People say that your twenties are for exploring what you like, what you want in life, and who you want to spend that life with. By the age of 22, I was married to my college boyfriend and building a home with him in New York City.
While my friends were flirting with hot strangers in bars, I was opening a joint bank account. While they were making sense of the still-unsaved phone numbers ghosting and bread-crumbing them, I was discussing when my partner and I wanted to start having kids. Dating was an alternate reality I knew of only as an observer, watching the show from my comfortable couch of wedlock.
And I did not have the first clue about how to navigate it. There was the larger, existential piece of it: How could I feel intimate with a perfect stranger after living with a different man my entire adult life?
And there was everything else: Did I want my date to pick me up chivalry! Was I supposed to offer to pay or fumble awkwardly as the waiter dropped off the bill? The mind-numbing first-date questionnaire was confounding. I recall being stumped when a date inquired about my favorite color. Did he mean my favorite color nail polish, my favorite color to look at, my favorite color to wear, or my favorite color to paint the walls?
The date ended fairly quickly. Even more puzzling was the decision of whether and when to mention my failed marriage. Try this for small talk: The swiping, the profiles, the post-date texting rule book replaced every answer I thought I had with a thousand questions. So I plastered on a smile and dragged my heels chosen via frantic snapshots texted to a friend to date after date.
And with time, I started feeling less uncertain. While I was married, I never thought to question the simple things. Sure, I considered my preferences in the context of my marriage: Where did we want to live? How did we want to spend our time together as a couple? What was our favorite Sunday brunch spot?
But I stopped asking the questions that characterize who I am: What is on my bucket list? What are my favorite hobbies? What does makes me feel accomplished? Ironically, looking for someone else helped me get to know myself and focus on constructing a life that I found fulfilling.
I started to see how my experiences, even my failed marriage, enrich who I am and what I bring to the table. The best dates gave me an appreciation for the chance to figure out who I am, on my own. I have found that nothing fine tunes your bullshit radar quite like the uncomfortable moment after you reveal something about yourself.
By the way, my favorite color is maroon. Get the best fashion, beauty, celebrity exclusives and shopping advice straight to your inbox.