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Dating in NYC: He says he’s Single. He’s anything but.

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I’ve been single now for about eight years straight since my divorce.  In that time I’ve had a few short-lived relationships but for the most part I’ve flown solo.  I’ve discovered the hard way that the term “single” means a lot of different things to different people.  This city is so large and so densely populated it seems some can’t help but constantly see a never-ending array of choices for potential partners.  I’ve had so many men bold-faced lie to my face regarding this issue that I’m tempted to hand them a survey, and tape the entire exchange so when they say

I never said I was single

I won’t really do that but it’s frustrating that I feel like I have to ask questions like a prosecutor in order to get the truth out of some random dude on a date.

So what does it mean to be “single” in the city that never sleeps?  I’m not including polyamorous or non-monogamous men in this list because they tend to be incredibly upfront and honest about their relationships status.  This is for about the “single” boys who just like to blur the truth.

Single Single: You aren’t having sex with anyone on a regular basis.  You try to date but nothing seems to work out.  You mostly hang out with your friends and maybe watch porn.

Mostly Single: You are casually seeing someone. You’ve hooked up countless times, you socialize together and most of your friends consider you a couple.  Although you’ve both being seeing each other on a regular basis for months neither of you like “labels” and you’re not sure if she’s having sex with other men or not.  You take photos of your friend and post them on social media but never with yourself as a couple.  Even though she’s met your parents and you’ve taken trips together she’s DEFINITELY NOT your girlfriend and as far as you’re concerned you’re 100% single.  You flirt with other women and lead them on, but usually stop short of hooking up with them.

Single on Facebook Single: You’ve been dating someone for months now, you just haven’t bothered to change your relationship status update on Facebook yet.

Friends With Benefits Single: You’ve got a rotation of women that you text on the weekends and late at night for sex.  You like them alright but you’re hoping none of them get too clingy or text you too much. All of these women know they aren’t the only one in your life and you are NOT serious about any of them.  There’s one gal on your list who you tend to text more often and dump all your emotional garbage on them.  For now she puts up with it.  If she starts telling you too much about her life you’re out.  You’re still hoping to find that perfect someone if she exists at all.

Tinder Single: You like to have sex with lots of women, but usually only once. Tinder is your favorite method of hooking up. You sometimes accidentally swipe right on a girl you’ve already banged. Things can get awkward. You’ve also learned it’s better to call women by a pet name since you’ll forget their name seconds after meeting them. They all become honey or babe to you, if you even bother to have a conversation before or after sex.  You’re definitely single but single for life.

We Broke Up I Swear Single: You broke up with your girlfriend months ago but you’re both on a lease and finding a new apartment in tricky in Brooklyn. Neither of you would say you’re dating. You’ve even got a couple of roommates but since this is a three bedroom apartment, that means one of you has to sleep on the couch and there have been plenty of late nights when you’ve ended up hooking up again.  You still fight so it’s a bad situation but it’s only temporary and for the moment you’re looking for love!  Maybe you’ll end up moving in with your next girlfriend.

I’m totally over Her Single: The love of your life just left you. OK she didn’t just leave you it’s been almost two years but you’re TOTALLY over her. Sure you still have every photo you’ve ever taken together on your social media accounts, and yes you still constantly bring her up but you are TOTALLY over her.  You still call her mom from time to time but her mom is a really nice woman.  You’d do the same thing!   Last weekend you helped her move into a new apartment and assembled most of her furniture.  She knows she can call you at any time of the day or night but you are OVER HER.  She’s a great and beautiful person and it just didn’t work out and you wish her nothing but the best.

I’m a Liar I’m not Single: You tell women you’re single because you want to have sex with them.  You’re a married man or you’ve had the same partner for years and have kids with her.  According to the tax code you’re single but by just about every other metric you are very much one half of a couple.

