“So who are you seeing?,” my hairdresser looked into my eyes through the mirror as she ran her fingers through my wet hair. This is a fairly typical question from most hairdressers, but it’s something I always discuss with my own personal guru of style. You see, she’s done my hair since the first time I ever had a pair of shears taken to my blonde locks. She has styled my hair for proms, weddings (but not mine!), and dates. She did my hair pre, during, and post- The Boyfriend era, so she knows much of my storyline. And I recall distinctly having my hair cut the day after my anniversary when I decidedly didn’t get an engagement ring and knew that my time with The Boyfriend was limited. It’s funny how many memories are tied to my hair and stylist.
My mother was in the same salon having her done at the same time, a tradition as old as time, and I could almost feel her heart begin to race as her ears perked up at the slightest mention of my dating life. You see, most of my life, I’ve been pretty private about who I am seeing and why I would like to see. I distinctly recall telling her The Boyfriend actually had another girlfriend when we began dating, just to keep a ‘low profile’. In fact, my own mother doesn’t know about the existence of this very blog documenting my fledgling pursuits toward romance and whimsy. This would be a veritable gold mine of information, and for some reason I’m more prepare to (anonymously) share that with the public than with my family. Maybe I’m embarrassed, maybe I’m uncomfortable. It’s hard to say, really, I just know that dating isn’t really a subject I enjoy bringing up.
At any rate, I did decide to share with the salon, and my mother, the status of my dating life. And I described the fact that I had been out with not one but two engineers in the past four dates I had attempted. And my Match.com in box is full of physicists. Literally three emails this week have all been from physics grad students. Is the entire department surfing Match.com and contacting me as an experiment? I wonder sometimes. I digress.
Anyway, I lamented the fact that it was a minefield of engineers contacting me. Actually lamenting isn’t the best word to use, I just stated the fact and wondered aloud why that was happening. “Why are only the engineers looking at this package?”
“They didn’t go well?,” my hairdresser probed. She stopped massaging my scalp for a bit and listened for my answer.
“It’s not that they were horrible, but they weren’t great, either. I’m just not sure I’m cut out for the science field, that’s all. It’s all so calculated. I need the spontaneous, free-spirited boys!”
“I think that’s wrong altogether. You don’t realize how much you need that structure.” My mother chimed in and it surprised me.
“Your whole life, you’ve needed a schedule to feel comfortable. You need predictability and structure, and I’ve known that for almost twenty-six years. Why haven’t you noticed it?”
Her words stung. Structure? Stability? I’m looking for a boyfriend, not a dad! I want someone to call me up for a spontaneous drink. I want someone who isn’t analyzing everything. I want someone who has a great sense of humor and for some reason, to me, that comes in a package that is mostly free-spirited and..well, more social than scientist. More labor than laboratory. Calculated equals cold. And who is she to say what I need? Who knows me better than, well, me?
The answer to that is probably “my mother”. My immediate protest was met with strong reason and a stack of evidence from my mother. She reminded me of a time that I was in the midst of a full-blown panic attack at age eleven. I was invited to a dinner with the SERTOMA club in my town after I wrote an essay on the importance of a fair and impartial jury for U.S. citizens. The problem and panic came when I was asked to read the essay aloud to the room; I hadn’t been warned that this was on the dossier for the dinner. I was unprepared. I was flipping my shit. And then someone gave me a schedule of events, showing me the order in which the event would transpire. It included a simple list of events and indicated when I would speak. I was instantly reassured. So, it is true that, from an early age, structure and schedule has been a soothing force in my life. Basic routine keeps me happy. Upsetting the apple cart has always, always proved to make me unhappy, nervous, anxious. Stressful situations can easily be taken down a notch for me simply by telling me what to expect. Give me a schedule of the events, or a general idea of what could possibly happen, and instantly I stop the biting of the nails, the racing of the mind.
It’s sort of amazing that I’ve never really picked up on this quality in myself and how it might translate to the dating realm. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the predictability of communication, or knowing that someone will call me at a specific time and mean it. I an a stickler for plans, keeping plans, and being honest. And I can remember how absolutely out of control I constantly felt when The Friend would make plans and constantly back out. How many times were my text messages ‘not received’? How many times did I ‘misunderstand’ our plans? How many times was I simply just not called back? I think that, despite how badly it annoyed me, part of my body really enjoyed the drama that ‘relationship’ or whatever you’d call it provided me. It was a constantly will-he-won’t-he feeling that for a month or so was exhilarating, but quickly turned into a mindfuck experience that was painful. As fun as it was, it wasn’t fun. And I realize that doesn’t make sense at all. But it’s true.
Maybe what I’m looking for in the beginning is what is leading me to unhappy endings. I mean, everyone likes the spontaneous free-spirit in the first few weeks, but after years of having to deal with someone’s inability to focus or provide some sort of structure to my life, it sort of starts to grate on me and wear me down. Maybe I need to keep this motherly advice in mind as I move forward. Afterall, she’s the proponent of the 24 hour contact rule and now this little gem of advice on what I need in my life to feel good. Maybe I am less of a free spirit and more of a stickler than I thought.