My younger (and married) sister texted me the other day: "You and K want to go bowling tonight?" I responded back, "We weren't planning on hanging out, but I'll ask." K's answer? "I have a project to work on."
His response wasn't unexpected. Nor was it disappointing to me. We have a relationship schedule. We hang out on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. There is rarely any deviation, unless there's a holiday or special event, and we plan for it in advance, along with adjustments made further along in the calendar to compensate. We don't do spontaneous.
You see Kipling and I are in our late 30's. And dating in your late 30's is boring.
I want to clarify something up front: I adore Kipling and he is not boring. He's interesting, handsome, kind, funny, smart, caring and I really enjoy spending time with him. Plus, bonus British accent! I think he'd probably say the same things about me, minus the accent thing. We share similar interests, we like the same movies and books, we're both silly and funny. We have stimulating conversations and are curious self-educators. We are not boring people. We just have a boring relationship.
Kipling and I are adult people with adult responsibilities. I own my own business and also work a full-time job. I do freelance work, too. I go to the gym religiously 5 days a week. I walk my dogs every single day. I make dinner, I grocery shop, I do laundry and I clean my bathroom. In the summer I do yard work and in the winter I shovel the snow off the walk. I have parents and siblings, which means I have family obligations. Kipling is a grad student and a teacher. He is diligently working on a novel. He goes to the gym, does his own laundry, feeds himself, and to a lesser extent than I, maintains his living space. Neither of us have much disposable income and I rarely get more than a couple days off at a time so leisure time involves planning and realistically, not more than an evening at a time.
Our first date involved meeting for drinks, and then going to another place for more drinks. We closed that place down, too, and then sat in my car and talked until 3 am. We were doing that getting to know each other thing where you can't get enough, you want to know everything and share everything and you're having such a great time and it's so exciting. I did a lot of that in my 20's. And some in my 30's. But, once was enough for 38. Within a week we'd agreed upon a practical schedule and have proceeded along getting to know each other at an even, non-hurried pace. Cook dinner together, have a glass of wine, clean up, watch a show, go to bed by 10. We don't need to stay up all night and find out everything, we have to get up early, we can always talk tomorrow. Or the next day. I used to feel a great deal of urgency about my relationships - there was a lot of falling hard and fast, moving in soon, spending time together 24/7. It was a relationship race. I feel no such urgency at 38. If it happens, it happens. If it works, it works.
As you can imagine, I've been the recipient of a lot of dating advice over the years. After my second live-in attempt it was suggested to me that I should live alone for awhile. Get comfortable with myself and my own space. And I did. The only thing is now I'm accustomed to it. I love living alone and being alone. I relish making something delicious for dinner and watching baseball or Dancing with the Stars, alone. I'm perfectly content to spend the day puttering around my house, my neighborhood, ear buds in my ears listening to a WTF or Ronna & Beverly, alone. There was a time in my life when I couldn't imagine watching a movie or going out to dinner by myself, God forbid on a Saturday night, without my boyfriend, but now, I like it, and not even just kinda. Nothing against Kipling - I'm just my own best company - even on a Saturday night.
Logistically the possibility of novelty wanes as we age. In my early relationships everything was a novelty and added excitement even to the mundane. It was fun to go to the grocery together, to play house, to watch the stars from the roof, to have coffee together. But now I've been a lot of places, I've done a lot of things, I've been in (more than my share) of relationships and dating situations. Nothing seems like a novelty. The one time Kipling and I went to the grocery store together we got separated, and he didn't have his phone, and then he did the one thing you're not supposed to do when you get lost, which is leave the place you're lost in, and 30 minutes later I was in a white hot rage and it wasn't a novelty at all, just really fucking annoying. It's really just better if I go by myself.
Even the terms of endearment, the nicknames aren't novel anymore. Kipling calls me Babes, which is also what my last two boyfriends called me. Whatevs. It's no thing. Except it's sort of boring.
In a couple of weeks, Kipling will leave for a conference in New York. A week later, he'll return for one day, and then leave for a month longer. There was a time in my life where this would have left me paralyzed with fear: would we survive the distance? Would he call me every day? I would miss him frantically. It would be nearly unbearable. At 38, I'm actually looking forward to missing him. I hope he'll make an effort to keep in touch, preferably daily. I hope our relationship will survive the time and distance. I expect it will, but either way, I'm not particularly concerned.
The thing is, and maybe I'm terrible to say it, but the stakes seem lower. In earlier relationships I lived in fear of a break-up. I would do anything, including staying in The.Worst.Relationship.Ever. to avoid the live gutting of a break-up. How could I - would I - survive? And we all know that the break-ups happened anyway, and I'm still here. I'm a survivor. So now I'm not really afraid anymore. I'm not going to get all worked up over something I can't control. Of course, I would be seriously bummed if we broke up. I'd go around hunched over and sad for a couple of months. I'd cry. I'd whine. I'd feel bad about myself and probably lose 10 lbs. and talk badly about Kipling to my friends over too much wine. But, then, I'd get over it. I'd move on. I don't WANT that to happen, but, it MIGHT happen, and I'm more emotionally prepared now that I'm 38 and I'm not all tied up in knots, good knots (like the knots in a rope that hold the boat to the dock) or bad knots (the nervous churning stomach ones). Unfortunately it's really hard to have spectacular highs - the fireworks - the "I just discovered a brand new continent and I get to adventure through it with this guy" feelings - if you aren't willing or able to get down and dirty with the lows. And I'm just not, and neither is he. And so, it’s gonna be boring. And then, maybe, if we’re lucky, it won’t.