Maybe it was the Valentine's Day episode of Bones that I finally got around to watching. Maybe it's been listening to Lasso by The Band Perry nonstop for the past week. Maybe it's the cheesy novel about a wedding planner that I checked out from the library. Or the speed dating, or yet another Save the Date that is hanging on my fridge, or the constant teasing I get at work, or the fact that my own mother has hinted at trying to set me up with someone. (I have to draw the line somewhere) But, as you may have guessed by this incredibly lengthy segue, I have been thinking a lot about dating and romance and the extreme lack of it in my life.
A little over a year ago, you could have chalked up the absence of romantic possibilities to my own failure. It's true, I was praying for God to land a nice, holy, handsome, funny, charming man in my lap and I was not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to put forth some effort to meet God halfway. However, a talk with a deacon and long-time friend of the family (at, where else, a wedding) convinced me that I needed to step up to the plate. Complaining only gets me so far. In this case, nowhere. So, for the past 12 months, I have cast aside the skeptics living inside me and have fought my introverted temperament tooth and nail to try to meet some single men. Given my work schedule, I started online. Catholic Match was the cheapest of my options and had the added benefit of including my one "must-have" in every candidate. (side note: I have thought long and hard about the possibility of dating a non-Catholic, and it's not that I don't think that God could have somebody phenomenal out there for me who isn't part of the Church, or that I discriminate against non-Catholics. However, the Church, and my participation in it, is such a huge part of my life and the life I want to lead in the future, that I can't currently fathom wanting to be in a serious relationship with someone who can't share that with me or understand why it is so important.) I will make the long story of my online dating very short by saying that it was full of awkward first dates and not so many second dates. I have maintained two good friends from the process, but have not found it to be a dating style conducive to my personality. I'll get into that more later.
So, a month ago, I bit the bullet and jumped off a cliff that I never thought I would even approach, much less fling myself off of. I went speed dating. And while it was a fun and mostly enjoyable experience, and one I would do again (and again, if necessary), it has led me to a deeper understanding of what I want out of a dating relationship. And it explains why I have found so many failures in a year chock-full of attempts.
Following the speed dating event was a series of emails initiated by the coordinator of the event, mostly revolving around our thoughts on speed dating and dating roles in general. One line of commentary in particular got me thinking. In the present day and age, when women outnumber men in the dating arena, and when women are open-minded forward-thinkers, it has become acceptable for woman to initiate a progression in the relationship. She can ask for his phone number. She can ask him out on a date. On a rare occasion, she might even pay. All this forward thinking has resulted in many people asking me why I haven't asked a guy out. But one gentleman who participated in speed dating had an interesting comment that I'll poorly paraphrase: the man needs to do the pursuing in the relationship or his heart will not develop a stake in the outcome. Essentially, if the woman keeps taking the next step forward, the man loses interest because he doesn't have to capture the elusive prize. And it is the reverse side of this coin that has me up thinking tonight.
Throughout my online dating and the follow-ups to speed dating, I have had to put forth more effort in planning "dates," guessing at the definition of the relationship, figuring out how and when to follow-up, etc. The guy in question has failed to pursue. Sure, a few times, he has expressed interest, but it falls far short of the "pursue" category. And I've been so frustrated because I feel like I'm trying to no avail. And more frustrated because I don't want to have to try. I was a little taken aback when the speed-dating gentleman said the man has to pursue because I felt that the situation would be taken out of my hands. But tonight I realized (not happily) that I want to be pursued. My heart doesn't have a stake in the outcome if I'm not being pursued. Like the game of tag that ends when one person stops running, only this time it ends because one person stops chasing. I want to be wooed. I admit that dreaming big often has resulted in reality seeming cruel, but taking advice from Will Hoge, I'll keep on dreaming even if it breaks my heart.
I want the whole nine yards. I want to be treasured and sought after. I want to know that I'm on his mind when he falls asleep at night. I want to know without a doubt that he will call because he wants to see me again, not just because he feels like a call is the polite next step. I don't want to have to guess as to whether or not he just wants to be friends (or for that matter, whether or not I just want to be friends). I want to be excited about our next date because I know he has something special planned. And it's not about him doing all the work and the planning and the calling. I'm not being lazy. It's just that I've been on too many dates this past year where I had to pay or I had to plan or I had to try so hard to make conversation when it was clear there was no spark. And not once did I feel like the goal of his experience was pursuing my heart. If I had, I would have been more than happy to choose the activity or the location or put forth the money or the effort.
So, men take note. I want to be romanced, and wooed, and pursued, like a pearl of precious value. I think, despite my failure, that I'm a pretty good catch. And so, as much as it pains me to put God back in the driver seat when it felt like I was doing so much to actively help him out, I think I'm going to return to praying for a man who will fulfill the deepest longings of my heart. And God, listen up! I don't want to wait forever.