Oddities in Online Dating #001: The Status of My Biological Clock

If you know me or even just follow me on social media, you know that I have an online dating cycle. About twice a year I will get on a dating app, sometimes for shits and giggles and sometimes because I am oddly hopeful that I’ll find something real in the digital world. I have also come to realize that part of my cycle is that I am a storyteller and sometimes I have slow news days and my time on dating apps gives me content (not to be confused with makes me content because it does not do that). Given all of this, I decided to actually document my experience in a lasting way. I am also doing this because I need to write and as a PhD student edging toward writing her dissertation, I need to write something low stakes that keeps my pen sharp in another way. So this is it, my low stakes writing environment about my experience in online dating. And now time for log #001:

The Status of my Biological Clock

I’ve discovered that there are several perfunctory questions asked during the first few text exchanges in dating apps:

How are you?

What do you do?

How long have you been on here?

How long have you lived in (enter city here)?

What are you doing right now?

Do you want kids?

That last question is the focus of today’s post. It’s a question that, for a woman who waffles about her desire to have children, is the last question that I want to answer. It strikes fear in my heart and I didn’t know it until recently when I was chatting with a young man on Tinder.

In a line of similar questions he asked me if I wanted children. I paused–obviously he doesn’t know this because we are separated by the space and time continuum. How am I going to answer this? Admittedly there have been times, if the guy is particularly attractive, that I might fudge this question a bit and err on the side of wanting children because I don’t want my waffling to preclude me from getting invited to still be in the running to be America’s Next Top Potential Date. But after I took a beat I decided to be honest and share where I am on the matter. 

Aside from the fact that his response left much to be desired–and the fact that it took an hour for him to respond which felt like an eternity because I thought I had just disqualified myself for having ambivalent desires–I started to think deeply about this question.

All of a sudden this question felt loaded because it felt like it implies that I have to choose between the potential for partnership and nothing at all. (I mean, isn’t that what undergirds this question? If I say no to a man who wants children it’s, “Well it was nice meet you. Goodbye.” If I say yes I can pass go and collect my $200 date–just kidding, I don’t think dates should cost that much.) Nevertheless, though there are more fish in the sea–Plenty of Fish–and there are men out there who probably share my ambivalence on the matter, it struck me that this question puts me in a corner I’d rather not be in. The corner where the women who are ambivalent, don’t want children, or are barren are placed and sometimes judged for not wanting children. These same women are sometimes–and maybe even often–discounted as potential  partners because their partner’s desire for a child outweighs their love–or possibility of–for the person who doesn’t want a child. And don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that anyone should stay with a person who doesn’t want a child out of love–although I may want to problematize that. I am also aware that at 37, there is a little more urgency in asking that question as people’s knowledge of the biological clock and disinterest in geriatric pregnancy is at hand. Yet I couldn’t help but feel cornered about my position and wonder how many times I will end up not being disqualified because I don’t have a clear answer about wanting children. Hell, even as I write this I wonder about how many opportunities are now being foreclosed because I showed my hand.

I know I have more control of this than I am articulating. I also know that not every man I meet online is going to ask or be concerned about this question–especially not this early. But today the question gave me pause and made me want to think about the fear it put in my heart. So now I know what it is, and you know what it is, and every guy who may have been interested knows what it is and can now wonder no more that Nicole is a bit ambivalent about wanting children. Neither passionately for or adamantly against it, she situates herself in a kind of gray space about children while still holding a torch for the love who might change her mind either way.

PS: I meant for this post to be much funnier (or funny, period), better luck next time.

 

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Unfollow Feelings: The First Lesson in My 34th Year

Recently I celebrated my 34th birthday. 34 is not a major milestone year to most people but for me it is a milestone. It is the year when I will finally wipe the slate clean and move on with my life after a rough 33rd year. Most of my birthday went well and was rather low-key. I received the obligatory birthday Facebook posts, phone calls, and text messages early in the day. Early in the evening I enjoyed a slice of rum cake and well wishes at home with my parents and then I headed out for the evening with a close friend and her family. All was well that evening until the clock inched toward midnight and I realized something was missing.

I didn’t know whether it was the two Kir Royales I had or if it was really me, but every minute the clock inched closer to midnight I started to get sad. Actually I was sad and slightly mad. I was waiting for him to send the obligatory “Happy Birthday” text even though we aren’t really on speaking terms. I received a Merry Christmas text so I assumed I’d receive a birthday text–my birthday is the day after and we have enough mutual friends that the day couldn’t go by him unnoticed. But alas the text never came. As I drove home that evening I became bitter wondering if he was repaying a deed for a deed since I didn’t call him on his birthday earlier in the year. (I didn’t contact him on his birthday because I was bitter and still hurt about our breakup and I didn’t feel like doing anything obligatorily–if that’s not a word it is today.) Nevertheless, I thought about texting him to say that  not hearing from him on my birthday hurts. I went as far as to open the text message thread we shared and started to type my grievances but I stopped.

I spent the rest of the ride home gripping my steering wheel hard with both hands and fighting back tears. I told myself that I didn’t want to shed another tear over him especially not on my birthday. I spent the better half of the year in tears over him. I told myself that I could not, under any circumstance, reach out to him because he cannot know he has any power left over me. I fought myself all the way home warning myself that if I bowed to the temptation of texting him my grievances I’d be taking a step back and undoing a lot of hard work I’d done over the last few months. I also admitted that the attention of the one person I had always hoped would give me his undivided attention may be what I wanted but it wasn’t what I needed. Finally I told myself that I would wake up in the morning and feel much better about myself if I didn’t reach out to him. I had to unfollow my feelings and believe that the consequence of not following them would be better than the consequence of following them. This is hard for someone who toes the line of being a hopeless romantic and a slight romantic fatalist.

I spent roughly four years following my feelings and while in the moment it felt good, it didn’t end good well. I was constantly forcing myself into something and onto someone who wasn’t all the way there for it. “Follow your heart,” I told myself time after time. But my heart and my feelings were so tied up in the relationship that I saw no other way until it was too late. Yet some lessons are better learned late than never.

The moment I decided to unfollow my feelings was the right moment for me. I’ve learned that we do ourselves a great disservice when we are always following the lead of our feelings and our heart because neither is rational and they won’t guarantee you a safe and secure space in someone’s arms. Reality is, at least for me, that sometimes feelings need to be unfollowed in favor of delaying gratification? Whose gratification? Your own of course. Hopefully in unfollowing some of those feelings it will free you up to wait for what you need instead of just getting what you want.