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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Not dating may reveal the secret to what dating's really about

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By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ask anyone. I'm all about theories: 1. If he doesn't know your last name, he's not your boyfriend. 2. You can date as young as half your age plus seven. (Five if he's foreign.) 3. There are no such things as dates after 10 p.m.

Until recently, however, my theories have always revolved around Them, not Us, the ones we should really care about.

So I have a new theory, one that I've lived out before I learned it: It's good to be alone.

It took me awhile to start dating after I broke up with my long-term boyfriend. It was strange, to be talking to guys again in that certain playful way, something I had forgotten after more than six years with the same guy.

And it was scary, to have to trust someone new, to learn about the details we all mask with makeup or hide behind pride.

But I knew I had to get "out there," out where competition thrives on carefully clingy clothes and witty conversation, a place so foreign to me I had to bring along a personal translator. Talk about pathetic.

"There, that look?" I'd ask. "What was that."

"Girlfriend," she'd reply. "How long has it been again?"

Like surfing for the first time, you get up as fast as you can. Sure, it's scary, but you get used to it. Then you get good at it. Until suddenly you want more boards, bigger waves, tougher breaks.

Dating became a challenge, something we discussed over chicken pesto sandwiches at lunch with the intensity of guys recapping the last Raiders game play-by-play.

And then it hit me: I was over it.

May rolled around and I had no desire to strut or flirt anymore. I just wanted to hang out with my friends, watch movies without compromising, eat cereal for dinner, surf all weekend, play guitar all night.

No more juggling. No more scheduling. No more dating.

And it was great. Those months were the best of my life.

I didn't need some guy doling out empty compliments to boost my self-esteem or buying me drinks I could easily afford. I was happy just sitting at the bar, laughing with my girlfriends over potato skins and Diet Cokes.

It wasn't until I spent some quality time with myself that I figured it out: Sometimes you have to stop dating to realize what you're dating for.

What I wanted in someone became alarmingly clear. And whenever I meet anyone, I'm drawn to the traits I now value more than the dating-standard strong shoulders and six-figure salary. I'm drawn to the qualities I've always appreciated in the people in my life whom I completely adore and respect.

So now when I'm "out there," among the shimmery bodies and batting eyelashes, I can still stand tall and feel good.

Because I know I don't need digits to confirm my self-worth.

I've got my own phone number, thank you very much.

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.