I’ve dated a few boys recently. One of them had an unsettling effect on me, and I was caught off guard, both by the speed and intensity of my reactions and because, on paper, he wouldn’t fit the description of someone I would have expected to start falling for, should such a description exist.
It began with easy, natural banter over the okcupid chat, and whatsapp, followed by one of those electrical jolts that I’ve had maybe twice before when you meet for the first time and there is instant mutual attraction. The icing on the cake was some world class physical chemistry. And a real enjoyment of each other’s minds and company. He whatsapps me all the time and I love how he writes, how he communicates. I can be myself with him, unfiltered. This is new territory for me.
A half dozen dates in, we are still behaving like teenagers, kissing in bars, as excited to see each other the sixth time as the second. We spent a week apart while I was visiting family, and it was a special kind of hell. But we were in constant contact, and the craziness when we were reunited made it almost worth that interminable wait.
Now this part may sound weird to you, because it does to me: he is encouraging me to see other people. Just for one shot dates, mind you. He wants to remain my number one guy. For him, this is supposed to be about trying to be less possessive, or playing around with the idea of that.
Seeing other people feels off to me. It really does. A tiny, perverse part of me is tempted, because I’ve been playing the field lately, and there is no shortage of interested parties. Free time is not in short supply: my kids are away a lot over the summer and he is often busy, while I am antsy, and at a loose end. But the idea that someone who is supposedly so besotted with me wants to share me? I struggle to see that as a positive, however hard I’m trying.
If I go through with it, I think it will be more of an insurance policy than anything else. It will be about me trying to dampen down my feelings, for the avoidance of future hurt.
A vicious little voice in my head is telling me that maybe it’s really about keeping me at arm’s length; giving me an opportunity to find an “out”.
The slap came today, at an unexpected moment, on a related but tangential subject. He was quizzing me about a guy I’d been chatting to on okcupid, who is aged 28 to my 46.
We were sitting on the terrasse of a favourite café, in the sun, a cool beer in our hands. He wore sunglasses, so I couldn’t see the expression in his eyes. I had removed mine.
“You could just go for a drink with him when I’m out with my friends, nothing has to happen,” he said. I raised a sceptical eyebrow, then looked away, because I never can hold someone’s gaze when I’m broaching a difficult subject.
“With an age gap like that, he’s not meeting with me for conversation,” I countered. “I enjoyed flirting with him. The thrill of the chase is fun for me. But he will have certain expectations about how the evening is going to develop. I don’t know if I even want to meet him. Since we met, I haven’t wanted to date anyone else. I’m not even sure I can.”
I can’t recall his exact reply, but the words – or what I heard in the spaces between them – gave my brain whiplash. It was something to the tune of 28 not being much different to his own 35. The tone was lighthearted. But he might has well have slapped me across the face. It smarted. It left a print. The implication, the way I processed it in the moment, was that nothing could or would ever come of us, because I’m almost twelve years older than he is. It echoed something my mother had said, that I hadn’t wanted to hear.
My vision clouded, and all the sweet words I’d been feasting on the previous week – an ever present chatter in my head – faded in that instant. I laid my head on his shoulder, too close for him to see my pained expression, shut my eyes, took some deep breaths and concentrated on resisting the pull of the down elevator.
The idea that, as my daughter would say, “catching these feels” was ultimately futile, a one-way ticket to nowhere? In the moment, that felt like a far more bitter pill to swallow than any of my meds.
And yet the positives outweigh this to such an extent that I can’t conceive of walking away. I won’t. We are amazing together. He scrambles all my frequencies. And so I am determined to live in the moment, to have this, regardless of how fleeting it might be.
I’ve written here about being desperate to feel things, and I’ve got what I wished for, and then some. I’m willing to take a few risks.
If you let yourself catch feels, you have to accept that they might well slip through your fingers one day.