I purposely posted the Poor, Poor Pitiful Me pieces because those of us still involved with the dating scene know the process of working through the rejection. It includes a generous wallop of wallowing before we get so fed up with our woeful state that we decide it’s best to move on. And I’m
It was worth it to go out with Tim. Eighteen years ago, when I first saw him, I’d have never had the guts to ask him out. (Online dating sites weren’t a standard form of interaction back then. Admittedly, sending a message is easier, but I’d have never done that. I wouldn’t have done it six months ago.) On our first date, Tim said that the people we seek reflect our own self-worth. I found myself nodding. It’s probably why I stayed in a relationship with an alcoholic and followed that up with an abusive man. I didn’t feel good about myself. But I also found myself smiling. I’ve come a long way. The past is not my present. I viewed Tim highly and I knew I was worthy. I stand by that, even if there are a few ego bruises that I need to attend to. In short, my initiating a relationship with Tim reflected a more positive sense of self. I am fully confident of the qualities I have to offer. I know I am right up there with the best of them. That’s something I wouldn’t say before—not without a self-deprecating side remark. I am a quality guy. No asterisk.
I discovered early on—okay, there wasn’t technically a later on—that I could communicate clearly with Tim. I was expressive and complimentary, speaking without filters. I gained a sense of empowerment. Any failure would not be the result of things I left unsaid.
I also got a glimpse of what I want in a relationship. The playful banter between us proved to be the most electric part of the dating experience. It was natural and my part in it came from a confidence I didn’t realize I could draw upon at an early stage. My robust laugh triggered on the first date and never waned. I acted myself without a multi-date warm-up. That’s huge progress.
Where did I falter? I continue to lack confidence with my exterior. I have overplayed the Bashful card. Tim said he’s never met a shyer person regarding physical interaction. My knees shook on our first kiss and several after that. Yes, literally. My head glanced at the ground, pre- and post-kiss. That takes away from the chemistry that comes from looking in each other’s eyes. Surely, his face was more interesting than my shoelaces. I must conquer this quirk.
Body image has been a struggle for forty years. I still need work. The difference now is that I no longer think the work needs to come from working out. As a new friend and I made dinner this weekend, I said that my body wasn’t perfect but it was exemplary. I’ve never said anything so positive about my looks. And I didn’t water it down. I think the situation is like an obese person who sheds a hundred or more pounds: it takes time to grow into our new bodies. We have perceived ourselves in a particular way for so long that the adjustment into a new image requires some work as well. Yes, this is really me.
I am getting there. While dating Tim, I had no hesitation in wearing shirts that showed off my physique. (Normally, I’d wear something baggy and just focus on matching the shirt with my eyes.) Tim noticed—and squeezed—my “guns”. (No one was ever linked guns and me in the same sentence! But he was not the only one to comment on my biceps this summer.) He mentioned my chest, he talked of imagining what my abs looked like under my shirt. I accepted the compliments instead of reverting to my lifelong habit of brushing off any flattering remark. I am coming closer to seeing what others see. Not entirely there, but closer represents astonishing progress. Only four months ago, despair and low self-esteem sent me to hospital.
All this talk about the physical me is, in itself, superficial. Oh, how I know that! Yes, indeed it’s what’s inside that counts. I’ve noted that I am quite content with that inside. My feelings about my appearance created a barrier. I am not worthy. I am the guy who used to drive out of his way so as not to swim in a pool where I might run into an acquaintance—gay or straight. Must not be seen in a swimsuit! And now I am okay. I am comfortable, even proud of how I look.
Never ever thought I’d get there.
I have regained a confidence and a commitment to going through the dating process. An hour before my first date with Tim, I was wrapping up a session with my psychologist. “I’d be surprised if anything happens,” I said, recalling another classic cartoon character, Eeyore. “He’s way above me. He’s never even noticed me.” She stopped me and asked why I would even bother meeting up with him. Why bother, indeed! Together, we shifted my thinking. It may be a sign of weakness but I did need some validation. I rode with it instead of dismissing it. I walked into the café determined to put my best foot forward, (semi) convinced that I deserved to share a table with Tim. His warm hello hug certainly helped but we clicked from the first sentence. I realized that dates over the past year in particular had gone flat. I’d gone flat. I was content to sit down to an interview instead of putting myself into a genuine conversation. I think I can carry forth from this point. I look forward to testing this out.
It is hokey but I need to start thinking about some daily affirmations. It makes me think of those silly Stuart Smalley affirmations on “Saturday Night Live”, but that’s okay because, by golly, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me! I can find the process amusing even as I go through it, knowing it is necessary, knowing that I need to consciously and consistently think positively in order for such thoughts to sink in.
Have I grown from this? Absolutely. I realize that I am worthy of a good man. I am worth it. And I’d say that makes a washed-out summer and a few days of wallowing entirely worthwhile.