It's not you, It's me

We were in a crowded bar.

He cleared his throat with a little cough, then began a speech that he'd no doubt delivered many times before.

Our eyes met with uncanny precision.

I felt my face flush. I knew exactly where he was going, I was like a deer gazing into the barrel of the hunter's gun.

My smile faded and my eyes narrowed.

He let each word out slowly like I was a dumb little kid who needed help understanding, pausing for emphasis.

The clock hand moved slower.

He asked in a kind, compensatory tone, if we could be friends. Because that's something I really needed, another fake friend added to my repertoire. I'm sure there was more to it. He meant well, but the words rang hollow, his voice seemed to trail off into the background. Three dates in, I was a redundant little extra to his world.

I wanted to respond with a clever remark, but I nodded quietly, glumly impassive to his wittering, holding my tongue. It was like he was offering me financial advise or a pre-flight safety demonstration. I tried not to say anything stupid and make things worse. The nonchalance probably exacerbated any remaining air of intimacy.

I gave lots of ooohs and aaaaahs. I might've even done a thumbs up. Because I'm that much of an idiot.

I sat motionless with my hands gripped on my lap, flopped down resignedly. I tightened my feet and kept them curled until the awkwardness passed. The pub was insufferably hot. I felt my temperature rise. My mouth was dry as though filled with sand, but I didn't gulp a drink for fear he'd think I was drowning my sorrows and suppressing heartache. I was calculatedly robotic, circling the situation cautiously.

Throughout it, I clenched my teeth. I was not going to be visibly affected. My spirit wasn't going to be shattered, it would remained guarded and unimpaired. In a way, I wanted him to think I was treating the situation with indifference because I had more important thoughts fighting for occupancy of my mind. I didn't want to make a public spectacle out of myself and masking emotions allows me to stay afloat when calamity hits.

Sometimes, it's easier to do nothing. To say nothing. To have nothing. To be nothing.

I appreciated his honesty. I didn't want to be cushioned or perked up. Stuff that. I can't stand feeling like a victim, spare me the trauma. No teddy-bear hugs required. I'm, thankfully, not at a level where I need to be ego-stroked. I'm not a puppy being rewarded for peeing on the newspaper and not the carpet. You can't force things, if he's not into me, that's a-okay, it takes two to tango. I'm not the broken-hearted type needing to grasp rosary beads.

Did I deserve to be given the cold shoulder?

Erm, yes and no.

I've become quite adept over the years at entertaining, performing. Y'know, light-hearted stories we all rely on to establish our charm in the beginning of relationships. I follow the guidelines, and try to come across as an innate people pleaser and intrinsically happy company. I make them believe I'm contagiously upbeat. I do my best to listen earnestly to the bad jokes. I ask meaningful questions. I tirelessly engage in chitchat, even with the ones with the emotional depth of Petri dishes.

If the conversation is flatlining, I'll go down their preferred tangent and wing the subject matter towards their favoured direction. I'm equipped with all the necessary emotional responses. On my measure, nothing will be taken amiss. Obviously, I downplay the unattractive qualities, but isn't that normal? We all offer tiny fabrications to make ourselves sound more enticing. Touching, meddling, lying by omission about the details we leave out. It's all part of the game, the auditioning. We'll adjust certain attributes to make ourselves sound better, apply the brushstroke to finish the masterpiece.

I always pick the fuckin' turkey. I am no slouch at calling a spade a spade. He was no peach himself. My heart didn't do a little dance. I wasn't smitten or infatuated with the man at all. There was nothing luminous or magnetic about him or about us as a collective unit. Sparks weren't flying. I wasn't prepared to pledge my undying love.

So why did it matter?

I guess there was a vitality about being with someone that I found exciting. It lit everything up. It carried me somewhere high, away from the dustbins of reality and pessimism. And I was happy to float and drift up high like a balloon into the summer sky, even if it was only a few fleeting moments of joy. The soaring was fun.

