Overcoming Fear

Jeff sent me a message on Tinder. It was a weekday morning, so I was at work. I sent back a quick “Hi!” and went back to typing. He asked how my day was going, and I answered honestly (Not well. Work was being particularly frustrating that day). I asked about his day. He said he had a day off, but was driving that night for an fundraiser. Bummer on the driving, said I, but I hoped he’d have a good day off. He gave me his number. “If talking’s easier, you can call me on a break.”

No. Talking was not easier. I made an excuse (texts were easier, since I could respond to them in down minutes), but the reality was I didn’t want this stranger to know my phone number.

One of the strangest things about this entire experience is how afraid I am all the time. When I was last dating, I was young, and everyone around me was in the same stage of life that I was. I hung out in mixed groups, and I met singles through my friends. It was a safe place for talking, and I was never really afraid for my safety.

This time around, I am. Every time I get a message on a dating site, I’m a little bit afraid that it’s a sexual predator. Messages that have too much sexualization in them scare me. Messages that have too little scare me. Messages that seem overly interested in my kids scare me even more. Guys who want to talk too soon scare me. Guys who want to meet to soon scare me. People who seem overly interested in my personal data scare me.

I don’t like this terrible caution that I am fighting to overcome. It makes me feel weak and pathetic, like someone who is too fragile to fully experience the world. But I know that it’s coming from a lifetime of baggage. The primary reason I’m doing 6 Months is to reduce some kinds of fear — the fear of rejection, the fear of rejected intimacy, the fear of failure. I had underestimated exactly how much I would be physically afraid.

Jeff and I traded messages for a few more days. He said he liked how I could make an aggressively short haircut look pretty and feminine. He said he liked my smile. He asked me to call him a few times. I finally did, and in the course of the conversation I mentioned my kids. He didn’t initiate contact after that, though he responded pleasantly the two times I sent him messages to chat.

I’m not sure whether it was the kids or whether he just wasn’t feeling it after the talk. Maybe the call was as far as he ever really wanted to go. Either way, I got past my fear. I made the call.

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