A Dash of Bitter with the Sweet

I always thought of myself as a romantic person.  And by that I meant that I was a sucker for love, and love being in love, and would always put love first if given the chance.  And I guess that's still true.

But it also meant that I was waiting around for love to "strike."  I was raised on a diet of American pop culture, and so I've ingested more than a few romantic comedies, which all have the same basic formula: two attractive people meet, and they can't stand each other; their dislike grows the more they get to know each other until they are the chief antagonists in each other's lives; then, suddenly, they realize that they're, in fact, perfect for each other and have been madly in love from the very beginning; they didn't choose this love; love chose them.

And I just don't think it works that way. Outside of the movies, I mean. I still consider myself a pretty romantic guy.  I'm dating, and I guess I'm doing so in the hopes that I'll find love again. But I'm not expecting it to find me. I went on a few dates recently with a guy I was really starting to like. He was a bit on the shy side, and cute in a nerdy sort of way.  We went on three dates, and there was a lot of kissing and hand-holding going on, particularly on dates #2 and #3. And it was nice. But when I called him up for date #4, he needed to tell me something. Uh-oh.

He wanted me to know that while he thought I was a really nice guy and he found me attractive, he just wasn't feeling a "spark." He suspected that I wasn't really feeling a "spark" either, and - partly to avoid an even more awkward conversation, and partly because it was true - I confessed that no, I hadn't. There was no "spark" on my end, either.  The thing was, I wasn't really expecting a "spark" to occur.

I'm coming to the conclusion that you make your own "sparks" if you want them.  People feel "sparks" because they want to.  Those wanting to live in a romantic comedy often feel "sparks" around someone who's completely inappropriate for them, and they believe that they've been struck by Cupid's arrow because they want to believe that. But at some level, they made a choice.  This is why people who cheat describe themselves as victims, because clearly, love is something you can't control. And I'm about to call bullshit on that one, too.

I was sad when my shy, cute, nerdy guy basically told me that he wasn't interested in a fourth date, despite my being really good for him on paper (my words, not his). Not sad because the love of my life was casting me aside, just a little wistful because I thought he was a nice guy, not unattractive, and a good kisser to boot. The fact that I wasn't mentally picking out china patterns after only three dates was, to my mind, a sign of progress - not an indication that a "spark" would never occur just because it wasn't there after three evenings out. I was perfectly willing to feel a "spark" - when and if I was ready for it. And now, I won't get that chance.

I'm going out with someone tomorrow night.  It's something of a blind date; we found each other online.  But I liked the way he described himself, and his photos display a handsome man with a devilish smirk. And dimples.  Dimples are a plus.  I hope we find something to talk about. I hope he's as cute as his picture. I hope he likes me, too.  But I'm not hoping for a "spark." I simply trust that it will be there if I want it to be. I guess I'm not as romantic as I used to be. And that's okay, too.


Hi Ho, Alas and also Lackaday

So, it's Valentine's Day. And I'm single.

 And you know what? That's totally fine.

 I've been single on most of the Valentine's Days of my life, and it was always (I thought) a painful reminder of my singlehood, my inability to be loved by anyone I found remotely attractive, and the bleak, perpetually single life that lay before me. I may be overstating things a little. But only a little. I really hated the day. I understood that it was a holiday manufactured by the greeting card, candy, floral, and diamond industries to basically make money by persuading dating and/or married people to spend a shit-ton of money or else be perceived by their spouse or significant other as uncaring and aloof. But it seemed to me that all of the dating and/or married people in my life were having a hell of a time playing along, and, well ... it made me sad. 

Which is okay, too. Nothing wrong with wanting what you want, and perhaps a little sadness now makes the sweet even sweeter later on.

I was not single on this date last year. It was the third Valentine's Day of that courtship. And I'm not going to put all the details of my prior relationship all over the internet machine, but it will suffice to say that I wasn't very happy. I likely believed myself to be happier than I really was, but I wasn't in a good place. It will suffice to say that I was not making him happy, and his unhappiness was not making me happy. Nonetheless, gifts were exchanged and a romantic dinner out was planned. And I went through the motions and felt really happy - mostly I was grateful that I was no longer single and alone on the day that used to make me feel more single and alone than ever.

I was probably happy - truly happy, I mean - on the first and second Valentine's Days I spent as someone's boyfriend, but really, I wasn't much happier on February 14th than I was on February 13th or 15th. Or March 27th or October 4th or April 22nd or August the 17th or any other random day on the calendar. What made me happy about that relationship made me happy, no matter what the greeting card companies said. And what eventually made me sad about that relationship still made me sad. The calendar, as it turns out, was ultimately irrelevant. It's a simple thing, but not as obvious as you might think, and really nice to know.

And now I find myself single again, but not really alone. I have a wonderful group of friends who keep me from being lonely, and I have every confidence that love will find me again - only next time I'll be smarter. I could spend this Valentine's Day evening with my dog in front of the television (I have last night's episode of "The Americans" on the DVR - have you seen it? Great show! Ssh. We'll talk about it later, maybe.), and that would be perfectly okay.

As it happens, one of the last things I did in an attempt to save my prior relationship as it began to inevitably sink was buy a mini-subscription to one of my favorite Washington theatres. I picked Thursday nights because they were cheaper than the weekend but close enough to the weekend to warrant a post-show cocktail if the mood struck. By the time the tickets arrived in the mail, my ex had already moved out of the house, and so I had these theatre tickets - a pair of them - for four different Thursdays throughout the following year. One of those Thursdays just happened to be Valentine's Day. And so, I'm going to the theatre tonight with a single friend who likewise has no romantic dinners planned for Valentine's Day. We actually couldn't get a reservation in any decent restaurant ANYWHERE tonight, so we're eating takeout in my kitchen before heading over to watch talented actors bring a script to life in front of our eyes. So, don't cry for me, Argentina; I have something to do on Valentine's Day.

But again - even if I didn't, I'd be fine. Looking at the Facebook machine today, I'm seeing lots of references to Valentine's Day today - either public declarations of love from one half of a couple to another, or grumbling references to "Single's Awareness Day" from the single folks in my life. But for the first time in my life, I'm reveling in my single status on February 14th. I put on my sassy red tie covered in hearts (the girls in the office are getting a kick out of it), I've accepted a flower from someone who decided that everyone on my floor needed a flower, I plan on accepting chocolate from anyone who offers it, and I've got a great big smile on my face. Because I think it finally hit me: I don't need anyone's permission to be happy except my own.

Happy Valentine's Day. No, seriously, I mean it.