“Be the person you want to attract,” said my friend Trish to a mutual friend of ours who had just turned 40 and seemed to have attracted “all the wrong men.” I was merely a substitute in their conversation, sitting quietly in the corner, memorising yoga sutras. We were in Coonoor, India. I was thirty years old and dating was the furthest thing from my mind. I was on a journey to find financial stability with a yoga teacher’s training, not love. Besides, I was still a little in love with my ex boyfriend and the ache from our break-up followed me everywhere. My mind had long let him go, but my heart refused to follow suit.
Little did I know that I had already captured the heart of a man who was prepared to leave his stable job and newly purchased home to follow me wherever I decided to go. What I had believed to be an off-putting confession (“I once followed a carpet cleaner all the way to New Zealand”) only made him want to find out more about my odd quirks. A day later he declared he would be my friend forever, a week later he bought me chocolate covered dates and a disposable camera, and two weeks later, we kissed. He wasn’t ‘my type’ (if there is such a thing), but his kindness and determination won me over. Three months later I landed in Montreal and six months later we were married. “When you know, you know,” he said, as he presented me with pride to his family and friends.
Still, there were many things that we did not know. The real world with two young children, lack of family support, job transitions and artistic endeavours was very different to the casual walks we had taken in the green tea plantations in India. After many years of trying to make it work, I walked out of my ten year marriage with nothing but a queen-size mattress and my integrity. My daughters watched me push that mattress up to the third floor of an apartment we shared with another separated friend, and subsequently transform two run down apartments (aka ‘shitholes’) into châteaux. “Maman, tu est formidable,” said my daughter Celeste as she stood at the top of the stairs and watched my sweat/ tear drenched face, not suspecting how much I needed to hear those words.
It has been two years and a half now that I am that formidable maman, doing my best to stay afloat as I care for my daughters, navigate life under a pandemic, study, write and build up my yoga business. I’m exhausted. I am too tired to even think about a dating profile, let alone build it – I excuse myself to my friends who think I am too much of a catch to be alone, and to myself whenever loneliness bites. I pretend that the dating/loving part of me is dead and distract myself with never ending to do lists.
But “having better things to do” is a convenient cover-up to a deeper truth. That I am scared.
There are days when I look in the mirror and all I see are my battle scars. My worn out eyes, frowning wrinkles and traces of grey hair. Suddenly, I am not forty-five but seventy-five. Returned goods. An embarrassment. A failure.
But there are days (usually after dancing) that I am jolted back to life in full force. I am not only living, but I am on fire! “Who are you kidding?” I hear a voice inside me inquire. “You who has travelled all the way to New Zealand, India, and Thailand; you who was not afraid to write to Pedro Almodovar and travel halfway across the world with the first draft of your first screenplay; you who served in the military and got herself a degree while going through a separation, YOU, afraid? You, dead? You are a Fire Dragon! You are a woman bursting with passion!”
I have never been on a dating app. The men I met were always happy accidents at a time when I was focused on something else entirely. I met my first love the day I applied to an acting program in New York City and my husband while completing a yoga teacher’s training in India.
“Sorella, men are attracted to you like flies to shit,” said my brother when we were growing up. But I was 17 then and now I am 45. Flies are nowhere to be seen and I move a lot less these days with two young daughters and Covid restrictions. I travel in my head. I read Dante every morning and watch cheesy Italian tv series that reduce me to irrepressible sobs. They remind me of my love for the Italian language, hopeless romance and the fact that I am privy to all this beauty from the four wall cell of my bedroom with no ocean, Roman ruins and cute Italian young men in sight.
Then I think, I should finally brave it. But before I can consider what platform to go to, I am paralyzed by the idea of online dating. The rejection that comes with a simple swipe, a modern term known as “ghosting,” my picture analyzed and judged and dating as a hard-line business pitch, based on catchy blurbs, airbrushed photos and strategic packaging.
“Marketing, marketing, marketing,” I can practically hear Marie Forleo voice in my head. I have spent the past two months building a website and coming up with those same catchy lines that would attract the attention of potential clients to my yoga and writing workshops. “Think like a CEO, convince people that you have what they need, create traffic…” I have taken so many online business courses that dreams about marketing strategies drowned any possibility of wet dreams. According to Marie Forleo modern marketing is not sleazy and dishonest but authentic and comes from a spirit of service. This is a philosophy that I am more likely to embrace than the 90’s famous “Rules” (aka how to deceive a man into marrying you, and then good luck to you both).
So what would my authentic dating blurb say? I’ve long held the theory that it is best to present your ‘defects’ first so the person in question can be pleasantly surprised, rather than the other (more popular) way around: build up an image of a near perfect persona that is impossible to live up to, not to mention, hard work trying to maintain.
In that spirit I write:
“What you see is what you get. I am a 45 year old mother with two young daughters. Expect stretch marks and wrinkles, a passion for life, cultures and languages and zero tolerance for bullshit. Looking for a relationship out of want, not need. Bring your authentic self or look elsewhere.”
And my profile picture? My excited face as I share pizza with my soul brother Liam in little Italy, or, my teary, happy eyes after another one of those deep conversations that don’t skim the surface? Or perhaps a picture of me looking at my daughters, my heart bursting with love, pride and gratitude? It’s all there in my eyes: the pain, the glory, the love, the heartache, the experience and the hope. My fierce optimism. My insatiable appetite for life. My stubborn belief that walking my true path will take me to where I am supposed to be, as it always has.
“Be the person you want to attract,” I hear my friend Trish say and I nod in agreement. Is there any other way to be? I ask myself.