Just ask.

I am willing to admit that I’m not one to pick up on signals very quickly. I can be pretty dense sometimes, a little slow on the uptake you might say, but I also like to believe that I can generally read people pretty well. I can get a feeling, pick up on a “vibe”, read a room. I’ve made it through various relationships this long, making more than a few friends and having a few love relationships along the way…

I can’t be completely clueless, can I?

I am now wading into the dating pool, arm floaties securely fastened, and realizing that the rules have changed considerably since my last dating experience back in the 90’s. Not to mention that I have changed as well, I am both older and wiser, for better or worse.

I have no real idea how to navigate this new world, nor any idea what is truly expected of me as a divorced middle-aged woman with three kids. How to interpret the signals being thrown or texted my way can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.

I actually possess the superpower for getting the detailed life story out of a complete stranger during a half hour bus ride, or a short flight to Florida, complete with names, dates and photos. Or more recently, to hear the long and harrowing story of someone’s journey, from their hospital death bed suffering from debilitating alcoholism to sobriety and the ending of an unhealthy very long term relationship…all before the first date.

I wish I was making this up…I may be an empath like no other you have encountered.

You would most likely assume that this ‘superpower’ would be a gift to my dating experience, that I would be able to draw out the real story going on in someone’s head and know what their intentions or expectations might be.

It doesn’t work that way.

This hasn’t stopped me from trying to understand the male psyche, or from believing in the dating process overall, thankfully. I want to believe that I will eventually meet a “normal” person, someone that shares some of the same interests, has similar life experiences, world views and most definitely has a sense of humor. And maybe, fingers crossed, someone who can hold back from telling me the story of the ugly underbelly of their past, at least until the second or third date?

Is that really too much to ask?

On the other hand, I don’t want someone to hold back so much that I have no idea where they stand or what they’re thinking. I don’t have enough hours in the day, or braincells to spare, to decipher the code that they may be using. I definitely did not get the Cliff notes or cheat sheet, and YouTube videos can only help me so much.

Which brings me to my latest dating dilemma.

After a few dates with a guy that I think checks most of the important boxes so far, and an intensely wonderful “intimate experience”, I received a text telling me not to be alarmed but he had deleted his profile from the app that we met on. So if I don’t see him there that’s why.

Hmmmm…

Okay…what’s the logical or expected response to this sharing of information? My first instinct is “oh, are we exclusive now?” followed by “do I want that or don’t I? Isn’t it a bit soon? I’ve only just started dating again a few weeks ago…” followed again by “that would be nice though, I think we connect in many ways and I really enjoy being with him, and it would be nice to focus on one person at a time…but maybe that’s not what he meant?”

This entire conversation is happening in my head, all while the little text dots blink in my hand after the one letter I began to type before I got into my own head, letting him know that I am responding…eventually…

Hmmmm…

What do I do when I am lost or have no idea how to respond to a new challenge or situation? I study, I research, I increase my knowledge any way possible. Hello Google and YouTube, my teachers of life’s ways! (How do you think I got through my divorce?)

But I hadn’t studied for this challenge! Pop quizzes suck.

So I deflected, like a pro (maybe?) Or more truthfully, panicked. My response was vaguely non-committal, but not off-putting – at least I thought so. Something along the lines of “oh, well I haven’t really been on the app in awhile, so I wouldn’t have really noticed.” followed by “As long as you’re still talking to me, I don’t care where you are online :)”

Ugh.

So not the right thing to send back – I know now. Our texting cooled down slowly from there, from “good morning, gorgeous” and “good morning sexy” to just “good morning”. He then rescheduled our lunch…which eventually lead to texting silence…for a week.

Ugh.

There should be a class for people new to online dating that have been living a sheltered, married life for the last decade or two. Give me a fighting chance, for godssakes, or at least a study guide.

I would definitely use it, and do the extra credit assignments. I’m a good student.

So after much online studying, boring my friends with my high school-esque worry, and watching more than a few YouTube videos (thank you Matthew Hussey and Ryan Patrick) I sent out the “text that will bring him back”.

And it did.

I went from a drought to trying to drink from a fire hose. Who knew??

Not me, that’s for sure.

Lesson learned? So many, and really not just for me if we’re being honest. I think we can all take a moment to reflect here – allow me to share my newly acquired knowledge with the world.

While it’s great that I am willing to Google my ass off to figure out the secret message, I really shouldn’t have to, should I? I should be a grown ass woman and just ask what he means – nicely, of course. That would be the well-adjusted way to approach a new relationship, and a much easier way to get the information I definitely need to take the next step in either direction.

But if I may be so bold as to pass along a bit of wisdom, to the male population in the dating pool, if you want something…please, just ask.

Just like you, women are not mind-readers. Hard to believe, I know.

Plus we are conditioned, from a very early age, to save your ego in just about any and all situations (at least the population of women over the age of 40) So we will most likely hold back a bit, and wait for you to spell it out, instead of risking the idea that we are being “pushy” or “trying to nail you down”. We are supposed to be pursued, as archaic as that all sounds, but again referring back to my YouTube experience with current dating coaches, they are still adhering to this idea of male pursuit and they are young – much younger than me, for sure.

Instead of sharing your most vulnerable life story with me, complete with details of the abduction and ransom scheme, tell me what you’re really feeling and ask me the questions that are spinning around in the back of your brain.

Don’t pull away. Don’t go radio silent.

Just ask.

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