You know how, when you go to any kind of nice restaurant, they offer you something before the main course? Bread sticks, usually, or some kind of nibble to tide you over?
You’re allowed to eat those.
That might seem like an obvious statement, but it wasn’t always obvious to me. I used to think of those little baskets of warm bread as some kind of weird enticement for the weak. Like, you can’t wait for dinner, eh? You glutton. Here! Have some bread sticks. I used to think if I ate them, I’d somehow ruin the main course, so I’d sit there and starve while I waited, the delicious smell of warm rolls wafting ever temptingly in my direction.
I’m using those bread sticks as a metaphor for the relationships we have between relationships. You know the kind I’m referring to – the ones that we know are probably not going to go anywhere long term, but that feel just fine ‘for now’. They are, I’ve discovered, an option. They can fill the gap. They can be quite tasty. And because they aren’t *actually* bread sticks, enjoying them won’t ruin the main course, that next ‘just right’ relationship that may come around the bend.
I used to be completely opposed to bread sticks. I was all “Nah, I’d rather wait for the real thing.” But I’ve recently concluded that bread sticks *are* real. They may not be meat and potatoes, but they *are* nourishing. They are delicious, in all their varied ways, and they will absolutely tide you over. And *that* could mean the difference between jumping into something that looks like the main event too soon because you’re really ravenous, or savouring a thing to discover its true flavour.
The main course will come when it comes, or it may never come. Meanwhile, there are bread sticks.
I’m dating someone right now that I am fairly certain will not become any kind of a permanent fixture in my life except, perhaps, as friends. There are reasons I won’t go into because that’s not my story to tell, but suffice it to say that I know what I know, and I know that this person is not ‘life partner’ material. Not now, at least, and perhaps, as far as our levels of compatibility, not ever. There are some fundamental differences in the way we see our lives playing out, and those differences pretty much guarantee that, at some point, our paths will diverge. He’s pretty sure he’s the ‘never getting married again’ kind, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up shacked up with someone I consider my best friend.
I really *like* this guy, and he’s one helluva kisser. So, I have a couple of options.
I can cut my losses and stubbornly starve while waiting for the main course, or I can eat the fuck out of the bread sticks.
I’ve opted to eat the bread sticks, with butter, and maybe a little bacon jam. I’ve opted to thoroughly *enjoy* the bread sticks without self recrimination. I’ve surrendered myself to the world of bread sticks without worrying I might ruin the main course.
Because, whatever else happens in my life, this moment is the only one I ever *really* get to have, and at this moment, there are bread sticks, and I really *like* bread sticks.
I think I’ve worn the metaphor right down to crumbs, so I’ll stop now, but I hope you get my meaning. I no longer think it virtuous to starve oneself of affection, sex, companionship, just because a person isn’t ticking off all the boxes on your list. I don’t think it’s necessarily wise, either, because I believe these relationships between relationships have a lot to teach us about who we really are, and what we really want.
They’re also lovely for their lack of pressure. I mean, when you aren’t looking at someone like they might be Mr. or Mrs. Big, you tend to relax. At least, I tend to. I tend to say exactly what I mean without worrying overly much about whether or not I’ll get a third or fourth date. I tend to ask for exactly what I want, secure in the knowledge that if it isn’t forthcoming, I’m free to seek it elsewhere. I tend to be looser, less tightly wound, and probably more fun as a result. There are risks involved, because no one wants to fall hopelessly in love with someone who is simply not available for what you’re after in the long run, but I’m willing to take that risk. I think, at my age, I’ve learned I can love *a little bit*. I can love in a light way, in a way that leaves plenty of room to let the thing go the way its going to go without any nudging from me. When you’re not auditioning someone for the starring role in the rest of your life, you stop examining them for their rightness or wrongness for you. You just enjoy them. You enjoy what’s on the table without wondering what comes next. You can take them or leave them, and you opt to take them, not because you *need* them, but because you *want* them.
What comes next will come when it comes. Meanwhile, there is this.
And I’ll take it.
Today’s Nudge: Where are you at with romance, love, sex, etc.
There’s a bunch of us blogging along in September. Find out more here, or pop your email address in the box below, and I’ll send you a nudge to blog every day along with a link to my daily writings.
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