My very first date in New York was a stupidly picturesque experience. It was the pleasant end of summer easing into autumn, and I ceremoniously put on a white summer dress I knew the season would soon not permit. If everything must be a metaphor, that dress was the innocence and naivety with which I looked at my life and New York at that point in time: everything marveled and electrified me, and I took great pleasure in being able to just walk the blocks of the upper west side, step by step, and breathe in (the not quite so fresh) air. I approached the bar, and the date, with a thousand preconceptions about the love — story I was on my way to writing — with the city, with a partner, with my college, my job…everything was surrounded by that infamous “blue light,” a kind of rapture, and I wanted, completely and utterly, to be caught up in and by it.
We met at a small wine bar with pleasant décor, and found ourselves chatting over three hours about all the uncanny things we had in common, from the intellectual to the culinary, from the worldly to the very local things our similar backgrounds took great comfort in. Glass after glass of wine, this notion of us “being on the same page” seemed to transpire. After several acceptable topics, we finally made it the one we’re all really interested in — romantic experiences and expectations, before, now, and looking forward. When I told him that he was, in fact, my very first date in New York, he smiled at me (rather handsomely) and said, “I have to warn you, the rest won’t be as good as this.” We discussed that premise in some detail, but the whole conversation was flirt. I had made plans for the evening and so I ended the date as late as I could reasonably manage, and we said goodbye and agreed to see each other again. It really was, looking now 8 months past, a truly great date.
I never heard from him again.
I think about that statement of his often, sometimes coyly, sometimes seriously. What he meant, of course, was intended as a compliment — but in some ways he was very mistaken, and in other parts, extremely astute. Now that I’ve been here some time and have dated (or been on dates with) a considerable spectrum, in many ways I can see he was right — yet horribly, horribly wrong. I don’t think I’ve had a date quite that good since — but I’m not entirely sure I want to.
I’ve toyed with the notion of people being “irreplaceable” throughout my life, because it didn’t quite seem to “fit.” Several years ago, I made the decision to accept personal responsibility for my life as I came to realize that my feelings, perceptions and experiences were just that — mine. I stopped trying to blame people for causing my emotions, and started introspecting on what these people, as catalysts, meant about where I was at in my life. What I learned was that, sure, some people were borderline sadistic — but getting caught up in their intensity, allowing their manipulation over your desire to be malleable for them — those were always your call. And you did, no matter how difficult it may have been, have a choice. It distills to a “weighing of options” — implying that, people are in fact substitutable.
I came to New York believing, even if only weakly, in monogamy, but now I’ve grown to see monogamy as a choice rather than an inevitable path. On that very first date, I wanted to feel my place and compatibility in this city over a longer period of time — and for the span of my date, I felt that very deeply. But now I don’t need a partner to make me feel that — I no longer seek others to validate my living here, I choose to live and enjoy every second of it as I can. I replaced the feeling that date gave me with my own peace of mind — and then I moved on.
What have I moved on to? Excellent question. I suppose filling other needs, which are not so original. Beyond a sexual gratification, I think I am very much filling a sensual need — the expression of my femininity and perceived beauty through my interactions with those who appreciate it. It doesn’t need to be particularly long or even completely sexual, but as my time in this city continues…love interests grow into mirrors of my expression of my changing femininity. And those people are, by the nature of female — male interactions, completely replaceable. Which isn’t to say that I don’t get disappointed when something doesn’t work out…it just doesn’t seem to matter for very long, before the need they were accommodating to my psyche is quickly found elsewhere.
I used to see my eccentricity as a form of self-expression that made me irreplaceable, and therefore vital to my relationships with others. I now see such behaviors as completely selfish and insecure — I don’t need to be the full expression of myself in order to fully be me. I don’t need to function at a super high intensity in order to feel a hyper-connection: a nice conversation and date is good enough. Is that settling? No. It’s comfort with what it is, and not what it could be in some “unique” or “enlightened” state.
Two years ago, I had a relationship that made the colors of my world blossom and then instantly crumble, a partner with whom our mutual need to feel and be loved overpowered our actual notions of ourselves and each other. I would reach out to him, in my full rawness, desperate for him to accept and love me in that rare state — and on the days when he reciprocated, I felt a deepness in meaning I have never felt before. But when he wouldn’t, and he’d crawl away into himself and his shell — I could not have felt more invalidated as a human being, less unworthy of love at my level of intensity. I spent some time so scared to lose him, from fear of not being able to replace that connection to unsustainably high frequencies of function. Until, I finally cut it sharply and swiftly, and accepted that the pain would be, and would pass. Within 24 hours, a long lost love story resurfaced — and that pain, never was in its full entirety. But what I had needed from him — that feminine affirmation — was entirely replaced.
I don’t know if this is the cynic in me (that New York has drawn out), or if this is what all those years of not being able to accept uniqueness and irreplaceability of people was leading to. People are irreplaceable in terms of the times and places in which you meet them — those combinations of circumstances are rare, and produce experiences and emotions that are not entirely replicable. But is that even the point? You can have a great or bad experience, date, affair, friendship, job, holiday…they can’t, in a metaphysical sense, be replaced. But they can be built on, in ways that enrich and improve on that experience.
My date was right about how uniquely fitting the chemistry was on that night — but I’m not sure I’d want that chemistry again. In my white dress, I felt like I was walking on clouds…now I’ve walked the snow — piled streets of New York in serious heels, and not broken my ankles or looked (completely) awkward doing it. And in that sense, the dates I go on now are better — because they’re given me that kiss ass feeling when you know you could get a guy to do anything you asked in a given moment, yet you end the date walking away knowing you can do it all yourself.