When beginning my dating journey outside of the fog that was my sexual, religious, and personal trauma (read more about that here, here, here, here too) around 28 years old, I really did want to be optimistic about “what was out there” amidst the disappointment of past dating experiences. It was tough to be optimistic, however, because I had yet to actually experience a man I actually liked, who treated me well, in the city where I actually lived so we could like, idk, maybe have a chance at an actual future together.
So what is one to do when what you’re looking for is merely an idea you’ve seen others successfully achieve, but have yet to experience in your own life? Begin a daily pretending practice.
As part of my daily affirmations, I would pretend to be excited about a significant other
That’s right. As a woman in her late twenties, I started doing what I’ve always been very good at since I started making out with walls as a 5 year old, playing the lead character in my own soap opera (featuring the wall as my hot romantic interest, obviously) – I pretended. Daily.
I don’t mean to say that, in my late twenties, I started making out with my walls everyday as a way of manifesting a partner (masturabation manifesting* though? Highly recommend). What I mean is, as part of my daily affirmations, I would pretend to be excited about a significant other.
*Have the kind of sex with yourself you want to have with a partner. Visualize, sensualize, emotionally connect-ize. DO IT ALL. You will eventually experience it in real life. But that's another blog post.
I would enter a space of thoroughly enjoying a person on a date. Then look forward to seeing that person again and again and again. I would pretend the feeling of them reaching out to me in mutual interest. And then, I’d get really outrageous, and feel what it’s like to want him to be my boyfriend. Instead of immediately meeting the idea of dating with dread or the need to take shots in order to get through the thing, I began holding feelings of FUN, respect, and ease.
My new approach to dates was going to be positive about the possibilities! Instead of dreadful and drunk.
And guess what? My pretending practice tooootally worked. Like a romantic (horny) Jedi queen, my powerful mind landed me a BF ASAP.
“That was easy!” I thought. “Why didn’t I try this pretending thing sooner??” And then I wrote a blog about it (read here).
I quickly met a perfectly kind, interesting, majored-in-theatre- and-is-now-a-preschool-teacher, tall boy who dwelled in Brooklyn. We’ll call him Brooklyn Boy.
On our first date, we had a few beers and a great time. After I embarrassed myself by not knowing why Polar Bears are white, I switched to water. It was almost time for me to leave to go to a percussion show I was seeing later at Rockwood Music Hall, but I was really enjoying myself, so I did something bold and asked him to join me for the show.
“I know you have an early morning so it’s totally okay if you don’t want to. But if you’d like, the show will be cool! And probably weird.” He said he’d love to go. And that is how our initially kind of normal first date turned into a date listening to a marimbist paint colors with music. It was rad.
The date ended with a kiss outside the Grand Street D train station, at the edge of Chinatown, right next to a fish market. That first date kiss was romantic, sweet, and very smelly. The perfect beginning to a beautiful New York love story.
In the next few weeks, I was shocked to experience this guy’s level of interest. He texted me everyday, he made plans, he was up for meeting my friends... We went to the Whitney Museum, saw a friend’s show at a play festival, went ax throwing on the pier (indoors. In a controlled environment. Wearing flannel. Very safe). When he asked if I wanted to stay over on the third date, I said I wasn’t ready for that just yet. I was very nervous he would want to end things right there. Surprisingly, he was totally cool with it, and still wanted to date me!
I know what you’re thinking, “The bar is so low.” But what you should really be thinking is “MJ had poor boundaries before this relationship and that is why she constantly met men who did not care or inquire about her fatally malleable standards which consistently led to less than positive experiences with men.” And also, yes. The bar is so low.
The point is, I was learning what I wanted, and taking steps to see if my dating prospects aligned with that, instead of molding myself to their expectations. And in just one months time, we had a DTR** and we were officially BF/GF.
**Define the relationship
I had found a guy who was a ton of fun and a total sweetheart. Look mom, a good one! My pretending practice worked! I had a boyfriend! In New York City! Well, Brooklyn. But it will do.
What is the point of sharing my life and time with someone unless it is absolutely AMAZING?
I had pretended my way into a not pretend relationship. A not pretend, fun, good relationship.
