Being a single woman in Manhattan who doesn’t drink means I’m up against a difficult dating scene. No, being a single woman in Manhattan period means I’m up against a difficult dating scene. That’s why I, like many others out there, have taken to online dating services in order to expand my pool of prospects. But recently, because of two very specific instances, I’ve found myself wondering if online dating is worse than not trying at all.
Let me lay the first one out for you. On the 26th of January, I received a message from a man who called himself Marky that went exactly like this: “You look like a cuddly teddy bear sliding down a rainbow into a pot of gold.” Alright. So, first of all, the readers can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure most women prefer not be referred to as “cuddly.” Allow me to clarify for any confused gentlemen out there. Many women do love to cuddle, but this does not mean they themselves would like to be seen as cuddly. We clear? Also, since when do teddy bears slide down rainbows? No story from my childhood mentions such a happening. At least go with a leprechaun if you’re going to work with rainbows and pots of gold. I’m Irish, so I suppose that could kind of work.
Then, on the 30th of January, I received another adorable message from Daniel. He messaged me at 10:28 that Thursday morning with a compelling “Hi.” Later that night, when I hadn’t responded because I was at work, and because he didn’t actually give me anything to respond to, he followed up with a simple message: “Rude ass.” Wow, this guy really knows how to turn a woman’s heart.
When I received these gems, part of me dismissed them as ridiculous and contrived. But another part of me began to question what I was doing wrong. I looked over the profile (okay profiles) I had created. Are they witty enough? Are the pictures cute enough? Is it weird that I said I can’t live without soup?!? It appalls me that no matter how much therapy I attend, no matter how much progress I make in recovery, and no matter how many times my family members or friends tell me that they love me, I still unconsciously always choose self-doubt as my go-to operating system.
It’s simply habit. For as long as I can remember, I haven’t been enough. In high school, just completing my homework or studying for a test for a few hours wasn’t okay. I had to check everything six or seven times over and study until I was actually crying. I was terrible at sports, and had no business being a member of the “Developmental” (aka worse than Junior Varsity) field hockey team, but forced myself to go to practice everyday, even though I was probably crying then, too. There was usually a lot of crying involved. With friends and boyfriends, I never wanted to say the wrong thing, and if I thought I did, I couldn’t focus on anything else until I was convinced that they weren’t angry with me.
When mood and eating disorders entered my life, this situation didn’t exactly get any better. I continued to be a perfectionist, judging myself on even more criteria than I had before. Never would I have run enough miles, lost enough weight, or eaten in the right way. And in general, never would I be a good enough person for those around me.
Maybe part of me will think this way forever, but at least now it isn’t all of me that is convinced I’m, well, the worst. I’ve started to shift my thinking in two ways. First, I try as much as I can to surround myself with the things and people that I love. That’s easier said than done when you’re depressed. Hiding under a sea of blankets is often much more appealing than getting up, showering, feeding myself appropriately, and going to see friends or catch a show. But I always feel better when I do. Because at my core, I thrive on connection, and in order to save myself, I need to find those things in my life that bring me closer to other people and my surroundings. For me those things are comedy, coffee, and writing, to name a few.
I also try to remember that there is no way I am ever going to live up to everyone’s expectations. That’s another point that seems obvious, but it wasn’t to me for a very long time. I constantly sought to impress not only friends, but also friends of friends of friends of friends. Because of that, I ended up spending my time with people who weren’t even healthy for me in the first place. I became a phony version of myself, a version of myself who I don’t very much like when I look back on her. I wasn’t genuinely connecting to myself or to other people. Now, I pretty much know who my people are. That group can expand and change, but I’m not going to fill it with those who expect something of me that I can’t give them.
I still doubt myself all the time, but there are some things I know for sure. And after a bit of reflection, I’m quite confident I am neither a “cuddly teddy bear” nor a “rude ass.” Thank you very much.
Peace and love,