Happily Eva After: Dating in the 21st century

Today in the shower (where, oddly, a lot of my best insights take place), it suddenly dawned on me that good, mindful dating involves a lot of forgiveness.

Happily Eva After (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Happily Eva After
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Today in the shower (where, oddly, a lot of my best insights take place), it suddenly dawned on me that good, mindful dating involves a lot of forgiveness.
This is because aside from the lucky segment of the population that gets happily paired up at a young age, dating is often a frustrating process that involves putting yourself out there, over and over for a period of years, despite not getting the ultimate results you want. (And isn’t that the definition of insanity, according to our revered member of the tribe Albert Einstein? Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results?) Wondering why you have failed yet again to meet the right guy for you, it’s easy to give in to the instinct – sometimes voiced by moi, a firstborn perfectionist, and sometimes voiced by others, who are trying to pinpoint exactly what is going on – to put the blame on something or someone. I’m too picky! My parents messed me up! My aging looks are repelling the young stallions! But if you’ve been doing your very best – and even if you can do a little better – isn’t it time you let all that go? We all have one life to live, so why not free ourselves of resentments and be as happy as we can in the moment? (And when you’re happy, it shines through, making you more attractive!) Here’s the list of the types of forgiveness I am going to try to practice in my daily life, starting at the Seder (since, let’s face it, it’s during such charged periods of family togetherness, with all the different generations sitting around the table, that many of these feelings will likely crop up):
• Forgiving myself for being single
This is a biggie. When I was a little girl, unlike some others, I never had an image of exactly how I wanted my life to be – standing at the age of 22 with a guy of a certain height under a huppa, then swiftly moving on to a house in Englewood and 2.5 little monsters. That just wasn’t me. I knew I was unique and that I would do things in my own time.
But never did I envision that I would be single in my mid-30s. Yet here I am, and sometimes I can’t help but wonder what I have done to get here. Am I behaving wrongly? Am I being punished for something, such as not marrying Avraham Cohen, the earnest but wheedling youth group leader, at age 20? Sure, I’ve made a few wrong life choices, but I genuinely believe I’m doing the best I can. So rather than look back and imagine what life would have been like had I married my First Love or not backed away from intimacy throughout my 20s, I can just accept the here and now.
And while I care about family and friends, this here and now is one in which I take center stage, where I invest time and money in, say, “gettin’ my hair did” instead of “normal family activities” like cooking Tuesday night pot roast.
• Forgiving myself for aging
More and more, I find people in my age group and older – girls and guys alike – lying about their age.
I get that they want to appeal to as wide a swath of “sexy young coeds” as possible, but apart from starting off with a breach of trust, it makes something inside me viscerally rebel.
Why should I lie about my age? Isn’t aging a natural process? Haven’t I earned my age through all the blood, sweat and tears I put in, all the physical and emotional work I did on myself to get here, all the grueling and torturous sessions on the Stairmaster and Pilates sessions with slave-driver Helga? It’s called aging, and despite all the Oil of Olay in the world, I’ll probably never again have that bouncy look I naturally had – and took for granted – at 21.
But that’s the march of time “across my face” (as one of my favorite characters said in the seminal chick flick Steel Magnolias) – and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it. So I’m fine stating my real age, come what may.
• Forgiving myself for sometimes being a (drunken) mess
With all these thoughts running through my head, coupled with the need to get out there a few times a week, put my best (Oil of Olay-lotioned) face forward, and yes, date, is it any surprise I sometimes need to take a load off and share what I’m going through with a sympathetic ear or six? And is it truly a bombshell that sometimes these conversations are accompanied by a bottle of wine or three? Yet somehow I feel the time and money spent on the vino should be, I don’t know, dedicated to helping orphans in Guatemala or Kentucky or something.
And that the confiding I did was somehow whiny (winey?). And that the fact that these tipsy nights are occasionally accompanied by slightly drunken tears, the source of which I can’t always remember the next day, somehow makes me a foolio.
The truth is, it’s probably a little bit of all that. So what? It’s such a relief and does me a world of good.
• Forgiving my parents for messing me up
Ah, the Freudian easy way out. Everyone’s parents resolved to do better than their own parents, yet somehow were not perfect, influencing their “devil’s spawn” (read: my siblings and me) for better or worse, lending them their own particular brand of neuroses. Yet they were doing the best they could with the tools they were given.
Rather than getting angry about how their misplaced advice or pressure perhaps led you to the single place you are at today, why not be sympathetic to their daily struggles and feel grateful to them for feeding, clothing and educating you all those years?
• Forgiving outsiders for saying the wrong thing or being nosy
“Im yirtze Hashem by you....” Oh, those annoying words. Just replace them in your head with “Blah, blah, fishcakes.” Remember, they’re trying to be nice, so smile beatifically and you’ll be fine.
Moreover, if someone asks a totally inappropriate question about your dating status, it can be effective to say, “Why do you want to know?”
• Forgiving the men I date for sometimes being idiots
Need I say more? Everyone who’s dated above the age of 28 has a story of a guy or gal who behaved so heinously, they caused you to lose all faith in humanity, Uncle Sam, the Trix rabbit and Moshe Rabbenu.
Then there are the smaller everyday disappointments – someone you thought could be a real potential and didn’t quite work out – which sometimes stick with you even more.
At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to find that someone who makes them feel comfortable and loved “just as they are” (a theme from the tome of my modern-day heroine, the ever-wise and ever-tipsy Bridget Jones). Even these manly idiots are ultimately just trying to do the same.
Instead of getting angry, which can take years off your life (and age you – horrors!), why not just wave your hand, say, “To hell with them,” wish them Godspeed and move on? Or if they really deserve it, write a terse email telling them what you think of them, wave your hand – and move on.
Wishing you a very happy Passover. Raise those four cups with joy. L’haim!
Eva welcomes your feedback, as well as questions about your most pressing dating dilemmas. Contact her at dearevajpost@gmail.com. Please include your age and location; all other identifying information will be kept confidential.