I have written about this topic before: the advantages of being single and never having loved. There is tremendous power in this state. I am unassailable by memories or news from ex-lovers because they don’t exist. There are all those songs that I listen to, songs about lost love, unrequited love, happy love. I can listen to them and think of fictional couples or just enjoy the emotions they evoke, the energy they give me. None of them can hurt me, none of them can remind me of somebody and cause me pain. They belong to me alone. I can listen to people talking about love or breaking up or relationship issues and watch them kiss and hold hands and remain unaffected. Yes, there is sometimes a soft sadness, an ‘I want this’ or a ‘what’s so bad about me?’ but nothing worse, nothing that really hurts. I am free. Nobody has the power to hurt me. I soar above all the people who struggle in this complex web of human relationships. I’m not trying to please anybody. Of course I want to make a good impression, to be thought pretty, interesting, lovable, but it is a general thing. I change my mind about myself all the time, sometimes loving myself and wondering why nobody else does, other times hating myself and feeling ashamed of every former confident thought. But the responsibility for feeling good or bad is (mostly) my own.
And here we come to the negative side of this situation: I set myself apart from normal people, I detach myself from an important part of life just to stay safe, just because I am afraid. I numb my feelings or nip them in the bud because it is easier. I turn to lonely pusuits like ballet, exercise, weight loss, or obsessive thoughts about food and binge eating. They give me bursts of euphoria, joy or passion and I think that I am happy for a while. But it isn’t normal to be so lonely and constantly busy, and it isn’t healthy and deep down I do feel trapped.
I know that I am behind on finding an identity and building relationships with others. There are only two people I would call friends and both of them approached me and surprised me by their obvious wish to be closer. I am trying to be a good friend, to take an interest in their lives and open up to them, but I still hesitate with many aspects. Physical contact, for example. Yes, June and I hug when we meet, but just her taking my hand or leaning against me when we were sitting on the bed felt strange. It was nice, but I would never have thought of doing that. Things like that seem to prove to me that I am weird and make me question myself. A colleague, who is usually very touchy-feely with all the women at work, once noticeably hesitated before patting my shoulder. Other male colleagues hug some of the women, but never me. Do I appear that cold and don’t-touch-me?
I am not cold. On the contrary, I have strong emotions and they rule and sway me. I have a lively imagination (in certain areas) and can ‘imagine myself into love’, that is, look at the positive aspects of a person and disregard the negative ones, imagine conversations, intimacy and a whole life together in a few minutes and then actually have a crush! It has happened a few times and even just trying to ‘un-crush’ myself again is very painful and feels like a rejection. And this was all in my mind without the knowledge of the other person! No wonder I am afraid to try it in real life. I am afraid of losing my independence, my power. I am afraid of making a fool of myself, losing my dignity, losing the responsibility for my own happiness
So yes, I’m scared. But I want to live a full life, and life without love and friendship, without conneting to other people, can never be full. It can be safe and comfortable to a certain degree, but it is also lonely and cold and not at all like the fictional version I sometimes make up, of a lonely tragic heroine who is actually a wonderful person and is seen, appreciated, found and loved without having to do anything.
And I do want to experience love, to get close to a person both emotionally and physically. There is so much I want, but also so much I could give. But I struggle with making it known. Wanting love, expressing an interest or showing attraction somehow seem wrong to me, ‘impure’, weak, needy and undignified. I hate seeing myself in that light and the thought of other people thinking such things about me is torture. I know that it is normal and human, but these thoughts still strangle me. If I want to enter into relationships, I have to get over this. I have to be brave and open up, be vulnerable and human and risk pain and rejection to live a full life.
During the summer holidays, I struggled with myself and went back and forth between states of confidence, being full of energy and joy, and states of self-loathing, retreating and overeating. Towards the end, I decided to just do something and joined an online dating website.
The good thing is that it is clear that everybody on the site is looking for a serious relationship, so I don’t have to make that known first. And I ‘meet’ men I would never meet in real life. Also, the first impression you get of people isn’t their appearance but their profile and personality. This works in my favour because I’m not conventionally pretty and too shy to look at men for more than a second. I tried to be very honest in my profile and put up realistic photos (of course I didn’t mention my weight loss or the fact that I never had a boyfriend or any other potentially scary thing). I wasn’t brave enough to write to anybody yet, but quite a few men wrote to me and I’m currently exchanging messages with six men. It’s interesting and scary and exciting and infuriating. I noticed that some of them don’t write much and seem boring while others immediately have something to say and say it well. Some seem nice but looking at their pictures tells me immediately that I’m not attracted to them at all and never could be. Two have called me so far and one of them told me I had a nice voice. Another one said my pictures were ‘really very pretty’.
Even now, just starting, I noticed how a compliment can brighten my whole day and give me confidence, while a short answer or silence makes me doubt my own worth and lovableness (that’s a word; I looked it up!) I try not to imagine, interpret or take anything too seriously, but I can feel the influence. The danger is real. But I want to do it anyway.