A few months ago I went on an internet date with L. I was spending the weekend at my parents’ holiday house at Betty’s Bay and I noticed that L (who I’d noticed on a dating site) was a friend of a friend on Facebook. And so I decided to send her a message. She was also spending the weekend at her parents’ holiday place (in Hermanus) and we got chatting. Later in the week we arranged to meet up for dinner.
But let me back up a bit. It was March. Autumn. I was thinking about turning 40 in a few weeks’ time in April and I was a little down about it. 40 years of life and what did I have to show for it? I was single (again) and I was hating my job. Not so much hating the job itself but hating having to be a psychologist in the military. The discipline, the uniform, the mind-numbing rules and regulations. The lack of good conversations. The regimental duties and key duties and some quite difficult patients.
I was also back in my own therapy and confronting difficult things, such as turning 40 and struggling to meet and connect with people. Trying to work through the lessons from my previous relationship and still have the courage and energy to get out there and start another one. And then there was the therapeutic relationship itself. How I felt when my therapist would start the session at four minutes past the hour instead of on time. The resentment I felt that I was not being taken seriously. How I enjoyed the opportunity of being listened to but not the experience of paying for a service which was not quite good enough.
And I was thinking about recent dates. A girl I’d met in Stellenbosch who was just a little bit odd and with whom it was quite difficult to talk to. And then another friend who was in town to do the Argus Cycle Tour and whom I’d met to watch some rugby with my dad. She was hyper ahead of her race the next day and I was quiet and I ended up disappointed in the interaction.
I’d also started reading about Positive Psychology and the broaden-and-build theory of Barbara Fredrickson and the focus on positive emotions such as joy, love, curiosity, contentment, gratitude, amusement, hope, inspiration, wonder and pride.
In my journal I was discussing the Dude (cf. The Big Lebowski) and how the dude wanted to gaze into some beautiful eyes and get some booty before he got too old.
And all of this was driving my wish to get out there and be more social. Shrug off the disappointments of the past and build some good friendships. I discovered that L was a gynaecologist and wondered how many single men she met in that line of work. I was getting a good feeling about our email chats but I was still unsure.
Some journal entries from the time:
I’m savouring every contact that I have with the lovely L. I already like her very much. And we haven’t even met yet. I hope hope hope that we like each other almost instantly. I think I’m channelling Anne of Green Gables here!
Not feeling so good today. Not good at all. I’m trying to savour the things that come my way. Taste them on my tongue, feel them in my belly. But mostly I feel them in my nervous system. Running up and down. Worrying. Will she like me? Will I like her? I already like her? Oh please let her like me and me like her! Oh please please please. But I don’t want to be too desperate. I just want her to like me!
And so we met up for our date on the Friday evening. She was post-call but she still looked beautiful and I remember seeing her for the first time and being quite taken with her blonde hair and blue eyes. We chatted very easily over pizza and red wine and the next day when I was doing regimental duty up at the HQ I took some time, in between reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and feeling resentful about having to do duty, to reflect on our date:
Post-date reportback …. I thought the date went well and we’re meeting up tomorrow for a picnic in Kirstenbosch. That’s a good sign, right? So then why am I feeling a bit anxious? Maybe there’s still some residual anxiety from my therapy session on Thursday in which I was quite assertive with G about the fact that we always seem to start late …
… I’m worried that I’m falling for L too quickly. Am I being blind to how she really is? What if she doesn’t like me? What if she decides that my teeth are too yellow or that I’m too weedy or finds some other drawback that makes her not want to go out with me? What if she’s put off by my keen-ness? Because I do really like her. I think she’s sexy. Blonde hair and blue eyes, not too tall, good skin, intelligent, excellent job, reads a lot, old enough but not too old. In fact at 37 years old she’s the perfect age to be plucked! Maybe even a little too old? But she’s at the age where she’s not going to mess around. Maybe I’m at the age where I’m not going to mess around! Already I’m thinking about us getting married and having babies. Can we have babies?
What about my health? My moods? Am I OK? Maybe I’ve spent too much time on my own? What if she decides that I’m not successful enough for her? So many concerns!
And then I went through the whole discussion in my head. About how we enjoyed spending time together and how many things we had in common and how we wouldn’t find fulfilment in the other person but that we could be happy together.
I also realised that I’d woken up with the first two lines of a poem in my head:
“Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the flowers prove”.
I knew the flowers part was wrong but the basic message was promising.
(To be continued)