I've heard these words, or some variation thereof, countless times in the past week.
When I said we had a date planned, and that I was excited about it;
When the date was over and I was reeling from how well it went;
When I mentioned that we had date #2 planned;
Ditto for date #3;
When I said, out loud, that I like him;
When I mentioned that we have plans for Friday and Saturday nights this weekend.
Whatever my comment, the response is the same: Be careful.
Be careful. Instead of Wow, that's great! Enjoy yourself! It's about time! or You deserve it.
While trying to saturate in the giddiness that a new suitor brings, I'm being bogged down by warnings. Cautionary words fall from the lips of my friends and his family, sucking the wind right out of my possibly over-inflated sails. I don't want to bring up this name for fear that I'll get another reminder to stay guarded. I don't want to talk about what we did or what we have planned for the same reason. But I'm too excited to keep my mouth shut. And the price I pay for vocalizing the thrill I've been feeling is having to bow to constant counsel:
But I understand why they worry. Many of my friends and my whole family witnessed the aftermath of my last relationship. They saw me cry, and then they heard me bitch and moan about being single. So I know what they're worried about: They're worried I'll latch onto the first decent candidate. That I'll be crushed, that I'm jumping right into the deep end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and my date was only looking to run through the sprinklers. I know they have my best interests at heart. They see me all googly-eyed over a tall and dashing man, who happens also to be smart and funny and makes me feel just delightful, and they worry.
Of course they do. I wouldn't love them if they didn't.
But I'm not in love. I'm not filling up blank notebook pages practicing my signature with my first name and his last, and wondering when he's going to pop the question. I'm not sitting at my desk during the day, staring into space and willing the phone to ring. I'm not even looking beyond August yet. Because I know myself. I know how much I love to swim in the deep end. I know it's easy for me to get ahead of myself. So I'm watching it. I am being careful.
But the fervor with which those around me demand caution implies that I should have mile-high walls built around me, that everything he says should be discarded as a very loose interpretation of the truth. Their incessant instructions to be careful seem to mandate that I keep myself closed-off, that I lay low, that I "make him want" me. And I wish I were hard enough to do that. I wish that my broken engagement and my mind-fuck of a last relationship would've made me weary enough of love and dating and relationships to make me keep everyone at arm's length. But it just hasn't.
And since it hasn't, I'm advised to play games. To lie and say that I'm busy when he asks if I'm free, to let the phone go unanswered when he calls, even if I do happen to be right there, to "forget" to call him back. And I think, why bother? Why. Fucking. Bother? Why waste my time figuring out the delicate balance between aloof and uninterested? Why not just come out with it: I like you, you like me. Why bow and curtsey and ring-around-the-rosie and plot and plan and make my moves based on moves I think he's making?
"You move too fast - Three dates in one weekend? Slow down, get to know him first. Get to know what he wants out of life." Oh yeah? But how am I supposed to do that when I'm busy NOT calling him back because I want to give the impression that I could care less? How am I supposed to get to know him - or let him get to know me - when I'm wrapped up in NOT being myself? Because not returning calls, not going out because I don't want to seem "desperate" is not me. I've tried to play that game before, and I can't. I can't even play it when I don't like someone - I'm too nice for that.
And what it comes down to is that I have too many people involved. This is why I don't talk about my life of the goings-on therein. Because my ears overflow with advice. It's almost as if I'm not allowed to be happy in the moment: No, Laurie, don't enjoy yourself - Plan for the fallout. Live your life like you're terrified of being hurt. Try to trick him into liking you by acting like you don't like him. Men love that. Don't dance like no one's watching, dance like you're on a live fucking national broadcast.
But all I want to do is enjoy this, however long it may last. I want to enjoy the smile I can't help when his name illuminates my cell phone. I want to enjoy looking forward to his call. I want to enjoy hearing him laugh at something I've said. I want to enjoy when he kisses me for no reason whatsoever. I want to enjoy hand holding and shared dinners and compliments. And I don't want to read into any of it.
And it's quite possible that I will look back later and think "I should've listened," or "maybe I should've played those games." But I'd rather be looking back thinking I should've been more careful than thinking I wish I would've enjoyed it.