You know how a certain image just gets burned in your memory?
Here’s one of mine.
A bunch of years ago, when I worked at a library in Chicago, a colleague came into my office. She was in her mid-30s, very lovely, and had had a tough time finding her missing link.
In the time we had worked together she was alternately very single or very single and wasting her time with this one gentleman who was just never going to be her boyfriend.
And then, voila! She met her match.
It was sudden, it really was. She met him through friends. He was around her age and came from a very similar upbringing, which is another way of saying, they were religiously and politically and world-view-ally aligned.
He was, in short, perfect.
They eventually married and moved to the suburbs and procreated, which is what folks do in the suburbs.
But before the marriage and the house and the baby, when she was just in the beginning stages of dating him, she was standing in my office, and what she said to me was this: “If I only knew that at the age of 35 I would meet my husband and that everything would be ok I would have been able to relax. I wouldn’t have been so worried and anxious all the time. I would have enjoyed myself more.”
But that’s the thing about life, isn’t it? Unless we’re some kind of fortune teller, we just don’t know what lies ahead.
I suppose that is what makes life interesting.
But in the dating arena, especially for those of us trying to meet our match, it just breeds uncertainty. And sometimes despair. Because we really don’t know what is around the corner. All we know is what happened in the past, and that is no consolation.
Take me, for example.
Because I just met someone. Or rather, I might have just met someone.
How do we know for sure?
We had a lovely date, this someone and I. With the promise of more to come.
But the whole thing makes me anxious. Is he going to be a part of my life? Or will he be just another man who makes a brief appearance and hasty exit from my life?
And what of the very vivid dream I had where someone whispered in my ear, “I heard you met someone! Well, guess what? He is going to make you sad.” Is that just my subconscious talking? My not so deeply buried cache of dating memories, reminding me that men can hurt me?
Or is this prescient? A warning of sorts?
And if so, do I just move on now or stick it out?
A girlfriend, trying to be supportive, emailed me these words of wisdom: “The nice thing about courtship at the beginning is its very slow pace as you do a dance of getting to know one another, so why not savor it? Enjoy the anticipation and butterflies!”
But how to enjoy the butterflies with the memories of so much dating disappointment simmering beneath the surface?
Which is another way of saying, how to get past one’s past to be open to the future?
Which is all another way of saying, If only I knew that at the age of 38 I would meet the man I would spend the rest of my life with, well, I could finally kick back and take it easy!