By Alaina Clarke
I’m so tired of hearing the repetitive advice from someone who is in a relationship to someone who isn’t, especially for women.
“Girl it’s okay, he’s a fuck boy. You’ll find someone so much better who would do anything for you. And treat you the way you deserve to be treated.” - Committed
And I feel like in my recent personal experience I can’t help but not-so-passive aggressively reply;
“Yeah I know I will, and that person is me.” - Single
I have to admit these words feel foreign in my mouth. For years, when one relationship ended, another started. Same cycle, same game. And as much as it pains me to say this because I’m so goddamn stubborn and want to always be right even when I know I’m not; I am a Serial Dater.
Growing up I was the ultimate tom boy; the one who slide tackled the shit out of girls on the soccer field, the one who wore the same sweatshirt and zip-off cargo pants. Literally every day. The first time a boy ever thought of me as anything other than that weird girl who would beat them up and listen to Blink 182, I was in utter shock. Since then it was like day and night. I cut my hair, started wearing excessive amounts of make-up, and screamed My Chemical Romance lyrics until my mom got too irritated to yell over it just to talk to me. This attention was the complete opposite of what I had ever dealt with previously. I had absolutely no idea how to handle it.
I’m embarrassed to say that in the total of my middle school experience I had 5 “boyfriends” (not all at once, I promise). Then came high school. I started high school in a relationship with someone who didn’t go to my school and was a junior at the time (my mom liked him more than she liked me. I’m pretty sure). Thus far, that was the first relationship that I actually deemed to be a relationship (no one counts middle school). We were on the top of each other’s friends list on Myspace. So you know it was real. Throughout high school I proceeded to “date” a total of 4 more guys. I say “date” because at that point I was growing skeptical about commitment due to the tremendous turmoil middle school had on my perception what that means and because of that. I would never call anyone my “boyfriend”.
When I moved over to Chicago, I had dated and/or “dated” a grand total of 11 people in a span of 8 years. In mapping this out I tried to estimate how much of my time I spent committed to myself. Maybe a couple months, if that. I never wanted to acknowledge how weak I really felt. Half of my heart is an introverted person who takes her alone time very seriously and likes being independent. The other half is this terribly needy person who craves affection and validation, with distorted views of my self-image. Balancing this act was never a forte of mine. That part of me that was so terrified of being alone and never feeling good enough was so prominent, it took over. Every time I looked in the mirror, it was this empty shell of a person I didn’t recognize. It was like seeing an old friend who had been through hell and back that you haven’t seen for years. You wanted to help, you wanted to understand, but at that point you felt so far removed from them and their situation that you didn’t know if you could handle that responsibility. That was how I saw myself.
Once I got to Chicago, I had no intentions in dating anyone. I didn’t want to fall back into this habit that was so incredibly unhealthy. I didn’t want to have to feel like I needed to love someone else in order to love myself. I hated feeling like someone had that much control over me, even when they were completely unaware of it. I spent the past couple years battling this concept. I tried to acknowledge what the root of the issue was and how I could fix it. In the process, I have hurt people and people have hurt me. I have made some mistakes and have done some things right. I have loved deeply and have been loved. But I have also missed certain chances and suffered coming to terms with the reality of it.
At the end of it all, through the trenches, I have learned one big thing about myself. Giving myself the permission to love every aspect of my personality and to treat myself with respect was what terrified me the most. It was easy for me to ask it of someone else, but when it came down to me asking it of myself, I always froze. It became so easy for me to just be consumed by the idea that I was just a walking tornado, that I neglected working through my personal issues.
I created the narrative that I was alone and on my own.
I was scared of what kind of monsters it would unleash. And boy did it release some reckless, irrational monsters, to the point where it affected me not only mentally, but physically. I didn’t eat or sleep much and the shift in my alcohol tolerance scared me. I thought it had broken me. All of these suppressed memories and emotions that I never talked about bottled up and created an explosion on the people I cared about the most. The trial and error of the past couple years has been a rollercoaster. Every time I thought it would end me, I couldn’t help but hear my free spirit in the cage begging me to keep going. Telling me that the only one standing in my way was me. Believe me, I’m still working out this concept, but I feel like I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
Pretty much all of my friends are in relationships now and after recently facing rejection, I began to become bitter. I was upset that I felt like life was rubbing it in my face and that it was all a practical joke. The more time I spent with people in relationships, the more I saw how much time they spent together and the hardships of being in a committed relationship. I started to be proud that I was on my own. I started to really appreciate the time that I spent by myself and did things just for the small pleasure in doing it. I spent time in my head and on my floor. I started adventuring again and writing more. For the first time in my life I can almost say that I am proud of myself and the strength it took me to let myself be vulnerable again. I am proud that when my body wanted to shut down, that I only let it hit snooze. Coming to the realization that I owed it to myself to spend time learning to love me, flaws and all, changed my life. Reprogramming yourself to think a completely different way what you’re used to is no small task. Trying to promote love and positivity towards myself to form a habit has been both seemingly impossible and an extremely rewarding experience.
If you’re a Serial Dater like me, I can give you one piece of advice; everything, everywhere, all the time, is changing. Putting all of your happiness into the hands of another person will not erase the things you have been through. You have to face your pain with courage, tenacity and dignity.
When people ask me if I’m dating anyone now, I calmly and most sincerely reply with;
“YEAH, I'M ACTUALLY DATING MYSELF. SHE’S DEFINITELY A STRANGE ONE, BUT IS THE BEST COMPANY I KNOW AND I LOVE AND ACCEPT HER FOR THE WAY SHE IS.”
The recovering Serial Dater