Stopping the Leak
He looks me in the eye and I let him. We’re at the corner of the heavy dark wood bar, his back is to the windows and I’m facing him. I’m wearing a skirt I bought in 2009 and found in my sister’s attic when the weather became warm and the jeans I brought from LA were no longer going to work. He’s younger, 34, and strong. He has that buttery brown skin.
We stay there in each other’s eyes for awhile. Both of us fearless. Up until that point — for the last hour or so — we’d been exceptionally casual, we didn’t know each other. Talked about fitness addictions and work. This was my 38 year-old self on a Tinder date. Every aspect of it felt new. Dating while being 38 and not 30. No longer looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Perfect, Mr. Father of My Children or Mr. Partner for Me. Nope, just Mr. Nice and Easy. He stops our stare with his words.
“You’ve been hurt,” he says.
And I nod, and look down.
I took a hiatus from all of this. This: men, dating, love, and even sex. A long one, I start to recognize in that moment when it also occurs to me why. I turned off a significant part of myself to stop the endless leaking of my heart. I threw the baby out with the bathwater. No romance, no pain. No joy either.
Dating in the thirties is so very loaded. There’s a sense of trying to game one’s life, every decision seems to have significant long-term implications. Not only are we concerned with preventing gut wrenching heart ache but we are also thinking about qualities, characteristics, compatibility, trying to get it right to prevent the kind of life long drudgery that so many in the generations before us experienced.
And so I stopped. Halted the endless sense of getting it wrong. And then after a long time, a hunger opened up in me, and I was eager again to be out in the world. And so Tinder, for the first time. And then the bar, there with this stranger with x-ray eyes. Mr. Nice and Easy.
Later that night I cry after he kisses me. I tell him it’s been awhile. He’s fine with it. Maybe even likes the vulnerability. I’m not a block of ice, like I imagine so many are. He feels lucky. So do I.