It’s Friday night, you’ve smothered your body in ten coats of fake tan, your hair is soaking in the western world’s supply of Argan oil and you’re pressing an ice pack on your lady garden following a rough 40 minute wrestle with your waxer earlier in the day. It’s the night before date night and preparation is in full flow. Then your phone beeps. You see the message. Eyes rolling.
“Hey, I’m really sorry, I am going to have to cancel tomorrow because… *insert abysmal excuse here*”
If you have dated at all in the 21st century, there’s a good chance you have probably been pied, you ghosted, zombied and (the ultimate annoyance) met a few ‘let down Larry’s”. Unless of course you are one of those people that ended up marrying the first guy they dated, in which case I am happy for you, but there is no ‘safe space’ for you here in the Kingdom of Bitterdom. But if you have dated and come across any one of these knock backs, picking yourself up and dusting yourself off becomes a skill you undoubtedly learn.
I was 27 years old before I was ever dumped. I had spent 9 years in a relationship, skipped (OK crawled) out of it and fell straight into online dating. Then lust took its path, girl meets guy, guy and girl date and then 8 weeks later girl receives a text to say, “Thanks mate, but not thanks”. That first dumping was brutal. There were a number of phone calls to every friend who would listen, exclamations that I would never date again and that love was dead. Fast forward two months, and there I am sat swiping away until I met the next guy, who I dated, for another 6 weeks until he ghosted me, disappeared into thin air, whilst I wondered wistfully if he had been abducted by aliens or conscripted into the army. Alas, with no returned phone calls from him, there were numerous phone calls to friends, where I again proclaimed myself single for life and adorned the chastity belt. Ghosted, completed it mate. Binned off, yup done it. If there is a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse for cancelling/rescheduling dates I have heard it. Over the past five years I have dated, I have been the dumpee and the dumper numerous times to the point where I barely notice if I am ghosted anymore. It has become the norm to treat each other online like £5 Primark jumpers, if you wash it once, and it looks a bit dodgy, don’t worry, you can swipe a few hundred times for the next one.
Quickly, I found strategies to protect my achy break heart, a desire to be less involved, less hopeful, so that the rejections hurt a little less. After so long in the dating game, I truly thought I had it all sussed out. Those big emotional explosions barely permeated for a day or two before I blocked and deleted and moved onto the next one. I felt comfortable in my ability to switch off from the emotions, until one day I received the dreaded ‘Let down Larry’ texts,
“Hey, I am really sorry, but I need to reschedule. My Aunt has died”.
My instant reaction to this text was to roll my eyes again, wash off the fake tan and delete all record of this guy from my existence. And then I stopped. If his Aunt has really died, was I about to make his life a little more difficult, a little more awkward because I was so keen to protect my feelings and myself. The need to survive the emotional turmoil of dating had seen me switch off completely from the people I was trying to connect with.
I phone a friend, checked if I was being a total bitch and texted him. If the worse case scenario was that his Aunt had died, did I really want to be the girl that didn’t care? Sure, if he was lying I might feel a bit annoyed that I had been fooled, but in contrast to blocking a person who is grieving, I think karma knows which is the bigger bitch to try and fix. A week later, (after the funeral – I know I am a cow bag) we met up and we spoke about grief and supporting family, and in the back of my head I knew I had made the right choice to let down the guard and let him in. A few hours disappeared, we talked, and laughed and I had a great time with someone I could genuinely be friends with. Ultimately, there was not a romantic spark there, and we stopped dating a couple of weeks later but I felt no pain or hurt with that outcome. I had been there, I had listened, and we had properly dated.
There’s a fine line between self protection from hurt and being cruel. If you have been hurt it can feel simpler to just turn the switch and disconnect from the pain, but by doing so, we disconnect from all those other joyous, fun and exciting feelings that meeting someone new can generate. If you can allow just a glimpse of that vulnerability to protrude, you can allow some to relate to you. There’s a very good reason the Wicked Queen never remarried right? Sure there is the risk that you may experience pain again, but you survived it the last time, and you will survive it again.
I am trying to become a less jaded version of myself going forward in dating. Realistically, how can I ever expect to relate to anyone if I am sat in the back seat waiting for the car crash? Have you found yourself having to check in whether you’re being a cold hearted dater? Let me know in the comments below.