you likely did not hear it here first: there’s no such thing as dating anymore. i first heard this years ago, as women’s magazines and blogs began lamenting the demise of the date. “what happened to going out to dinner or a movie?” they asked dramatically, “now it’s all hanging out and hook-ups.” this didn’t seem especially relevant to me or my life, because as a lesbian-leaning pansexual (ie, i’ve only ever been involved with two men and one was trans) i and the majority of my friends never really dated traditionally. i’m not really sure what a traditional lesbian date looks like. years ago, when i was talking to my friend katie (who is straight) about this, she explained the concept of dating to me. “two people are attracted to each other,” she told me, “they go out for drinks, maybe dinner, they hang out, they have sex. eventually it either gets more serious or it doesn’t, and no one’s feelings have to be hurt.” i pondered that for a second and replied, “really? in my world, things are over when someone moves out.”
that’s not to push the tiredsome old stereotype of lesbians and a u-haul, that is to say that in my experience up until that point “dating” went like this: you like someone, they like you, you hang out, you’re “in love”, you move in together, things go bad, you break up, someone moves out. that’s kind of how it went for most people i knew as well. the other one that i was familiar with (though never experienced first hand) was the: you’re with someone but you’ve both known it’s over for a while, you meet someone else and start sleeping with them on the side, but you don’t break up with your partner because it’s just easier not to. neither of these scenarios are especially healthy, but hey – i’m just telling you what i’ve either experienced or seen. in lesbian world, “dating” means “in an exclusive relationship” so no one dates. however, as we get older most of us have more and more baggage. we’ve moved too fast, we’ve divided furniture and pets, and we know that we don’t want to end up living in a two bedroom apartment with a complete stranger that we used to have sex with, so something had to change… what we should’ve done is learned how to date the way straight people used to. instead? we started getting “involved”.
i can’t tell you when exactly i first heard the term “involved”. i know the first time i remember hearing it, in a sentence that a friend uttered to me: “no, i’m not dating her. we’re just involved.” i’m going to tell you what i told her, that it could not possibly end well and it didn’t. i realized though, that “involved” was a murky quicksand that it is much easier to become trapped in than i knew at that time. recently, i realized that the last time i was actually in an official relationship was four years ago. it’s not like i haven’t been involved with people in the last four years, i have; and therein lies what i believe to be the problem. i blame it all on that word, “involved.” when we get involved, the reasons for doing so are as unique as the people getting involved. perhaps we really like the person and think it will turn into more; maybe we are afraid of going too fast by defining it; maybe we are horny and lonely and don’t actually like the person that much but they like us a lot; maybe we are getting over someone else; these are just a tiny sampling of the reasons that someone might get involved. over the past four years i have realized that there are two sides to involvement however: there’s the person that wants it to be more, and the person that for whatever reason doesn’t.
i have been on both sides of involved, and neither of them are much fun honestly. unless you are a sociopath, no one relishes having someone that genuinely likes them who is willing to wait around while they figure out if it’s more than just sex, companionship, and something to do. when it comes to undefined relationships 99.9% of the time, someone is going to get hurt. i can of course only speak with authority when it comes to my non-relationships. each was very different, and each didn’t progress for very different reasons. it got me wondering though, can “involved” ever really become more? don’t we know – if we are honest – pretty early on whether or not someone is going to be serious relationship material? sometimes we can have the best intentions, but i think if we are really honest with ourselves, no matter what side of “involved” we are on, we know where it is going to go and more often than not that is nowhere.
the first person i got “involved” with, everyone knew it was a huge mistake, including me. she and i ended up having one of the most intense bonds i have ever had with a friend or loved one, and in that situation i knew that it never became more because of things that had to do with her, not our feelings for each other. see, sometimes “involved” happens because we meet someone when we aren’t ready for something serious but we know we are too connected with them to just be friends.
the second time i got “involved” i was trying to move on from the first time and i genuinely thought that the person and i would end up dating. it was only once i was in the mess that i realized that she was an abusive sociopath with a drinking problem and anger management issues that used women to fulfill whatever needs she had, and to get ahead. i have no doubt that if i were rich or of use to her career that we would still be in that whole mess. a year of weekly therapy got me straight on what i needed to learn and know about both of those situations. i’m sure age and maturity played a big part as well. then, i got to be on the other side of “involved”. i’m fairly certain that again, everyone knew it was a big mistake. i knew that it was, in fact, i knew really early on that she was not going to be “the one”, but i was on the other end of it this time and i thought that i could handle it.
