the new list

A friend of mine last week observed that I haven’t done much dating lately (that’s correct, thanks) and asked what I was waiting around for. We’ll skip the “don’t ask single people what they’re waiting around for” conversation because it’s worn out, and I can handle the curiosity. I’ve actually given this quite a bit of thought because, nearly a year after my last relationship ended, I do feel ready to venture back out there. I never did the rebound thing because, frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that. I worked casual dating pretty well out of my system in college when I dated, or at the very least made out with, everything that breathed. I’ve done a little bit of that in the past few months (the dating thing, not the making out with everything that breathes thing) and, each time, it got old. Fast. Now, I’m not the single twenty-something girl looking for her husband. I don’t need my next relationship to end in a walk down the aisle but I am looking for something pretty specific and, for the first time, it has little to do with him.

Remember the husband lists? I remember going to youth camps and girls’ groups in high school and making these lists of all the wonderful things I wanted to find in the man I would be with someday. We were instructed to go over these checklists of things that we wouldn’t compromise on, and highlight the ones that were most important to us. Most of the time, we were encouraged to add our own creative qualifiers to the already exhaustive lists. There the “important” things like is a strong Christian, comes from a solid family, and is waiting for marriage, and then there were things like is taller than me, has a car, and can play the guitar like Taylor Hanson. Because this was church camp and we were good Christian girls, we didn’t always add what we were thinking. Things like is a great kisser, has hot friends, and comes from a rich family and has jetskis and a lakehouse.

Ahem. Excuse me, but why didn’t anyone pull the bullshit alarm and stop us from setting every guy we would date for the next ten years up for failure? I don’t know if teenage guys did this in their camp cabins, too, but it was a common thing for girls and I have vivid memories of the very specific demands I sent out to God for my man. I’ve been thinking about these lists lately because even though we’re older now and ought to know better, I find that my single girlfriends and I still sometimes operate from this “custom order boyfriend” mindset. Can you imagine the outrage of a gaggle of single ladies who found out that a guy that one of them was dating had a damn checklist of things for her to measure up to before he would go any further? Lord, have mercy. The carnage would astound.

After my last breakup (from a truly remarkable man for whom I have tremendous care and respect, by the way), I got to thinking about how I go about doing relationships. I was with the guy who, if the checklist was the true measure, was the one. He was perfect and, on paper, we were perfect together. Except that I wasn’t perfect, and neither was he. The formula didn’t work, and I think this caught us both off guard. We had big plans, a beautiful ring picked out, and families who loved both of us and each other. We managed to break it, anyways.

So what now? Well, after a year of healing, lots of therapy and even more yoga, I’ve decided that the very best and most beneficial thing I can do for myself and any future relationship is to forget the formula. You know what I really want? I want to be fully seen. So, I’m working on me. I’m working on being the kind of person who listens more than speaks, who discerns when to push and when to step back, and who isn’t afraid of vulnerable or messy. I’m working on being the kind of person who allows herself to be fully seen. Would I love to be with a beautiful, bearded musician with a yoga practice and some well-placed tattoos? I think that, yes, I would enjoy that. Am I walking the streets looking for this guy, checklist in hand? Not even a little bit. If I happen to run into a beautiful, bearded musician with a yoga practice and some well-placed tattoos and I’m feeling particularly brave, maybe I’ll ask him out. If that happens, though, it won’t be because it (or he) was on my to-do list. It will be because I’ve done some damn hard work on me, and I know I’m ready.

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