My category – Feral Single – I’ve been single for so long now I don’t know if it’s possible for me to have a relationship anymore.  I LOVE living alone.  I never want to compromise on anything or make any major decisions in my life again that involve another person.  I’ve gone feral.  Like a former house cat who was once fed and cared for I now survive by my wits.  After a long hard day I come home vent on Facebook and talk to my cats.  I’ve become the ultimate loner – self-sufficient, wily, and not likely to be tamed any time soon.

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Dating After Divorce: Becoming Comfortably Numb

 

I wondered when it would happen, then a few months ago, it hit me.  After countless bad dates and a dating scene that feels like a wasteland, I’ve finally become comfortably numb.  It’s not what I expected.  I thought I would be more negative and more jaded, but it’s honestly somewhat comfortable.  My expectations have just hit rock bottom.

When I first left my marriage I was completely unprotected.  My heart was overly sensitive, my mind ravaged with depression and my instincts set at high alert. I needed to calm the beast, or I never would have survived. I used to cry after bad dates, usually on the subway home.  As soon as I would just sit down, I’d mildly lose it.  I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations.  Multiple bad dates had trained me not to think beyond the first encounter.  Then on the rare occasions I had a second date, I taught myself not to get too excited.  I’ve only made it to three dates with one man.  We had hardly gotten serious, we hadn’t had sex yet when he had a slight meltdown.  In his case, I don’t think it had anything to do with me.  From what he told me, he had some seriously unresolved issues with his ex.  Unresolved issues with exes is just a reality for people over 35.

Some guys would rather remain virtual.  I sort of “dated”  a guy who just wanted to email.  He claimed he wanted to see me, but then created countless obstacles.  I lived in Brooklyn and he lived in Manhattan, so it shouldn’t have been that difficult.  He also wasn’t over his ex, and I suspect was still trying to get back together with her.  I’ll never understand why I kept talking to him, or what was going on in his head.  I found out months after I gave up, he found a good match and they are inseparable.

I’ve had a few casual flings.  I forced every jealous atom inside of me to stay cool.  Hooking up with guys when I knew they had other women in their lives, wasn’t easy.  It really took Herculean strength to not react, to tell myself that it didn’t matter, we weren’t serious, this won’t lead to anything. I managed to stay calm, but inside I was miserable.

They haven’t all been bad.  I had a strong connection with one guy.  We found out on the date we were both straight spouses.  His wife left him for a woman, and I thought that maybe our shared experience might work to our advantage.  Despite obvious warning signs that he was clearly not over his ex-wife, we made out in his car for over an hour.  It was highly unusual for me, as I usually don’t even kiss a guy on a first date. Then he completely blew me off.   I guess the situation was too much for him, I don’t know.  I can’t remember his name or face.

Now I still have a few men who hover but do little else. They might send a dick pic, or a request for sexting that will lead absolutely nowhere.  I’ve learned I’m not the only recipient for their x-rated self-portraits.   If I say I’m interested in something more, they tend to bolt.  Of course I still get harassed on the street by any number of men of all ages.  I guess that might end when I have to use a walker or cane to get around.

The worst was my rebound relationship, something I never should have gotten myself into.  It was completely exhilarating, but ultimately soul crushing.  I had so many conflicted feelings towards him, at least two years after the fact.  Now I don’t see him.  I have no idea what’s going on in his life, and I have no desire to find out.  I harbor no ill will, but I also don’t want any contact with him.

I’ve become someone I would have never recognized five years ago.  But in a way it’s not completely awful.  It’s not what I thought it would be.  I’m not angry or bitter, just numb.   I take everything men say and do with a grain of salt.  So what if the guy sent me several texts in a row – It doesn’t mean anything until he backs it up with actions.  I rarely text anyone because I can’t stand being blanked back.  I would rather just have nothing than the feeling of being ignored.

I just stopped caring.  So what if the guy from OKCupid sends me eight emails only to cancel the same night as our date.  I don’t even blink if some man rants about his “bitch ex-wife” for half the date.  It no longer surprises me, if he insults what I do for a living, or complains about my crappy neighborhood. This is dating after 35 in a city where only the strong survive, and you’ll be judged on everything your job, neighborhood, past relationships, pets, hobbies even your hometown.

