I have the yips.
According to the Urban Dictionary, the yips "is a set of conditions associated with having your nerves badly rattled." While this is a term that is commonly associated with sports, combat or drug use, I am applying it to dating. I have the yips when it comes to the people I date, have crushes on or even just interact with. My friend MG is the person who first diagnosed my yips, and it got me thinking - I am stuck on stupid when it comes to dating.
I haven't always been this way. While I haven't always made the best choices, I used to be able to tell if someone liked me, if he wanted to date me, and although I've never been one to make the first move, I was still able to approach guys, or at least be approachable. Ah, youth.
I had my first boyfriend when I was 13 - actually, we decided to be boyfriend/girlfriend on my 13th birthday (not to be confused with my first kiss) and we dated for two whole weeks. In that time I think we spoke on the phone three times, passed a dozen notes and he walked me to the school bus. We quickly lost interest in each other and moved on with very little fanfare. There were a few other boyfriends in-between him and my first puppy love, Jason*.
Jason and I dated from mid-eighth grade until mid-ninth grade. I was crazy for him and he was the same for me. We would spend hours and hours on the phone; we held hands at school and passed notes to each other all day. He bought me really thoughtful gifts for birthdays and anniversaries (you know, one month, two months, etc), and we were very much in love... then we started high school. High school was a brand new world of guys. Older guys, guys from other middle schools, guys who were interested in me and I was interested in them. At the same time, Jason was noticing other girls. We broke up and while I was pretty heartbroken, I got over it. I dated again...and again...and again. I always had boyfriends or crushes when I was in high school, guys I thought I loved or just liked a lot... then I met my first real love. When we met, it felt like I was hit by a lightning bolt. Instant, white-hot, burning lightning. We were together for years.
Obviously, the relationship didn't last, and once again, I was heartbroken, but I was also older, and age has a way of changing a person. Along with having to dye my roots and noticing wrinkles on my eyelids (I swear, I have wrinkles on my eyelids!), I am no longer so free when it comes to liking someone, I'm pretty closed off and I have no idea anymore when someone likes me. The yips have completely thrown off my game and I have no idea how to date.
This isn't all my fault. While I have definitely become more guarded, I have noticed that my male counterparts aren't so open either. The following is a completely un-scientific observation about men at different ages:
The Fresh 20's:
Men are still free and finding themselves. Some of them are in college or trying out different jobs. They take awesome road trips with their buddies and frequent strip clubs.. They have big dreams and a vision for their lives. They get into a few serious relationships at this age...
The Loss of Innocence - Ages 29 - 35:
If he is still single, then he is damaged. He had two or three really serious relationships in his 20's and they left him jaded and while he wants to date again, he keeps up the wall he built. His buddies are married or in relationships and he either resorts to hanging out with people who are much younger than him or with his married friends. He is always being set up and has tried all the internet dating sites.
Screw it, he says - Ages 35 - 42:
In this age group, men have worked through their jaded feelings and are open again. Things that seemed to matter in their early 30's aren't as important anymore. They are a little more open but hard to find, because there are very few of them. These men are a risk because they are set in their ways, may have kids that are out of the baby stage and may not want to start again (I want babies of my own).
Like I said, there is nothing scientific about this, it's just a personal observation. The worst thing about dating in my early 30's are the men in their early 30's. More often than not, I date men who love my company, they want to be around me, want to hang out with me, some want to be physical with me but when it comes to being in a committed relationship, they freak out and play the "I've been hurt and I'm scared" card. Andrea of a year ago used to sit patiently and wait for him to come around. Andrea of six months ago would have done everything to show him she was was different from all the other girls, and then would have waited patiently for him to come around. Andrea of today has no patience for the jaded guys who send mixed signals, mainly because I'm pretty sure I've dated all of them.
The one who takes the cake for mixed signals is Astro Boy (also known as John* from the Kissing blog). Astro Boy and I dated just a year ago (winter of 2010) and he made it very clear that he did not want a relationship, but he and I were together nearly every day. We ate dinner together every night, cooked together, spent Valentine's Day together, I went with him to buy a TV, he met all my friends, he went to poetry readings and I went to his pick-up basketball games. We were, for all intents and purposes, in a relationship. I was just waiting for him to say those three little words: be my girlfriend.
Astro Boy and I broke up when he, once again, changed plans on me at the last second and left me hanging. That was the thing with him - because he had no real tie to me, he didn't have to come through when I needed him to. He played the jaded card with me, and I waited and waited for him to come around, to say that yes, I was his girl. After four months of the game, I figured out that he wasn't going to come around, so it was time to move on. The messed up part of all of this is that my radar is completely messed up as a result, because while it seemed like he liked me and wanted me to be his girlfriend, he was constantly saying something else. Astro Boy isn't the only person who has pulled this trick on me, but he was the last one who successfully kept me around for so long. LA Guy pulled the same card on me this summer, and it was over shortly thereafter.
I shouldn't have to figure out if someone likes me. At this point, a guy would have to spell it out for me: I like you, I want to be with you. Anything else to me is just mixed signals and a bunch of crap. The minute I hear the words "I've been hurt/I'm jaded/I can't give" I either run or move that person into the "friend" column. Either he wants to be with me or he doesn't, but being someone's pseudo-girlfriend is boring. I'd rather be friends and keep my eyes -and my options- open.
I'm happy to report that just this past Saturday, I saw a guy I was attracted to, and after some prompting from my friend Ch, I walked up to him, introduced myself to him and handed him my card - then I walked away because I was afraid I was going to begin stammering or say something crazy. He called me that night and unfortunately, he has a girlfriend, but wanted to let me know that he took it as a huge compliment that I did that. Disappointing, yes, but it feels like progress. I feel like I'm getting over the yips and even though nothing is going to happen with him, it was nice to feel that boost. As my friend J. said, "we live in a world where no one connects and look at you, you made a connection with someone, even if it was just for a short while."
I truly believe that when it's right, I'll know, and there won't be any mixed signals, games or excuses. We'll just be.
Next time: Feeding the Puppy
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent