No one told me life was gonna be this way

To say that my dating life is frustrating right now would be a bit of an understatement. I am young, single, working, living on my own … sounds like the ideal time to be meeting lots of single guys and going on lots of dates, right? Oh, and did I mention that I work at ESPN, a place that is ostensibly teeming with young men?

But it’s not that easy. I’m not at school anymore, so I’m not constantly meeting new people and I’m not surrounded by people exclusively under the age of 30. I don’t live in a college town, a big city or a young, hip area, so the going out scene isn’t exactly ideal. Guys in college might’ve been immature, but at least the bar crowd was young and single.

Going off to work at ESPN, many of my female friends expected to live vicariously through what they foresaw as an exciting dating life. Well, these hot, young guys I’m supposed to be meeting do not work in my building, the magazine staff doesn’t often have to venture out of our building, and there is far less interaction across divisions than you might think.

So how am I to go about solving this problem? I’ll be honest, I’m not that into dating guys I meet at bars because it’s kind of a mess of a situation with loud music, crowds of people and, most likely, plenty of already-consumed alcohol. So where am I supposed to meet guys? I don’t know.

Let me take a step back here and note that I’m not looking to jump into a serious relationship. The thought of marriage terrifies me, and I’m enjoying establishing my independence in my new life. But the fact of the matter is I enjoy dating: I like getting dressed up, I like going out, I like meeting new people, I like flirting, I like being excited about a new possibility.

And it’s not like there aren’t any guys around me. I have met some at work, some at the gym, some out at bars, some through friends, some at my apartment complex. So what’s the problem?

Most likely, it’s me.

First, my perspective is doomed. Just as my expectations for high school never stood a chance, thanks to my penchant for watching Grease nearly every day in kindergarten, my ideas of what real-world dating should constitute were skewed by my love of Friends. On Friends, dates are a constant thing, and new guys are plentiful. They ask you out at work, at the grocery store, on the subway, in the coffee shop. They take you to nice restaurants, have good jobs and act like adults.

I have been forced to face the fact that that isn’t real.

Second, I have really high standards. I know this, and I know it makes it difficult, but I can’t help it. I don’t want to waste my time — or, just as importantly, his. I want a guy who’s smart and funny, who can have an intellectual conversation with me but also makes me laugh. I want a guy who loves sports yet appreciates theater. I want a guy who is musical in some capacity but also athletic. He cares about being healthy — and his body shows it. He likes to vary between fun nights out and relaxed evenings in. He likes to cook, or at least wants to learn. He must like to dance. He is driven in his career yet well-balanced outside of work. He comes from a close family, and he wants kids — but not for a while.

Now, obviously, that was my ideal that I just outlined (got a little carried away there, huh?). I’m not expecting that from every guy I date. In fact, the only true necessity on a first date is chemistry. And I have a personal policy of not turning down a guy who has the guts to ask me out, so you could say I actually have low standards — or none at all — for first dates. After that, as long as there is chemistry, it’s worth pursuing further.

But as I said, I don’t like wasting my time. And I don’t want to waste his, either. I’ve never been a girl who dates just to date. I’ve always been busy enough with school and work and friends that there were plenty of other ways to spend my time. So I believe in just letting something go if you know it isn’t working. It’s better for both parties. (That said, in my life now I have more free time than I’m used to, so I suppose I have more time to “waste.”)

But third, finally and possibly most dooming of all, I am skeptical realist who is also a hopeless romantic. It terrifies me when I hear of someone my age getting married, but I’m still a sucker for love stories.

I have seen enough failed and unhappy marriages to be scared of long-term commitment. I know myself and my relationship antsyness well enough to doubt that there’s a guy who’ll keep me happy for decades. I can look at my dating track record and see that, at least so far, my odds are not looking good.

At the same time, I want to be swept off my feet. I want to believe in love-at-first sight and soulmates. I want to feel like someone punched me in the stomach the first time I see him. I want instant chemistry and flirting in our first conversation. I want a perfect first kiss. I want to know by the second date that I’m set for life. I want to discover that we have the same favorite books, know all the words to the same songs and quote the same movies. I want our conversations to immediately have the feeling that we’ve known each other forever. I want him to just get me.

In short, I want nothing less than a fairy tale. I can date casually, and that is fun, but is it worth it if I already know it’s not going anywhere real? What’s the point? I don’t want to feel like I’m settling. And I really don’t want to lead him on.

I don’t want to pursue something if it isn’t going to be magical.

So, yeah, basically, I’m screwed … wish me luck!

  1. You didn’t ask for my opinion but here goes.

    First, your wish list reminds me of an old cartoon in Playboy. A girl in bed was telling her guy about her perfect man. After going on and on and on with superlatives, the guy finally weighed in. (I’ll clean up his response) “You find a guy like that, and I’LL do him!”

    In short, don’t change your wish list. But be willing to compromise when the guy comes along who fits the most important things on your list. Otherwise, you’re going to be a very lonely person on Planet Earth. My sister, on the other hand, was married to a nice guy but not the right guy for 18 years and is now divorced. She spent many, many years waiting for her ship to come in, for that perfect guy. But along the way, sabotaged many possible relationships by being intractable. She has finally met someone great who cares for her as much as she cares for him. And she is finally realizing that compromise is the key.

    Second, being swept off your feet with love at first sight IS possible. Don’t rule it out. It was true for Judith and me. In January, we’ll be celebrating 40 years.

    One last thing. If your gut is any good at all, you’ll know when you know. It’s as simple (and complicated) as that.

    Sent with love and care for you,

  2. One last thing. I promise.

    A saying from Dr. Phil I agree with is appropriate here. Put yourself in a “target rich” environment. Go where the guys are. Not bars if that’s not your thing. But wherever the boys are. You aren’t going to find them in your apartment, obviously.

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