Get in line, boys.
Why is it so important for me to have a man’s attention? Am I the worst feminist ever?
At some point in my teen years, I developed an unfathomable fear of being alone.
Despite the warmth provided by my loving family and countless friends, I wanted to have some boy in my life. If I didn’t have a boyfriend, I had some back-burner type boy. One in particular I IMed into the wee hours, drinking in the excitement of our flirtation with insatiable gulps. We’d kiss in the dark, with no notion of life beyond that isolated moment. I’d catch his eye as we passed each other between class periods, both drunk on the illusory implications behind our secret smiles.
At times, I wondered what my life would be like if I didn’t have this safety net; how could I live my life without the constant reminder that some individual of the opposite gender finds me desirable?
Old habits die hard.
Last November, at age 26, I found myself sipping wine on a friend’s couch with an odd realization: I’m never truly alone. I always have a man in the forefront, on the sidelines, or both (with their knowledge, that is). That seemed strange to me. I talked about it with friends from various walks of my life, but they treated my mind-blowing epiphany as a well-established fact. (We’re always the last to understand obvious traits about ourselves, aren’t we?)
That can’t be healthy, I thought. If a friend made a similar realization, I’d advise her to take a break. And if I’d suggest that to a friend, well…
And with that, Dateless December was born. Meaning? I pledged not to go on any dates for the rest of that November and all of December.
It’s not a long time, really, but — at first — I may as well have been dropped into a stark tundra. With no man to text, I paced my apartment. My fingers raked my hair. I leapt every time my phone made a noise.
I am so pathetic, I thought. (Hell, I was so on edge at that moment I may have said it out loud.) The thought flew around my mind as I struggled to maintain sanity.
I’ve lived with myself for 26 years. Why am I afraid to be alone?
What am I getting out of these conquests?
Why is it so important for me to have a man’s attention?
Am I the worst feminist ever?
Then the month came and went, and everything made sense.
My bizarre oh-em-gee, I’m alone knee-jerk reactions went away within a few days. The moment they disappeared, I wondered why I had ever cared. With considerable free time to dedicate to myself, I had opportunities to do things I had neglected. Master a new Pinterest hairstyle? On it. Take extra long walks with the dog? Fantastic. Finish For Whom The Bell Tolls, finally? OK, let’s not get too crazy.
Some of those changes, however, I didn’t relish. Namely, I had more time to think about things. You know what I mean — it’s those unpleasant thoughts, with their insidious growth, that are preferable to avoid. We all have them. It’s that voices that reminds you of past failures that could foreshadow future ones if you don’t handle yourself. It’s that feeling of confusion about a countless, frantic array of issues in your life. It’s turning to a vice for comfort, only to realize that your vice is working against you.
I mean, it’s much easier to drink in the deep tones of some obnoxiously handsome man saying, “No, you’re amazing. It’s all in your head,” than to face the simple fact: I need to improve myself, like, a lot. I’m terrible at handling stress. Time management is difficult for me. I really, really need to vacuum my stairs more frequently. That’s fine, though. Part of the fun in this manic journey that is my 20s is growing as an individual.
Some epiphanies were more painful. I don’t think I’ve always liked myself much, I learned. Up until two years ago, the thought of being alone beyond, say, an hour’s worth of driving felt stressful. Sometimes I dated a lot because my heart felt full, and I had a lot of affection to give. It’s like I baked cookies and preferred to give them away rather than eat them myself. I don’t want to be that person any more — I’d rather date to seek an adventure, or connect with worthwhile humans who amplify my existing good vibes.
Why was I afraid to be alone? I guess it’s easier for me to pick apart what’s wrong (or right) with a relationship than with myself. Looking inwards has never been a talent of mine. As it turns out, when I peer introspectively, I see positive and negative things. No longer am I frightened of myself. I won’t pretend that a month of not dating has fixed me, but I think it’s an invaluable step forward. Next time I find myself with five dates in a week, I can stop and ask myself, Am I doing this because I like all of them, or because I am running away from my problems? I might find myself feeling both ways at certain times, but I’d never know if I hadn’t learned to look.
Now that I’ve laid out all of my neuroses on the table, gentlemen, the line forms to my left.