Dating Myself

Taking myself to a show on West End

The last time I was single, I was 23 years old (well, actually I’d just turned 24). I had recently moved into a new house (well, actually it was the unfinished basement of a very old house, but it was new to me), and I was just about to reach a point of contented singleness (or at least the closest I’d ever been to being truly content being single).

I packed myself snacks and took myself to Shakespeare on the Green. I went to art exhibits and First Fridays, taking only my camera. I drove myself to parties, found poetry readings in newspapers, and faithfully checked out to see what was happening on the weekends. In short, I began dating myself, and though I didn’t ever surprise myself, we did have an awful lot in common and we enjoyed each other’s company, so it was a pretty amicable situation.

Then I met this guy (we’ll call him G) and he wanted to date me too. G was really great. He took me to the ballet and cooked me amazing dinners. He sat beside me at concerts and came home with me on holidays. He nibbled on my ears (which I’ve never been capable of doing for myself),  bought new wipers for my car, and regularly massaged my feet with lavender-scented lotion.

Picking flowers for myself on the way to church

All of this carried on for about a year, and if I had possessed anything resembling wisdom I would have committed to that relationship, to this guy who was really pretty great. The problem, though, was that even after I started dating G, I still continued dating myself. Because I thought I was pretty great too. I’d tell G I wanted to spend Friday evening on my own, that I needed some “me time” or some space. Then I would burrow into my bedroom and watch a movie, or slip on my shoes and go street haunting by myself, not realizing that this may have hurt G’s feelings, that he might not understand why I was so eager to be away from him.

G moved away, and we continued a long-distance relationship. I missed him rather fiercely, but I still had me, and I seemed to be enough for me to make it between phone calls and holidays and long-distance dates. The thing about relationships, though – at least the serious, committed, maybe-we-should-get-married type of relationships – is that they really ought to be exclusive, perhaps even dependent. And though I loved G a lot, I loved myself more, and this led to arguments that would otherwise be difficult to explain. Eventually, G left left me and myself, hoping it would all be for the best.

Initially, we handled that well. I comforted myself, drove me to my parents’ house and prepared to

Taking myself out to dinner

leave the country for six months. While I was in France, I navigated public transportation, arranged weekend trips to nearby villages, bought myself glasses of wine and flaky sweet pastries. I took myself to museums and walked myself through parks. I took pictures and ate ice cream, and read books and wrote letters. But it was never the same without G. There was no one to hold my hand, share my croissant, or offer a unique perspective on architecture or human life. I grew tired of myself, we began arguing, and I wondered why I had stayed with me for so long.

I thought about leaving me. Cutting communication, changing my phone number and not telling myself, locking the door and throwing away the key. No form of self-abandonment seemed too extreme or too cliché. But the thing about getting to know yourself is that you find you’re kind of hard to forget and sort of impossible to leave.

I apologized to G. I promised we would change – both me and myself. But either G didn’t believe me or he’d had enough of my self-indulgence. He left me to comfort myself and move on with my life.

Lunch with me on the beach in CA

In some ways I did. I moved to the Bay Area, where I once again find I am spending a lot of time with me. But I’m learning to get away from me as well – to seek out other people with whom I can share experiences and make memories, people I can invest in and care for. And I find that hanging out with interns and helping high school students write history papers is much more rewarding than taking myself to the movies (which I have done before, but not in recent history).

I still do things for myself – like organizing my own birthday brunch, buying myself pumpkin-scented candles, and arranging for me to have a massage next week – but I try to keep it in check. Life is meant to be enjoyed, but it is also meant to be shared. Single or not, one of me seems to be quite enough.