Dating · Friends · Life

AWOL

Gather ’round children, and I’ll tell you a tale. It has all the markers of a classic dating story: a jerk behaving badly, confusing and unexplained behaviour, attempted reconnection, more bad behaviour, and finally a booze-fuelled reunion and possible redemption. So what’s the catch? I’m the aforementioned jerk in this case.

It’s no secret that I had a phase decade of pretty extreme commitmentphobia. I wanted to date, and date I did, but any time things started to go in a more serious (or even just ‘hey, I have feelings for this human’) direction, I would cut and run. My friends even joked about how skittish I was, if they called me more than twice in one day (a big no at the time), they would beg me not to cut them out of my life. Basically, the more interest someone showed, the faster I ran. No, I can’t explain it either.

It was during this ‘phase’ I first met ‘Ahab.’ For whatever reason, I stood out to him, and he had to chase me for the better part of a year just to convince me to meet him. I was a bit gun-shy about the online dating thing, as this was before everyone and their brother had Tinder, but that wasn’t the only reason. Looking back, the only thing I can think is I wasn’t super happy with myself, and I couldn’t fathom why anyone else would be either. Eventually we did meet, and I was awkward as fuck. It almost causes me physical pain to think back to how awful I was. JFC girl, get it together. Yet Ahab continued to show interest, was a genuinely nice guy, and put up with my shit. I employed all my usual tactics: no sleepovers, keep things light, use alcohol as a buffer (I remember a distinct conversation about my desire to drink before sexytimes; I believed sober sex was the exclusive domain of relationships as it helped with the distancing).

There came a point, however, where I started to get all feelingsy, and something snapped in my mind. One day, I’m calling all the brewers and distilleries in town to try to get my hands on a very hard-to-find beer (his favourite), the next day I’m telling him I’m too fucked up to continue, kthxbye. He was (understandably) puzzled; I didn’t really understand it myself. I don’t think I offered up much in explanation, I just dipped. I was the guy Cosmo complains about, I was the guy that launched a thousand self-help books about relationships, and I still don’t even understand that guy.

Fast forward to just over a year ago, and who should message me on LinkedIn but Ahab (he doesn’t use any other social networks, which still hurts my brain). I replied, he messaged me back, and what do I do? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing. I didn’t reply because I am an asshole. Granted, I use LinkedIn very rarely, but I just peaced out in the middle of a conversation. What. The. Fuck. Brain? I was still in a pretty scared/scary place mentally, but honestly, I think it was mostly embarrassment that prevented me from communicating like an adult:  I was embarrassed by my previous behaviour, so I repeated said behaviour. There’s some fucking logic for you.

Why am I telling you all this now? A couple of weeks ago I went out for drinks at Ronnie’s with a friend, and they had that very same beer on tap (I even stole a glass covered in pink elephants for him years ago, before I cut and run, but I think it got lost in a move). After I parted ways with my friend, I did what any Drunk Steph does at 1:30am on the College streetcar: I sent him a boozey message on LinkedIn. After giving me a bit of (completely expected and deserved) shit over my AWOL tendencies, we’ve been reconnecting. Huzzah for second (third?) chances!

It’s very surreal, because we all know how I typically handle people I’ve dated, but also because I’ve been through a lot of emotional (and physical) change over the past little while. It’s almost like I’m getting to know myself while I get to know the people I date. It’s also a bit odd because he’s just so damn nice (I know, #Stephproblems), and I do not take compliments well. He doesn’t even believe me when I tell him I’m crazy (I’m sure that will change). I feel a bit behind the curve when it comes to this dating thing: I told my therapist I feel like I’m at the kids table; he told me he liked the metaphor. I look at the people around me who seem to have it figured out, while I’m trying to balance feelings and dating multiple people and texting and all this shit I think I should’ve been doing when I was acting like a robot in my twenties. Lucky you (?), dear reader, you get to come along for the ride.

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