It had almost been three years since I’d left Mike and, with the exception of one other person, I never thought to date. Being single, being alone, was safe. My goal in therapy was to become self-sufficient and reduce the symptoms of PTSD so they’d be manageable. Staying solo was the technique I chose. Although I think it helped quite a bit, it also gave me one hell of an anxiety issue. I had removed myself from the dating scene for a significant portion of my late-twenties. How the hell was I supposed to know what dating looked like now? My last attempt royally failed. Why should this be any different?
As you can imagine, thoughts ran in a loop. Replayed non-stop, it was hard to let Joey have a chance.
So, I stopped leading conversations (although I would respond when he called/text). I was convinced he only wanted to sleep with me once, just like James. I was convinced he’d be abusive, just like Mike. I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would be the girl who would end up single for the rest of her life, so I shouldn’t even try to date. Yes, even though he’d shown no hint of any of it, I knew I was in for trouble.
Not only did I fear Joey and who he truly was (unknown), but I also feared that when he found out the truth of my past, he would find me unlovable. Loving a survivor of abuse must be incredibly difficult and, technically, we were still young enough to find anyone else, so I convinced myself that him knowing about my abuse would be the end of his pursuit of me.
One night, after about a week of dodging Joey’s requests, I sent him a link to a post I wrote (that was picked up by The Good Men Project). In a Facebook message, I said, “Just so you know who you’re truly up against,” giving him enough ammunition to walk away without anyone’s feelings getting hurt, especially since one of the five points I made in my writing was that I wasn’t ready to date.
In true Joey form, he continued his pursuit with patient, soft words. Joey was very apologetic and understanding in his response. While I can’t remember the exact words he used, it became very evident he didn’t realize I wrote the piece, so I mentioned to him that Sarafina Bianco and the blog, Future4fina, were my secret hiding name and place on the Internet.
J: “Holy shit. You wrote that? Wow you’re talented. Really? That was you?”
Me: “And broken.”
J: “Everyone has a story, Fina. I’m not perfect. Nobody is. You’re not broken, just scared. I understand that.”
Me: “You’ve probably dated in the last three years though. I haven’t. I don’t think I know how to do it.”
J: “Well, you’ll have to relearn. How about you let me take you out and we can go from there?”
The fact that he complimented my writing was nice. It was also nice that he didn’t speak to me like I was broken. Even though I was playing mind games with myself and really attempting to convince him that we shouldn’t date, he made it incredibly easy to forget how incredibly sad I had been for as long as I could remember. It wasn’t his pursuit or flirtatious behavior that spoke to me, but his understanding and unwillingness to judge me for where I’d been. Without even thinking about it, I was about to do the exact opposite of what I’d set out to do.
Me: “I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to take this to the public domain yet, but I know I’ve said ‘no’ a lot lately. How about you come see my place and make me dinner here? I can be your sous chef?”
Two days later, Joey showed up at my front door with grocery bags full of food items. He presented me with flowers at the door, and then once we got upstairs and he met Huckleberry, he presented him with a bag of treats and a toy. Finally, he’d gone the extra mile with a bottle of my favorite wine and a carton of ice cream. Joey joked that the ice cream was for after our non-public date, in case it was terrible enough that I needed to over-indulge.
But as you’ll find out next time, friends, I didn’t need that ice cream.
Cue the theme music!