Dating like a grown up kind of sucks

I can’t ride roller coasters anymore.

I spend the whole time thinking about the girl on the news who fell to her death after being stuck upside down when the ride malfunctioned 500 feet above the ground.

When we’re young, we don’t know any better. We ride those shoddy amusement park rides with abandon, and we fall in love that same way. Hard and fast and without a second thought to the things that could go wrong. Without knowing what it’s like to pick up all the pieces. We don’t even know how many pieces there are until we’re still finding jigsaws in our post-breakup bedsheets weeks later. Pulling them out of couch cushions as we attempt to watch the shows that used to be “ours.” Floating in our coffee when we tell our neighborhood barista it’ll just be the one dark roast from now on.

We can ignore the warning signs because we don’t know how to recognize them yet. The fights with our significant other that spark from nothing and turn into night long interrogations could be normal, because all couples fight, don’t they? Our new flame has been tied up at work, but things will go back to the way they were right after they put this project to bed. Or the next one.

When you know better, you’ve stored up a collection of hard truths that you’ve lived through and learned. Which means you don’t have the luxury to believe what you want to anymore. You know no one is possibly that hectic at work. That words are worthless without actions to back them up. The difference between those “normal fights” and ones malevolently engineered to make you question your self-worth.

That if someone wants to see you again, they’ll find a way to make it happen.

Dating when you know better is like being the kid who’s almost too old for that amusement park. You avoid the rides that make your stomach do somersaults because you know they’ll just make you vomit right after. You know which lines are worth waiting on, and which aren’t worth the aggravation. That the ferris wheel requires patience at the beginning but if you stick it out long enough, you’ll get past the view of the parking lot and see your same, tired old neighborhood in a whole new light. But eventually, you know that ride gets too predictable, and you need to move on to something that gets your heart racing. It’s just that so few rides do that for you without making you sick in the end.

I can’t ride roller coasters and I can’t love the wrong ones anymore. And sometimes, I miss the days of not knowing better. Times when I could justify not hearing back from a text a thousand times over, or reach back out to the ones who showed me the slightest bit of attention and then disappeared into the ether. Now, my fingers won’t cooperate to send that kind of text to someone who doesn’t want to be in touch with me. I can’t trick myself into thinking they’re busy at work, in a 48 hour meeting where cell phones are confiscated due to the super secret nature of the meeting agenda. I know I’m worth the 30 seconds it takes to send a text message. Knowing better means you do less waiting and more walking away. And sometimes that makes you nostalgic for your naiveté.

When you know better, you can only love the right ones. But there are so few.