I got stood up two nights ago.
If you’ve ever been single (most of us have, right?), you know the feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time, and a tiny spark of hope flickers in your heart. When you exchange glances in a bar, or you laugh about the same tiny interaction. When you think to yourself, maybe, just maybe, this could be my person.
This doesn’t happen to me often. Partially because I don’t go on all that many dates, and partially because the ones I do go on so often feel like duds. But when it does, I tend to get excited. Potential grows in your heart way faster than anything else.
A week or so ago, I went on a GREAT first date with a man I’ll call B. His online profile had me worried he wasn’t my type, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway. And then I was so glad I did. As it turned out, B was my type to a tee. He’d gone to a small liberal arts school, like me. He was an English major, like me. He wanted to be a “real writer” like me (me: novels; him: screenplays). He was tall dark and handsome, with a body cut like a Greek god (which simultaneously caused me immense joy and immense fear of unworthiness). HE SANG A CAPELLA IN HIGH SCHOOL. He liked to travel. HE LOVED KITTENS. If you asked me to make a list of all the seemingly superficial qualities “my type” would have, he would have checked nearly every box.
As my girl Taylor Swift says, sparks fly (flew). When he got home around 1am, he texted me to let me know he’d made it safely, and said he’d had fun. “We should hang again,” he said. This was pre-Labor Day, I was headed out of town for the long weekend. I said I’d be back next week; when was he free?
Over a little bit of back and forth, we landed on Wednesday. All weekend long, I resisted texting him to see how his weekend was going. I waited for my phone to ding, for my screen to light up. It didn’t. On Monday afternoon, en route back to New York, I caved. I texted to see if we were still on for Wednesday night, asked him how his weekend was. He waited an hour or two to respond, but told me yes, Wednesday was good; he’d gone to Basquiat exhibit over the weekend.
By Monday night, I could feel it in my gut: I wasn’t going to see him on Wednesday. A stone vibrated in my belly, and I willed myself to be positive. Putting my fear and negativity out into the world wasn’t going to do me any good. On Tuesday, I willed myself not to text him again (editor’s note: I hate these games). I made it until Wednesday morning, a time I felt was perfectly appropriate if we were meant to have plans that night. After all, contrary to popular male belief, I do have a life outside of the apps, and I intend to live it.
An hour passed. Two. Three. 5pm rolled around, then 6. I tried not to cry in a meeting. I left work, blasted Taylor on my bike ride home, and lit all my candles. I contemplated whether it was worth ordering a bottle of wine to my apartment, whether I could summon the energy to bake a batch of cookies and then eat them all. I cursed myself for texting, for not being the “cool girl” (side note: if you’ve never read the “cool girl speech” from Gone Girl, leave here immediately and look it up).
Sometimes I think the worst kind of heartaches are the ones that never really happened. The ones that lived only inside your head. For me, this was one of those. Cue “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy. I spent the last week thinking maybe, just maybe, this was it. I pictured us walking hand in hand as summer turned to fall (I’d tripped on our walk home and he’d caught me, steadying me on the sidewalk, his strong hand in mind). I pictured calling my parents and telling them that finally, I’d met someone worth talking about. I pictured him meeting Kim and Joia (my oldest friends; effectively my sisters). How he’d go off with their husbands and play video games while we made dinner in Joia’s kitchen. I pictured us taking a weekend upstate, walking slowly up and down the aisles of old school general stores and hiking up small mountaintops, our cheeks flushed with the effort. I wondered if maybe by the time my last wedding of the year rolled around, we’d be together and he’d fly with me to California.
This is on me. I’m the one who let myself get all in my head about it. But man, knowing it was all in my head doesn’t make it hurt any less. Sometimes I think my heart wants it so bad that it runs straight away from me into a land that is the opposite of reality.
This weekend, I started—and finished—Lisa Taddeo’s incredible new book, Three Women. In the prologue, there is a paragraph that absolutely gutted me, and that I feel sums up this experience. “Throughout history,” she says, “men have broken women’s hearts in a particular way. They love them or half love them and then grow weary and spend weeks and months extricating themselves soundlessly, pulling their tails back into their doorways, drying themselves off, and never calling again. Meanwhile, women wait.”
Women wait. Ain’t it the truth? The awful, miserable truth? I wish I had a neat tiny bow to end this story with. I wish I could tell you that I’m done waiting, that I deserve better than this asshole, that, as my sister once told me, I “don’t want to be with someone who can’t communicate.”
I know all of these things are true, but I don’t feel them in my heart. Not yet, at least. Maybe someday soon, I will, but for now, it hurts. If you need me, I’ll be looking at this piece from Mari Andrew on repeat, which happened to pop up on my Instagram feed at the exact moment I needed it to. As one commenter said, it makes my heart ache less knowing I’m not alone in mourning what could have been.