don’t you dare come home with me

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“you just wait. once you buy this apartment, the men will come knocking. you won’t be able to turn them away fast enough.”

it was a sunny day in early summer, and my friend sarah and i were taking a stroll around the neighborhood near our office. i was complaining about dating, or the lack of dates i was currently going on. it was the absolute worst, i fumed. the apps were a veritable minefield of crazies, dick pics (sorry, mama), and assholes who’d sleep with you and then never call you again.

there wasn’t a good man left to be found in the city of new york, i was sure of it. no, i hadn’t dated them all, but over the past year, i’d gone on enough online dates to know that it wasn’t for me, and that i was likely destined to be single forever, and definitely destined to be single when i signed on the dotted line for the grand apartment.

i was sick of it, of all of it–of getting dressed and getting my hopes up, of braving the smoky air of yet another dimly lit bar only to realize i was stuck with yet another hour of boredom, of the MOST un-stimulating conversation i’d ever encountered. i felt like charlotte york: i’ve been dating since i was 16! i’m exhausted! WHERE IS HE?! and also, MY HAIR HURTS. {kudos if you get these references, if you don’t, you need to get thee to an HBO Go account, pronto}

“come on,” sarah said. “it’s not that bad.” and maybe it wasn’t. or maybe, soon, it wouldn’t be. after all, sarah had reconnected with an old boyfriend soon after purchasing her own apartment (on her own, just like me). it was proof that one could do a big thing alone, and very soon after, be one half of a whole.

~

last august, around the time i broke ground on the grand apartment, i started seeing a guy i met off tinder. we hit it off immediately. he was too good looking for me, i knew it from the start, but that didn’t stop me from falling for him over cheap beers at some weird NYU-esque bar on west 4th street. in the span of a few weeks, we saw each other as many times. i slept with him too quickly, because, well, i think with my heart and not my head. and then i went away for 2 weeks, and i never heard from him again. i tried texting him once, during my trip, and his response was so cagey that i backed off. the guy who’d literally pushed me up against a wall within 2 minutes of my walking through his door wanted nothing to do with me. i couldn’t figure it out, so i tried not to ruminate on it (and what it said about me) too much.

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come september, construction work and design choices and the stress of a renovation caught up to me, and i stopped dating all together. as i’ve written about before, the purchasing and renovation process was an isolating one. it was as though i was reminded of my aloneness around every corner. there was a sense that i’d never wake up next to another person in the queen size bed i purchased, that i’d never flip pancakes on my brand new griddle alongside someone else’s bare feet on a sunday morning, that i’d be alone, really and truly alone, forever.

this sense of aloneness was juxtaposed, however, by an underlying current of pride. pride that this thing i was doing, it was big and it was scary, and i was doing it all by myself. on some days, my aloneness took on an almost sacred quality. it was rare. it was beautiful. it was magical. and it was just me.

~

i moved in on halloween, october 31st, and i started to dip my toes back into the pool of dating shortly after the new year. for months, it was a series of failed tinder chats, strange apps named after breakfast pairings, and nothing happy to report. every time my mother would call, she would ask me, “what’s new?” and i could hear in her voice that maybe, just maybe, today would be the day when i would tell her not about work, not about spin class, not about the latest crazy person i’d seen on the street, but about a romantic interest. i could spin the tale out from there without her even saying a thing. romance leads to love leads to marriage leads to babies leads to grandchildren. it’s a simple equation, really, once you find the one.

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but i couldn’t, it seemed, find the one. hell, i could barely find anyone at all. i felt the pressure of the clock ticking. i turned 31 in january, an age i never thought i’d reach, and all of a sudden, i was staring down the barrel of 35, and then 40, and then sudden death with no babies in sight.

all around me, people walked hand in hand. they stood on tippy toes to kiss on subway platforms. they shared cheesy engagement videos on facebook. the romances swirled around me, everywhere but just out of reach.

and as jealous as i was, as much as i, too, wanted that, i started to grow comfortable in my aloneness. i was alone, but i wasn’t necessarily lonely. i was doing just fine, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

and in that comfort, something odd happened: i went from having zero prospects to having 3 very nice, perfectly normal (at least, on the surface) men interested in me. there’d been a drought, and all of a sudden, i was trying not to schedule two guys on the same night. sarah was right: the men had come knocking.

i tell you this not to be like, oooh look at me, i’m hot shit, but because ultimately, i couldn’t do it.  i had what i wanted: i had people who wanted to be with me. hell, one of them even spent our second date months ahead of himself in the future, talking about the antiquing we’d do upstate, and asking me how i felt about hiking (spoiler alert: i hate it). but i didn’t, i couldn’t, want them.

