Last week I had to go car-hunting.
My black sedan got hit pretty bad on the way home from work one day, so when I found out it was totaled, I knew I was going to have to make a big new-car decision. It had been a long time since I was able and ready to invest in one, and I was excited by the prospect—I could actually pick what I wanted, take my time choosing the right one, make a wise decision I could be proud of. It felt like my first big decision of turning 40, during this year that I’ve always known would be special for me. A year of arrival. A year of becoming known to myself. A year of returning to my roots in a deeply spiritual way.
Strangely enough, this same week I also reluctantly turned back to using a dating app. (Dear Lord, help me.) Just like buying a car, I knew it was unlikely that the perfect one would just drive up and park in front of me. I had to put myself in a location where there were eligible cars. Or men. So I took a few deep breaths and doled out $10 for a monthly subscription to Hinge.
But back to the car part, which was far more pressing. My mother had a connection at one dealership, so I went there and test-drove two cars. Even though I knew I could get a good deal, I wasn’t convinced that either were right for me. “Buying a car is a commitment,” I told the salesman. “And I can’t commit until I’ve played the field a bit.”
He laughed. “That’s definitely something we should all do,” he said.
After a few test drives of cars that fit my budget and were sturdy and reliable, I showed up in my third dealership of the day. I was a little weary by this point, and it was raining outside. But I decided instead of searching the lot, I’d pray for someone honest to help me make the decision. When I walked in, I told the salesman what I wanted, what were my non-negotiables. It had to be red. It had to have a sunroof. I wanted a good stereo system. I wanted simple knobs for hot and cold. I did not want the display to be complicated.
After sitting with me and listening, he led me to a car he thought was the right one. He took his time showing me all the parts, teaching me how to use it. And then we went for a drive.
I knew right away this car was the one for me. But could I afford it? I had to cross my fingers while they ran the numbers. I had to be willing, if it didn’t work out, to let it go.
I admitted to the store manager that this experience seemed a lot like finding the right man.
Let’s put it this way. The car that had the accident? It still drove. I could still function with that car. It would get me from one place to another, and my kids could fit in the back. But it was ugly, and bruised and battered, and it just wouldn’t hold up for long.
I could also just go for a simple sedan that was relatively cheap and I liked well enough. It might have a feature here or there that was new for me, something I could enjoy. It could still be stable and reliable and my kids would fit in the back, and it would last for a long time.
Or I could do a little more work, take a little extra time, communicate all my desires, and get every fucking thing I wanted.
Back to men.
Since my divorce 4 years ago, I’ve been on quite a roller coaster ride. Or you could say I’ve been at sea, amid a bunch of heavy waves and storms, with very little light to guide my way. But now that I’m on land (and hallelujah, I’m on land!), I’m not going to make those same mistakes again. I’m going to be wiser, and I’m going to be in the driver seat, in tune with where it is I need to go. (Besides, I have a nice new navigation system to help me.) I could settle and pick a man who satisfies a few things on my list and be reluctant about it, or I can be precise about my needs and desires, because I’m in no rush to commit to anything soon. I have time to decide. And any good man has to show me he’s worth it. When I signed on to the dating app, I did it not knowing exactly what I wanted. I needed to learn. (And fortunately for me, I learn fast.) Within a week and merely two interactions, I figured it out.
Fun, easy, with potential for long-term growth. Handsome and sexy, too.
I’m not looking to immediately make a commitment for the long-term. Men who are aggressively looking for a wife scare me. Besides, I already had my children, and I’ve created a really nice life for myself, filled with kind and generous, loving people and communities. A man has to add to that, make me even happier, make life easier and sweeter. If he doesn’t do that, he’s not worth my time.
I think a problem with the way relationships operate nowadays, or the way mine used to operate, was that they functioned from a place of neediness. I and my lover were each looking for the other person to fill some hole within us. We grasped and didn’t know fully who we were. We had wounds that hadn’t healed, and we wanted the other person to dress them for us and apply all the salve. And a relationship like that just can’t work for the long-term, and you end up losing something if you stay in it. I am willing to make compromises in life, to be flexible and adaptable. But I am not willing to give up who I am, or sacrifice my values and what is important to me. I have fought too hard to uncover this person I love (me!), and I’m not losing her ever, ever again. That’s a promise.
But dating on these apps? Oy. And yet, I’m trying to lean in to the things that make me uncomfortable rather than run from them. I’m trying to give things that frustrate me a fair shot, and not just flee because something is difficult or awkward. That doesn’t mean I say yes to everything. But it does mean I weigh and consider my options.
Because I don’t settle. I negotiate well. I am fair, and I have so much to offer. I’m not giving anything away without the potential for return on my investment.
My car, by the way, is really awesome. I love it. I didn’t need all this stuff, or I didn’t think I needed it all, and I can certainly do without a lot of the fancy features. But boy, does it improve my life. And a lover has to do that also. If he doesn’t, I’m not buying.