★ ★ ★ ★


By CL Bledsoe

I used to date a lot. As they say on dating apps, I guess I was a serial dater. I might go out with 2 or 3 women a week at certain points. But there were rarely second or third dates. I would get to know a person a little bit, there wouldn’t really be a connection, and I would move on. It was exhausting. Plenty of these women were nice enough, but we didn’t share interests, or there just wasn’t a spark. Maybe I’m deluded. Maybe, at this point in the game, a spark is too much to ask for. Maybe I should’ve just settled for someone nice and stable. They weren’t always stable. 

This is not to say that I have impossible standards. At least, I don’t think I do. Someone caring, creative, funny. Someone I’m attracted to. Maybe I do have impossible standards. I’ve been in relationships with women I’m not really attracted to, and it hasn’t worked out. 

My last relationship was long distance. It lasted about a year, but the distance was too much of a strain. I want to be with someone I can see regularly. We had a lot in common. If we’d lived closer together, I could envision a long-term relationship, maybe even marriage. But it was nice while it lasted. My last relationship before that was with someone who was beautiful, charismatic, and not good to or for me. I fell for her deeply.

My daughter doesn’t like for me to date. She’s told me multiple times that she doesn’t want a stepmom. I think she envisions a Disney villain, an evil stepmom who makes her stepdaughter do chores and won’t let her go to the ball. I’ve tried explaining to her that being in a relationship makes me happy. I don’t know if that’s actually true. There’s a period at the beginning when we’re getting to know each other that used to be fun. By now, I’ve gone through it so many times I’m just waiting for it to fall apart. Then, there’s all the anxiety that comes with getting to know someone. Will they discover who I really am and not like it? What if they’re horrified by some aspect of my personality or how I live? What if they have some annoying or destructive habit I can’t live with? 

People talk about taking time to work on themselves. I’ve been doing that for years. I go to therapy every other week and have clear goals. I work on myself as well as I’m able. Some things still sneak up on me, like panic attacks over things I thought I could manage. But I try to understand why I act the way I do and think the way I do, and I try to improve. A lot of the women I’ve dated don’t do the same, and sometimes it shows. 

I’m getting older. I’m not as attractive as I used to be, not that I was ever a knockout. I’ve put on weight. I like to be in bed early. In the winter, I just want to curl up someplace warm and read. I’ve gotten cranky about things, or at least more so. It’s hard to date when I don’t want to leave the house. If I could find someone to watch TV with, I think I’d be happy. But nobody puts that on a dating profile. 

And would I be happy? That’s the thing. Dating so much didn’t make me happy. It gave me something to do. I explored new restaurants and got to do things I wouldn’t normally do. It got me out of my comfort zone. But it rarely led anywhere. The idea, I guess, is that if I could find someone to be in a relationship with, I would be happy. Some people say if you can’t be happy alone, you won’t be happy in a relationship. But if you’re happy alone, why even be in a relationship? And who is happy, really? I think that’s rare and fleeting. I think it sounds like something people say that doesn’t really mean anything. Because happiness does come from other people. It comes from drugs, too, but real happiness comes from interacting with people you care about and who care about you. Family and friends. And if you stumble into a relationship, then your partner becomes family. 

The last two relationships I had came from real life, not dating apps. And I mostly date from apps. Maybe I need to explore that a little more. Or maybe I should just go read in bed and be done with it. I feel like I’m still youngish. I feel like there’s more to life that I’m not experiencing, that would be better to experience with another person. Valentine’s Day is a reminder for many of us that our love life isn’t ideal. More importantly, the day after, there are usually sales on candy. 

I took a break from dating for the winter, because of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s just too cold out. When I do that and then get back into it, I tell myself that I should lower my standards. I should just be happy with someone who is just nice. The great romances of my life are in the past. But it’s so hard to think like that. The question becomes why bother? But my daughter is getting older, and I don’t want to be alone. 

I don’t think it’s too much to ask, someone creative, caring, and funny. I am these things. I’d be happy with two of them, maybe even one. I hate to think that this is an impossible situation. I’m hopeful that it will all turn around. I’m not going to date as much as I once did, but maybe the next date I go on will be with “the one.” Maybe that person is really out there. 

CL Bledsoe is the author of sixteen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the flash fiction collection Ray’s Sea World. His poems, stories, and nonfiction have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies including New York Quarterly, The Cimarron Review, Contrary, Story South, and The Arkansas Review. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize fifteen times, Best of the Net three times, and has had two stories selected as Notable Stories of the Year by Story South‘s Million Writers Award. Originally from a rice and catfish farm in the Mississippi River Delta area of Arkansas, Bledsoe lives with his daughter in northern Virginia. He blogs at


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