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and it made me wonder: had i gotten so used to being alone that i couldn’t bear the thought of another person breaking through that aloneness? was it them, or was it me? i thought about it some more:

the first guy was a dud, through and through. he said he wanted to be a comedian, but he could barely carry on a conversation. i sat through one awkward date, and granted him a second, thinking maybe his nerves had rendered him mute the first time. of course, it wasn’t nerves. it was just his lack of personality that had turned me off. i swear to god, the man was so freaking vanilla. not even vanilla! he was CARDBOARD.

the second guy was, over text, innately charming, and funny as hell. he even threw in a bieber pun here and there. i was shaking in my boots nervous to meet him, hoping desperately his real life self would live up to his online self. i was sorely disappointed. he was so nervous that he could barely lift his drink up to his mouth. he kept wanting to know more about me: what did i like to do? who were my friends? what did i do every day after work? what did i think about work? what were my hobbies? how long had i been doing them? it was like he was playing 20 questions, a detective trying to get me to crack. it was exhausting! i felt like yelling, ASKING ME EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN THING ABOUT MYSELF ISN’T GOING TO ENDEAR ME TO YOU. IT’S JUST GOING TO FREAK ME OUT.

and that was just the beginning. texting me after our second date, he mentioned he lived far out in brooklyn, but when we dated, we’d obviously spend most of our time at my place, you know, since the lower east side was way cooler than his neighborhood.

i shit you not. my fists clenched almost automatically. i felt my heart seize up. how DARE he think he could come into this home–my home, the one that i had literally sacrificed blood, sweat and WAY TOO MANY tears for over the past 9 months–without an invitation? how dare he assume that he was welcome in my sanctuary, the place i had created all by my damn self?

and then i caught myself. this was what i wanted, wasn’t it? someone who wanted to go upstate and go antiquing on the weekends? someone who wanted to eat toast and runny eggs at my breakfast bar on the weekends? someone who would appreciate it when i told them i sealed that entire wall of exposed brick without a professional, that i’d picked out every last piece of the grand apartment, right down to the toilet paper roll he used to wipe his ass in the morning?

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i had it, right in front of me, a perfectly nice (albeit a little overeager) man who wanted to take me out for watermelon margaritas on a wednesday and walk me home afterwards, and who had already, by the second date, started picturing our life together in the future.

and i couldn’t do it.

i broke it off a few days later, telling myself i had a third guy waiting in the wings.

and guess what? he, too, was perfectly nice. he was a swede who worked for spotify, and who had transferred 6 months ago to their new york office. like me, he was a foodie who liked indie music. like me, he owned an apartment (in stockholm). he lived in williamsburg, and he ordered a scotch egg on our first date.

i should’ve been all in. he was cute, he was cool, he was interesting. our conversation, over the span of 3 dates, had very few lulls.

and still, i couldn’t do it.

suitors 1 and 2, sure, i could write them off. they were awkward, they were immature, they were overeager, they were bad conversationalists. but suitor #3 had not a flaw in sight. and still, i didn’t feel it. on paper, it was all there, but in real life, standing outside his apartment at midnight on a saturday, i didn’t feel the need to pull closer, i didn’t want to be invited upstairs.

i just wanted to go home. to my home, that i built all on my own. and i wanted to go there alone.

~

i’m not sure what the point of writing this all out was. most likely, it just proves that i have some serious baggage and that my twice-weekly soulcycle classes are no longer cutting it as therapy. but i’ve always used writing as a way to work my shit out, and i suppose i hope that putting my thoughts down on virtual paper might help me sort my way through them.

because here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being alone, if that’s what you want. i’m not sure i really believe this sentiment, but i want to, very badly. i want to believe that a person in today’s world can be self-sufficient, that they can be alone, and that they can be happy in that aloneness.

i also want to believe that my turning down these three guys wasn’t just me running scared. it was my gut telling me, these people aren’t yours. they’re not right for you.

and i want to believe that the person who is mine is still out there. and that when i meet him, i’ll invite him in–to both my home and my heart–without hesitation.

 

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