It was 2005. I was stuck in a familiar pattern that included cocktails, boredom, topped off with extreme restlessness. Living with my fabulous roommate in the city was so much fun, but on nights when we didn’t have plans, I would pace around the apartment lost in my thoughts. We lived in Queen Village, a more affluent section of Philadelphia, although we were working-class ladies. It was centralized enough that we could easily access the nightlife, and we took full advantage. We spent endless hours at Bar Noir, The Mansion, The Blue Horseshoe, and other places I can’t even remember now.
During this time, I had a brief stint with online dating. Two of my friends and I signed up for eHarmony. It was one of the better sites at the time. It was a very long application process, and at the time, I thought it was expensive. The three of us perfected our profile and chose the best images to attract our new suitors. Instantly my two friends had a calendar full of dates, and I waited. I had two matches, one guy who claimed to be a vampire and some other guy. Everyday I anxiously logged on and refreshed and refreshed and refreshed. The same two guys kept popping up. Finally, I called, convinced something was wrong with their algorithm. After an hour on the phone with the customer service representative, she told me she had reviewed my profile, and there were no errors. She apologized and refunded my money because there were just no matches for me — story of my life.
Bar Noir and the Mansion were our late-night haunts. I distinctly remember the moment I broke up with Tequila at Bar Noir. It was just past 2 am after a very long night. Someone made a joke about the worm in the bottle, and before I knew it, we were doing shots. Life lesson time, tequila shots are not how you finish a night. I haven’t touched Tequila since. Even the smell of it brings me back to laying on that dirty bathroom floor. We were young, my friends were gorgeous, and we were free. It was good-natured fun without many consequences.
That is until you fall in love and fall I did, over and over again. When I’m interested in someone, they become the center of my universe. The romance of it all easily consumes me. I tend to fall for men who are smarter than me with just enough arrogance to keep it interesting. They are usually artists or musicians or just those that haven’t found their way yet. I love a brooding guy who is frustrated with the world because they can see beyond the superficialness of it all. I dated this exact guy all through my 20s. Until one night, when bored out of my mind, I logged into MySpace.
The roommate was out of town, and I had decided that I was going to start singing again. I was on the hunt for local bands in need of a female vocalist, and then I found him. His profile picture was interesting, and I still laugh about it to this day. He wore a blue velour track suit and had a chin strap. Mustering up my courage, I answered his request for singers, and that led quickly to a text conversation. That, in turn, led immediately to our first date, which eight years later turned into our wedding. And it really did happen that fast. We were living together within months of our first meeting and then divorced just as quickly.
Thirteen years is a very long time to be in a relationship. If I look back now, I can see so many things that we did wrong, but that’s why hindsight is an excellent teacher, but only if you can do the work to reflect. One of the most common questions I get is, “How did you marry a picky eater when you love to cook so much?”
The ex loved three things, maybe more than me – pizza, chicken, and bread. We jokingly called him a “toddlervore” because of his eating habits. I remember the first time I made him try an apple. He was in shock that fruit could actually taste good. It’s true. I do love to cook. I tried every recipe known to man to get him to expand his palette. I even went as far as lying about aioli was. I told him it was not a mayo like sauce, it was just oil and eggs, hoping he wouldn’t catch on to my trickery. Spoiler alert, he did.
Yesterday someone asked me what I want now from a relationship now. My answer was simple. I want someone who will make dinner reservations, order anything off the menu, and share a bottle of wine with me. But I also need them to be smart enough to realize that a first date should not be over a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant.
Of course, this isn’t my real answer. That is much more complicated. It was easy to fixate on one area of my marriage that was challenging, good cook plus the picky eater, and make it a marker for my next relationship. It was a fundamental lifestyle preference that we didn’t share. That, in turn, showed me something I should have noticed way sooner.
I often excused it away, often saying, “If the only challenge I have in my marriage is that my husband only likes certain foods, then I am doing ok.” While I believe you should have different likes and dislikes with your partner, it has taught me to be more clear about the things that I do want. The truth is, I’ve never done this before. I haven’t taken the time to think about what I wanted because I believed in love so much that I thought it would take care of the rest. But it doesn’t and it shouldn’t. You have to do the work and simply use the love as fuel.
Although If I’m being honest, I’m not exactly sure what I really want yet. I’ve dabbled by having conversations with people. I dipped my toe into dating, and really the only thing I’m sure of is that I want someone to outwit me. I want to be challenged and of course, taken care of a bit. While I’m always going to be a caretaker, it would be so nice to let go for a while and not lead a relationship. I find myself drawn to very specific people, or I should say a very specific type of person, not unlike I did in my 20s.
All of the brain power required to figure out how I want to define my new life is exhausting and because of that, I went away. I actually ran away to California but more on that next time.