Sometimes my vocal coach picks songs for me because I like the artist, but more often than not, she chooses a song that fits my voice. Her last selection was by an artist I had never heard of before; India Arie sang about being Ready for Love, and her intonation and the lyrics struck me in equal measure. Coincidentally, Hanna had picked a song that really resonated with me – I realised that I actually am ready for love. My therapist had always told me that there was nothing wrong with me trying to have a relationship, but I wanted to sort myself out first before opening up to somebody else. But now that my therapy is almost over, I feel that I have reached an emotional balance and stability which finally makes me want to share my innermost thoughts with somebody again.
I decided to give online dating another go, so at the beginning of summer, I polished up my profile, uploaded some new pictures, and started browsing. To my bewilderment, a lot of the guys looked familiar. Very familiar. I had not been on that website for ages, but my visual memory is quite good, and I just knew that these gentlemen had already been online two years ago. Now I do understand that it is rare to hit it off straight away with the first person you contact, but I was getting confused as to why seemingly nice, attractive men were still looking for The One on a daily basis. Was there really nobody out there who was interested in them and vice versa?
It made me think about expectations people have when it comes to dating and relationships. Even though I agree that online dating in itself is a great way to meet new people, especially when you work full-time and are beyond the club/disco age, it has never been something I felt really confident with. First of all, while I love writing, I am shit at self-promotion; “marketing” myself in glowing terms makes me feel rather stupid. Online dating also means that I have to rely more on my mental abilities, processing the written word, than on my gut feeling when assessing somebody. I don’t believe in love at first sight, at least not for myself, but in real life I can very quickly tell whether I find somebody interesting (in the broadest sense) or boring as hell. This also works to a certain extent with online dating – there is a reason why S was the only man I ever contacted online, and we actually did have a really good rapport when meeting in person.
But the main problem I have with online dating is that it seems to make people put less effort in pursuing and maintaining a relationship. There are so many profiles on offer online that people find it easier to back out of a blossoming partnership and move on as soon as the first obstacles come up. Others don’t even get that far because they can’t make up their mind about who they would like to be with – what if there is somebody even better just a click away?
The expectations of some of these online users are also rather … presumptuous. With one of the “long-stay residents” on that dating website, it struck me that his profile still listed him as being 40 years old, which was the age he had already stated two years ago. When I checked his account, I was dumbfounded to read that he deliberately keeps his age at 40 because he does not want ladies to “miss out on some great men like me just because you set your search requirements to 40” … while he himself is limiting his search to women aged 21-30. Sure, mate.
I find it rather disheartening that people are so fixated on first impressions; I know that initial attraction is a great thing, but similarities in humour, intelligence, values, temperament, sexuality, and tolerance levels are the things that keep a relationship afloat in the end. What most people are looking for in a relationship is not excitement and the unknown, but familiarity. What most people don’t understand, however, is that this clone of you does not exist. So what one probably should look for is somebody who is good at negotiating your differences – a person you can have rational discussions and disagreements with. In short, the ideal partner might not be the one identical to you, but the one who is willing to put up with you and your flaws. Maybe compatibility is not a precondition of love, but the result.
But as we all know, theory is one thing and real life quite another. When I met F through work, I did not take much notice of him at first; it took a social outing for us to properly talk. While we got along really well, I quickly dismissed him as a potential partner; I felt that him being 10 years younger than me was too much of an age gap. But it was nice to chat with him, and soon we were sending each other emails or texts on a daily basis. I liked the fact that he was keen on sharing his life with me, but also always asked about me; sometimes I would get a text from him just wishing me a lovely day.
We went to the lake together one summer evening and stayed way past midnight; a week later, he picked me up from a work party and again we spent hours chatting about any number of things. He came by for dinner; we cooked together and watched a movie, and while it was very relaxed and enjoyable, I was a bit confused about my feelings for him. It felt like we were in the process of dating, and yet there was no … spark. Nothing. I was starting to get a bit annoyed at myself: There was a very attractive man with a great sense of humour, clearly interested in me and my life, but I could not see myself being anything else with him than friends.
I was wondering whether I had talked myself out of fancying him – maybe I could not “bring myself” to find him attractive as a partner because social conventions held me back? It took me some weeks, but in the end I realised that it was not necessarily the age difference (although it is rather sobering to crack a brilliant joke, only to realise that the other person has no idea of what is going on as he is too young to understand the cultural reference). The problem I had is that we are at different stages in our life; our goals for the next couple of years are very divergent. Plus, with him I always felt like it was my part to be the grown-up; I usually like to be a bit silly and loosen up the people around me, but I somehow ended up being the reasonable one with him. And feeling like somebody’s mum is definitely not a turn on – at least not for me.
Hence this little adventure will hopefully bring about a friendship, but certainly not a relationship – but it was a very nice experience to receive some male attention again. I wholeheartedly enjoyed somebody asking about my day and well-being, sharing his thoughts and ideas with me, and being keen on spending time with me. So yes, I think I am ready for love.