Now, in the wake of it all, I can see he was tupperware. Those before him have been too. I'm learning, I crave companionship for the security blanket it offers and that's something I really need to work on. Because up until now, provided I'm huddled together with someone, my logic has been that I'm somehow not a complete trainwreck, scampering behind, struggling to keep up. He was there to fill a gaping hole and stop the empty spaces inside growing so wide and sharp. To make me feel more complete, less uncertain and overwhelmed. I've been aching to be part of two for the wrong reasons.

It's largely dishonourable intentions, I use them to get salvation points. Having someone entwined in my arm has been a screwed up form of validation. I've been wedded to an idea that if they believed I'm a feckin' picnic then, maybe, eventually, something would seep in and I'd believe I'm a feckin' picnic too, and, miraculously, all my troubles would melt away like lemon drops. Gobshite alert!(!!!) I've been expecting them to give me the seed that'd allow me to bloom, blossom, grow into a less-fucked up perception of myself.

I haven't been searching for a partner, I've been searching for a saviour.

That realisation dropped on me like a bomb.

I'd love them with an intensity that can power the national grid because they're shaping and increasing my value on myself, not because of who they are. Obviously, inflicting upon someone your every hope for salvation and happiness doesn't work as a magical solution.

Broken isn't beautiful, relying so heavily on another person isn't going to hold you together, especially if one side is a hungry hippo, demanding all the rope, offering no middle ground, jaw permanently lodged open to greedily munch away at constant encouragment. Something less morally dubious is required for it to work. I've been absolutely ridiculous. 

I place too much emphasis on what they'll think of me. I cling too tightly, latch on and pin my hopes upon them. I anchor them to the ground, like ankle weights. It's exhausting, on both sides. And then, when it all goes defunct and belly up, I take it all too personally, too seriously. I feel the wrench of separation. Maybe, that makes me the one with the shallow heart.

The reality is I'd been a flake and he could smell it on me.

In the search for love and lust, I've wanted a guy to look at me and see something I can't see myself, not because I necessarily want to share my life with him. 

What men and women need is messages saying we should judge ourselves based on what we want, we need, we desire - not being wanted, being needed, being desired by others.

You'll only find that kind of salvation when you are content and comfortable with every aspect of your own character. To soak in another human being has to hold a deeper meaning than seeking physical or verbal reassurance. Because the thing is, we really don't know how to love until we learn to love ourselves.

I'm sick of scrolling absent-mindedly through my phone, swiping for potential matches. Hoping some beefcake will shine his brilliance at me and together we'll whisk away into eternal happiness. Marching into the sunset together and living happily ever after, doesn't mean these feelings, I've spoken about, will dissolve. 

When it comes to romance, I've been a sap - but a sap who's learned an invaluable lesson. I know now that I have to try and change my perspective. I'm perfectly awful in so many ways, and someone is bound to find it endearing.

However, I have to first.

Someday, maybe, someone will have an impulse to fall for me, it'll be because of my faults, not in spite of. Being me will be enough.

We all have a responsibility to treat ourselves kindly. We don't 'reach' happy and stay there; happiness is daily work. We cannot rely on others - we have to work on ourselves first. And that takes commitment.

I'm taking my foot off the gas for a while, putting a lid on love for now, abstaining from romance for a bit - deleting all the dating apps. Throwing in the towel. Moving up goalposts. Learning to be kinder, softer, more understanding towards who I am, warts and all. Upping the ante on me and building value in my own self-worth, by being my own example of happiness. Creating my own self-sufficient narrative and making peace with it.

The air has changed. 

Something about this date lifted the veil for me. This backstep has helped elicit a positive response from being single. It's been a stern reminder, a prompt to cop-on.

For now, I'm cool with being afraid, the answers will come.

Because, eventually when I am transfixed by that insane, muddling, intoxicating swell of love and having it wash all over me, it'll be for the right reasons. 

I'll have seen my fullness, and be proud to share it, not hide it. 

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