We sat across the table from each other in a quaint hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant. We had just met in person only minutes prior, in the parking lot. In my early 40s I was only recently delving into the world of dating. