Q#001–How Do You Start Dating in Your 30’s When You are Broke, Paranoid, & Still Live At Home?

I woke up this morning with the sudden, harsh realization that I hadn’t been on a date in almost nine years. I blinked a moment (because where the hell did that come from?) went back into my mind, and I realized that I was correct and hadn’t been out with anybody I didn’t know in that long.

Now, I’d been on a couple of friend-dates at least, just going to the movies with a friend who doesn’t really like going alone. But nothing ever came of it, we were just friends, so it wasn’t a stepping stone to an evolving relationship.

At least, not on my end.

My social awkwardness and that last “date” turned me off the idea of dating for quite some time. I was also about to start an internship in a month and needed my focus so I didn’t waste my dad’s money and screw up, so the odds of me dating the year after just didn’t figure.

But after my initial achievements and graduation, I hadn’t dated and barely had friends. I was so busy I didn’t even know how. Some people have it where they can’t date because they were already married to someone for years and need a “refresher course” in how to get back out there. I don’t have that luxury of previous experience to dwell on.

And it’s annoying when you’re in your 20’s (and 30’s for that matter) and your dad insists you shouldn’t be getting home at 1 am on a Friday night. I was the most boring teenager on Earth when I was a teenager–never went out and partied, never dated, never stayed out late. I went to school and work and the mall–that was about it. I guess he was worried that since I never did all the dumb shit teenagers were supposed to do, I was going to make up for lost time. Yeah, right.

10365321-some-board-games-colorful-dice-stock-photo-gameDeep down, I don’t think he really believed me when I said my gaming club and me were playing Dungeons & Dragons or board games at Denny’s…and you probably think I’m kidding, too. Nope–that’s the most sociable I ever got. But over time I even lost touch with those guys and gals thanks to work and my ever-changing schedule, so Fridays are all work again…dammit.

In preparation for this post, I started asking “how do you start dating in your 30’s?” (and a half-dozen other possibilities) on Google and got some hits. The problem is the same problem I’ve encountered plenty of times. The articles suppose you’ve dated a few times and now that you’ve hit a new decade it’s a bit harder (but oh, not really). Many have the same advice, and its not helpful if I don’t have a type I’m used to dating—I haven’t dated, so how the hell would I know what type didn’t or did suit me back in the day?

This is freaking hard. As far as reasons I can finally admit when it comes to not dating, this blog post I found last-minute hit the mark pretty well.

What if you haven’t dated before, not really? I admit last month I actually went to my crack dealer (Barnes and Noble) and browsed the bookshelves in the relationships and self-help section. I thought it would be neat to see if there were any books about “Dating for Dummies.” Never thought there was an actual book with that title (go figure). I considered it for maybe one minute before I snatched it up. I thought I’d be embarrassed to be seen carrying it around and paying for it. What would people think? Do I look desperate or stupid? What?

Amazingly, the shame only lasted about 10 seconds. It was simple—I knew nothing about a subject and wanted a book or two (or five) on it, so what’s the harm? I told my best friend about it afterward, and asked her if she thought it was a bad, good, or desperate sign that I’d bought a book called “Dating for Dummies.” She thought it was funny (because it was a very “me” thing to do), and said something very true: “That depends. Do you think you’re ready?”

It was a damn good question. I remembered when I had my first and only full-time job, I’d changed my days off to have Friday and Saturday nights free (I had to work either Saturday or Sunday). I did it because I thought, “shouldn’t I want to be dating at my age?” I figured having the time open would expand my options, but I was so tired from work that my days off were spent trying to save money and stay home, so that was freaking useless. I just couldn’t understand how casual dating was supposed to work and I definitely wasn’t ready to settle down. I wanted to be more comfortable around people and enjoy their company, and maybe make some good friendships out of it. And if it evolved into something more, then I’d be totally open to it.

I can’t help but remember that last date nine years ago. I was friendly with someone in class, we got talking at that last class time, ended up meeting for a date.

At the restaurant, we talked until closing. It didn’t occur to me that he might’ve thought I was really into him; I just figured it’s nice to have a good conversation once in a while (I hadn’t done much practice with casual conversation, if you hadn’t noticed).

Well, I was going to give him a kiss on the cheek before leaving when he gave me a holiday card. He moved and I got his lips…and I didn’t like it. No sparks, no feeling other than “uh….okay?” I didn’t know what to think about the evening, but realized the next day—after I’d agreed to meet him the next week—that I really didn’t want to date this guy, that I wasn’t ready to date anybody yet and just wanted to make friends.

date-clipart-cliparti1_date-clipart_06We went to the movies and dinner, and I tried to just go with it because it felt too late to cancel and he paid. Afterward, we were in my truck a while because in the full parking lot he didn’t remember where he’d parked (or so he said), and I was just talking and talking. He thought we were having a great time; I kept talking because I was trying to figure out how to end the date without a kiss! Didn’t work, but I made it quick and got him to his car. He wanted to meet for New Years Eve, and somehow I agreed again. I pulled out of the parking lot and yelled at myself for my stupidity all the way home. I really didn’t want another date, but my nerve had failed me, and because I was the damned nice girl who didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, my mind froze when I tried to say “no thanks.”

