You know what I haven’t chattered on about for awhile? Why I’m on this trip. I figured the reasoning would evolve as we traveled. Forward motion and progression are natural after all. And darn it, as Dave Eggers says, “statis itself is criminal,” especially when we’re talking about intending to discover something, even if that something is yet undefined. Cozy yourself up the warm glow of the internet fire, put a cat in your lap (if you have access to one, though a fleece blanket will do just fine, or if you’re like me, a stuffed dolphin named Betty)* and delve into why the heck I’m doing this with me once again.
The last time I really wrote about this I felt like the purpose was to spread the dating love like honeybutter on oat wheat toast. Direct quote: “I literally feel like the Dating Fairy who has come to wave a magic wand and prove first dates don’t have to be bottom-feedingly horrid.” Time, that tricky beast, changes everything. Even purpose and why-fulness.
This will feel tangential, but I have to admit something now that very few people know about me. You’d only know this if you’ve been inside my shower. For the past five years I have kept laminated sheets of poetry on the tiled walls of my bathing area. Yup, I read and re-read poems as part of my scrubbing down routine. Sometimes I practice reading aloud for the sheer joy of good acoustics. The last time I printed up some new literary art, I took requests from friends via Facebook (yup – your ideas can end up in my shower). My brother noted one of his favorite poems was Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara, which is one of those just sincerely good poems that has different lines that jump out at you during different moments of your life.
One of those lines feels like it fits going on a road trip dating quest rather well: Each time my heart is broken, it makes me feel more adventurous… Ringing bells and slide-whistles, playing kazoos all over the place to me, Mr. O’Hara. Heart breaks, and then you either choose to fold inside yourself like a pair of socks knotted over or you agree to throw caution to the wind and let yourself flap about like a puppy’s ears when his head is hanging out of the window.** This time, the more adventurous portion of me won.
I can’t help but think about the cost of this adventure, though. What fifty first dates really does is put up a forcefield around my heart, an automatic buffer between me and an actual relationship. Behind the whimsical endeavor rests the not so hidden fact that first dates are less risky than relationships. One date, and I’m out. No pain. No someone being ripped away from me. No being let down because of timing, of a missing X factor, of distance, of minutia that becomes huge-utia.
What if instead of practicing being myself, I’m actually reinforcing an ability to hide who I am? Not that shields around my heart are a bad thing. Historically I’ve pinned my heart to the lapel of my coat, so there’s only so much I can do to keep it hidden, and perhaps I could use a little more of what people call “boundaries” and “patience to let things unfold.” (Now Blink 182’s Damnit comes to mind: I guess this is growing up. I feel kind of weird referencing Frank O’Hara and a pop-punk band that he probably would have loathed in the same post.)
So why am I on fifty first dates? Maybe it’s a little bit of everything – it’s being a dating fairy because renewing other people’s faith will restore mine, it’s learning to have boundaries while putting my feelings on display (because I’m not sure I can be another way), it’s not having to trust anyone for a few months because I’m too busy to consider it, and it’s deciding how I will deal with someone disappointing if that happens again. And it’s getting to know Megan and see the country and make new friends who may or may not want to kiss me.
* I had this really silly idea last night that if only they had boxes of adoptable kittens at the public library, I really would live in the most golden era of all time.
** Admittedly that sock thing doesn’t sound half bad sometimes…