I’m 30. I’ve just moved to Los Angeles from a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. And despite spending seven of the past 10 years writing about dating, I’m single.
Something else about me: I’m what some people call a life-tracker. I tend to record somewhat mundane details of my existence (alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, every single date) so I can later analyze the data points for patterns. My favorite hobby, as it were, involves constructing intricate theories about why people—including me—behave the way they do.
A huge mistake, I’ve learned, has been conflating dating with relationships. I was 29 when I looked at my dating spreadsheet and discovered I hadn’t been in a single relationship for more than six months since 2007. That’s five years! Not a stellar track record for anyone, but an especially dismal run for a woman who owns more self-help books than most independent bookstores.
The irony is, I’m actually good at dating. I can get a date on the bus or walking down the street. I smile, I flirt, I snag numbers and sometimes even hearts. And I don’t believe in bad dates. I believe there are only good dates—and good brunch stories. Dating is a lot like finding your sense of style, and eventually, you can walk into Bloomingdale’s and predict with a certain degree of accuracy which dress will flatter your particular physique’s eccentricities.
Basically men are dresses, and I’ve tried on more than a few.
For years, I liked collecting new dating stories. I was proud of all the romantic journeys I’d been on—even the ones that ended with me crumpled on the floor sobbing.
But then I had a moment, a single instant when it hit me: I was done. One August day in L.A., halfway through my 28th year, I was in bed with my college boyfriend, reunited after six years, and I realized I had come full circle. I didn’t need to date anymore; I’d seen enough. I was starting to literally repeat myself.
I remember thinking, Okay, I’m ready for my life partner now. Let’s get this marriage party started! As if the universe were some giant Starbucks and I was placing my order for a Venti Skinny Dirty Chai Latte and I had to wait just five minutes or so before I got my fix. Not exactly. Almost three years after I “decided” I’d like a husband, one has yet to be handed to me. Apparently God shouldn’t be confused with a barista.
As the months—and then years—passed since that revelation, I’ve gone through alternating states of Zen-like “it’ll happen when it happens” calm and complete and utter abject terror. “I’ve missed my window! Where is he? Maybe he doesn’t exist!” And when things got really bad, desperation. “Men don’t like desperate women, Julia,” my grandmother advised, twice in one conversation. Message received!
After my most recent breakup in May 2011, I started to wonder: maybe it wasn’t the guys who were the problem. After all, the common denominator in my love life is—well, it’s me.
Just like the gulf between dating and relationships, wanting a life partner and becoming one are two entirely disparate things. I’m finally ready to acknowledge that unsettling fact and admit that if I want to become someone’s wife one day, I might have to first “be the change.”
So I’m transforming myself into a “guinea pig of love,” meeting with unconventional experts and delving deep into my psyche to take a look at what toxic patterns I may have unconsciously been replicating in my love life. I’ll talk to a tarot card reader, work with a love coach, visit witches, attend a pleasure workshop, and sit down with a mind architect, all to see whether I can actually move toward the thing I want most in this world: love.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t expect it to be easy—or even pleasant. There’s a lot of rubble down there in my heart, a lot of damage, a lot of baggage. It could be messy. It’s bound to be sad. But I hope I can learn to believe in love again—or at least find some peace, even after all the heartache.
And I hope you’ll come along for the journey.
Julia Allison stars in Bravo’s Miss Advised, which premieres tonight at 10 pm EST.
Got questions for Julia? Ask them in the comments section below, and she’ll respond to each one here.