I downloaded the dating app, entered a punchy profile, and uploaded some pictures. My index finger hovered over the submit button. I hadn’t dated in almost 20 years. Back then, there were no smartphones or apps, I didn’t have cirrus gray streaks in my hair, and wrinkles existed only in my laundry. Did I really expect anything good to come of this?
I locked a big gulp of air in my ribcage and tapped the phone’s glass face. I exhaled. My only consolation: back then, I also didn’t have aikido.
My youthful forays into dating might seem quite successful to the average observer. I did, after all, settle into a serious relationship spanning seven years. Unfortunately, this partnership imploded catastrophically, as years of mutual co-dependence tore me and my partner to shreds. Without missing a beat, I fled into the calm harbors of a new partner’s love. After many joyous and emotionally functional years, this relationship also ended in disaster. I was not only jobless and penniless, but also homeless.
I took a couple years to rebuild myself. Financially. Emotionally. Spiritually. Aikido, along with many other therapies, contributed to a fuller, stronger sense of self. All the while, however, I avoided dating and romance the way buttered toast avoids falling face-up.
Gradually, enough signs amassed, all indicating I was ready. Ready to use the new skills I had honed. But as the newly downloaded dating app piled “new match” icons across my screen, I fretted. What if I was still that same twenty-year-old—that bighearted gal who would bend over backwards, warp sideways, and spiral herself into Gordian knots, all to please another person?
Never compromise your posture, my sensei often suggests. Of all the ways to interpret this advice, I often boil it down to maintaining good posture. Hunching, stooping, and slouching may indicate a lack of confidence, or an urge to “muscle it,” a desire to throw, overcome, trick or vanquish the other person. Viewed externally, I must sustain a centered stance throughout any technique.
I can also turn the advice into an internal experience of good posture. Never compromise or shift my own integrity to suit the attacker. Maintaining integrity connotes keeping with my fundamental values no matter what arises. If I value compassion and nonviolence, then I must do so no matter what the attacker attempts. I cannot meet force with force. I cannot retaliate or punish. I cannot engage in one-upmanship.
Looking back, I see how all my past bending and twisting ultimately compromised my ability to give and receive kindness. To give and receive real love, too.
Could this nearly-forty, nearly-Nidan gal now avoid contorting her eternally big heart?
For added insurance, I sought guidance from my much younger Millennial friends—the ones brought up so intimately with technology they are practically half cyborg.
If you match with someone, don’t be the first to message. You don’t want to appear desperate.
After the first meet-up, do not text or call the other person for a couple days. Better to seem aloof, kinda disinterested. Convey the mystery: you may be available, but are you attainable?
The familiarity of the advice surprised me. The dating scene hadn’t actually changed that much. But I knew I had because I couldn’t follow the prescription. Attempting to appear aloof or mysterious compromised my posture. I would not be anything other than what I was.
So I message whenever I choose. On dates, I ask direct, genuinely curious questions and enjoy excellent conversations. After dates, I promptly offer gratitude for that person’s time and courage—after all, meeting strangers is not easy.
I am not juggling time gaps or power balances. I do not angst or fret. What if he thinks I am ____ (fill in blank with negative predicate adjective)? I do not twist into painful contortions.
I am maintaining my center, maintaining good posture, and operating according to what I value: dignity, respect, and kindness. I expect a lot of good to come from that.
Image credits: “smartphone dating app illustration” CC from Wikimedia Commons; “goats butting heads” CC from Wikimedia Commons; “parrot love in Trivandrum Zoo” CC from Wikimedia Commons.