I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
It was a beautiful summer day so we sat on the outdoor patio. Surrounded by the downtown buildings and occasional honking car, we slowly sipped on our iced coffees. She set her cup down with her right hand and made slow circles on the table with the condensation from the cup.
“So are you still doing your online dating?”
“Nah.” I said, “I’m dating someone.”
“So that part of your life is finally over?”
“Who knows. Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Do you miss it?”
I paused because I wanted to give an honest answer.
“Honestly, yes. A little bit.” I said, “There is a certain adventure and exhilaration to it all. You don’t have to travel anywhere outside of a local coffeeshop or bar to have a new experience. I know all I have to do is sign up or log in and there will be a number of women looking to meet up with guys. But it’s not the sex that I miss as much as the excitement of continually meeting new people. As shitty as it sounds, the chase truly is fun and compelling.”
“So do you think all of this ruined a part of you?”
I knew what she was getting at. We had dated years prior and I knew she wasn’t too thrilled on all the gossip people had been whispering about me. I think she felt it reflected poorly on her. As if she was the motivation behind my actions. And hearing that I had “learned some kind of lesson” would have given her the smug satisfaction that she craved. But it wouldn’t have been the truth.
“Do I think it ruined a part of me? Absolutely not.” I said, “If anything, it forced me to understand that certain tactics are not exclusive. What is positive to one woman might be terrible to the next. And I think that is an important lesson to learn. That we can’t treat people the same because people are made up of varying levels of damage, insecurity, and mistrust. Some of us understand what we carry around and some of us have no clue. But everyone is looking for some kind of inspiration so that hopefully, one day, we can look in the mirror and be okay with what we see. While we all just want to feel loved, nurtured, and respected – ultimately, we really just want to be happy and it would be nice if there was someone by our side who felt like they were on our team.”
“Oh, so you don’t consider yourself to be a womanizer anymore?” She said, trying to cover her seriousness with a bit of a laugh.
“I never was.”
“Come on.” She said, “You have been on dates with half of this city.”
“I entertained options, sure. But numbers don’t matter – how you engage people does. I simply met people I thought were interesting. Some were boring, some were terrible, and some were fantastic. But at the end of the day, I was respectful and I made some great friends. I now have a better understanding of people and how we interact. I learned how to be more compassionate and how to listen. I learned that some behaviors should be approached with caution and that everyone deserves respect until they prove me otherwise.” I said, “But ‘ruined’? Not even close. If anything, it made me a stronger and more respectful man.”
She stared at her empty cup and spun it around on its edge.
“So do you think your dating life has come to an end?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I don’t see it as a positive or a negative, in that regard. It is a tool, and you can use it to build something great or to tear things down. There is comfort knowing it is there and available, you know? Like, I think it’s fascinating that you, right now, could make an online profile and have a number of dates lined up for tonight. You have the opportunity to make a friend, make out with someone who thinks you’re sexy, or potentially meet someone who will change the course of your life. It all comes down to how adventurous you are.”
“You know.” She said, “I met the guy that I’m with online.”
“Well, that’s why I wanted to see you today. I’m actually moving with him to the east coast.”
“Really?” I said, “That is awesome. Good for you. I take it things are going well?”
“They are.” She said, “And I also wanted to confess something.”
“No, it’s not bad.” She said, “For years, I heard that you had been going on all these dates and as a little ‘fuck you’ I wanted to do the same hoping you would hear about it.”
“Oh, that sounds really mature.” I said, laughing.
“I know, I know. It was awful, but… ” She paused, pulled her hand out from under the table and said, “I found the love of my life and we’re getting married.” Holding the ring up for me to see.
I stood and hugged her because I meant it. She was brilliant and creative and gorgeous and deserved to be happy. I just wasn’t the one would could do that for her. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t be supportive.
She went on to tell me all about him and how warm and incredible and charitable he was. I listened and it made me happy to see her so happy. And that was nice. Because years ago, we fought and she cried at my feet and told me that she didn’t think she could go on without me and here she was, beaming with happiness in front of the guy who kicked dents in her heart.
“So, I guess I just wanted to say thank you.”
“Well, if it wasn’t for you wanting to date everything with a vagina, I never would have met my fiancé.”
I laughed and said, “Uh, thank you?”
“So when you decide to write a book about all of your philandering ways, make sure you tell everyone that something good came from all of your whoring around.”
“Okay,” I said.