“So are we doing okay here? Everything taste good?”
According to the name tag on her coral pink t-shirt, her name is Meagan and she has been the server for my last three dates. I don’t come to this restaurant in real life. It’s not a bad place. It’s on the water and people drive up in their boats and jet skis to catch a quick bite and grab a drink. It’s a bit touristy, though, attached to a resort as it is. I’d sooner go to a place closer to home, so it seemed like the best place to suggest to men I’ll likely never want to see again
I smile broadly at her and then at my date expectantly, thinking he might push pause on his rendering of “The World According to Me” in order to respond to her questions. Nope. Not even to take a breath. I’m convinced that most men are just looking for someone to 1) listen to their stories and 2) look good standing next to them and not necessarily in that order.
These are not necessarily bad things, but it would be remiss not to mention that on the last three dates, only one of the men managed to stop his monologue long enough to squeeze out a desultory question as to my own interests or thoughts on a topic.
I swing my eyes back to Meagan and give her a slight nod. She gives me a nod back and I imagine that I see in her eyes – and one slightly raised eyebrow – a question. I respond to her telepathically – One and done, Meg – before I turn my focus back to the man paying for my dinner.
I’m doing what’s called “duty dating,” and these guys are not expected to be keepers. They’re practice and, not unlike the first in a batch of pancakes, generally throwaways. It’s not that the guy is a throwaway. Well, maybe this particular guy is a throwaway. Most of them are usually very nice guys, but no one is really going to be the right fit right now.
To be completely forthcoming, seven months ago I went from one relationship straight into another. I think serial monogamist is the term most used for folks like me. In my adult life, I’ve been alone once for about a year. Didn’t love it. Don’t think that comes as a surprise. We humans are a pretty social bunch. A friend tried to put it in perspective for me:
“You know those people who say that you can’t make anyone else happy if you can’t be happy alone? That’s a bunch of b.s. Sometimes just being with someone else really is all it takes to make someone happy alone.”
Not sure if he meant to be ironic.
So, within 24 hours of finding myself suddenly single, I’d reached out to a friend. He is someone I’ve known for a very long time, and we both always felt there was something there that maybe could grow into something else. We’d also both always been involved with other people (see above) and for the first time, we were both single and in the same country at the same time, the latter being a rarer occurrence than one might think.
He’s a really great guy. I think what I did was wrong, though. Here’s why: When you’re leaving a significant relationship, one that is complicated and where there’s really been no closure, no discussion, no trying to talk about what went wrong – we had a fight and we broke up – questions, confusion and very real hurt remain. These are things that, if simply swept under the rug or tossed in the trash along with broken eggs and an empty Bisquick box, will end up manifesting in any new, or subsequent, relationship.
As much as I don’t want to be alone, and as great as this other guy is, I knew that I had to push pause to take a breath, to reflect on what was and resist the urge to move right along by stepping into another relationship without first honoring the one I’m leaving. I did and do love The Man. I will love him forever and to that, and to our life together, respect must be paid. I guess that’s what these words are all about. They’re for him and for me. They’re for the we and the us that we’re both leaving behind.
And the duty dating? I think that’s just about filling time, meeting new people. You never know. I think Meagan and I just might end up becoming friends.