The other night I sat with my guy and had the talk. The talk you never want to have. That final talk. That talk where he is no longer my guy and I am no longer his girl. At 40, I’m better able to rationalize these breakups, but the shit still hurts.
For several months we’ve been going back and forth about time. Time is my love language. I don’t need gifts or grand gestures, I need time. Time spent on the sofa watching SVU. Time spent at the movies. Time spent roaming the grocery isles. Just time.
It was late. He was tired. I was too. Tired of having this final talk. Tired of yet again going back and forth. Tired of our mutual understanding, with no resolve. Tired of facing the inevitable. In his justification of his lack of time, he said, “I don’t even be up this way. I’m rarely on this side of town.” This made me think about my dad.
My mother recently told me this story about their courtship. She’s become very transparent in her older years and, let me tell you, I drink up all the tea. It is true what they say about a man knowing exactly what he wants, and going after it. My dad instantly wanted my mom and did what he had to do to show it.
When my parents were dating my dad would buy her groceries and drive across town to spend time with her. Sounds magical and simple. But, let me break some of this down for you.
My dad was a full-time college professor. A divorcee and single dad living in Van Ness, a side of D.C. considered Upper Northwest. My mom was a full-time student with a full-time job and two kids under five. She lived across the bridge on the far side of Northeast. So, when my dad was getting off work it was after his last class, which was probably sometime after seven.
The trip probably took an hour.
My mother had picked me and my sister up from the sitter, gotten us dinner, given us baths, and put us to bed. Then, she got time with her guy. After their long days, the stress of work and school and kids, they found time for each other. Time to build. Time to fall in love. Six months after they met they were married.
When No Longer My Guy (this is what I’ll call him) said this thing about being on the other side of town, I realized that who I’ve been waiting for, who I’ve been wanting to show up, is my dad. Not in some weird, reverse Oedipus way, but in the principles and ideals.
I’m waiting for the man who met a 24-year-old, twice-divorced single mom and felt like the greatest luck had been bestowed upon him. I’m waiting for the man with that mentality and perspective.
I’m waiting for the man who gives the middle finger to societal expectations of the ideal woman and dives into a new normal.
My dad fell in love with all that my mother came with. He fell in love with her girls. Rushing my sister to the hospital when she stepped on a nail. Slipping on rocks as he tossed me in the air, breaking his fall and hurting himself, just so I wouldn’t fall on the rocks. I’m waiting for this man.
My dad prioritized time with me. In junior high whatever book I was assigned to read, my dad would also read, so we could talk about it. Early Saturday mornings he’d happily drive me to clarinet or piano or all the way to the Kennedy Center for rehearsal. Afternoons were spent in the bookstore or playing chess. After his long week of working multiple teaching jobs, he’d find the time for me.
My dad is the middle of the night man. As a teenager, out late in places where I shouldn’t have been, stranded in the middle of the night, I could call my dad to pick me up. Terrified of the mouse I saw running through my apartment, in the middle of the night my dad would go to Home Depot, buy traps, and comes over to set them up. A stranger walked through the back gates of my new home. My dad went out and got chains and signs to let trespassers know his daughter is not to be fucked with.
Water coming into my basement was a priority for him. My dad put down newspaper and bought something to absorb the water. The next day while I was at work — unbeknownst to me — my dad came in to clean up the wet newspapers. At Christmas, he offered to buy a little tree. He showed up with lights, a box of ornaments, and a Santa welcome mat, in addition to the tree.
I am waiting for this man.
And after reading all this I’m sure my dad is also waiting for this man to replace some of his duties. Because now in his 70s he has become this hero to my daughter. Taking her on nature walks or to the field to fly a kite. Enduring the stupidity of some of her movies and TV shows, as he did for me. I am waiting for this man.
I’m sure some of you are saying, well that’s the stuff a dad is supposed to do. He’s not extraordinary. But, we all know a woman who didn’t receive this love. We all know a woman who doesn’t even know her dad. So, in my mind, these acts of seemingly simple kindness are the acts of an extraordinary man.
And some of my sisters in the feminist struggle are wondering why I’m even waiting on this man, why I’m not satisfied with just being “self-partnered.” I spend plenty of time alone and love it. Took a whole vacation to London by myself, on purpose, because time with me is the best time of all. I get that.
But, when I think about the longevity of my life, the long game of love, I don’t feel that I’m equipped to live it alone. Inside this tough exterior, I love pillow talk and sofa cuddles, and holding hands on walks downtown.
And kissing. How I adore a really great kiss. My perfect urban Rom-Com exists in my head and my heart is not willing to let it go.
I know several beautifully strong “self-partnered” women. Their quiet confidence at times makes me hopeful. Hopeful that if he never shows up, the life I will settle into won’t be so bad. But, I’m not there yet. I’m still waiting for this man and my therapist has assured me that’s okay.
So, this is me.
Optimistic for new love, affirming my wants and needs into the universe. Waiting for a smart, interesting, purposeful man, intent on speaking my love language. A man who sees any ounce of time spent with me as precious, awesome, and cherished.