The Tenth Circle

At this point in time, I’m 26 years old. I had my first real boyfriend at 14 years, which means I’ve been dating in some form or another for 12 years.

Of that time, say about eight years has been spent in stable, long-ish term relationships; the remainder has either been spent on hiatus from dating, bemoaning the lack of candidates in my life, or going out on dates.

It’s hard sometimes to say which is the worst experience. Being in a relationship has a lovely security to it; it’s comforting and wonderful to know twhere’s someone there who adores you and wants to spend time with you, listen to your dumb stories, frustrations and triumphs, and maybe wants to share naked smoochies with you now and again. That’s when it’s good. When it’s bad, well — we’ve all been there. Which leads to the getting-over stage. If you got dumped by someone you really cared for, that’s a pretty unpleasant time.

If you follow the advice I heard once upon a time, the easiest way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, even for a girl. At least, I’ve never found these claims that all a girl need do is announce she’s horny to get laid, because it’s never seemed to work that way for me. Except perhaps on the rare occasions my exes are feeling horny and/or giving, I guess. But that’s another series of stories.

Anyhow, being on the lookout for a potential mate is a frustrating task. If your social circles are closed or you’re shy, it can be almost impossible to meet boneable types. For that, I admit I do find the internet to be quite useful, especially if, like me, the majority of your appeal lies in your personality over your looks.

Of course, physical attraction is still very important, so even if your personality and whatever best photos you’ve shared have won someone partway, only an in-person meeting can really complete or scupper the deal.

So you strive to look nice and smell good, and you go out. Conversation might have awkward pauses, you might not be able to think of anything to say, or you might be busy shoving your foot so far down your throat you despair of ever seeing it again. You might not even realize what you’re up to, which is arguably worse, especially if you want to keep the other person around for at least one more date and perhaps even a kiss.

Now, depending on the person and the circumstances, you may or may not hear from them again. Sometimes you’ll get the ‘I had fun/you’re great, but I’m not in a relationship place right now.’ Sometimes you’ll get nothing. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this myself, but sometimes I feel I’m not as quick to judge these matters as are the boys. That said, are there any I miss, regret or even remember? Not especially.

Sometimes you’ll get further dates. Score, right? Usually at the 2nd or 3rd date mark the two of you — or maybe just one of you — have a decent idea of whether or not you’d like to keep seeing each other, and you can move into that nebulous grey area known as ‘dating’ or ‘seeing each other’ that typically precedes exclusivity and the boyfriend/girlfriend label.

This region is fraught with peril and landmines for the unwary, emotionally involved or insecure — clubs to which I not only belong, but chair and write the newsletters.

There are many ‘rules’ to this realm, and I suspect everyone has their own verison that they apply as or when they see fit. A few I follow, in no particular order, are:

  1. Until exclusivity is declared and agreed to by both partners, it is fair game for either to date other people.
    • Corollary the first: If you two have gotten fairly physical, it’s usually a good idea to bring up the subject of whether or not you’re going to remain non-exclusive, or if you’re going to narrow the playing field to just the two of you.
    • Corollary the second: If you have been dating fairly regularly for a decent length of time, it’s probably a good idea to start narrowing the playing field, unless non-exclusivity has already discussed.
  2. I don’t call the guy my boyfriend (much as I may want to) until we’ve either had the conversation about exclusivity or he’s called me his girlfriend.
    • Caveat: This rule often gets trumped by friends of either of us referring to us as boyfriend and girlfriend. Not saying I agree with it, simply that it seems to be how things have played out.
    • Corollary: Experience has taught me not to initiate the “are you my boyfriend?” conversation because either I seem to do it wrong, or it automatically triggers fight-or-flight instincts in all boys, regardless of their inclinations. This has also been somewhat supported by male friends.
  3. Much as I might like to, I don’t automatically assume that the boy’s weekends are for seeing him, and the same goes in return.
  4. It shouldn’t be up to me to suggest plans or make phone calls every time. I’m easily discouraged; if I feel the effort is all one-sided, I’m going to assume the boy isn’t interested and possibly move on.
  5. Depending on the number of dates or the level of physicality achieved (which sounds geeky, but I think you follow), break-up conversations should take place. Simply no longer contacting someone or ignoring their attempts to contact you is not only not cool, but seriously immature. If you can fuck someone, you should be able to tell them you don’t want to fuck them anymore.
  6. You don’t have to talk or see each other every day, unless you’re trying to indicate to the other person that you really do like them and want to see more of them — ’cause that’s the message it definitely puts across. Obviously you’re allowed to change your mind later, but see above for uncool ways to go about indicating that you’ve changed perspective.

I know I have other rules, but as is always my way, I can’t seem to think of them right now. What I’m mainly trying to show is that these rules are arbitrary and individual. Some people may have no interest whatsoever in dating more than one person at a time, so they naturally don’t.

I’ve dated multiple people at the same time, and it has its advantage that you’re not spending all of your time obsessing over one person, why they haven’t called, whether or not they like you, etc., etc. Because I can be like that. I’m insecure, I’m needy, I’m obsessive, I overanalyze everything, I get discouraged easily… it’s a wonder anyone actually manages to talk to me or date me for any length of time.

When I meet someone I really like and they seem to really like me in return (rare as that can be), I want to formalize things and make sure the rules are clearly understood. At the same time, I don’t want to scare someone away or seem like I’m insane — I try not to be. Combined with my preference for honesty and spelling things out to be sure everyone understands (when I’m not busy playing word games or avoiding direct questions — another bad habit of mine at times), I think sometimes I may either rush things, or terminate them prematurely, either because the guy’s freaked out by me, or he thinks I’m no longer interested and ends things.

There have been early-stage dating situations in which I felt completely comfortable, or guys I was seeing with whom I felt completely secure. I raised this issue with a friend once, as an example of why I get so worked up over the less-secure situations, and she asked if I didn’t perhaps have more power in the first. I definitely felt as though I had more in those situations, and for whatever messed-up reason, I actually prefer not to be the one in complete control or with a majority of the control. I wind up feeling irritated or frustrated. Apparently I simply can’t allow myself to win.

Fortunately, I’m learning about myself and others, and I’m trying to work on my issues.

I’m keeping my moments of insanity isolated as much as I can to venting sessions with friends, and I think it’s working in my favour. Insecurity isn’t sexy and it’s one of my undeclared New Year’s resolutions: be more confident. Just because the boy isn’t making a move doesn’t mean I can’t. Apparently aggressive women are sexy, and I know first-hand that confidence is sexy, so if I combine these with the power of my personality (such as it is), I can bring anyone to his knees… provided that’s where I want him. After all, I get to call some of those shots, too.

Now if only I was having sex right now…


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