Photo by LongStock via Deviantart.com; used for illustrative purposes only.) 
I’m a great first date.

To continue the process of recovery from a failed marriage, I decided it was time to get back into the dating game. It had been years since my marriage, and close to a decade since I had last gone out on a date.

My friends happily obliged and set me up on a number of blind dates and, yes, I must say, I make a great first date. Some of my dates have said I was great to talk to and always funny. I was always asked out again, but I have never gotten past the second date. The running joke is that I’m a serial dater by default, because things always start off fine but never go anywhere.

I saw a movie that said the third date is the pivotal moment, the one that determines the coming of a fourth and nth date--and other possibilities. "Is there something about the number three?" I wondered. Like luck and misfortune, which are said to always come in threes? If the first date is to assess, and the second to confirm the initial assessment, what's supposed to happen on the third? Validation and pursuit?

Maybe I'm just too complicated or too much to handle. Or maybe the dating game was simply too much for me.

I remember crying after the first date I went on after my marriage ended. It wasn't bad, but the experience was tiring. The effort put into getting ready, the nervousness of thinking about what to say, and the constant gauging of the other's reaction was exhausting. It was like being in a beauty pageant, where you always have to look good and have a steady stream of witty retorts to sustain your audience's interest. It wasn't spontaneous. Everything seemed pre-meditated, almost pretentious. It made me miss what I had with my ex-husband when it was really good between us--back when a date was too short a time to spend together.

I realized that it wasn't the snap dating--which I found to be such a chore--but the intimacy laced with chemistry that I wanted. I would never have that again with my ex, but I wasn't in a hurry or willing to settle for anything less to speed up the process of getting that feeling back. It may take a long time and many, many dates to find that again with someone, but that's all right with me.

In the meantime, I'll keep on going out on dates with my daughter, hanging out every week at the arcade or bookstore. And oh, I'll keep seeing this other person as well. We're getting to know each other for the first time as individuals--not as somebody's girlfriend, ex-wife, or mother.  Her name is Ana. And so far, we're getting along pretty well. We finally realized that more than being with someone, it is being comfortable in our own skin that will truly complete the process of recovery.

(First published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, Blessings section as "The Dating Game" in June 2008; adapted for use in Female Network)

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