It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m single. Not *just* single, but happily single. I’m not moping around with my face stuck in a carton of Haagen Daz, or watching a marathon of rom-coms with mascara-stained tears dripping down my face. Nope. I’m silently celebrating the fact that I’m footloose and fancy-free with no pressure to get all romantic up in here and make someone feel loved, appreciated, adored and all that other schmoopy-faced crap.
In no way do I intend to sound bitter. I love men as much as any woman. I’m just quietly relieved today that I’m not attached to one.
When I first became truly unattached almost four years ago, I was scared – I hadn’t been alone for well over 20 years. But I was also determined. I wanted to find my way back to me, so I plunged headlong into the world of singledom, and I embraced my newly-found relationship status with all the exuberance I could muster. Was it hard? Absolutely. But as the months ticked by, I grew comfortable in my newly single skin.
Today, I fear that maybe I’m a little too comfortable. Recently I’ve connected with a man who I’d describe as an amazing catch. He’s smart, kind, well-rounded, sexy, successful – so many wonderful qualities, all wrapped up in one handsome gentleman.
We went to a cozy wine bar for our first date and nabbed a spot on a comfy couch in the corner where we could talk and flirt (and eventually kiss) over a bottle of Zin without much attention or distraction. Sparks flew immediately. Our second date took us on a beautiful waterfall hike in Marin county, then back to his house where he whipped us up a spread of bread and cheeses, guacamole, watermelon radishes and Chinese chicken salad. And did I mention he has a wine collection of about 200 bottles? Be still my heart.
On our third date, we met at a bar halfway between our homes and simply talked and kissed and talked and hugged and laughed and talked some more. That was just last Thursday. It’s Sunday, and I’m still reeling from that evening. It was simple, yet wonderful. Easy, yet emotional. In short, it was perfect. And we talked about the future – in hypothetical terms, maybe, but still.
“What if we went to Greece in May? Wouldn’t that be amazing!” “How far from Santa Cruz are you? I’ll be working at a hospital there in a few weeks, and would love for you come spend an evening with me.” “Let’s say we’re in a relationship, and we give each other a free card to have sex with any celebrity of our choosing. Who would you choose?”
Silly, but you get the point. Talk went beyond tonight to “what about tomorrow?” Or next week. Or next May. That made my comfortably single self sit up and freak the hell out.
This weekend, he’s in Tahoe with a group of friends, and today I did what I’ve become accustomed to doing when things get to an uncomfortably intimate point with a man: I tried to shut it down. Via texts, no less. Real mature, Sienna. If I’ve ever wondered whether I harbor a fear of intimacy, I erased all doubts.
“I like you. Very much. But I don’t think I can do this. I haven’t connected with anyone like you in quite some time, and it’s scaring me, and I’m not sure I’m ready to feel all this yet.”
It’s been almost four years since my last relationship, and I’m not sure I’m ready . . . for what? Feeling vulnerable? Taking risks? The pain of a break-up? The emotional energy required for a romantic partner?
In a word, yes. All of the above.
I was texting with another friend about this today, and I told him, “I’m at the stage of life where I should be fearless and carefree. But in all honesty, I feel like a scared little girl. I’m afraid I may be 85 in a nursing home and still wondering if I’ll ever get over my relationship fears.”
My Amazing Catch texted me back after my attempt to shut him down:
“Oh, my. I’m sorry I haven’t been very attentive this weekend, I’ve been hanging with my friends – we planned this trip a while ago. I hope I haven’t made you feel bad. But I hope to see you again. I was looking forward to a romantic evening with you in Santa Cruz.”
And BOOM: I felt like a big piece of shit. I’ve met this wonderful man, and I’m pushing him away because the scared little girl in me is whining. And winning. Truth be told, it’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship. It’s that I’m afraid of a relationship.
After all the work I did to get comfortably single, I’m not sure I know how to become comfortably coupled. Maybe I’ve become too single for my own good?
I texted My Amazing Catch back:
Let’s talk when you’re back from Tahoe.
I didn’t know what else to say. I was embarrassed. Scared. And very much wanting to text a long explanation about how hard I’d worked to get okay with being alone, but now perhaps I’m a little too okay with it, and the thought of losing myself again scares me shitless because no relationship comes with a guarantee of happily ever after . . . but I stopped myself. Because it seems like the proper context for that conversation is on a couch in my shrink’s office, not in a text message thread on My Amazing Catch’s iPhone.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I wish I could say I’m going to push through my fears and find a beautiful, healthy, mutually satisfying relationship on the other side, but right now, I’m not sure I’ll even make it to that romantic evening in Santa Cruz.
I’ve become quite adept at living happily single. Nobody told me that once I arrived here, there would still be shit to figure out on the other side.
Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted on what becomes of My Amazing Catch. For now, I’m going to open my favorite bottle of Pinot, gaze at the gorgeous peach roses I bought for myself and savor the sweet French chocolate I brought back from my solo trip to Paris last month.
Happy Valentine’s Day to me. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to say that to someone else.