One of the most important lessons I am learning through dating is the reaffirmation that I am constantly peeling off layers of myself.
Each interaction I have with anyone, dating or otherwise, is purposeful. Whether it’s to share a silly laugh, dance to a song with 1400 strangers on zoom, discuss an important passage of a book or look into the eyes of the man who has stolen my heart and experience what it means to have my whole being want to be shared with another.
But those above examples are all the positive and optimistic encounters.
There’s another dark side.
The one that shows up every single time I have to put on clothes, get ready for a date and meet someone.
It hit me this past weekend when I went on my first real date to meet my flame.
I’ve been on so many first dates, I can’t count them (actually, I have them written down somewhere…)!
And every single time, I have felt this incredibly powerful emotion take over that makes me feel like I am being torn up into multiple parts. I freeze.
Nothing I wear makes me feel sexy, I create a pile of clothes on my bed that could meet the ceiling. I start crying. I become a ten year old who can’t logically rationalize anything.
It’s really difficult for anyone in my space to observe.
And for me, going through it, it’s a desperate feeling within myself.
At that moment the sensation is one of wishing I could erase time and cancel the date, disappear within and just sit at home in my comfy T shirt and leggings with my son.
But, luckily for me, I have friends and family who don’t let me surround myself with that dark cloud for too long. Just long enough for me to feel all that I need to and then see it, realize it and face my demons.
Five days ago, when this happened to me again, I knew what was going on but my friends didn’t recognize it. They tried to help me with logic, but I heard my tantrum come through. I needed to lash out, so I hung up, went to the kitchen and cried. My son came up to me and held me. My lash out wasn’t at anyone, it was at myself.
Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. I never realized this before.
For my entire adolescence I wore a back brace.
It sat on my entire upper body to my hips. I never wore clothes on top of my skin. Until the age of 15.
I didn’t know what it was like to have clothes fit, let alone what pretty felt like. I felt the exact opposite. Anything I wore tore through with the velcro of the straps of this composite on my body. The brace stuck out whenever I sat down and I never knew what it felt like to have anything touch my skin.
I didn’t date at all in my youth.
I got married instead.
That was my first experience of being with anyone intimately. And it was very unhealthy. On several levels. There was abuse that spanned the entire spectrum. So, on top of the fact that I was an untouched flower, I was popped by a man who didn’t respect the role of women, so self loathing permeated.
And that brings me to speed ahead 20 years to now.
I find myself carrying those wounds of my childhood. I’ve worked through the abuse and trauma. I have owned all my experiences and have been grateful for all of it. I know it’s made me kinder, more empathic, more understanding, more relatable, more honest and a better human being.
But the childhood insecurities of feeling attractive or not, the process of wearing clothes and what that means for me and to me, the act of getting ready for a date to impress another (though that really is not the purpose but it is the reality), I am just starting to uncover.
The reason I had my break down before my amazing, sensational first date was because I haven’t worked through that reality. I didn’t even realize it was there. And I owned up to it. I listened to my inner child who was painfully trying to figure out how to navigate through what she was feeling.
I sat with her, I paid attention, I loved her. I saw it for what it was. Trauma that I hadn’t uncovered and dealt with yet.
So I put my big girl sexy panties on, jeans I felt cool in, and my comfortable, bright yellow shirt that made me feel like myself. Not dressing to be anyone else. The color made me feel happy, the jeans sucked in the parts I needed to hide for myself and as I put on my earrings and lipstick, I started to come into my own.
I allowed myself to feel the excitement I had been building for a month to meet this man who really has taken my breath away. I gave myself permission to feel pretty. To feel sexy.
And I am so fucking glad I did.
Because the date was the best date I have ever had. Three and half hours of joy that made me want to burst wide open and hold this man’s hand forever.
Saying good bye without a hug or a kiss was killing me within, so we did an awkward looking but sweet hug with our faces looking the other way. We didn’t let go for what may have been 5 minutes. I’m a whole head shorter than him, so he could kiss the top of my head.
I could have stayed there…and would have learned how to sleep standing up!
This man has delivered me so much. Not just amazing laughter, tenderness, joy, kindness, love in such a short period of time. He’s given me the opportunity that only real soul love does-peeling away at the demons within, letting them out and finding that light behind the darkness.
That’s real growth. That’s real love. That’s real life.