Nothing good ever comes from being dishonest. Omission is equally intolerable and stinging.
Living on the outskirts of Austin, just far enough to feel the juxtaposition of lonely and peaceful, I decided lonely was starting to dominate the latter. It no longer felt peaceful digging to the bottom of a jar of Nutella and skidding across the echoing floorboards in my socks I only wore to recreate a scene in Risky Business — only to laugh at myself and hear it echo, too. I hate wearing socks. They oppress my toes.
And so I did what most lonely people do these days; I created a on-line dating profile. Decidedly, I would choose like an elitist (hiding a heart of gold – shut up, it made sense at the time). All of the pieces of my life felt safe and comfortable, and I was only — not missing, but craving — an Other. Scared of putting myself out there too much in the world of Internet romance (the odd couple), I put up only one picture (apparently an abomination in this venue) and responded to only two men. I had been out of the dating loop for a while, so for some reason I felt like I had to choose one and only one suitor (I don’t care what you think; I heart this word hard) with whom to actually date. I was more interested in an older man, though the difference in age challenged what I thought was “normal.” Nonetheless, I hadn’t met him but felt mysteriously drawn to him. I ignored this because after unmentionable circumstances in my life, I am understandably more guarded in matters of following my heart-guided instincts. Instead, I dated an adult male my very same age. He charmed me with his Polish traditions and friends, took me to places I had never been, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and encouraged me to let down my guard and take a leap with him. When I finally did, he pushed me away. This confused and broke my heart, but it didn’t take me long after that relationship to realize I admired certain qualities in him that I wished I had (and have now found on my own), but I didn’t find him to be compatible with me at all. In fact, there were things about him that should have been obvious then that I did not even like about him — differences in core values that I would have never accepted under different circumstances. It’s possible that I was lonely and ignored the red flags because I wanted companionship. I’m not saying he wasn’t a good person — he was. Although a terrible match for me, I would never claim to be a victim in that relationship. He did nothing wrong but follow his heart, and it didn’t lead itself to me; he was just the first to realize this. I was back in the city, surrounded by good friends, and new possibilities — the hurt was only temporary.
The older man kept in touch with me, from a distance, and reached out after my breakup. From the start, he was intriguing to me. He was adventurous, intellectual, artistic, and experienced in ways that both intimidated me and thrilled me. A man with a story is instantly attractive to me — and he had many; he hiked the PCT for five months, took a selfie at every mile, and his time-lapse video went viral. He documented the Egyptian Revolution with his talented photography. He picks up and leaves on his road bike or road-trips in his truck as often as he wants. After a few e-mail exchanges, I told him he was a person I had to meet. We met, under the accepted pretense that we would become friends, but the magnetism I felt when I was around him was so intense I had to find out what that meant. On our fourth meeting, I grabbed the back of his neck and kissed him. The kiss was everything I had hoped it would be. That night, although originally claiming he did not have an agenda, he revealed this was his plan all along. The admission made me laugh and filled my heart and body with promises. I didn’t hear from him for a week. His phone call was frazzled; it was clear he was over-thinking how to move forward. He “just wanted to be kind to me.” I was moved, and this sense of caution he used with me endeared my sensitive heart, especially as he knew of my most recent heartbreak. We started dating, and to my surprise I often heard from him upset that I was not reaching out to him more often. Two men in a row encouraged me to be more vulnerable for them — something that was, again, difficult for me to do after circumstances in my life that were beyond my control. I vowed to let down my guard, but it was too late. He said, “Lauren, it’s time.” Turns out his picking up and escaping isn’t as romantic as I once thought. No ex has ever lingered after a breakup (no matter the instigator), but he did. He was everywhere. Social media, meaningless texts, his photographs, an invitation to a concert. It was all very confusing to me. Never once did he admit remorse or any feeling for that matter, but the string he was holding seemed an infinite number of miles long. I had fallen madly in love with him, so that string was a live-wire of unpredictable emotions. I cut it and walked away.
It might be wrong; I’m actually not sure. However, I deal with heartache by distraction. I don’t mope, I don’t listen to sad records and eat ice-cream; I seek to redeem the last bitter taste of love. The distraction this time came in the form of on-line dating, yet again. I’m by all means not a serial monogamist. I’m comfortable being alone but if my heart feels broken, I piece it together by keeping my eyes wide open. When I signed on again, I didn’t expect to meet someone quickly with whom I enjoyed spending time. He was a charmer, and his want for me was unmistakable — it gave me comfort. We spent three weeks together — nearly non-stop. And then, clearly out of insecurity, he made a mistake that I am not willing to overlook. I don’t want to, nor do I feel a sense of loss. He was fun — a distraction, but I’ve found that all my instincts are shattered.
Three strikes, and love is out. I need an adventure. Ideas?
I’ve lived most of my life avoiding cynicism, and I don’t want to start accepting it now. Romantic love might be a hoax, but I’m still open to being fooled to satiate the desire that remains intact. I’m just being honest.