This year I took a 6 month break from men. Took a break from dating, I guess, more than actual men, but as my romantic interests lie in the male of the species it meant I had little contact with men who weren’t a) related to me, or b) work colleagues.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, this cutting out of the men. It came after a string of bad dates and my unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings and I decided: enough. I realised I’d become so institutionalised and focussed on the idea of finding a man who fit certain criteria that I didn’t actually like many of the people I was seeing. It had become a game of box ticking when it came to men, of looking good on paper.
The pressure of dating, of sitting across from people I wasn’t sure I even liked all that much, had become more than I wanted to handle. Meeting men via apps and online profiles had reduced them to their ages, their jobs, their ‘would like to meets’. They stopped being people and, though I met some lovely men who would make loads of girls a lovely boyfriend, they just weren’t for me… I was trying to squeeze square pegs into very round holes.
It had all come down to facts and figures rather than butterflies and feelings: who needs physical chemistry when you’ve got a good on paper guy, I thought?
I’LL TELL YOU WHO NEEDS CHEMISTRY: I DO!!
A good on paper guy might suit for interesting and sometimes even stimulating dinner conversation, he might have good table manners and a lovely car, but when it comes to the horizontal dancing you hope you’ll be getting up to as a dating woman in her 30s you really do need that chemistry. Oh, yes, you do.
And so I deleted all apps and dating accounts. I freed up an exciting amount of space on my iPhone, so prolific was I: Guardian Soulmates, Tinder, Happn, Match.com, even Muddy Matches (google it and LOL)… they all went.
I decided that meeting men in the real world would be preferable. I’d get rid of the pre-disposition to judge guys on their age, job and height, and would be able to go on first impressions, physical chemistry and butterflies alone. Simple, yeah? Yeah… if you’re not a borderline hermit, like me.
Turns out that living in the sticks and working alone from home is not an entirely conducive environment to meeting men. I can go days with only seeing my mum, my kids and my school gate friends, so where did I expect all these eligible bachelors to emerge from? There is the gym I guess, but the last thing I want when I’m doing my yoga stretches is for a souped-up steroid fan in a singlet leering over my mat. Eye contact duly avoided.
And so I stopped dwelling on men. It’s not like I knew how to make a move on the rare occasion I met them, so removing that extra headache from my life felt almost… uplifting. I’d completely underestimated the time and brain power that thinking about men had been taking in my life.
Focussing on only myself for those few months was liberating. I worked harder, made plans for my future, and most importantly (and unexpectedly) slowly unravelled the last four years of my life. Divorce is hard on anyone – throw a couple of kids into the mix and it becomes almost impossible – and I don’t think I realised how much I needed to process my emergence back into the single life. I stopped caring what other people thought of me and remembered all the things I loved about myself that I’d let slip. I re-connected with my friends and realised how they enriched my life in a way no man ever could.
In a nutshell, it was a brilliant time. Where I expected loneliness I got liberation. Where I expected sadness there was satisfaction. I was happy, very happy.
I knew it might have been time to step back into the world of dating about five months in. I was freelancing at an office – a situation fairly unusual in my work-from-home job – and I couldn’t stop thinking about people naked. Yeah. It happened.
It was the men of the office, I hasten to add. The men of the office who would never have been my type had I not spent five months off the dating wagon. It was when I started undressing them with my non-existent x-ray vision that I knew I’d finished my man-free mission. I needed to stop, to remember what it was like to sit across from a real flesh and bone (hubba) man at a table rather than just think about one with no clothes on. I felt ready for dating in a way I never had before. Happier in my own skin and excited for what might come next.
And so I downloaded Tinder again, yet unexpectedly broke the drought on holiday in New York… no Tinder necessary. One summer fling, a lot of air miles and a parting of ways later, and I’m back in the game.
Bring on the actual real-life naked men (though perhaps not all at once).