A couple months ago on Single Mom Society one woman wrote her frustration with online dating. While flirting with a guy she was really, really interested in, he suggested they meet for coffee.
“Coffee!” she wrote, incredulous as a forum participant can express. “I go for coffee with guys from work. If he can’t at least ask me for a cocktail, I can’t be bothered.”
Wait a minute, I chimed in, just because he didn’t specify the beverage of your choice, don’t write him off! Give the guy a chance!
The thing about dating at this age, everyone has had their heart broken. Whether at the hands of divorce, breakup, family trauma or your entire village having been destroyed in a mudslide, you have gone through it. And your heart is tender. Vulnerability is scary. Because once you go there, man … shit is just around the corner, ready to dump all over you at any given moment.
And so you put up barriers. Roadblocks to being open to a man. To love. And if you’re like lots of women, you find minute, nick-picky things that that matter little in the scope of life or love and shut that shit down before it can ever flourish.
Lord knows I’m guilty of this. I’ve expressed internal frowns at the site of brass-button sports jackets on first dates, or dinner reservations at cheesy, over-priced restaurants that were kinda-sorta cool 10 years ago. I’ve stopped corresponding with men online at a single flopped crack at sarcasm and warranted a Chinese-character tattoo on a white man so ridiculous I didn’t return his post-first-date text.
I recently started dating a hot scientist who, for our second date, asked me to a picnic in Central Park. If you’re familiar with New York City you know there are dozens of entrances to the park, several of which are a 10-minute subway ride from my home, and most of which were equidistance from his home. Instead, he chose a gateway that took me a full hour to commute to. Grumbling all the way there about the value of my time and consideration and precedence for things to come, my stewing clouded the beautiful spring day, and the memory of our outdoor lunch date a few days prior when I didn’t really register all the smart and witty things he was saying over udon shrimp salad because I was mesmerized by his hazel eyes and ridiculously thick and wavy black hair. Afterwards I texted my friend: “I’m a little worried. I can’t find anything wrong with him.”
But then I did. The wrong cross street meeting points. And I obsessed over it.
I obsessed — just like my friend and her cocktail/coffee pickle, just like me with the dorky tattoo and sweet-if-off attempts to charm –because I was scared. Because if I really never found anything too terrible about this guy, and I found a whole lot wonderful, I would love him. And then I might get hurt. And that scares the shit out of me.
I found him sitting on a bench on Central Park West, reading Steinbeck in hardcopy, a hiking backpack full of lunch. He stood up, kissed me hello on the cheek and we walked into the park. He was just as easy to talk to as the first time we met, and we immediately fell into comfortable conversation. But I didn’t completely forget about my nit-picking-meeting-point criticism until we arrived at the destination he had in mind — the very reason he asked me to meet where we met — a small, off-the-path grove of cherry trees he knew and hoped would be in full bloom that afternoon.
The very thing that made me want to dismiss him as thoughtless was in fact a gestures so sweet I couldn’t have written it better.
Which is a lesson to us all. All that mental masturbation invested in validating avoiding love, is just that — your very natural inclination to protect yourself. To protect your heart. So what to do? A few ideas:
- Be aware. I’m super-annoying like this and I know it. That is the first step.
- Give him the benefit of the doubt. If you find yourself arguing with him in your mind, or picking a fight over a perceived slight, remember: Dudes are human, too.
- Remember: You’re really annoying. Like, really, seriously annoying. Maybe you talk about your dog too much for his tastes or wear more Burberry Brit Rhythm than his olfactory nerve can handle, or do that thing when you eat … you’re gonna annoy the crap out of someone. Let’s hope he’s forgiving, and open to loving you.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.