Some of my dates have been so rude and so horrible that if I recreated them in a movie, I would be accused of being too fantastical.  I try to keep an open mind, stay positive and keep moving forward.  My horrible experiences have given me armor.  I rarely have crying fits on the subway anymore.  I’ve just learned to block the disappointments out.   Most divorced people never think they are going to end up like this.  Few of us expect this as our future.  If we learn more from our failures, I’ll be a genius by the time I finally meet a compatible match.  🙂

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Dating After Divorce – The Shiny Penny Syndrome

English: Large amount of pennies

English: Large amount of pennies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

A friend of mine and long-term resident of New York complained to me a few years ago about a dating problem she called “The Shiny Penny Syndrome”.  A shiny penny is any of the brilliant, talented, gorgeous and single dwellers of Gotham.  The problem arises when someone trying to date one person but can’t help but be distracted by all of the other “shiny pennies” that seem within reach.  In a city full of humanity, there are always new humans to try out.  At the time my friend was sharing her struggles trying to date I thought to myself.

“I am so glad that I’m married” 

About a year later I was divorced, and instead of a bright shiny new copper penny, I felt like a beat-up, scuffed up and used up 1 cent coin.   I was damaged goods entering a field of less flawed, complicated and younger currency.

The current dating culture, both online and around town feeds into this the shiny penny phenomena.  People meet in bars and go home with virtual strangers, only to meet up again, or disappear forever, whatever they please.  Some men and women do this for years before they finally decide to settle down.  And then what?  If they have been super ultra casual with partners for years, it is going to be a real challenge to suddenly become super ultra committed.  A relationship, takes work, time, energy and focus.  But many with demanding jobs or lifestyles don’t want to waste the time nurturing and tending to a new partner’s needs.  So they constantly start from scratch with hybrids of pseudo-dating, friends with benefits or trying to date but rarely actually seeing their partner.  They don’t see themselves as the problem but rather that their partner is simply not the best they could get.

  • What if someone better comes along?
  • What if someone younger, prettier, stronger, richer, nicer, funnier, shorter, taller…etc.
  • What if I could find someone who lived closer?
  • What if I could find someone with the exact same interests as myself? 
  • What if the next person could help me out in my career?
  • What if I could find someone my parents or friends would like?

Because of the nature of becoming completely anonymous and so effortlessly getting lost in the sea of humanity, people have a tendency to behave badly and get away with it.  It is true of both genders and all sexual orientations.  Meet someone outside your work and social group, and the minute you stop dating them, they can so easily vanish never to be heard from again.  Which in some aspects is good, but in others it just encourages the cruelest and nastiest of behavior.   And when everyone is their own island, it is difficult to find out a person’s reputation before getting involved with them.   So those with the most deceptive or shallow dating habits can go through lovers with little consequence.  And from what I have heard from people all over the world, the Shiny Penny Syndrome is not just relegated to big cities like New York  but has become a universal problem.

For people newly divorced the sea of shiny pennies is especially difficult to navigate.  Divorce can be entirely devastating to one or both spouses.  Going from a long-term relationship with the same partner and then feeling like you have to compete in a shallow and disposable dating environment is a rude wake-up call.  So what is to be done about this?

I have found that fellow divorced people tend to make the best fit for myself and my other friends who have been divorced.  Another person who has gone through a divorce is usually much less judgmental of the scars, dents and damage that my not-so-shiny penny has been through.  And a divorced person has at least tried to have a committed long-term relationship.  Marriages end for all sorts of reasons, and in many cases there is little one partner can do to keep it together.   I don’t exclusively seek out divorced men, but I do know that generally speaking they are likely to be more empathetic to my situation.

I am not searching for the brightest shiniest penny on the planet, I just want the penny that fits well with my own.   And I know there is no such thing as a perfect match or partner.  I will just continue to look beyond the perfection seekers and find a fellow copper coin that has been through that has had a little wear and tear like myself.