honesty, you see, was what i thought the solution to “involved” was. if you just let people know where you are, if you are open, if you are truthful, then it doesn’t have to turn into the screaming, crazy, hot mess that my first two experiences with “involved” were. it was naive of me, but i can see why i thought that. the first two women that i got involved with, they were both honest yet secretive in their own ways. if you ask either of them, they will both tell you that they are the most honest person you have ever met. yet, they are neither one of them open. one had an ungodly number of women on the hook, and all of them thought they were the one. the other had “relationships” with people who could benefit her in some way and people on the side/in between who would be there until the next person that was either rich or influential came along. one used people, the other never pretended that she wanted a girlfriend. i really thought that i had learned the hard lessons from both of them, so i got involved. it was shortly into that next mess that i realized: when you get involved, sometimes you don’t even know what you want. i tried to be honest, but what i meant yesterday wasn’t true today. the more i got to know the person, the more i realized that she had the same characteristics that had frightened me about the last woman, she just hid them better. some people seem really nice when you only know them superficially. some people, you only see the anger once you’re intimate (whether that is emotional or physical intimacy.)
so here i am, 29 years old. i would like to think infinitely more evolved than i was at 25, and yet while i have changed it appears that situations have not. i am in the best place i have ever been in. i feel i truly know myself; i have a pretty good idea of where i’m going in my life, what i want; my progress some days feels like two steps forward and one step back but hell, i’m doing my best. i am exactly the person that i have spent my life wanting to be and becoming. i think i see myself in a pretty realistic light, and anything i want to change i am actively working on changing. i struggle with depression and anxiety, i likely always will, but nothing gets me down for longer than a day. 🙂 it’s a pretty awesome place except for one tiny problem – i’m alone. now, anyone that knows me or has read my ramblings probably knows that i am a hopeless romantic. i really do believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. i like happy endings! when i get down about the search for “that one perfect person” i look to the relationship i respect the most, that of sally & tracey, and i remind myself that sally didn’t meet tracey when she was 30. do you realize, if you are 40, you could meet someone today and if you don’t die until you are 100 you would be with them for 60 years? that’s the majority of your life, and that’s pretty amazing to think about. oh shut up, i’m a romantic!
so what is the point of this rambling? the point is, don’t get “involved”. no matter what side you are on, just don’t do it. you can tell someone you don’t want a relationship, but if you falter on that a little bit they are going to believe what they want and that is that you secretly do want a relationship with them. i’ve been on both sides of that. sometimes, whether we want to admit it or not, we take what we can get. maybe it’s because we are lonely, maybe it’s because we are horny, but the fact is that nothing ends well that you didn’t go into with complete openness – not honesty, but openness. sometimes honesty is just cruel. “i don’t think you are the one” might be an honest statement, but it is cruel and you can get away with saying it in not so many words and still be honest; but you’re not being open. we all have needs, and for me, maybe i can meet those needs with a piece of chocolate cake, a vibrator, and a glass of champagne (or twelve). is whatever drama comes from getting “involved” worth what you get out of it? in my experience, no. not on either side of it. so if you’re involved or you thinking about getting involved, i want you to remember these things:
1. you actually deserve a woman that can give you most of herself. not all, because can we ever really give all of ourselves? but don’t confuse 40% with 90%.
2. whatever she says that you don’t want to hear – pay the closest attention to that. “i love being with you” doesn’t mean nearly as much as “i’m not ready for a relationship right now.” don’t let “i love being with you” make you forget that this woman said flat out she’s not ready for a relationship with you or anyone.
3. don’t take what you can get. you can get way more than what someone who’s not that into you, or who is into you but is working through her own stuff, is able to offer. a taste of this “ms. right” is not worth passing on what a real relationship with that cute woman who wants to have coffee might be able to offer. after all – the one you are waiting on isn’t going to wait on you when someone better comes along. really.
4. get cool with being alone. it does suck. as much as i love living alone (my sister stayed with me and drove me nuts by pushing the shower curtain back to the “wrong” side) i do want to live with a partner some day. that day probably isn’t going to be tomorrow. spend some quality time with yourself, if you can’t, why the hell would someone else want to?
5. don’t stop believing. yes, it’s cheesy and i do sing this song in the shower. try it and you’ll feel great, get the shampoo lather going and sing it out: “just a small town girl, living in a looooonely world!” there are a lot of benefits to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. one of them is that when you do find that right person, they won’t have to put up with so much of your annoying shit. don’t think you have annoying shit? talk to your ex-girlfriends, odds are you are friends, and odds are they can tell you what sucks about you (even though they love you! just in a different way now.)
the fact is, we all have baggage. we are most of us working on becoming the best versions of ourselves, who we want to be. you are going to hit some bumps in the road to being the best you and in the road to love; but whatever you do, don’t settle. we all deserve someone that makes us want to dance and sing, who makes us believe in ourselves, who is wonderful. even if you find that person, don’t just get involved with her, because if you do, it’s 99.9% of the time not going to end in happily ever after, and believe me, we all want to be that exception.