Going Negative?

Dating isn’t as easy once you hit 40. Or 50. Hell, nothing’s as easy. Accepting that you’re less than thrilled about being single — which is why we put ourselves through the dating process and subject ourselves to singles’ events — can feel like admitting a deficiency, something we should all be used to by now but that never gets any easier.

Chances are pretty good that anyone who is, let’s say, over 45 has been through the ringer. A few times. Whether that ringer is a failed marriage or just a failed relationship (or two…or three), it has probably hardened them in some way. We are a sum of our experiences and if there have been disappointments, it can be tough to separate our identities from those disappointments, to talk ourselves into feeling like winners when we feel more like losers. Eventually our failures can overwhelm us. Life, in general, may be weighing us down, of accumulating on us.

In addition to all the other crap that comes along with getting older, consider laying your ass on the line with a stranger — or a whole sequence of strangers — in search of elusive true love. It’s enough to make someone become a hermit. Or at least throw in the towel. But if you’re desperately resisting slipping into pessimism, if you’re one of the people bucking hermit-tude, and you’re dabbling in dating in your fourth or fifth decade, you’ve probably dragged along a good deal of baggage with you. I know it’s difficult to check that baggage. But if you don’t, you might be better off on your couch.

Many of the men I’ve met lately, either as potential dates or merely fellow singletons, have struck me as being somewhat sad sack. It isn’t a good look. I can’t say I blame them for being unable to put on a positive face. I’ve been finding it difficult to be positive myself.

One gentleman was an OkCupid date and we met for a beer. Somehow we started talking about his divorce and the conversation sort of spiraled downward. It’s tough to keep things happy and positive when you’re discussing custody battles or who’s to blame for the end of the relationship. I wound up wallowing a bit myself. Even when I attempted to lighten things up, the pall had already been cast. I eventually wrote to the guy and apologized for a not-so-great date and gently suggested that perhaps he wasn’t quite ready to enter the shark tank of dating quite yet. He never responded.

Another instance, another OkCupid dude: After chatting on the phone a while, he suggested that we meet at a wine bar. Never mind that it says right on my profile that I hate wine. I was willing to overlook his disregard as an indication of nervousness. But when we met, he hardly said a word. I do believe one of his utterances was along the lines of “I’m probably not exciting enough for you.” Even though that was, in fact, totally true and incredibly obvious, it didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy his company, there, in that moment. Why did he need to sabotage himself?

And then there’s the sad sack who just can’t seem to crack a smile. A recent acquaintance at a recent event seemed like a totally cool guy. For a few moments I managed to engage him in something that excited him. But he spent most of the evening with a long face. I don’t think he was miserable; he could’ve left at any point. He just looked…beaten down by life. It’s tough to explain. I think maybe he could’ve used a pep talk…or some sort of ego boost!

At least these men are putting themselves out there. They haven’t given up or abandoned their sense of optimism. They haven’t completely succumbed to staying at home…alone. However, sometimes they aren’t necessarily doing themselves a service. They certainly didn’t get a second date.

So what to do to avoid coming across like a sad sack? If you aren’t feeling particularly social, it might be a good idea to stay home, because the you you’ll be putting out there won’t be the best. If there’s something you aren’t comfortable with — your weight, your employment status, even your wardrobe — fix it before you enter the fray. Sharing your insecurities once you’ve established a relationship can be endearing; sounding less than confident on that initial encounter, not so much. Keep whatever conversations you start as upbeat as you’re capable of. Don’t discuss your divorce, your dreaded ex or your crappy day at the office — if you still have an office. No need to keep all the ugly stuff a secret; just do your best not to dwell on it.

Well those are a few gentle suggestions. I have plenty more to say about how to show up for a date or at an event, so stay tuned!

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One response to “Going Negative?

  1. Abby, I agree with you 100%…plus,that’s how I feel when it comes to being single…just beaten down by the circumstances of having been single. Sometimes I’m happier being alone, but then it gets, well, kinda boring. Ida know. I guess I’d rather be like some of my friends..married and bored, instead of single and bored!

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