My best friend saved my bacon when she’d reminded me of our plans from a couple months before to hang out that night, kids and all. I had forgotten because she wasn’t sure if she’d even be in the same state. So I called him back and said that I couldn’t do it because of these previous plans. (I suppose it was a crappy move, but she’s practically my sister and I hadn’t seen her in about a year). He was saying things along the lines of “nobody to kiss on New Years Eve” and wanted to know when we could hang out again.

I finally spilled it after maybe 10 minutes of painful conversation (just spit it out already!), that I really just wanted to try and make new friends and wasn’t looking for anything with anyone, certainly not dating. He was a little miffed about that (I think it sounded that way—it WAS a long time ago), and he never called me again.

I figured out, after talking with my pseudo-sister, that the way he was acting, he expected sex by the third date. Uh, I’d “known” this guy approximately 3 weeks at the most. Call me overly cautious or prudish, but no way in hell was I going to do that. That moment of “oops” in my social life kinda scared me away from dating or even trying to find friends. My internship took over my life for a year and job searches the next several.

The Milestones, like the Career, the Man, the House, the Kids, never materialized. It was my luck to graduate just as the Recession was starting and only about half of us got a job right away. I went back to school for another degree, socialized in classes and clubs, and still don’t have all the things I was supposed to want or have by the time I hit my late 20’s, let alone my 30’s. In pursuit of better pay I took a job that was a painfully stupid move (the silver lining: I learned a lot, mainly to never settle for a job that’s not right for you) and landed me more in debt and more gun-shy about men than ever before. That tends to happen with office politics and an infatuated co-worker—I’ll call him “Dimwit”—can’t take the hint that I am not and never would be interested in dating him.

82aa2d328ff55584d9ffaf2f51de79aeI’m too paranoid about cyber-stalkers to try online dating, too. I’ve met people in person beyond work only for them to become pseudo-cyber-stalkers when we traded info to talk. Then they’d want to talk to all my friends on Facebook. They were people I just struck up a conversation with in an attempt to be friendly in a coffee shop or store, or Dimwit. These men thought after 2-4 hours of conversation we were practically soul mates, when they (and I) didn’t seem to understand that I suffer from verbal diarrhea and didn’t need an enabler.

I got scared to try dating because of my unfortunate experiences just trying to be friendly! Dimwit managed to monitor me through mutual co-workers on Facebook and gave unsolicited advice about something I wrote (despite my not having him as a FB friend, which tipped me off and freaked me out). One I’ll call “Coffee-guy” looked up my name and called my house to talk, out of the blue, within 2 days of meeting. The next day, he showed up at my work to take me out to lunch. I never gave him my number in the first place; I actually dropped the phone in surprise and hung up. I was pissed off—if I want someone to have my freaking phone number, I’ll give it to them! I was so creeped out that when he showed up, I was only okay with being only Facebook friends (I lost my nerve to be totally bitchy, plus I was at work and how would that look). A month later, I had to cut Coffee-guy off when he tried to flirt with my married FB friends and they complained. They were nice enough to teach me how to “unfriend” and sever future communication.

Shit, when things like this happen every time I’ve tried to crawl out of my comfort zone and be a better, more sociable, date-able person, no wonder I suck at this! I try to be friendly and give a few inches and they take the whole damn field.

I’ve jokingly called myself a late-bloomer, but seriously, its more like I’m a naïve early 20-something that’s trapped in a 30-something body. I knew I had to write this down when I woke up this morning and thought I might be a Rip van Winkle-light, that maybe I was comatose 10 years and it’s all been a crappy dream. But I see reality: my lack of work hours, my schedule, my fervent desire to write and understand the world better, and realize, for all intents and purposes, this is my life and just freaking deal with it already so you can get to better opportunities.

But the dating part…I’m essentially the female equivalent of those male “deadbeats” women complain about who still live with their parents and have no money and a questionable future. How the hell can I compete when I am not a shining example of got-it-togetherness? Dating someone as broke as I am would be a really dumb move, and I need to work every hour I can get my hands on so as to pay my debts and take care of myself. Man vs. Debt, here I come seeking advice…

I believe I’m ready to do something else with my life, to find happiness and love with someone I respect and care deeply about. But how the hell do you date when you’re still living at home with a parent, have no money, no time, and am scared of screwing up. This will take some more work, and I’m sure my “Inner-Space” blog will—eventually—have some interesting dating disasters and triumphs to recount.

I just need those first steps out of my cement shoes and into the wider social world. And keep writing so I can make some money and have the independence and wiggle-room I’ve wanted so damned badly.

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