In May of this year my long-term girlfriend broke up with me.
And while that chapter of my life was particularly devastating, this is about what came next: a seemingly never-ending flurry of first dates, dudes who weren’t “looking for anything serious right now,” some long-term, mutually satisfying Friends with Benefits, and a very sore swiping thumb.
At first I called it “Slutty Summer 2018,” and even my therapist approved. “As long as you aren’t being reckless, it’s perfectly normal to pursue casual relationships while you heal from a breakup,” she’d said.
Oh, boy did I take that seal of approval to heart.
Dating can be quite thrilling — there are so many interesting people out there, so many first kisses, what ifs, and butterflies to be had. There was the guy who looked like a 20-something Idris Elba. The girl who was so pretty I still blush just thinking about her. The cute, antiracist social justice activist who smelled so, so good.
But there was also the fat admirer who texted me every day for two weeks and then ghosted me the day we were supposed to meet. The sweet, gorgeous dude who I saw every week for a month, told me he was cool with feelings developing between us, swore he wasn’t going anywhere, and then stopped texting me without explanation. The crossfit trainer who didn’t want the roommates to see me. Several people using the “pick up artist” method of subtly insulting me to try and get me to do what they wanted. Many who never made it past texting, but pestered me for nude photos anyway.
I can’t even tell you how many midweek, 1 am “wyd?” texts I received or how many phone numbers I blocked. And that cute social justice guy? He sweet talked me for months, bailed on several attempts at a second date, and eventually ditched me altogether for someone he could be monogamous with.
I was exhausted and feeling awful… somewhere along the way I had lost myself.
Each tiny rejection, every instance where it was made clear that I was nothing more than a hook up, started to feel like proof that I was unlovable — even though most of these arrangements were never meant to be anything more than what they were. I knew that in my head, but my heart felt something different.
It’s no longer Slutty Summer 2018 but I’m still swiping, hoping against hope that I’ll find a person who wants to date me for real. Some people are built for casual relationships. They don’t get attached. Their boundaries stand firm and they don’t open their hearts up to just anyone. For better or worse, I’m learning that that just isn’t me.
But then last week happened, and I broke. Someone I cared about more than I should decided to break contact with me after six months so he could focus on getting back together with his ex. I was a tempting distraction, he said, and he wasn’t able to focus on their relationship with one foot out the door.
…and then he left me on read.
I never dated in my 20s. I never learned how to guard my heart against this kind of cruelly casual abandonment. I know it sounds dramatic to call it that — abandonment — but what else is it? It’s like I’m a shiny new object, a distraction, disposed of when something shinier or thinner or more monogamous comes along. And to a certain degree that is just dating. I get that. But it happens more often when you’re a polyamorous woman. Especially so when you are a fat, polyamorous woman.
So I deleted Tinder. I deleted OkCupid. I deleted the messaging app Kik. I decided that I needed a break from feeling disposable, from being nothing more than someone’s workday distraction.
Because here’s the thing: I was being reckless, just not in the way my therapist meant. I was being reckless with my heart, opening it up to people who didn’t deserve it, people who didn’t even ask for it in the first place. I gave too many people too many chances to be who I hoped they were instead of who they were already showing themselves to be.
So, here’s to less time spent pining over unavailable people in 2019, no matter how cute they are or how good they smell. Here’s to staying vulnerable and open to sharing my big fat marshmallow heart with others — but being more selective, and trusting my gut even when it says things I don’t wanna hear.
Here’s to maybe, just maybe, finding new love in the new year — but more importantly, here’s to loving myself first.