Definition: Dating that is accomplished or produced by an uncontrolled desire to not be alone that causes one to bleed themselves out...
HEY, WE GOT OURSELVES A BLEEDER HERE!
That is what I imagine my friends might say every time I enter the dating milieu. I have had few boundaries, casual sex is totally on the table, so is love and soulmates and one night stands and...the list is endless. In short, my dating life has been a hemorrhage. I have bled myself out of myself time and time again. The tourniquet of solitude the only device that seems to stop the flow.
How did this happen?
How did I arrive at 49 and have bled out my ability to partner and couple?
Uncontrolled dating perhaps?
I can remember being 15 and having this clear idea about who “HE” was. He was average in physique, bookish in manner, super intelligent and well read, funny but not in an over the top kind of way. He wrote poetry and maybe even a few songs. He liked being outside, had a wild side that he funneled into sexual fun. He was on the whole average. He was not a movie star or captain of the football team. He was just a down to earth guy that knew who he was and made no apologies about his rebellious streak and was totally clear about what he believed in. He was spiritual.
34 years later...
I have dated few men that were remotely close to that guy...yet I still believes he exists. How is it possible that I can be so committed to finding that guy and have been so obtuse about actually dating anyone remotely close to him?
I got lost, that is how.
I allowed the messages, both real and perceived, of adolescence to change my perceptions of who I was and altered my course so that here I sit at 49 and have a bloody trail that gives testament to my dating carnage.
I know it started in 3rd grade. I found myself on the playground discontented with the kids my age. I didn’t want to hang with them. I was fascinated by the older kids - what they were doing, talking about, wearing. Suddenly, all the friends that I had my own age were dreary and drab. They no longer held my interest. I spent most of my time walking around trying to figure out how to make myself indispensable to just one of those older girls, I had to get in with them. I turned my attention to fitting in with them which left me little time or energy for my former friends. I didn’t care - I knew where I wanted to be and it was not with the people who had heretofore been kind and lovely to me.
I didn’t know it then but trading in my friends for the older crowd was just the start of trading away Erin. I didn’t even think about it. It was as if I felt like I had this amazing thing to give to only certain people and in order to give it I just had to be what and who you thought I should be. I abdicated autonomy and self direction. I joined the herd but with a terrible secret: I gave away me so that I could be close to you.
And so it began. I was constantly trading in people for other people that were more to my liking. People became commodities that I traded daily to get what I wanted which was what? Any place other than where I was.
It wasn’t long (maybe two grades) before I took my show on the road to boys. The original guy that I felt connected to in my soul was gone and would fail to resurface for decades lost in the torrent of dating bloodshed that I would inflict upon myself and others.
Jay Taylor was the first boyfriend. He was not particularly attractive or smart. I am pretty sure he dropped out of school in the 10th grade - just too stoned to make it to class anymore. He was from a broken home and had loads of issues with his family. He was funny and popular (though I can’t remember why now). I didn’t like him - I was in fact afraid of him. He said stupid things and I felt super uncomfortable around him. Luckily it didn’t last long. One bad slam book (google it) comment and we were over and he was onto dating my soon to be ex-best friend Liesl. They were perfect for each other because she was awful and a bitch. Good riddance.
Then I met a guy that was seriously like the guy that I knew in my soul that I was supposed to be with. Mike Scofield. He was smart, good looking but not in an offensive way. He was captain of the patrol squad. He had a nice family and he liked me. I mean he broke up with his long time (over a year) girlfriend to be with me! We dated for a few months and spent the holidays together. He bought me a necklace and held my hand while we sat in his living room drinking hot cocoa and watching snow fall. I didn’t know it then but I had it all. A good guy who liked me and had everything that I wanted. You know what happens next...I totally fucked it up. I called Mike’s best friend and told him that I liked him and was going to dump Mike. It just so happened that Mike was at his best friend’s house when I called...
Needless to say, Mike broke up with me and never talked to me again. I totally respected him for that and it made the pain of what I did even worse because I knew that he was totally right in his indignation to cut me off without even allowing me to give some trite apology. Good for him. I hope he held that into his adult years because that was some super serious emotional intelligence on his part. I have tried to find him low these many years later to say I still regret treating him that way and that I totally respected his refusal to ever speak to me again. But he is a ghost. Can’t find him. Gone.
Thus began a seemingly endless torrent of boys, then guys and finally men. Hemorhagic in their arrival and departure in my life. There were a lot but they really fell into two categories:
The ones that I chased and the ones that I ran from. Probably the streams are pretty equal but my ego would like to tell you that I ran from more than I chased. However, I think I probably did a lot of both. I learned nothing. I just kept applying the tourniquet at the final moment to save the limb. I would recover quickly and off I would go again: chasing, running, chasing and running until the inevitable cut would give me enough pause to have to stop to contain the bleeding. And so it went...
I can look back now and see that I didn’t so much lose myself as I bled myself away. The me that I didn’t feel was worth much anyway. If you were brave enough to try to keep up with me, I would duck and cover and leave you in the dust so that I could return to the wound and open it again.
I pretty much accepted whatever guy was in front of me. I never once asked myself the questions: Do I like him? Is he a good person? Does he have any of the characteristics of this deep seated belief that I have about a partner? I just accepted that he was there and that was good enough.
So I have spent a lifetime transfusing myself so that I can stay in the game. I added parts of you or parts of me that you told me were me. I was always shape shifting and vacating my internal premises for whatever was new and shiny. I threw away a lot of people because I was afraid that they would see the blood and notice the unattended wound. The only way for you not to see was to not be real, not slow down and not ever really look back at what caused the wound in the first place...me.
I think that I was destined to be a bleeder. A cutter and runner. But I finally feel like that part of my life is over. This is not the place that I spout off some great wisdom about what is to come next. It is just the simple acknowledgment that I am done bleeding. I am done running: from you, from me. I am just going to stand here and let you accept me or reject me or whatever. If bleeding is involved, then I know what to do since I have had a lifetime of practice.
And if I ever find you Mike Scofield, I will hug you and tell you that you were the first best thing that ever happened to me and how grateful I am for that. I will apologize for what I did to you and I will walk away head held high. I will embrace the wound and tend to it. I will stop re-opening it over and over again. I will stop the bleeding.
In part I have already started. I have cauterized the bleeder by removing myself from the dating world - taken a step back so that I can see that the girl that behaves like an ass and calls your best friend behind your back, isn't so far off from who I am today. I will stop running from that fact and instead take that asshole out for coffee and listen to what she has to say so we can stop acting out in these terrible ways. I will invite her to bring her broken, bloody and scarred self with her wherever we go. I will just love her anyway. What else can I do? She is part of who I am and I am so grateful that I can finally own her as myself. Sooner or later, we all arrive at this: the wound will never heal so long as we keep opening it.