I went out on my first date after a seven-year relationship a few days after New Year’s Day, more than a year after I broke up with my ex. Back then, work wasn’t for another week yet, everyone was in a celebratory mood, and riding that 2015 high, I felt like it was time to put myself out there. I had done my sentence—double that, in fact—I thought I deserved to enjoy my single life.
What happened next, friends, was almost magical.
No sooner had I decided that I was going to go out more this 2015, an opportunity presented itself to me.
Shortly after my private declaration, call it a New Year’s resolution, a former schoolmate sent me a message. He was a few years older than I was, but I sort of knew his sister and we were Facebook friends, so he wasn’t a total stranger. We talked about common interests and common friends, and eventually, the conversation led to an invitation to dinner at a restaurant near my house.
It was exciting, but at the same time, it made my stomach turn. I had never been on a real date before—my ex and I didn’t date before we got together. Before I said yes, I made a list of pros and cons in my head.
We have a few things in common.
He seems nice.
I know the family, well, know in the sense that I know I won't end up dead in a ditch somewhere.
It's just a friendly date near my house. I can always get up and leave.
I need to move forward.
I'm out of practice. I mean, I haven't made small talk in years. How do people date these days?
We're not actually friends. I could potentially still end up dead in a ditch somewhere.
If I say yes, whatever happens, I won't be able to press the rewind button and pretend it never happened.
Obviously, I thought the pros outweighed the cons.
I made arrangements, meaning, I called my friends and devised backup plans should the date not turn out well, and agreed to meet the guy there. As far as first dates go, this one, as I would eventually learn, was pretty standard. Dinner first, coffee afterwards. It was fun. I enjoyed getting to know a new human being, but most of all, I enjoyed seeing another side of myself.
There were times during the night when it almost felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. OA, I know, but you try going out on your first date after eight years and tell me it’s not weird to see yourself making small talk with a guy who’s not your boyfriend.
When I got home past midnight, it took me a while before I could sleep. Did I really just go out on a date? The message the guy left me confirmed it so, and if I wanted to, he said, we could do it again. Some people might see this as a crucial turning point. Atras o abante? My answer was pretty clear.
After being with the same person for close to a decade, I wanted to see what else is out there. So after that first date, I went out with the same person several times. But I also went to dinner/brunch/drinks/movies with a few others who, like magic, started calling me up—seriously, there was not a peep the year before! All these dates are meant to be fun, nothing serious, and definitely nothing exclusive. They were an opportunity to get to know more people, eat at interesting restaurants (FYI: I pay my share), and just get out there. I've dated older, younger, and at one point, someone who's actually my age. I've been set up and organically approached. I've gone out with guys who are actively looking for girlfriends and guys who aren't into commitment. I've had meaningful conversations and really stupid ones, too.
Last but certainly not the least, I've gotten to know myself more. I've grown into myself more. In fact, I always tell my friends that I've grown more in the six months that I've been dating than in the seven years I was with my ex. I'm not saying this is the same for all women who came from long-term relationships. I came from a pretty stagnant place, so it's all relative.
BUT this is all I'm ready for. I'm not in a rush to enter into another relationship. If there's one thing I learned from my past, it's that life's too short to spend it with the wrong person. Who knows, next year, maybe I'll be ready to try something a little more permanent. When that time comes, I hope the universe sends me a really good one.
SCREENSHOT: Her/Warner Bros. Pictures (2013); GIFs: Giphy