Contrary to this post title…I don’t have one (a guide to dating after divorce). I could use one. Hell, I could use several!!! A friend and I went to see the movie Bridesmaids. A number of times she jabbed me with her elbow to illustrate that similar to Kristin Wiig’s character (Annie), I was guilty of tolerating (sometimes even encouraging) undesirable behavior from men in the past. I say the past because as I am writing this, I get to acknowledge it and hopefully take corrective action.
My life is a compilation of movie references, especially in this area of my life. So as not to spoil these films, I will reference but not give away plot points. If you really wanna know, check out the movies – I think they’re all worth a Friday night watch.
I guess In order to make sense of this I’ve got to take you back, way back. In my formative hormonal teenage years there was only one guy I was head over everything in love with. I never told him and always wondered. It’s like the scene in Something Borrowed where Rachel, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, flashes back to a moment between her and Dex, played by Colin Egglesfield. The moment illuminates the truth behind their connection, relationship and Rachel’s part in determining her future.
In my life it looked like one of our regular late night phone calls, where my friend said, “If I asked you out, what would you say?” My answer was the one that has echoed in my ears for over two decades. My answer, a blatant lie told by a terrified and heartsick teenager, “I would say no because I wouldn’t want to ruin our friendship.” OOOhhhhh! The lie came out so quickly and easily. I couldn’t imagine he’d want to date me and I was too scared to say, “Of course I’d say yes. I’ve loved you forever!!!!”
Life happens as it is supposed to. There are innumerable benefits in the fact that we never got together, but he was the one my heart wanted. My refusal to welcome love and happiness has played a large role in my dating life since those formative days. I went through several years of He’s Just Not That Into You where I was the girl who couldn’t figure out that basic truth. Then I got to face the harsh truth of My Best Friend’s Wedding. The days and years when I got to see the fruits of my biggest love lie. Watching Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney on the ferry as they hang in the moment of opportunity, and then let it slip by – brought it all back.
As I got older and more single, I went through a Bridget Jones’s Diary phase. I’d like to say that I wasn’t that neurotic, but man could I relate to the struggle of finding a quality guy with whom I could share my heart. Bridget has a particularly brilliant quote (resolution #1 should you want to google it on imdb.com) which I will not recount here – so I don’t spoil or offend. It includes particularly colorful language and it spoke to my resistance to forming emotional attachments to…let’s just call him, Mr. Wrong.
I can clearly see why it is easy to fall in lust with the movie stars who bring our favorite characters to life. In Bridget Jones Diary it was Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. Well played, Mr. Firth! I wonder if we should be falling in love with the writers who dream up these characters and the words that bring us to our emotional knees. Other characters that conjured up fantasies of happily ever after were Dermot Mulroney as Michael in My Best Friend’s Wedding, Lamman Rucker as Sheriff Troy in Why Did I Get Married and my new favorite Chris O’Dowd as Rhodes in Bridesmaids. There are so many more!
Unfortunately, my life is not a movie. There was no Sheriff Troy riding in to pick up the pieces of my broken heart. Somewhere along the line I got married…and divorced. I guess this would be the period of my life illustrated by the struggles in Why Did I Get Married. I remember seeing the 2006 version of Dreamgirls. As I sat watching and hearing the words to the song, Listen, I felt like the writers were writing my story. I also remember thinking that this song was going to be the catalyst to end of a lot of relationships. We can call the time around the breakup of my marriage my Eat Pray Love (minus the global exploration and finding my Brazilian love interest) phase.
That brings us to the present and my Bridesmaids phase. That friend who delighted in elbowing me about the jerk Annie spends time with, wasted no time letting me know that I should be looking for a man like the Rhodes character. I knew Bridesmaids would be the female version of The Hangover, chock full of bad behavior and gross humor. I didn’t expect it to be a reflection of my dating life. It’s hard to ignore your reflection when you have a kind and loving friend holding the mirror right up in front of your face!
So now we all get my fatal flaws in the romance department. I guess most importantly, I get my fatal flaws. I’ve done a lot of introspection over the last few years. Dating after divorce is scary and it sucks! I’d much rather stand up in front of a room of strangers and explain the ins and outs of disaster response or recite a monologue in a packed theater than go out on a date. My dating advisor (yeah, I’ve got one of those too) tells me that dating is supposed to be fun. Fun…like hanging out with my girlfriends, salsa dancing to great music or exploring a charming waterfront town? Yeah, well. That just hasn’t been my experience.
For me dating is anxiety provoking. I’m a people pleaser who often puts my needs last. I find it difficult to focus on what I want and even harder to be “normal” when talking to men I’m attracted to. I just shut it down. It’s easier to focus on work and being a mom than to explore finding love again. Is it lonelier? Of course. Some how, some way I need to go back to that scared teenager and let her know that the world won’t end if I open my heart to love. Will there be some scrapes, bumps and bruises along the way? Yup! That can be assured. It’s the bumps and bruises that concern me.
In Eat Pray Love Ketut, played by Hadi Subiyanto, has very wise words for Felipe, played by Javier Bardem, about loving again. I am working on understanding that wisdom and choosing a partner who is good to me, and good for me. As my friend so lovingly pointed out, I need to find a Rhodes. I will say that Bridesmaids did a brilliant job of illustrating how a scared and hurt woman can really mess things up with Mr. Right. I guess this is where I have a chance to stop messing things up with potential Mr. Right.
Am I willing to kiss the toads along the way?
I’ll let you know.