…but I realized, while sitting at my kitchen island and drinking hot apple cider as a way to stave off the deep chill (literal, not metaphorical), it’s all about the stories we tell ourselves. When we think about our past, or our personal growth, what is the narrative we believe to be true, and how does it prevent us from seeing our behavior for what it actually is… or what we actually are?
I’ve created some mental space in my life by not seeking out anyone new and deleting those who haven’t made an effort. Yes, there are some men still around, but none are taking up much of my time or energy. I’ve been on an almost two-week vacation and have enjoyed time alone as it’s allowed me to focus on my book.
In trying to decide what to write about, I’ve done a lot of reflection on my journey. I’ve looked at every single blog post I’ve written. I’ve remembered men and experiences long-forgotten. So what is my story? What’s this journey many say is inspiring? What have I actually learned and how have I grown?
One thing I can say for certain, I’ve rarely been stagnant for very long. So much of my learning has come from the experiences I’ve had – and I feel like I’ve had twenty years worth in the last five.
I just looked through my calendar because I was curious whether my impression matched reality. Here’s my last 4.5 years in summary:
- Summer 2013 >> Made the joint decision to split from Will, moved out one month later and opened my first dating profile on a hookup site.
- Aug 2013 – Apr 2014 >> A lot of frenetic dating and casual sex. Learned lots of valuable lessons…the hard way.
- Apr – Sept 2014 >> Relationship with Johnny Id (who’d reached out to me via my blog), experienced lots of conflict arising from the very long-distance relationship and wanting different things.
- During this time I had my first of a few surgeries, and my ex-husband moved to a different country, leaving me with full custody of Liam. Not an easy time.
- Dec 2014 – May 2015 >> I met Tony and we had our first chapter together. Fraught with stress over his not being able to be fully committed, I broke up with him.
- May – Jun 2015 >> Had a wild sex ride, involving sex clubs, spankings, group sex with Lewis.
- Jul – Oct 2015 >> Met Fox, he became my boyfriend, and it was lovely but ultimately not right for me.
- Oct 2015 – Jan 2016 >> Tony and I had our chapter 2, which felt different because we weren’t exclusive and I was more chill. Until it became clear he was in some ways pretending to still be married. I gave him an ultimatum – tell his “ex” that he’s dating – and he couldn’t do it. We broke up.
- Jan – Mar 2016 >> I went back online and quickly met HWSNBN. It ended with the police getting involved.
- I was scarred from my experience and while I spent some time with my casual lovers, I didn’t go back online for a couple of months.
- Summer 2016 >> I was looking for a relationship and enjoyed my stable while I looked. I had several shitty dating experiences (e.g. Ian, Drew). One man I really liked who couldn’t make me a priority (Kyle).
- Fall 2016 >> Met two decent men (Leo and Alan).
- Dec 2016 – Mar 2017 >> When I broke a bone and had a major sprain, needed surgery, and was housebound for months, Leo proved to be incredibly kind. It was a rough time for me physically and emotionally.
- Mar – May 2017 >> Leo and I weren’t exclusive, but I ended it with him after a failed second chance.
- June 2017 >> I went back online and quickly met the liar extraordinaire named Jack. It was a mind fuck to be pursued so hard, just to be dumped on my ass under false pretenses.
- July – Sept 2017 >> I waited a month to go back online and then met Bruce. He was a delight in a few ways but couldn’t get his shit together and it was over in September.
- Had another surgery. Goodbye, gallbladder.
- Oct – Dec 2017 >> Spurred on by a disaster involving my first offline date, I went back on all the dating sites. Connected with an insane number of men, didn’t have great sex or a particularly great time. Was catfished multiple times. Hid my profiles shortly after, just to meet Gregory, and we all know how that ended.
In hindsight, it was far worse to have shitty experiences when I’m truly seeking a relationship, than when I didn’t want anything serious. Or maybe its because those hurts and rejections are more recent.
My brain has worked away in the background processing the events of the last while. After so many experiences, how can I still be fooled? How can I still succumb to my insecurities and weakly pursue those who don’t want me?
We believe our own mythology, drink our own kool aid, as it were. I’m no exception.
And that’s what got me thinking about the gentleman douchebag. I’ve met a few men who on the surface were gentlemen. They portrayed themselves as different from the common man and actively professed to be different.
They are the door-opening, deep-conversation-having, wine-bringing, kind of men. Their social media feeds are filled with the right kind of sensitive and feminist posts. They will imply they are forward looking as it relates to you. Perhaps offering to fix something in your house, or make an introduction if it would help you at work. They will do something for you, because that’s what nice guy gentlemen do.
They are, in their minds, Good Men. Gentlemen. They are respectful to their parents and responsible for their children.
But when those same men do ungentlemanly things like lie, cheat, ghost, etcetera… are they really gentlemen? Nope. Do they see it? Nope. Amazingly, I’ve met men who are otherwise self-aware, but not in the dating arena.
Jack did some pretty complex mental gymnastics to justify his behaviour. Others have done the same. It’s not about them, it’s about the women. Who are all, amazingly, bat shit crazy in some way. It’s never the man’s fault – he is a Good Man. A Gentleman.
It’s happened to me more than once. It happens to girlfriends.
Which brings me back to my journey. What are the things I believe to be true about myself, what personal mythology have I created, what am I blind to, what things make me a douchebag?
That question is rhetorical, by the way. I don’t need everyone weighing in on the various asshole things I’ve done; I think I’m aware of most of them. But it’s why I do my best to ensure that everyone I’m with knows where they stand with me. I’ve told people when I’m not looking for a relationship and told them when I’m just not that into them.
But the whisper in the back of my mind is, have I actually come that far at all? I know I have, but I know I have more to learn and examine.
The image is (of course) Marilyn Monroe. I’m no Marilyn.