A few years ago--two maybe--I was out with two girls on a Friday night. I knew one, but not well. And the other was connected to her. They were both just a tad younger--one year, maybe, or two? We were drinking beer and wine in the meatpacking district and we were talking about men. Things had just ended, for the first time, with the gentleman of Paris fame, and I listened as both spoke of inappropriate relationships with guys who, frankly, they deserved better from. But who was I to judge? I'd just allowed a thirty-five-year-old man to treat my twenty-seven-year-old self in a way that was far less than chivalrous. And I would go on to allow that to continue for many more months.
But listening to them, that night, I felt old. Really, really old. And culpable. I have long lamented that the men in New York City are...less than chivalrous (downright shitty, often) and it suddenly occurred to me that as women we bear much of the blame for this behavior. Because we allow it and reward it. The problem with this city is that as soon as we (women) figure this out, we're no longer the youngest woman in the bar, and there's a fresh crop of twenty-two year olds right off the proverbial boat who have yet to get the memo.
I have allowed so many things over the years that are really not okay, and I'd like to say that these days are behind me, but one never knows anything with total certainty. What I do know is that we have to do our best. Or try, at least. And mostly that means grooving in that space where honesty and generosity meet.
My friend Aneesha--who is recently single--and I were chatting about this not too long ago and she very kindly agreed to write something for this space.
New York City Isn’t Ready for My Kind of Dating
by Aneesha Kudtarkar
(one brave woman’s plea for a little bit of integrity)
I am single in the city for the first time in a long time. My last relationship lasted for 4 years. And it was exceptional. Until it wasn’t. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that I took Cheryl Strayed’s advice and was brave enough to break my own heart. I left a wonderful, decent man because a voice inside me kept telling me that I needed to go. I tried to silence that voice for a long time. But I couldn’t. And I came to realize that if I loved this man at all, I had to leave. Because he deserved to be with a woman who wanted to stay—a woman who wasn’t haunted by a tiny voice screaming, “go!”
So I went. But the thing is, after you do the thing you thought you’d never be able to do--after you are totally and completely honest with yourself--the world changes. You change. And your life starts to be governed by a different set of rules. Once you start to listen to the voice inside your head, it’s impossible to stop and go back to the way things were. Once you speak a truth that truly and utterly comes from the depths of your soul, nothing else will do. You won’t settle for less from yourself--or anyone else.
I simply no longer have the patience or the capacity, really to deal with people who use fear and insecurity as an excuse to deal in half-truths. People who behave without integrity while hiding behind a convenient litany of excuses, including, but not limited to: being busy, not wanting anything serious (more on this later), being out of town, having just gotten out of a serious relationship, having an alcoholic father, dating a pathological liar one time in high school, being in graduate school, being in medical school, being the child of an ugly divorce, failing at any number of career-related pursuits, realizing that you don’t like me, realizing that you don’t like you, realizing that this is not where you thought you’d be at this stage in your life and somehow trying to compensate for that by worshipping at the altar of cool.
All of the things that I just listed are real. They really happen to real people. And some of them are really hard things to have to endure. They’re not a reason to not return a phone call. I recognize that’s a really revolutionary thing to say. I do. And that’s why New York City isn’t ready for my kind of dating.
Because to my mind when you ask for someone’s phone number it’s because you plan to call them and ask them out. If you change your mind about that, then you should just let them know. And it’s easier than ever to let them know. There are so many ways you can communicate the following sentiment or some version of it: Hey Meg/Mike, I really enjoyed chatting with you at the bar the other night. I’m not really interested in going on a date right now, but I really glad we met and I hope you’re getting to enjoy the nice weather we’ve been having.
Some people will read that and gag a little. Some people will think that’s too obvious. That it takes the fun out of the chase. That I’m demanding too much from casual encounters. To those people I say, “I hope someday that your heart is capable of more than petty subterfuge. That it may know what it is to truly value another human being enough to not delude yourself into thinking that waiting for call that’s never coming, or being broken up with via text message, or getting a notification that Woody* liked a photo you posted on Instagram 8 months ago, but won’t accept your friend request is part of a fun game we’re all playing.” Because it’s not. Fun, I mean. It’s not a fun game. It’s a mean game and a small game and there’s no end-game.
*that’s not the real name of anyone I know
And to be clear, what I’m talking about here isn’t commitment; it’s decency. Or I guess it is a commitment--a commitment to being decent and honest and recognizing that other people’s hearts take up real-estate in the world. You shouldn’t break things off with me in person after 3 months of intimacy because you “owe me something,” but because it’s the kind thing to do in the wake of having made yourself vulnerable to me and allowing me to do the same. Simple as that. Not wanting anything serious doesn’t excuse you from being kind. In fact, in my book, almost nothing excuses you from being kind.
So, until the rest of the city catches up, I’ll be here, on my soapbox, waiting for the phone to ring.