A Peek Into My Dating Life

When I got separated, I kinda thought I was done with all that. Ummm...yeah, no.

Hey!

So…I LOVED dating after my separation. Dating apps (I was on Raya, Hinge, and The League) were so fucking fun. I mean, think about it…how many video games do you play with the potential for a real-life prize at the end? And by prize I’m not even talking about meeting “the one.” I met guys who weren’t right for me, but still the whole from-screen-to-real-life trajectory was really, pretty cool. You may be thinking, “Well, clearly you never had to deal with fill-in-the-blank-situation.” But I’m going to stop you there and instead share what I think made my experience so great.

Listen, first and foremost: I entered with the right attitude. You can’t skip over this one particular point. If your vibe is low for any reason, you are going to attract low vibe people, period, end of story. There’s nothing wrong with going through a sad sack time of your life. Believe me, sister, I’ve been there. Even though I had been emotionally “done” with my marriage for years, I was still really grieving the end of our family unit, the realization that “my person” would eventually be someone else’s person… There are plenty of reasons to have hard feelings coming off a divorce…and I had a lot of hard feelings. I felt those hard feelings. In fact, at one point I was so anxious (separating during lockdown sucked!) that my friend suggested I call my internist to ask for an anti-anxiety medication. Within a few hours I had a bottle of Ativan. Interestingly, I immediately felt better after I picked it up from CVS and I never had to use it. But I still have that bottle as my insurance policy should I need it.

My point: I didn’t rush into dating after my separation because I wasn’t in a good head space. Instead, I did therapy 3x a week. Craniosacral. Energy work. Shamanic healing. Meditation. My husband and I went on an iconic relationship podcast to get that guru’s advice about how to separate as peacefully as possible (I didn’t want to be a bitter person bitching about my asshole ex-husband). I read books like the Clarity Cleanse and ate the food Dr. Habib Sadeghi (he was Gwyneth’s conscious uncoupling doc) prescribed. Yeah…sardines and brown rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner – I had never eaten a sardine, by design, but sure, happy to eat whatever. Anything to feel better. I would have eaten my own shit if he had prescribed it, but luckily, he did not! Before our session, he even told me to memorize the Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese.”  Ok! I did it. (Still not sure why but, hey, it’s a cool party trick I have up my sleeve now!) I also devoured Mark Wolynn’s easy-to-read game-changer, It Didn’t Start With You and had the privilege of a one-on-one session with him after. But before we met, Mark had this long list of uncomfortable, deeply personal questions he wanted me to ask my mother.

Full stop.

My mother?

The person with whom intimacy felt like the most dangerous thing in the world? The one whose nephew molested me, admitted it, and yet she still would say things like, “If it happened…”

I took a deep breath.

Fuuuuuck.

Okay. I needed to heal. I needed to excavate whatever the hell was going on that had kept me in a marriage for 20 years too long when I knew it wasn’t right for me. I needed to clear the pathway toward my new life, and I knew it was blocked by bags of garbage from my old life. So, I reluctantly did what he suggested. One Saturday night while I was having a solo weekend away (at my beloved Shou Sugi Ban House) while my girls were with their dad, I casually called my mom, armed with my questions: “Just called to say hi. Oh and by the way I have some questions if you have a few minutes.” 4 ½ hours later, I hung up the phone. My jaw was on the ground. She told me things about herself, her family, my father, our family. Things I never knew. Things she’d never told anyone else. Things that explained a lot. Things that made me see her totally differently. And in seeing her differently, I couldn’t help but see myself differently.

I honestly felt high. Not like on weed. I just felt so energized. My vibe had shifted.

One related sidenote: I hadn’t had sex with my husband for maybe 5 years before we separated. It wasn’t a series of “I have a headache” excuses or anything. Once I admitted to myself that I wasn’t into him sexually, I just wouldn’t have sex with him. It felt like an appropriate boundary to keep, especially for someone who had been sexually abused. I loved him like a brother and felt committed to our family. It was almost like I had taken a vow of celibacy. So a part of me assumed that the sexual chapter of my story was done. I would joke, “It’s a good thing I was such a slut when I was younger.” Bad joke, I know – I was just doing my best to make sense of the travesty of boarding up my sexuality forever. I couldn’t have guessed that somehow my relationship with sex was tangled up with this strained relationship with my mom.

After our conversation, I realized that I had subconsciously blamed her for YEARS for my own choice of marrying a man I didn’t have chemistry with. See, I spent my whole life blindly seeking her approval. And she was always so shaming about sexuality for reasons I finally understood after our big talk. So when she saw my chaste relationship with my husband, she gave “us” her big seal of approval. And girl, I wanted that seal of approval so bad. TBH, I also felt more comfortable bringing that non-sexual energy to my family. Probably because of the incest, my sexuality was attached to shame in my own psyche. Basically, sex and shame were synonymous in my family of birth. Plus, my mother loved my husband so much that when I first left him 4 years into the marriage, she literally picked him over me. She said to me verbatim, “If you leave him, no one else will ever love you.” Today, I realize she was really talking to herself. (I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say she was projecting shit on me.) But at the time, I took her words at face value. I went back to him 6 months later.

