Dating at 39 – Part 1

I’ve made a concerted effort to start dating again. This process has been met with mixed results, to put it kindly. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t take very good care of myself. So in entering the dating world again I feel like used car salesman who’s got one car to sell; a beat up Dodge Minivan. Sure, it’s got a horn that plays La Cucaracha, but how entertaining can that be after the first few uses? In the first few months, my walking train wreck of self-confidence was clearly evident to all who witnessed it. I think the women I was with stuck around for as long as they did out of pity. The alternative was that they were batshit crazy. But the point is that I had all of the dating skills of a dead ferret. I should add that this may still be the case, but I’ll let my dates decide.

What made this more fun was attempting to restart a love life that had about eight or nine years of dust on it (I’m being nice — honest, but nice), and doing so with three teenagers. You’d be amazed how much fail can be generated on a first date when you’re only real recent social experience is whatever is going on in your teenager’s life. I honestly think I frightened the first one when I refused to have liquor with a light dinner because “I’m driving and you can’t be too careful.” This was shortly after the Ex moved out, and I was abiding the rules I had set for myself many years before. Regardless, I’m sure her beer was just twice as tasty in the knowledge that this nutball on the other side of the table was probably judging every sip she took. I wasn’t, but do you think anything I said after that would’ve changed her mind? The poor girl nearly left skid marks on her way out of the restaurant parking lot. And I don’t blame her one bit.

Not long after that, I had tried living the much-heralded Bachelor Life. Hey, I was single! (A testosterone-laden brain can lead guys to think the dumbest things sometimes.) “I can live the life of a man whore!”

Oh, dear reader, I assure you that this was not the best choice I’ve made. Nothing screams mid-life crisis like a guy with three teenagers who’s attempting to be a gigolo. Just conjure that image in your head for a moment. Let that image roll around a bit and let it sink in. I made Rob Schneider look attractive, okay? Now do you best to get rid of that image – and good luck because I’m still trying to forget it. And no, booze does not help.

Many first dates later, some even measurably successful, I finally learned how to relax. Well, almost. I don’t think anyone can ever be said to be relaxed when embarking on a first date, especially when one is on the doorstep of 40. But I can honestly say that I can be myself and laugh about it later if it goes poorly. The problem was, and still is to a certain extent, that my self-confidence is still very lacking. So my default attitude going in has been that it’s going to fail. I’m not being negative, just pragmatic.

Add to this the impossible standards that I’ve created in my head that any potential woman must meet in order for me to feel as though it’s worth continuing. Even better, when you combine that list with my lack of confidence, it makes for wonderful situations wherein I meet someone who is just ten shades of awesome and I, in turn, don’t feel good enough. Fuck you, brain; thank you for making me intelligent enough to be perfectly aware of just how shallow and/or idiotic I am.

And all of this is just me (sad as that is to admit); I think I mentioned batshit crazy earlier. This is something I am not, thankfully. I’m a lot of things, but I think I hold it together fairly well. Being quirky and awkward is not the same thing as being nuttier than squirrel shit. And there are some truly mentally questionable people out there posing as single women, supposedly looking for a relationship. I say it that way because, from my experience, they are two or three brain cells away from being a case study on the femme fatale phenomena. Stop to consider that most first dates involve alcohol and you quickly realize that those brain cells are dead men walking and you may very well be the one who pulls the switch simply by being there.

Some of these ladies got to this point because of genetics. They were just born with the wrong mix of hormones and spinal fluid that had brought them to sheer nuttiness on their own. But I’m beginning to think that some of them have just been dating too long. I’m sure that some of these poor women have just met the wrong guy (or, perhaps, girl) too many times. After all, dating is a full-contact sport. As in football, where if you lead with your head you’re bound to have concussion-related issues later in life, if you lead with your heart too often you’re going to ruin a perfectly good emotion factory and end up polluting your brain. This can sometimes result in your collecting 14 species of pets that you cheerfully show to your first dates and demonstrate that you care for them much like a doting, overbearing mother. I know this because I have seen it firsthand. Granted, I’m spit-balling the diagnosis, but I don’t think I’m too far off. Just call me Dr. House.

The sad thing is that I have met a couple of really nice women, but at entirely the wrong time. Sometimes it’s because I was not ready to be involved, and sometimes it was because they were not ready. This makes things incredibly awkward because you both like each other, but are at completely different stages. One person wants to continue seeing other people, and the other is inevitably hurt to one degree or another. And what that has taught me is that you sometimes have to lick your wounds, suck it up and try again. No sense letting it destroy you slowly and end up at the pet store when you have a perfectly good idiot loyal dog at home who’s willing to let you watch Firefly on Netflix and drink beer while you scratch his head.

Sing it with me now: “You can’t take the sky from me…”