But was not pretend, fun, and good…enough?
Over the next few months we got to know each other better amidst attending concerts, museum exhibits, lots of brunching, and even him changing my lightbulbs (got bless tall men). In that time together, it was becoming clearer that me and Brooklyn Boy were two people who had fun, but we were not “two souls set aflame.” Our fundamental differences were becoming more obvious, which was affecting our feelings towards one another. We did not share similar personal values, goals, or even needs within the relationship.
We were good company, but not complimentary. We were fine, but were not falling in love. We were comfortable, but not very compatible.
In other words, we were good, but not great. I knew in my gut this guy was not my forever, that ultimately staying with him would have been “settling” (not because he was a terrible person but because we were simply not each other’s person) and I needed to end things.
I did not like this. And I was kinda pissed!
What the heck, UNIVERSE? I finally get an adorable, ACTUAL boyfriend and am totally bamboozled by him not being a long-term match? What is this shit!
So for a hot second, I fought it.
I’ve always been kind of a judgey asshole about people who stayed in relationships out of convenience, comfort, and contentment. (full disclosure, I have been a judgy asshole about a lot of relationships for most of my life. In my glow up I am learning to stop doing that, as I am sincerely afraid of others’ judgment about my relationships. The Golden Rule reigns again!) “I would never do that.” I’d proclaim. “What is the point of sharing my life and time with someone unless it is absolutely AMAZING?”
I will tell you why, young judgy padawan (me).
Because after you’ve spent so many years sleeping alone, it’s really fucking nice to have a handsome, cuddly warm body to wake up to. Because after so many years of shitty dates, to have someone with whom to go to museums, concerts, and new restaurants (who you also get to have sex with after said activities) is really fucking nice. After so many years of getting used to no one checking in on you beyond the accidental, occasional facetime from your mom, it’s really nice to get daily “good morning. How’s your day so far?” texts.
I understood why someone would settle for good over great: It was really fucking nice.
But I had been at this personal development thing a bit, so I knew what I had to do.
Limited Jiminy Cricket could fucking can it, because I was deserving of Big Hands
I had to let go of a real something good to begin re-imagining a potential something great. WHICH IS REALLY SCARY BY THE WAY. Because my asshole Limiting Jiminy Cricket voice was all “Hey MJ. Who do you think you are WANTING MORE? This guy is very nice to you, the sex is...definitely better than it's been in your past, and you’re both kind of weird. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT, you romantically entitled daydreamer???”
What I wanted was someone who just…aligned more. Someone who shared the same perspectives on physical health, mental health, and general drive. I wanted someone who understood, supported, and celebrated me. Someone excited, not overwhelmed by the nebula of energetic, sexual, and loquacious magic that is Mattie Jo. As my internet soul sister Amy Young says “I am handful, so my guy better have big fucking hands.”
But the fear remained. Was I asking for “too much” by ending something good in the hopes of something great? I decided no. Limited Jiminy Cricket could fucking can it, because I was deserving of Big Hands.
Brooklyn Boy and I ended very amicably. I went back to my imagination’s drawing board and built on my pretending practice. All the things I had with Brooklyn Boy – fun, respect, initial ease – those were now just a given in any dating relationship I chose. I would not even consider someone if they didn't possess all of that in the beginning! But now I needed to pretend the feels of a lasting partnership. Of a great love.
I was sad and not at all looking forward to getting back into the dating scene, but I was proud of myself for making the decision I knew I needed to make on my continued effort to find my person. I WILL HAVE GREAT LOVE DO YOU HEAR ME, UNIVERSE?!
That experience taught me that I can trust the difference between good and great. It is not selfish to want amazing, incredible, luscious love. It is not frivolous to pursue the love I imagine. Also my imagination is very powerful.
And then, two days after I ended things with Brooklyn Boy, a man with whom I’d not spoken to or seen in years – who I had a massive lady boner for – appeared back into my life/DMs (Did my imagination work THAT quickly??).
You know him as Hot Yoga Teacher. And things were about to get very hot indeed.
Oh and before I go, let's all relive some emotional manipulation trauma together with that sweet sweet piano opening, shall we? And let the normies know what this title is referring to.