Valentine’s Day Single, and A Dating History
Yesterday I hit the grocery store after work like I usually do. Baguettes were sold-out. Fashionable young men held panniers with champagne bottles sheathed inside. A large amount of artisnial cheeses had been plucked from the usually-bountiful dairy case. There was anticipation and excitement in the air, as the snow fell sideways outside. In a city where Celine Dion is ALWAYS on heavy rotation, and romance is more important than fresh air, Valentine’s Day is more than just a holiday in Montreal.
I don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, so I just went home to watch shows and nurse my lingering cold. While it would have been nice to have dinner plans, or something to do on a Friday night, I was looking forward to changing into my jammies and hanging with my cats. As lame as this sounds, I go out quite a bit during the week, and by Friday I’m in the mood for some good old fashioned vegging.
There was a time when my single-ness haunted me, and I felt lesser-than because I didn’t have a partner. Valentines Day itself wouldn’t bug me so much, but I would feel my singleness at weird times, like at a concert or at the movies. I could imagine how much better I would feel to have a warm hand in mine, and feel their heartbeat with my fingers. I would imagine bantering about why the movie worked or didn’t work, or having my lover hold me from behind when the band was playing my faveorite song.
I’ve only been in two relationships, and it took me awhile to recover from both of them. I think it’s because I’m kind of intense. Shortly after my high-school boyfriend broke up with me, he started dating someone else. This messed me up big time. I was in no position to even think about anyone else, my heart so broken that I immediately took up smoking and drinking heavily on the same day. I spent that summer before 2nd- year university trying to escape the scathing pain of the whole ordeal. The fact that my first love had moved on so easily made me feel insignificant. It was like the last year and half had meant nothing to him, while it had meant everything to me. I felt like a fool.
After a few years and into my roaring 20’s, I started to have trysts and lovers, and all kinds of uncommitted sex. It was partly because I was discovering myself, partly because I felt like I had something to prove. As if notches on a bedpost could make me more empowered, and more in control of my emotions. I got crushes on unavailable guys, and as years went on, started to worry more and more about the fact that all my friends were transiting in and out of relationships while I remained single.
In my last year of university I started living with a guy we’ll call Hardcore. He was committed to a polyamourous lifestyle, and I fell in love with him. We would sleep together sometimes. We were also very close friends, inseparable for around 6 months of intensity. I finally had to tell him about my feelings when a friend we’ll call Traitor came to stay with me, and then ended up sleeping with him. Hardcore woke me up to ask me for a condom and I became overwhelmed with emotion I could not suppress. This uncomfortable exchange featured him explaining that he didn’t share the same feelings for me- something that I already knew- and him scolding me for ending my friendship with Traitor, who knew that I was in love with him, and slept with him anyways.
About 3 years later, I worked on a high-end passenger train, and “Buddy” was our crew porter. He was American, flirtatious, and a bad-boy who had dark, tanned, skin and bright green eyes. We all lived and worked on the train for seasons at a time, and shortly into it, Buddy and I hooked up. Then he started sleeping with another member of the staff, who was a hot blonde from Winnipeg. I decided that I couldn’t compete. I never talked to him about it, even though it was hurting me. We had never talked about commitment so I assumed I had no right to ask. This triangle carried over a long, cross-Canada summer and into the following spring in Mexico. By the following summer in 2004, he was working on the American train and I was working in Canada. I would send him long love-letters, but neither of us had cell phones so we didn’t talk very often. Eventually, after my impromtu move to Montreal, he asked me to marry him while on the phone from Texas. I said yes but even then I knew it would never happen. This was the closest thing to a relationship I had had since my first love, and I was willing to live in the fantasy; however far-fetched.
I had been single for 14 years before I got my second boyfriend. If you ask any of my friends they all maintain that I needed to have that relationship, even though it didn’t work out. It broke my 14-year-single spell. So Yoga-Guy and I got together and I gave my 100% to a relationship that was, in hindsight, doomed. Yoga-Guy was just getting out of a 14 year relationship and I conveniently offered to be his rebound. He had kids and lived in the suburbs so when they had a week at their mom’s, Yoga-Guy would come and live with me in the city.
We finally broke up shortly after Valentines Day in 2011, when I decided to ask him- drunkenly- if he had feelings for me. We had been “together” for a year, and seeing each other for longer than that- but somehow had avoided any real conversations about we felt about each other. When I stepped over that line, he started yelling-drunkenly- at me and I eventually left his house in the suburbs to find my way home in a snowstorm. We lasted another 2 weeks before Yoga-Guy. and I went out for dinner at the greasy spoon near my house, and he made small talk nervously while picking at my onion rings. Walking home in another snowstorm, he broke up with me.
I’ve been single since then. I wasn’t immediately ready or interested in dating after being with someone who wasn’t into me. I had forgotten how TIME CONSUMING relationships are. For several months with Yoga-Guy, I was feeling how there was no time to write, and how he would dominate all my time when he would stay at my apartment. I always wanted to go out on dates, he alwasy wanted to stay and save money, and have me cook dinner. We had fallen into a pattern, and I was feeling suffocated by it. Even though he ended the relationship, I had been trying desperately to change it.
There was a month of heavy drinking and eating take out after that. I stopped going to yoga. But then I started to work on myself, in every way I could think of. As spring opened up, I took workshops, listened to lectures, and recallibrated my life. It was liberating. Between 2011 and now has been an accelerated time of learning about myself, learning to accept myself, and redefining who I am. Some of it was hard, especially because my window of fertility is closing. I had to face the fact that I might be single for a long time again, or that I might not end up having children. But without the extraneous forces of others, I’ve been able to come into a new place with myself.
I haven’t been dating at all because I know I’m leaving town, but I’m feeling ready to start when I get back to Vancouver. My last relationship taught me that I don’t want to be with anyone who is ambivalent or “not that into me.” I’d rather be single than have a crappy relationship. If you look around, there are a lot of low-quality relationships making people more miserable, sad and lonely than they were when they were single.
I am trying to become the woman that my ideal man or woman would want to date. This means becoming the best version of myself I can possibly be, the kind of person that is not consumed by neediness or vanity. My point is that if all you’re bringing to a relationship is the “fear of being alone,” then that’s all you’re going to get back. Personally, I want more than that. After this long of being single, and all the movies I’ve watched alone, I know I deserve that.
I also know that the kind of intense connection that I desire to have with someone isn’t going to come around with just anyone, and it definitely isn’t going to happen quickly. I will need to take my time when I do start dating. I won’t try to fast forward to “committed relationship” when we are just getting to know each other. I don’t want to miss any of the good parts of the story. Until then, I am content with my cats, my dear friends, and hanging out with myself. I’m having fun trying to figure out what I can do and experience in this life. As they say: 3rd time’s a charm?