Marc Dones, 28, reflects on three years of dating men in Boston. During that time, he’s lived in Mattapan and Fort Hill. For more of his rambling, read his tumblr or follow him on Twitter. In his spare time, Marc plays with his roommate’s dog, rides his bike and is generally impractical. His favorite color is orange, but sometimes it’s chartreuse.
Two weeks ago I had my three-year anniversary of moving to Boston from New York City, where I’d lived for almost eight years. So today I counted the number of men I’ve gone on dates with since I came to Massachusetts (or “dates”), and I got to 41. Just over three years and 41 men. Forty-one hellos in coffee shops, in bars, on corners. Forty-one explanations of who I am, what I stand for. Forty-one idiot introductions, 41 awkward handshakes. Last night in the bar I wanted to cry but I didn’t, so I kept smiling and then I couldn’t remember why I wanted to cry after a while, so I drank more whiskey and thought about how later I’d remember why I wanted to cry at an inopportune moment, like on the train or while I was sitting at my desk at work. Forty-one stories that don’t go anywhere. Forty-one, oh, I know hims, 41 waves across the bar, 41 half smiles walking down the street.
To Mimi I say: You know there comes a point in your life when you have to start asking whether or not it’s you.
I’m having one of those moments where I want to say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But to Boston and the idea of dating in Boston. Because, just statistically speaking, when the common denominator in 41 different scenarios is me, I have to start thinking, very seriously, about the likelihood that I’m the problem. Forty-one ugh, don’t looks. Forty-one I think his name is Michaels. I want to break up with dating in Boston.
To Justin I say: I ruined another date. And he says, “You mean he mentioned the weather and you started talking about homelessness?” And it’s funny. But it’s also true. In New York I remember walking across the Williamsburg Bridge with M and arguing about whether or not God existed (he was against, I was for); we called each other stupid and fell in love. Here I’m too serious. I get follow-up texts about how I seemed really smart and interesting but he just didn’t feel a spark.
Forty-one I don’t think he’s going to calls.
Part of it, I tell Christina, is that Boston is a city of very transient people who think of what they do here as being very transient. They’re here to get a degree and advance their career, and afterward they leave. H left for grad school in California. J moved to Japan to work on sustainable farming. A was going to Portugal next.
Part of it, I tell Mimi, is that I’m too old to pretend I’m someone I’m not. Better to have it out now, right away, that this is what I think about—this is how I talk. I get nervous. I fidget, I ramble about the interaction I had while I bought a sweater, I talk excessively about policy; I ask you about your day and then remember something that happened in mine. And it would be dishonest to pretend that I see that changing anytime soon. And it would be equally dishonest to pretend that the reason I don’t see it changing is that I want to be appreciated for those things. Part of it, I tell myself, is that I’m tired of trying to be “better,” that I don’t know what that means anymore.
So I started dating outside of Boston. I went on a date in Providence. I started texting with a man from Lowell. Providence stopped texting. We’ll see about Lowell.
So here’s the real question: What do you do when you realize that it truly is you? You’re the problem. You can’t hide from it anymore: you’re too fidgety, you talk about yourself too much, you’re really, really trying, but it’s still really, really not happening. What do you do when there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark and you think it might be your piss-poor attitude?
You break up with yourself. I’m going to break up with myself.
I’m not the same person I was in New York. And if I want to date I need to recognize that fact first. And then I need to live it. That doesn’t mean I don’t ramble about the sweater I bought—but it does mean that I recognize I’m rambling and I stop. Maybe—just maybe—I even apologize and ask you how your day was.
The best thing about growing up is that you’re allowed to get tired of things. Tired of clubs, tired of people who aren’t what you want, tired of friends who aren’t what you need, and tired of yourself. Three years of dating in Boston has taught me that there were, and are, a lot of people who aren’t right for me. But that I’m also not right for me. I’m not the person I want to be yet, so I’m not bringing people into my life who are the people I want to be with—and I’m not the person they want to be with.
When I was younger I was afraid of being wrong. Walking across the bridge with M, the thought of being wrong about God, about the universe, was unacceptable to me. It was terrifying. Now I’m more terrified of being wrong about other people—about not understanding human beings, all the lives that are happening around me all the time, that have their own trajectory and their own difficulty.
It’s not you, Boston, it’s me. And I’m working on it. I’m not going to leave you.
Just stick around.