If you’re of a certain age, and you’ve enjoyed a healthy dating life, you can’t sling a dead cat in a small town without hitting an ex. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way just the other day at Dairy Queen.
I rarely eat processed sugar. It wreaks havoc with my system … mood swings, headaches, and lethargy. One cupcake leads to a slice of key lime pie, which leads to ice cream … soon I’m stealing Almond Joys from my nephews Halloween candy. It ain’t pretty.
But every now and then – usually around the same time of the month (wink, wink) – I allow myself to indulge on the conditions that a) it’s something small, and b) it’s something I eat out in one sitting and don’t bring home. This is how I ended up in the DQ drive thru on a random Thursday evening. I was in search of my beloved Salted Caramel Mini Blizzard.
While waiting to order, I missed the window. I’ve developed this horrible habit of filling every second of “waiting” time with an activity. I listen to audiobooks on my morning commute. I brainstorm freelance articles while sitting at the doctor’s office, and return emails at the drive thru. It’s a problem.
As I hit send on an email to one of my PR clients, I absentmindedly drove past the ordering panel. The car behind me immediately filled in the space. So, much to my chagrin and the confusion of the DQ employee, I drove past the pick up window, parked, and went inside to order.
He caught my eye entering from the side door.
“Hey, he’s kinda cute,” I thought as he crossed the threshold. As he looked up and made eye contact, smiling broadly, I realized it was R. – a guy I’d dated very briefly about three years ago.
Yeah, I already dated you, I grumbled inside my head as I notice the two kids dangling about him.
“Hey,” he replied seeming generally okay with the run in. I’d barely gotten to know him but R. always seemed like a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. I couldn’t imagine him indulging in unnecessary drama over a couple of dates. We exchanged pleasantries and he introduced me to his minions.
“This is my step son and this is my daughter,” he explained as the four-year-old cutie draped around his neck gave me the stink eye. The stepson chatted away curious about every little thing happening around him. The daughter … maybe hungry … maybe sleepy … maybe just not liking the sight of me … threw me some serious shade. That’s when I noticed the same pretty blue eyes I’d first noticed the one time I’d meet her mom – the one he’d married over a year after he stopped calling.
I didn’t see her anywhere around and imagined her waiting outside in the their air conditioned minivan – scribbling out a grocery list or posting a photo from the Little League game they’d just left.
My sugar fix in hand, I said goodbye to R. and offered a kid-sized wave to the little ones.
Hmmmm. If we’d continued to date, she wouldn’t exist. That’s weird and kind of mean, I thought … instantly admonishing myself.
But that’s a road neither R. nor I would have been interested in taking. I’m way too non-traditional for his tastes. Too many feminist views … too independent … too strong willed … in general, just way too much. Hey, it happens.
He’d found exactly what he’d been looking for: the wifey, two kids, the mini van, baseball practice, and Saturday afternoon trips to the park. It fit him like a glove and I felt genuinely happy for him.
But the whole gloriously serendipitous run in did get me thinking about the paths not taken and unanswered romantic prayers.
I’d never prayed for R. exactly. It never went than far. But I have spent a large portion of my life praying for my other half, my partner in crime, the person who gets me without me having to explain, the heart that matches my own.
Sure, I’m feminist AF but I also crave someone with whom to enjoy my life … so sue me.
I’m never getting married … I don’t need a man … single for life. These mantras are fine if they’re actually authentic but I suspect these “ladies doth protest too much.” Pushing away love because you don’t think you can have it is just a clever form of cowardice. There’s nothing empowering about pretending not want something you actually crave.
But I understand the urge. When love burns you too many times, it’s sometimes easier to just dismiss it all as an unattainable fairytale and move on. It nearly happened to me.
The Birth of Good Luck Tab
Do you remember the movie Good Luck Chuck? It’s a story of a guy – cursed since childhood – who stands by helplessly as the women he dates marry the very next guy. He’s the guy you date right before you meet the one. I’m the female version of that story. I’m Good Luck Tab. Eight ex-boyfriends married the very next girl … eight! It’s a fact that used to torture me.
Why not me? I’d whine, eyes lifted upward. What’s wrong with me? I nibbled around the edges of developing a complex.
And then one day, if by divine intervention, I wandered across an article describing the bones of a true soulmate connection: 1) chemistry, 2) sexual pleasure, 3) loyalty, and finally, 4) deep commitment. It resonated.
Chemistry felt like a no brainer. I could never be interested in someone without that spark. I need butterflies. I don’t believe in love at first sight but I do believe in the click … the click is huge.
Sexual pleasure … we’ll here’s where I’m gonna probably be a little too honest. I’m not interested in a one-sided sexual relationship … one where he gets his happy ending and I’m left frustrated. Nope, that’s not for me. All sex is good sex (within reason) but I need a man with some serious game.
Loyalty … I see nothing wrong with dating multiple people if everyone involved is on the same page but once one half of a dating couple falls in love, all bets are off. In my opinion, true love naturally leads to loyalty. You shouldn’t have to ask for it and if it’s not offered (without nagging), he doesn’t love you.
Deep commitment … this is where it usually fell apart for one or both of us. I’d be lying if I said the fault wasn’t often mine. I’ve been engaged once and discussed it with two other men yet I’m still single. You do the math.
Regardless, that Aha! Moment reframed the whole thing for me. As I strolled down my romantic Memory Lane, I realized that no guy I’d ever dated managed all four. If I needed those four things to be happy, and no ex-boyfriend ever met the criteria, then wasn’t I exactly where I was supposed to be?
Could it be that what I’d viewed as a personal failure was just God’s way of saving me from a not-quite-right relationship – one that could have lived off infatuation and the inertia of an engagement, a wedding, and then kids but would have ultimately not been the right choice.
That awareness lifted my chin and resuscitated my swagger.
Since then, I’ve come to believe that God answers our romantic prayers in three ways: 1) yes, 2) yes, but not yet, or 3) no, but only because I’ve got something better for you in mind. My answer usually comes in the form of number three. Or at least it use to before I got laser focused on what I wanted from a relationship.
Now, I don’t attach my romantic hopes onto any one person. When someone shows up that I spark with, I flirt. I go out on dates. I remain open to the possibilities. But the minute one of my four deal breakers rears it’s head, I press pause until I figure it out. I discuss it openly and honestly. I give him time to get on the same page. But if that doesn’t happen, I can let it go without all the drama. I know my “something better” is right down the road.
Approaching it like that … allowing the Universe to show me instead of trying to force a round peg into a square hole … it makes the whole thing less messy and more, well … fun.
Your job is not to change any man. Instead, you’re job is to listen to your authentic, best self and discover your own deal breakers. Put your order out there and then relax and let the Universe do the heavy lifting. It works. I promise.