The time came for a third date. I shriveled up, all the gates inside me locking one after the other. This one is not coming in. He would fail just like the short line-up before him.
The truth was I wanted a real romance. I wanted to be asked months, maybe years, down the line about how we met and have an interesting story to tell. This, on the other hand, was a compromise, life’s way of showing me broken things, imperfect things, mundane things even. For years, I’ve been in this battle with life but I sensed that, with this guy, it was about time I unlearned the fight.
As I sat through the work day at the office, a war was waged in my head about my “childhood patterns”, my “Freudian tendencies”, my depraved 20’s etc. I didn’t start dating until very late in my life. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, in a religious society that forbade dating. The only chance I was permitted to engage with a gentleman in a way that was close to romantic was in my parents’ “parlor” in the presence of my father, right after said gentleman proposed.
As a teen, I was under the constant watch of my mother’s dictatorship. I never dared to toe the line and go out with anyone until very late in my life. I remember a time when I was about fifteen and my mother caught me chatting with a guy friend of mine, outside, during a family beach vacation. We were both roiling in our hormonal excitement. My body was tingling as we whispered to each other. Our conversation was only an excuse to celebrate being alive at this luscious time as I became a woman and he became a man. Then, my mother’s voice cut through the night. It still rings in my ears, yelling my name lividly, like the fall of a guillotine blade. I never dared to be alone with the male species again. Until I was about 26 years old.
Now this gentleman I was dating was lovely. He was caring and tender and he had shown me, in a matter of two dates, that he might possibly be marriage material. He was sane. He was available. He shared many of the outlandish values that I had. It sounded like he had a lovely family. He was not Mr. Handsome but not bad looking. He liked to dance and try something new every week. But he did not stir my juices. I had had beautiful meaningful experiences with a few others before him but they were never there to stay. It made me confused and frustrated with the universe for sending me half-baked opportunities, either sunken ships or men who were great on paper but with whom I felt very little desire.
After chewing up and grinding this contradictory situation in my mind all day at work, I came back feeling fatigued. The mental rut I was in had me revving back and forth, fighting to get out.
Then, after watching episode after episode of Dharma and Greg, sobbing over their beautiful relationship, and eating every possible snackable thing in my fridge, I felt guided to toward a time-old method of healing. I slipped into a hot bath.
The bath is often a form of prayer to me where I surrender my hurts and doubts into the water. As the heat penetrated my skin, I began to speak to God/Goddess or the Universe. Soon the words merged into feelings and I rocked in silence.
Having immersed myself in the water and in the cave-like darkness of the candlelit bathroom, I began to unravel the truth. Sobs escaped me from a place deeper than sadness, deeper than anger or even joy. I realized that my wasted adolescence needed a voice. All the boyfriends I could have had, the kisses I could have experienced. The sex. My body was crying to be touched. My femininity was in pain for having not been allowed to live and express itself, even now as my dating life was taking flight. Growing up, I was told how to look feminine, yes. I was encouraged to be beautiful, of course. I was told I would do whatever I pleased with my someday-husband. But, in the past 17 years, since I became a teen, I was confined within myself, my femininity barred from truly coming out and exploring itself, or manifesting. I felt myself becoming rigid and overly cautious. I felt barren inside a tough shell that just wouldn’t break. And it hurt! My sobs came from a primitive place, the place that needed release. And I let myself cry until that strained depravation that hung around my skin dropped and there was more room in my lungs to breathe. The shell became gel-like, then liquid, then air, then nothing at all.
I need to be. I need to unfold. I’ve been in the ground for too long, my femininity said to me. And when it was spent, the spiritual purging completed, I sat back in the water and found myself floating in a cocoon of love. Self-love. My heart burst with a thrill that reached all the way up to the crown of my head.
I realized that it didn’t matter about the second or third or even fourth date. It was not about the outcome. It was about exploration and flow. I was a grown woman. No one was going to force me to marry this guy or even to be in a long-term relationship with him if I didn’t want to. There were no rules. Maybe desire would sneak in through the back door this time. Maybe it wouldn’t. Did that mean that I would forever be a parched female, strung to her religious past? Could I trust the process of life? After all, part of being in the feminine space was allowing things to flow, to come as they are and be open and curious.
So for our next dinner date together, I decided I might be in the mood for steak.
Featured Photo Credit: Love by Johnny Lai on Flickr