I learn a lot from self-observation. Even when I’m not actively looking for a relationship I notice the flow of people around me. People watching is a sport, right? And what I notice, is that I am only magnetically attracted to about 5% of females in my purview. This ups to about 10% when I’m at Whole Foods Market, but in general, I’m picky. My lion’s heart has a particular taste. I don’t think it’s for a type of woman, I think it is for a type of joy. A feeling rather than a look.
Dating and looking for romance is an odd ritual. Even as an adult, the patterns are much more like high school (maybe elementary school) than adult life. We play games. We use social networks. We put forward ideas and photos that don’t really represent our lives or our current physical fitness, all for the purpose of what?
This afternoon I am sitting at the mecca for healthy and self-conscious women, Whole Foods Market (the Austin Mothership), and I am simply observing the parade of women passing by on the up-and-down escalator into the building. And I can see them. The happy and attractive women are here. And many of them are attached, married, dating, or otherwise unavailable. And certainly, at least some of them are not currently dating anyone, AKA: available.
And it’s a wonderful confirmation of all that is human about our different sizes, shapes, colors, and approaches to life. You can almost see it in the dress and attitudes of the people heading into, or just finishing up their organic, high-priced, lifestyle. I start at Whole Foods because this seems to be the highest concentration of people in my preferred demographic. Young, upwardly mobile, attractive, and health-conscious, or getting there. I’m okay if she is a bit of a work in progress, or in transition. What I don’t want is someone who’s not even on the same planet yet.
So here they are, passing by in fitness gear, in professional work outfits, and in all stages of dress, or undress, in between. And in the stream of women, it is an interesting experiment to see who I notice, who is inherently attractive to me.
Of the “potential” types who have passed by this morning are these archetypes:
- Fit, yoga, just about to do it, done it, or letting you know I’m doing it
- Just eatin lunch, stoppin by, on my way to or from work, professional
- The dressed-to-the-nines professional woman
- Casual, got out of bed, don’t have work to do, hippie
And of these stereotypes what are the criteria that interest me:
- Fitness is part of their life journey but not their purpose
- Distracted or present
- My phone is the center of my universe, please don’t disturb me
- Athletic and active
- Makeup or au-natural
- Inked or not
- Spiffed up or casual
But the amazing thing I have noticed, in this hour of observation and self-reflection… There is not a lot of joy in the place. The smiles that come up the escalator are not all that apparent. Why is everyone so serious, or distracted, or focused? Why, if they are entering Whole Foods are they not evolved like the food they are aspiring to cook? Is happiness such a rare trait? Do most people walk around in some form of isolation and closed self-expression? And if so, why?
Is it the predatory nature of our species that keeps our eyes to the ground of the phone, that keeps us from looking at each other? But that can’t be it. Because a lot of these women and men have put a lot of effort and thought into their wardrobe. So what’s the magic ingredient of happiness that is still so rare, even here in this rarefied air of high-end organic produce and natural body lotions?
If I were to conjure her up, at the table next to me, here’s what today’s journey into hunting or trolling has illuminated for me.
1. Happiness above all else. The woman who did sit across from me, who was clear and comfortable with her joyousness, was like a bright light to my magnet. In this swarm of beauty at Whole Foods there is less happiness than I would’ve expected, and more bustle and uber-busy folks on phones.
2. Fitness within limits. Too obsessive about exercise or abs has tended to result in slightly neurotic partners, in my limited experience. So I shy away from the uber-fit. But then, I’m not uber-fit and have a fairly low trajectory toward six-pack abs. So my fitness level is a bit out of my comfort zone, and I would guess that I’d be looking for someone in the fitness zone, within a few percentage points of my own fitness level, or the fitness level I think is within my reach.
3. External awareness. Are they seeking, open, conscious? You can almost see it.
4. A feeling of optimism, even when no one is looking. In all this coming and going, I want to see someone who shines in their own inner joy. You can tell. It’s like a halo or a force field. The “up” woman exudes her joy.
5. Eye contact and smiles. She’s looking. She’s expressing her joy.
6. Mostly makeup and ink free. I’m just not a big makeup person. There are a time and a place for getting spiffed up and going out, but the grocery store, even a holy mecca like Whole Foods, is not the time for too much fashion work. And if they are mostly in makeup all the time, they’re probably not the right person for me. And tattoos can be interesting, but they also seem to indicate some kind of addiction when they have to branch all the way down someone’s arm or leg. And when they are trying to think of the next tattoo. If that’s a focus or preoccupation, I’m gonna pass.
I’d like her preoccupation to be on her kids, her creative projects, her dreams. And if she’s actually single, then I’d like to hear about her ideas about relationships. If you’re not looking for a relationship, that’s fine. I am. If you’re thinking you’re looking for a relationship, but have no idea what that would look like, well… You might give it some thought.
And when you figure it out, I’m right over here, on this computer, typing a love poem to you. When I get bold, perhaps I’ll give it to you. But not right away, I’m enjoying my voyeurism. This is fantasy land. And each of these women passing could be grabbing fresh vegetables for dinner, for me. Or maybe, I’m here, working and I’ll get the fresh produce for tonight. Whatever it takes to lighten us up a bit.
That’s the goal. A lighter life. A path that is about joining and enhancing rather than controlling. A relationship that is founded on mutual attraction and joy rather than any kind of necessity. I want a partner, I don’t need a partner. Let me think about that… Yes, I’d say that’s true. I’m happier with a partner when things are going well. But the last few years of my marriage are a type of relationship I will work to avoid.
Let’s find the lighter path together. And if we find ourselves walking along it together, and continually renewing our intentions to get together again, maybe that’s enough. I’m really ready for the “ready and centered” woman to show up. She’s nearby, I can feel it. I’m just not sure how to catch her eye. I’m smiling, though.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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back to Dating After Divorce
- One Man’s Courage to Stand Alone: Brené Brown’s BRAVING
- Stepping Back Into the Breach; Dating Again After Divorce
- Big Love Burns Through All Other Things
- Dating A Single Parent: Two Simple Checklists
Here are a few of my books on Amazon:
- Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce: Advice and Strategies on Learning How to be Loved Again
- Fall of the House of Dad: My journey through divorce, from loss to joy, again and again
- A Good Dad’s Guide to Divorce: One father’s quest to stay connected with his children
- The Sex Index: Getting Our Love Languages Right in the Bedroom
- Here Comes the Darkness: Surviving and Thriving After a Mental Illness Diagnosis
- The Third Glass: When Drinking Becomes an Issue
- The Storm Before the Divorce: When One Parent Wants Out, That’s the End
- Dating 2.0: Aiming for the Love of Your Life
image: random restaurant shot, the author, cc 2014