I didn’t realize how much buried resentment I’d been feeling towards her. I was blaming her for my choice of staying in a marriage that was sexually and emotionally unfulfilling. But really, I was the one making choices to make her happy instead of myself and then being mad at her for those choices. Talk about having my wires crossed! That one phone call untangled and clarified so much for me.

When I got off that call, I got into my evening bath, and like a lightning bolt just felt the intense desire to join Hinge. I hadn’t even really considered it before, but I needed it like a kid needs a popsicle on a hot summer day. That same night, I matched with the first significant guy I would go on to date (briefly but beautifully) in my post-marriage life. Listen, it bares being said that I used to run a big magazine so I’m good at interviewing. But the important thing here is when I got on that app, I was excited. I was ready. I felt energetically lighter and I was really ready to dance. 💃🏻

Another key point: Because I had unloaded as many boulders as possible from my emotional backpack (including a mother-sized one that very night!), I had no hidden agenda in dating. I’m not saying women are conciously hiding their agendas from the people they meet. But if we haven’t done the work, we don’t realize that we are often looking for partners to fill some gap we don’t even know we have. If you already feel whole, you’re not specifically looking for a husband. You’re looking for someone interesting to get to know. To have fun with. If you’re feeling energized about your job, you’re not hoping to meet a man to have economic security so you can quit. You’re looking for someone you vibe with. And above all, when you are content in your life, isn’t it just nice to meet new people? It’s okay if they aren’t a love match. It’s never a waste of time to meet someone new and learn about their background and life experiences.

Oh, and I don’t do bullshit first date talk. Ever.

I get right into it. I want to know the person. I don’t want to talk about Netflix. By the time I meet the person live, I’ve had enough back and forth on the app that I am interested in them. I don’t mean I’m necessarily interested in dating them. I’m interested in getting to know them. So that’s what I do.

Like here’s a Hinge dating story that someone else may call a nightmare.

I met a super great-looking guy (classic tall, dark and handsome – super well dressed, great job – A++ on all superficial fronts) for a walk in Central Park. Like I said, I put all my shit out there. (Don’t worry – not like a psycho – obviously it flows in the conversation.) For instance, when I tell people why I left my job in magazines, I don’t give some bullshit company line about wanting to take time off to raise my children. I always say that I was not a great wife for the first half of my marriage – that I had a lot of affairs. I say I’m an incest survivor. Basically, I am not ashamed about anything in my past and it’s important to me that whomever I’m in a relationship with (as a friend or otherwise) is not triggered by shame either. So I guess this guy was emboldened by my truths and he told me his truths: That he, too, was a survivor of incest which led to a terrible drug addiction, years spent working as a hustler and as a consequence he is HIV positive. He’d been sober for many years and was looking for a partner that was good with his own complicated history. You can imagine how some people could take this story, right? “Ugh! I have the worst luck!” Especially people who are hiding their own complex pasts behind streaming watch lists or exotic vacation tales. I just felt honored to connect in truth and meet someone who had survived so much. As handsome, successful and brave as he was, I knew his reality was just too complicated for me to manage and we were not a match. But I so enjoyed our beautiful walk, and it was really nice to have that time with him.

My point is this: If you come into the dating scene with any agenda other than excited to meet new people, I think you will be disappointed. It’s just a video game way of socializing. That’s all. I would swipe on people I was curious about. Like, not to sound superficial, but I had always wanted to date a hot construction worker…and I went on a date with one. He was not only hot, but so, so nice. Excited to say he is still my friend. In fact, there’s no one I went out with who I wouldn’t call a friend to this day. Because I had every conversation as my full self. I never played games. And I was genuinely excited to meet everyone I met and was grateful afterward. The Bear was my fifth date on Hinge and during our 6 month hiatus, I was back on the app scene and met two more wonderful men I enjoyed and today consider my friends.

And that’s what I have to offer you. Before you look for a partner on an app or otherwise, make sure you’re the partner that will attract the kind of guy you want. Make sure you’re not carrying around big resentments or a suitcase full of grief. There’s nothing wrong with having either of those. But take all that time you would put toward mindlessly swiping or hoping for Prince Charming to flash across your phone to tend to your own garden. Because if you’re feeling amazing…truly feeling amazing about yourself (not forcing yourself to look in the mirror and say affirmations you don’t believe) and your garden is well-watered and deliciously lush? The real fun can begin. Like attracts like. You just have to be honest with yourself about where you’re at and the sure-fire sign that you’re not?  Earth School doesn’t lie. If you’re attracting the wrong kind of guys or you’re feeling really disappointed and frustrated by the apps? Believe what that is reflecting back to you. You need a time out from dating to take care of your number one girl: Yourself.

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Email me or jump on the dating thread on my Substack if you want to tell me what you’re specifically experiencing and I will take my best stab at being helpful if I can. You know where I am, 24/7, as always, atoosa@atoosa.com.

xo, atoosa

The soundtrack of my 🤍🖤❤️: