Missing the boat, in dating.

Have I 'Missed the boat' in dating?
Have I ‘Missed the boat’ in dating?

A few weeks ago, I was telling a guy friend about a semi-talking-dating-ish thing that was happening to me, and that I just wasn’t feeling it, but I wasn’t sure why other than just sheer mental exhaustion due to the fact that it’s constantly a game of hot and cold with the guy in question.

“Yeah,” my friend said. “He missed the boat.”

 Is that a thing? I suppose it’s just another factor of timing, and if you don’t strike when the iron is hot, then that’s just the way the chips fall (let’s just make this post full of cliches, shall we). But, typically the term “Missed the boat” refers to the fact that it’s OVER, completely. Dead.

So, then I got to thinking, wait… have I missed the boat?

Typically, missing the boat is associated with age – people have that number in their heads of when things are supposed to happen. I definitely thought I was going to be married by 25. That was six whole years ago, and I can’t even fathom the thought of going on a date, period.

If you’ve been ’round these parts for a minute, you’ve probably noticed that the tone of this blog has made a clear shift from dating and guy drama to food, book reviews, and lots of TV. That shift in content is due to a major shift in my life: I’m no longer interested in finding a partner, as I’m much more interested in enriching my life in other ways; filling it with the things I love, i.e. cooking and baking, reading piles of books on my patio, watching hours of TV as I study up on screenwriting, and exploring the city I’ve spent the past year in – Austin!

The guy friend I mentioned above, said something to me about my “shift” in attitude: “You’ve changed,” he said.

And yes, he knew me years before, when I was desperate for a man’s attention, nearly always had a boyfriend or at least a person of interest, and probably had very little of an original personality. I wanted so badly to be in a serious relationship that would lead to marriage, and a family. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, I did nothing for myself, and instead, I did a lot of desperate things in hopes of finding true love.

In return, I spent a lot of time crying. My dating history is full of complete failures that left me trying to find myself, and figure out why these things happened to me. After years of weekly therapy, I found answers: I had no self-confidence, and no self-worth, and because of this, I attracted men that wanted to take advantage of me. And they did; in the form of verbal and sexual abuse, and manipulation.

Years have passed since I’ve been in a relationship, and sure, there are times I’ve felt I’m ready to date someone, and then times I’m okay being single. I’ve met guys who seem cool; they seem different from those of my past, but it ends up being the same scenario in a different costume, and that’s just not the game I’m willing to play anymore – I know I deserve more.

A few months ago, a guy I really liked when I lived in Baton Rouge sent me a few messages on SnapChat. He’s very handsome, and always has a way of making me laugh. We chatted some, and I found out he’s finishing law school in Boston before moving back to Austin, where he’s originally from. Wow, I thought, timing sure is everything – maybe there’s something here.

He was planning a trip to the city in just a few weeks, and wanted to see me. I envisioned us going to a baseball game or hitting up one of the many delicious BBQ joints Austin has to offer. But he told me he had other plans, which involved coming to my apartment and something physical happening between us.

“Are you planning on breaking in?” I asked him. “Because I never invited you to my apartment.”

When I made it clear I had no intentions, or even desires to sleep with him, he stopped talking to me, and even came to town without so much as a “hello”.

Sure, I was frustrated, and even a little offended that all he wanted was sex from me – I know there have been many times where that’s all I am to a man. But this time, like many times over the past three years, I was able to spot it before anything happened, and before I got as hurt I would if I let him into my apartment, my body, or my life.

I don’t think every guy is like that (at least I hope not); but I’m not going to be dating until I find someone who truly is interested in me; my life, my stacks of books, my cat lady tendencies, and my crockpot creations. Sure, maybe it’ll be a little rusty, but I’m worth the wait.

And for the sake of myself, and anyone out there who’s feeling like they’ve “missed the boat” on dating or on dreams or whatever it may be, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s bullshit. There’s no proper age when love happens for everyone. We all have different stories, and if we’re sticking with the boat metaphors, we can’t all hit the deck at once.

One of my favorite advice columnists, Polly from NY Mag’s “The Cut”, had the same views when a reader wrote in asking if she’d missed the boat on dating at 36 years old, despite having a very full life (read the entire article here). Here’s her (partial) response:

But don’t give up hope. Why wouldn’t you feel optimistic? You’re already pretty happy. You’re going to rock this out and have the life you want no matter what. So be your dangerously girly self, without apology. Be her forever and everywhere. Shout to the sky, “I AM GIRLY. I LOVE KIDS. I LOVE BUILDING FIRES. I LOVE BAKING CAKES. I HAVE FEELINGS. I AM NOT COOL. I WILL NEVER BE COOL. I AM MADE OF MAGIC.”

You haven’t missed the boat. There are boats everywhere. Maybe you’ll like one of them and maybe you won’t. I think you will. But in the meantime, savor this moment. Be exactly who you are, and savor it. Even true love doesn’t come close to feeling as good as that. 

Me, personally? I’m holding out for the captain’s suite, the surf ‘n turf formal dinner, and the sun deck with coconuts for cups. Until then, I’ll be on the beach writing boat puns and singing Drake songs to Blanche, like Controlllaaaaaaa. Controlla.

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