eating appetizers the other evening, the woman I was with observed, “Isn’t it interesting, how some people won’t even go out to a restaurant by themselves?” We looked around, and sure enough, everyone was either in a large group or paired up. The place was called “The Pub” for goodness sake. Not a lonesome drinker in sight.
What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be. ~ Ellen Burstyn, American actress
We agreed, this woman who is the same age as myself, that there was something nice about being comfortable with being alone nearing middle age – taking yourself to dinner, out to a movie, or a short road trip. This solitude is even more delicious after having experienced a failed marriage and a multitude of bad dates. My company gave insightful, intelligent conversation. She’s also a trail runner and yoga instructor, so our discussion about fitness was interesting, and we found more common ground. Running alone or with someone like-minded can be some of the best re-centering/stress relief in the world, we agreed. Other things we shared in common included the philosophy that lying on the couch, listening to good music is better than a therapist, too much TV can rot your brain, and the Guardian is a good source for information.
Obviously, I liked the date. We left promising to go out again soon. It’s been a bit since I heard from her, so my mind says she’s changed her mind. Or it could be she has a 4-year-old daughter and a full-time job and is just busy. We’ll see.
Either way, no loss, but a gain in the fact that she got me thinking about how much I’ve grown into being a bit more comfortable with me. There’s still work to be done, but overall, I’m all right and that’s allowing me to steer the course of my life now, instead of constantly chasing a horizon where I think contentment and happiness may be found.
Leaning on that date conversation, I decided to spend Thursday completely alone. Other than a brief phone call to my parents in the afternoon, I spoke with no one. I got up, fixed two egg whites with toast, listened to This American Life as I cleaned house, slipped out for a 5 mile run in my neighborhood minus ear buds, went to the gym for a spin class and some light lifting in the evening, and then took myself out for dinner. When I got home, I laid on my couch wrapped in a blanket and read some long-form storytelling on my Kindle Fire HD until I began drifting off to sleep around 10 p.m.
The whole day was brilliant. I spent a lot of time in my head, sorting through feelings, projects, goals, things to do, and looking ahead. In the midst of the frantic pace of work, running groups, and family matters I tend to forget that I’m OK. I can easily get into a cycle of judging others and comparing myself to what I think I see when looking at them. I tend to come out on the losing end when doing that. I could always, always do more, to the point it builds up to where I fill my schedule with activities to do with others just to escape actually taking the time to be with myself and touch base with how I am feeling.
After Thursday’s alone time I reminded that I’m pleased, right now, with being a bit of a loner, enjoying my long solo runs and reading silently by myself at night. And sure, this won’t last forever. There will be moments when I look over at the empty seat next to me and wish I had someone to share that brilliant insight I just had with. Or moments in longer runs when I wish I had someone to push me just a little further, make me go a little faster, and to endure the burn and pain with. But that’s why I have a blog and my running group and a few good friends I can share my life with. And, someday, if the right woman comes along great.
In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount ~ Haruki Murakami, After Dark