Hello. My name is Emily. And I’m a serial dater.
“Serial dater?” you may be asking yourself. “What in the what is a serial dater?”
Well, a serial dater is essentially a person who is addicted to relationships. All of the crap that comes with dating someone — the initial chemistry, the morning sex, the fights for blankets, the buying of Christmas presents, the driving to the airport, the meeting of the parents, the lusting after others, the fighting over commitment issues, the breaking up, the making up, the breaking up again — all of it gives us purpose in our lives. We can’t stop caring for people, no matter how lost they are, because we’re awesome at it and it makes us feel high. We’re the kind of people who look at a 20-something alcoholic with an I-will-destroy-you glint in his eye and say, “I could work with that — he seems like a great guy.”
It’s dangerous, stifling, invigorating, messy, gooey, garish, hideous, lovely. It’s a trip. It’s a sickness.
So far, I’ve got my eight-month chip for singleness — which I define as staying out of monogamous relationships. Many of you may be thinking, “Big whoop, lady, that’s nothing.” However, it’s not nothing to me. Since I started dating at age 14, I was never out of a relationship for longer than three weeks, until now. And being single for the first time since I hit puberty was both fascinating and as difficult as trying to recite the alphabet backwards … in Sanskrit … with marbles in my mouth.
Of course, the biggest adjustment was loneliness. I didn’t like the idea of coming home to myself. After a day that made me feel small, I couldn’t sit in my bed with my head in someone’s lap. I learned to cook for one like the divorcees in romantic dramas do, using only handfuls of pasta and half an onion. I missed intimacy — sexual and otherwise. But I got myself excited about dipping into the world of more casual contact, propelled by the revolving doors of flirtation.
Singleness makes everyone a suspect for future coitus. At parties, I was eager to mingle with the rolling bodies, giggling and grazing forearms. On the bus ride to North Campus, attractive strangers would make eye contact with me as I gauged their interest and imagined them with their clothes off. Buses had never felt so sexy, and neither had I.
Over the next couple of months, I fell in and out of beds. Every weekend the possibilities seemed infinite and I’d even tidy up my room before going out in case I brought someone home. I hooked up with a range of people, from a 26-year-old gardener to a young poet from Marquette. I doubled the number of people I’ve slept with and had some pretty bad sex.
In the beginning it was exhilarating, but after a while all that fornication felt stagnant and empty. I never stopped craving the closeness I’d become accustomed to all of those years, and I caught myself relapsing into my old ways a couple times. I’d sleep with someone and imagine “being” with them, no matter how little we had in common or how broken they were. But, unlike before this whole single experiment, now I hear myself whispering, “And how long have you felt depressed?” to a near stranger on the pillow next to me and an “Eject Immediately” siren sounds in my brain.
Any good quiz in Cosmo will tell you that singleness forces personal growth, and the cliché is as true for me as anyone else. I realized that I will always get invested in the lives of people I sleep with, so after seeing what the world has to offer, I’ve become more selective with my romantic entanglements.
It turns out that the problem with serial dating isn’t the dating itself, but rather the absence of choice that comes with a constant stream of lovers. If you open yourself up to anyone who comes along, all kinds of losers are bound to come in with the tide. This will probably sound like old news to most of you, but some of us have to learn to be picky. Instead of jumping into bed or a relationship with any warm body that comes along, I’ve started to think more critically about what I want in a partner. All people need love in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I have to be the one to give it to them.
Emily Pittinos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.