Let me tell you, the dating world is a whole different universe. Especially for a woman my age and who do what I do. I am sure many reading this can relate.
Here are some comments I have received from men after they find out what I do:
“I hope you don’t try to convert me.”
“I don’t date girls smarter than me.”
“You are gorgeous, those green eyes! Why can’t you find anyone? Do you not like sex, or something?”
“Do you say, OH GOD! During sex? Has a whole different meaning with you, huh?”
“I’m not sure I can handle dating someone who is getting her Doctor of Ministry. Are you a Pastor? What do you do exactly?”
“I have a problem with religion.”
“You’re sexy for a theologian!”
“You are fiercely independent.”
“Wow, you are confident…”
“You went to Wellesley? Did you become a lesbian when you were there?”
“Are you a feminist?”
No joke. So real, so outrageous and so ridiculous. Although comical over a beer or a glass of wine, in reality, these comments are obviously a reflection on the men who said them to me, rather than on me. I have also encountered some scary dates, but, those are not worth mentioning here, except to say, that while navigating the dating world can be seriously challenging, it also has a treacherous side.
Yet, I continually ask myself – Why must this be so difficult. Is it because I am 52? Is it because of what I do? Is it because I am apprehensive? Am I too confident? Should I not show my intelligence so outwardly, so soon? Am I too challenging for men? Or, is it simply because men can be ridiculous, as well as the fact that dating has morphed into something impossibly jaded within our off-kilter world?
I do know this – admittedly, it is my choice of men. And, I simply won’t settle, nor will I compromise, and my bullshit meter is always on. Since my divorce almost 9 years ago after a 21 year marriage, I have had two long-term relationships, both around 3 years, and I dated intermittently in-between those relationships. As it turns out, for about a year now, I haven’t dated. This is quite possibly the best thing I could have done for myself. Not only have I grown immensely, I am simply more comfortable being alone. I will also add that not dating or having anyone in my life this last year, is the longest I have ever spent being alone – since I began dating as a teenager. I find that to be an incredible blessing to claim on my behalf.
The flip-side to this is that I am afraid of being alone. Raised in a home with serious inflicted harm, after my mother left when I was in 7th grade, I spent an exorbitant amount of time alone as a teenager. The trauma from those isolated years have left me, quite often, with anxiety, the feeling of abandonment, and feeling as if I am the only one left on the planet at times. Yet, in all my therapy, I recognize this trigger and have worked on it for years. It usually occurs when I have experienced a break-up, on holidays, or, I am traveling alone and find myself in a hotel room by myself – a momentary feeling of utter desolation sets in and I feel as if I need to run – but to where, I have no idea – which, as many of us know, is called Fight or Flight.
After my last break-up and throughout the last year, I had that feeling I believe many of us have – I’ve just broken up with someone, should I date now, or, wait? Yet, jumping back in straight away didn’t sit well with me, so, I waited. And, then, waited some more. Checked in to some dating websites over the year, and checked out even faster. This last year of being alone has enabled me to be incredibly resilient, confident, empowered and, I have learned to like myself. I think I liked myself before, but, now, I really like myself. The negative side, is that I have been lonely and, at times, I feel as if I am no longer desirable because I haven’t dated for so long. When men look at me now, I have this sensation that they simply can’t be attracted to me. As I have examined this, I have realized that this feeling is insecurity yes, but, it is mixed with the fact that I simply don’t care if a man is attracted to me – this is a whole new feeling and one that I appreciate. It’s empowering to not care.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be alone for the rest of my life. But, then, I catch myself thinking that I already had 21 years with a great guy and we have a beautiful daughter – if I never have another long-term partner again, that’s OK. I had my chance and lived it – that is more than many ever get. I think that’s the real gift from God in this whole dating thing – not focusing on what I don’t have when it comes to a man, but, instead, thoughtfully thinking about what I have had. Because the fact is, I will remain smart, I will keep doing this “theology thing,” my confidence and independence will keep growing, and I will continue to live this amazing life I have. Where does that leave me in the dating world? I guess if there’s a guy out there that can keep up, then he can apply. In the meantime, I thrive.
Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to have published an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. Some of her past gigs include designing and teaching an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, as well as spending three years working with United Religions Initiative, in several different positions. As an Over-Achiever, Karen has not one, but two theological master’s degrees – one from Andover Newton Theological School, the other from Boston University School of Theology. She did her BA at Wellesley College, graduating with honors in her major, Peace and Justice Studies, where she wrote her thesis on Al Qaeda and how they misuse religion for political gain. Karen currently lives in California, works at two faith based non-profits, teaches workshops throughout the Bay Area, is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a certified domestic violence advocate.