Now the insecurity seeps in.

Hello, old friend. I think you are the Gollum to my confidence’s Smeagol.

I replay the dates I’ve had in my mind. The things I said, the jokes I made, whether I disclosed too much, whether I should have asked more poignant questions.

I think of what things I liked and didn’t like. I wonder about my feelings and whether I should have them at this point, whether it is affection or irritation, appreciation or apprehension.

What must it be like to go through life only in the present? To never revisit the past and consider how it may influence the future (or not). Even butterflies remember their past. I remember hearing of one study that tortured caterpillars and had some other stimuli during the torture. Later, when butterflies were exposed to the stimuli, they freaked the fuck out, afraid of imminent torture.

Ok, so maybe insect torment is not the best example to use when considering the nature of thought as well as tie to my dating life.

Do men experience this same type of introspection? Hell, do most other people do it, or is this simply an element of my quirkiness and anxiety?

I have not really heard from the lawyer (L) this weekend. Which is, you know, fine. Uprooting one’s life is time-consuming.

The photographer (P) and I have continued to text and have set our next date.

I told both men about Stripper Guy. It is an interesting story about the sort of men women encounter on Tinder.

I don’t recall L seeming that perturbed. He was somewhat surprised I think. I don’t know. Sometimes it felt like he wasn’t terribly interested in what I was saying. During our meal, he got up to use the restroom while I was in the middle of a story. He excused himself, but I wasn’t done with what I was saying. Given that he also took a long time in the bathroom, I felt like I wasn’t that important, at least at the beginning of the date. He later explained that he had been distracted by thoughts of how huge the move from Florida to Ohio is, but it was still a bit off-putting.

P was bothered. I think it sort of hurt his feelings because he asked if the act Stripper Guy did was after we had set our date (more on that in a bit). He also did not like how Stripper Guy treated me and, like Same Dude Different Day, does not want me to be around Stripper Guy in person (agreed).

When I noticed P’s reaction, I reassured him that I have no interest in Stripper Guy. And I honestly don’t. My thought process was “This man is crazy. If he gets fired it’s no skin off my nose. It might be interesting, so why not?” He asked me if I was tempted to report Stripper Guy to his university. I said I wasn’t because I’m not. His shittiness to me has not been of the sort that I feel requires retribution like that.

P and I weren’t and aren’t together, so it’s not like I was impinging on some sort of set boundary. But I do wonder if that was like a red flag to him. That matters to me because I really like him.

Once I’m in a relationship, other men cease to really matter (with the exception of Ewan McGregor and Rich Sommer). I disable or delete all profiles and apps. I am all in. However, I am trying not to fall into my usual trap of catching feelings and becoming so completely enamored with the other person after talking for a short bit or one date. In other words, I am attempting to do normal adult dating.

I don’t want to repeat my mistakes of the past. With my first boyfriend, I was just so blown away that a man would tell me I was pretty and that he loved me that I overlooked bright, huge, car-dealership-sized red flags and problems. Very much the same with my second boyfriend. I’d like to think that my self-confidence is a lot higher than it was years and years ago, but — as evidenced by the opening of this post — there is still work to be done.

I would love to be in a relationship; however, I really want to lay the groundwork this time. I don’t want to create a false sense of intimacy and intensity on the basis of impulsivity and/or loneliness. That’s healthy right? But I don’t know how I feel about continuing to date/flirt with other people while waiting for something to blossom with someone. Is that what people do? The existence of “we weren’t exclusive” conversations happen, usually around the time of the DTR conversation in which either exclusivity results or it doesn’t. This is, at age 30, completely new territory for me. I don’t know when I should ask about exclusivity and/or disclose that I have continued to explore my options. It is amazing that I even have options! Not all options are considered equally, though.

For example, the teacher texted me out of the blue on Sunday and, while he did his best to try to have a conversation with me before hand, he eventually turned to sex. (Him: What are you doing? Me: Watching 90 Day FiancĂ©. Him: Fun. Me: Yep. Him: I bet if I lived closer, we could have fun in different ways.). 🙄 I wasn’t into it. I don’t want to do that with him. I’d rather do it with someone who wants a relationship with me and I know the teacher doesn’t want that.

I also realize that, at some point, my life will be opened up to the person I’m dating. My life includes this blog. Having been raised in Texas, there was a strong purity culture growing up. Abstinence until marriage was highly pushed (still is – see my dissertation). Ohio doesn’t seem too terribly different in its attitudes, especially in the current political climate. I was never taught about or socialized into adult dating. I was taught that I was supposed to just wait for a man to come along, choose me, marry me, sex me, and we’d live happily ever after. Juggling was not discussed. If anything, that was something people on TV did, or that people in NY or California do. Good Texas girls didn’t do that. Playing the field was for whores and sluts. Boys can and should play the field because they should be more knowledgeable than girls about everything, especially sex. Yay internalized patriarchal messages!

I mention my blog because, should a future boyfriend read it (in that case, “Hi!”), I wonder what he will think about my dating. Will he think: Well, she is a single adult and that’s what adults do? What if he did not go on as many dates – will that cause resentment? Will he think that I am a slut because I did not wait around for him to just happen to cross my path?

I keep thinking if a scene in Trainwreck when Bill Hader’s character confronts Amy Schumer’s character about the men she has been with. He is pretty much horrified. They are fighting about other things as well, but it is still brought up.

And I’ll be honest, I like the idea of a guy being so enamored with me and the thought of wooing me and eventually dating me that he couldn’t fathom continuing to swipe on Tinder, let alone go out on dates with other women (ok, it does sound a bit creepy, but I grew up on Disney movies where a prince falls in love with a woman’s voice, and another prince stops everything in the entire kingdom to try a shoe on all the ladies – sue me). I honestly don’t like the idea of him flirting with other women and me at the same time. BUT! I sort of assume it is going on. I just try my best to deny it so that I can live with myself and not succumb to my sense of inferiority and insecurity.

Fuck. Why do I even have these concerns about a hypothetical future boyfriend judging me?

I blame Gollum.