Patterns have answers
It’s been a few months since I repeated the vicious, “delete and then sheepishly redownload Hinge,” cycle, and it has yet again been banished from my phone. This time it’s not just digital dating that I’m taking a break from, but dating in general. I’ve come to realize my issues go deeper than the ones associated with convenience-swiping.
My last foray was particularly disappointing, but it stung considerably less after the 6-month slew of disappointments that came before it. He was kind, smart, and charming — full of personality. He was ambitious, insightful, and attractive — full of potential. He was another mid-20s Denver transplant — full of insecurities.
It started off optimistic, but soon enough became painfully familiar, so I had no choice but to take some time to do a little self reflection.
My girlfriends react the same way every time I get the boot. First, there’s shock. Then there are the affirmations, “you just have horrible luck,” and, “it’s not you, he’s stupid!” But at some point, when you start to notice a pattern, you have to ask yourself, is it me?
Yes, and no.
Every guy I “date” comes off as eager, if not at least interested, just to flip a switch and either ghost me or turn me down with a half-ass excuse. That much has been obvious up to this point. What I recently discovered though, is that I have a type: smart, masculine, and stock-full of potential.
I once had a wise coworker, in his mid-40s, tell me this:
“In college, guys are full of potential, everyone is full of potential so dating is easy. But after college, if a guy is still full of potential, and not actualizing that, women see that. And they don’t want a dude sitting on a bunch of potential, they want someone with something to show for it.”
And this isn’t to say I haven’t come across some dudes with great accomplishments or cool stories. But in my own growth and the time I have spent developing my character, potential has come to encapsulate so much more than how good someone is at their job, how well read they are, or how refined their hobbies have become (I’m looking at you, back-country ski and snowboard “Send-it” bros).
I’ve come to realize that potential applies to emotional development just as much as anything, and it explains why I’m so impressed up front just to be ultimately let down. I’m seeing the beginning of a great personality, the potential for a dynamic force in this world. But they haven’t taken the time to develop resolve around the things that make them feel less-than, and it shows.
I don’t think most of these dudes are even aware of it. I reciprocate interest, it kicks them in the nuts, and then they bail. Each time it happens, I’m tempted to refine my strategy and play the passive, hard-to-get role that’s expected of me. But I freaking hate mind games, and always circle back to the same conclusions that make me bide my time and maintain my authenticity.
Men may have a primal need to be the “chaser,” but I’m not interested in the unevolved. Any man who is falling back on this excuse will fall back on other patriarchal tropes. He’s not looking for a partner, he’s looking for something to take care of.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but deep down, to my core, I am vinegar. If I were to play passive and ambiguous about what I want, at what point is it fair for me to flip the script and reveal the intriguing, albeit hard to swallow, truth of who I am? Homeboy would be whiplashed.
The male brain takes longer to fully develop, but even if the age of biological maturation for men is 25, it doesn’t matter if he hasn’t taken full stock of who he is and how that fits into the rest of the world. I’ve experienced this first-hand. A fully developed brain is just another source of potential. Get to usin’ it, hon.
All of that being said, as I mentioned, my “type” isn’t just potential, it’s masculine as well.
By masculine, I mean I’m typically attracted to the tall, broad shoulder, deep voice variety, along with some of the personality traits that usually come with that. While I like to take charge, I also like knowing that I don’t always have to, and that’s why I’m after an outspoken, initiative-taking type of dude. But too often that goes hand in hand with the other things that make him, “traditionally masculine,” meaning he’s likely going to get his feelings hurt while I’m doing me.
At first, I thought I was going to have to give up one or the other — my own boisterousness or his. But then I thought about my best friend’s fiancé, who is as traditional as they come. She actually pursued him first; she’s (sometimes brutally) honest and upfront about what she sees and what she wants. They are getting married next year. They both know who they are, they trust themselves, and they trust each other.
I might have to cross a minefield to find that gem — the masculine guy that lives in spite of his insecurities — and I’ll get hurt in the process, but that’s fine. Nothing worth having is easy.
In the meantime, I have to get better at differentiating between potential and age-appropriate success. That’s not always easy to do in your mid-20s, because finding someone at this age feels a lot like making a risky emotional investment. That said, I’m taking a break from the market while I refine my definition of good character.