Thursday, 26 July 2018

50 First Dates.

We eat to satiate hunger. We dance to loosen up from our restrictions. We drink to quench thirsts, and pain sometimes also. We run to stay alive, in so many dimensions. Fixes to problems, as we may seem them. This is how governments were made, presidents elected, and laws written.

Underneath it all, under the surface of holes in the road - is love enough, to solve our concerns and needs? Can love fill our bellies, or might we still ache for more? 

Is love enough to fix it all? 

Someone asked me a few days ago how long I have been single. I suppose if you were to measure it in days since I moved back to England from the USA - permanently leaving behind my American circus fiancé - you might say it’s been around 2 years. Have I felt single for that long? It’s hard to say. For the immediate time afterwards I was in a period of healing (and a touch of retaliation) and so I cocooned myself entirely in training while settling into Oxford life. 

Then I moved to Birmingham, and decided to give the dating scene a go. In the past year I have been on no less than around 50 first dates! 50 first (and occasionally second) dates. Unlike the famed rom-com movie - I remember them all!

Further to each pre-date grooming session (which mainly involved running around my flat choosing outfits while pausing to message my date to make plans) I went on to meet a wide variety of really interesting people. I met Olympic sportsmen, company directors, and high flying surgeons. I dated musicians and artists. I went to the theatre with men who had been divorced, for dinner with men who hadn’t yet had a relationship, and brunch with men who weren’t quite as self assured as they first made out. I met kind men, and ones who weren’t quite so.

There’s one thing for sure - dating is a great way of collecting anecdotes and interesting experiences to write about! I’ll never forget being asked if “I worried about people thinking I’m transgender, since I have short hair and write about freedom?” I didn’t see him again, funnily enough.

I may not quite be the next Carrie (although with an equal love of style and writing) but I have embraced the local culture and food scenes through my endeavours. Of course, I could have explored by myself or with friends. Tourism wasn’t my purpose, nor the need or want for a free dinner.

My cause was love, as it has always been.

So, the begging question. Why only first dates? Why did none of these men sweep me off my dancing feet and into the arms of a relationship?

In truth, none of these men were perhaps quite what I was looking for. Wonderful as they were, for various reasons it didn't work out. I recently have started to build a relationship with someone I’ve known for a very long time indeed. For now, I am very happy to gingerly step forward a day at a time with him, away from all the posh dinners and the “get to know you” chat. 

What I can tell you, is that I no longer seek the heady, intoxicating feeling that I found when I met my past relationships. I have learnt the hardest way that this path hasn’t lead to happiness. In turn, I no longer carry the vulnerability of mind that I once did which had strongly attracted manipulative men. I could (and intend to) write a book on the early signs and later habits of abusive characters. This was yesterday’s love, for me. In truth, I realise now that this was never true love. Nor it is today’s love. Not anymore.

I regularly refuse to be defined by my past. I stay conscious of this, when I am tempted to hide away in memories and hanging threads of trauma. I remain open, and I am proud to be so. I have learnt in the past few years that love does not exist in control, or overwhelming seeking of my full attention. I have learnt it thrives in friends voices in late night chats, laughter and kindness. My friends, family and amazing dates have taught me this.

Let me know your dating stories, and your tales of love! go on dates, as many as you like. Fall into years of relationships, if that’s what you choose. We’re all in the same boat, working through life the best way we know how. Don’t forget that this is exactly what every new person is doing, when they sit down opposite you.

Most importantly, enjoy the ride. And don’t settle for anything less than what makes you happy, whether that’s journeyed alone or with another. Be gentle with yourself, and with the hearts of others - we all remember those who bruised us, just as we remember those who made us ecstatically, insanely happy. Take opportunities, have fun, and don’t forget to always order dessert!

Helen Victoria

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