a response

In mid-January 2016, as I sat in my car waiting for a kickboxing class, I scrolled through my "following" feed on Instagram, checking out what other people had liked-- I find myself doing this a lot. I've discovered new bands, authors, and most importantly, Jen Gotch, this way.

But on that particular day in January, I stumbled upon Nora McInerny and her post announcing her first book, It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too). I did a scroll through her account, and hit "follow" before I went into class.

A year and a half later, I talk about Nora like she's one of my closest friends. I tell people about her family, her book, and most recently, her podcast -- Terrible, Thanks for Asking. I even told you guys about it here.

They are currently recording the second season, and are occasionally postingmini guest episodes. Last week the the episode was by Lea Thau -- a producer and host of her own podcast, Strangers. The guest episode on Nora's podcast was an old episode of Lea's podcast where she talked about online dating and had a conversation with a guy she went on a date with and asked him why it didn't work out between them. You can listen to that here.

I was instantly hooked. And at the end, Nora jumped back in to ask listeners to send in their dating stories.

So I did.

And that, my friends, is what follows. My response to Nora, and Lea, and well, you, too.

I apologize for the intro being so long, because this email is massive as well. Take a 5 minute break halfway through, you deserve it.

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Dear Nora & Co.,

I just finished listening to the latest episode, Love Hurts. And wow. Just wow. I’m a big believer in things coming into your life at the exact moment you need them and not a second sooner—and let’s just put it this way, as I hit play and was listening to Lea Thau’s words, I was simultaneously waiting to hear back from a guy I’ve been dating who has ghosted -- from my texts…but not from looking at my Instagram stories, so what tf is that about?

 

I’ll give you my backstory.

I’m 30, never married, no children. Like yourself and Lea, I always seemed to be dating someone when I was growing up.

I had a boyfriend in middle school, and I had a different one in high school – I was with him for about four years. I was single for about a year after that relationship ended, until I began dating the guy I was with for about five years.

We went to high school together, but reconnected through mutual friends when I was 22 and he was 23. Did I think he was ~the one~ and this was It™? No. Did I want to date someone and he seemed like a safe bet? Yes.

I soon discovered how bad his drinking was, and during the first two years of our relationship, he got sober.

The issue was that when he was finally sober, he was an asshole. Not just to me, but to his family and friends, too. But I was scared to leave because I didn’t want him to start drinking again.

So, I stayed. And we eventually moved in together because why not? Why not really screw things up, you know? It was horrible. It was no way to live, and I knew that, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.

It took me a year, but I finally asked him leave.

 

And so began the part of my life I had always dreamed of – being a single, independent woman in her 20s. Yeah, I know-- most girls dream of their wedding day. Not me.

My new found freedom coincided with the rise of online dating. It was early 2014 and dating sites like Match and eHarmony had been around for a while, but the new kid on the block, Tinder, was just picking up speed.

I started with Match in the spring – mostly because I had a Groupon. And also a buzz. This was around the same time those Lime-A-Ritas came out and who knew those tiny cans are 8% alcohol? Not me – I hate numbers.

 

Smash cut to two years of talking to guys on dating apps, making plans to meet them, having okay but not great dinners, and never, ever feeling a connection with a single one of them.

I want the spark. And the spark is easily disguised as witty banter and emojis via text messages, but when you sit across from that same person and feel nothing? Not a damn thing? It’s depressing -- especially when it happens over, and over, and over again.

I have gone back and forth between being really into online dating (Tinder for a while, but I stuck with Match for the most part) and feeling absolutely exhausted even thinking about it. I’ve sat across from my friends at countless bars and restaurants, going over what happened with the guys I’ve been out with, and attempting to justify why things never seem to work out for me.

Then last year, in March, I met him. The guy I had been waiting for. The one who gave me ridiculous butterflies and reminded me that the spark can never be faked – that you either feel it or you don’t, and I felt it as soon as I met him for the first time.

And I think he felt it, too. He sent me a really nice message after our first date, and even invited me over for wine the following night. Things were good, really good, in the beginning. For about a month, I was on cloud nine – everything was perfect. Things were finally happening the way I’d always hoped they would.

But we never had The Talk™ and our communication, which was great in the beginning, became strained the longer we were together. And yes, part of that is because he’s from Germany and he had to Google some of the things I said, but, like, not everything! It was also due to the fact that I was scared to ask him if we were exclusive, because what if I didn’t get the answer I wanted?

And one day, about 6 weeks into dating, his Match profile was gone and I thought, “No conversation necessary. We’re together.”

WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Butterflies weren’t the only thing I felt in the beginning -- I also felt like I couldn’t trust him. At that point he had done nothing wrong (that I knew of) so I tried to push that feeling away. But slowly, his façade started to crack and I discovered that not only was he still talking to some of his ex-girlfriends, he was also on apps trying to find new ones, as well.

It lasted seven months. I don’t know how many apps he was on or how many girls he was talking to, and I guess that’s for the best. I still miss him. I hate to admit that.

Nothing resonated more than when Lea said WHY NOT ME, because why the fuck not me? Or her? Or anyone else who is open and ready for love?

Remember back in the beginning of this incredibly long email when I said I was waiting to hear from the guy I’ve been dating? Well, I still haven't.

I met him on Match back in January, when I thought I was stable after the last break up with The German. I wasn’t. We talked for two weeks, but it slowly faded without ever having met. We still followed each other on Instagram, and he sent me a message back in June in regards to a picture I posted. Things picked back up and we’ve been out a handful of times—he’s met my friends and my family, too. He’s been very open about what he wants and that he’s looking for something serious, and that he wants that something serious to be with me.

So why haven’t I heard from him since Tuesday night? Why, after weeks of talking every day, do I get radio silence? Is it someone else? He’s not on dating sites that I know of. I’m not, either. The beginning is supposed to be the fun part, right? WHY ISN’T THIS FUN? :)

When Lea said she likes to think of things that are hers, that make her life full and make her happy, I started jumping up and down in my lime green office chair. I do the same thing. I count my blessings. I know I have amazing friends and a great family. I know I have interests that keep me busy and people who I can look to for advice. And you’re one of those people, Nora. So, thank you. Thank you for sharing your life and your family with us, for the book, and for the podcast, and for that one Instagram video of Ralphie telling his cousin how many pieces of toast he had.

Shit. Sorry this was so long!

All the best,
Alissa