This past weekend I was at a flea market with my mom & cousin, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy I’d ‘hung out with’ in college. I did not react well. I got nervous and shaky and introduced him to my mom and then stared at him until he said, “it was nice to see you,” and went on his way.
When we ‘hung out’ in college, we didn’t ‘hang out’ for a terribly long time. I don’t think we were really all that compatible, but he was nice to me. He liked me and he was one of the few guys out of the very few that I’d gone on dates with who I enjoyed being around for more than an hour.
The last time I saw him, we were at a party and I basically ditched him to go home with some grody dude playing bad songs on his guitar. I was drinking a little so my inhibitions were lowered enough to follow through with this bad gross hurtful idea, but I knew what I was doing and I knew it was mean. I don’t know if he realized I’d left with the other guy, but he must have taken the hint after I disappeared. After that, we didn’t talk again until I apologized via Facebook message about a year later. (That’s a really fun thing that I do surprisingly often).
Since then I haven’t really dated at all. I’ve gone on a few dates just to feel like I was working on it, but I’ve mostly been avoiding that entire scene for about two years. It’s honestly been really good, not necessarily because I’m avoiding non-platonic relationships with men, but because I’ve finally learned how to take care of myself and that just happens to work better for me (so far) when I’m avoiding non-platonic relationships with men. I’m less reckless with my body and my brain now. I take time to chill the fuck out when I need to and I avoid things that I don’t want to do and people I don’t want to be around.
I guess the details of my relationship with the guy aren’t as important as the way that I look back at it now, the way that I look back at that version of myself. That year was rough. I was unknowingly dealing with some trauma and on some really bad birth control that I’m now convinced tripled my emotional issues and made me gain 20 pounds that I didn’t know how to handle. I was sad and stressed about school and my future and basically made every possible decision to make things harder for myself.
So when I had to choose between putting even a little bit of effort into whatever was going on with this guy and sneaking off into the night never to be seen again, I chose the latter. I know that this time I have been taking to build myself into the person I want to be has been completely necessary; there’s not a doubt in my mind. But seeing him reminded me of the way I was only two years ago, how embarrassingly bad that decision was, and that I don’t actually know if I would act any differently if I were in the same situation today.
I mean, why do I keep Tinder on my phone if I never respond to messages? If I do respond and end up going on a date, why do I never ever follow up? Is it because I’m really not interested, or is it because I’m afraid to? Is it because I’m just not looking to date right now, or because I don’t trust myself to let another person in to make something work? Is it because I just don’t feel like it, or is it because I fear that deep down I am a pathological relationship saboteur who does dumb things like ditching boys who are nice to her for less-than-meaningless encounters with objectively ickier dudes?
I know the pressure to ‘get back in the game’ will be heavy enough at some point in the nearish future that I’ll have to at least try. If I don’t address these questions for myself first, though, I am certain that it will be disappointing for the sole reason that I will do the things I’m best at doing to stop anything from happening before it actually has the chance to begin.
Maybe I’ll try to mentally prepare myself in the meantime or devise a system with my roommate in which she flicks me really hard on the throat every time I do something that reeks of self-sabotage. I don’t actually know if I can guard against it, but I’m going to have to try.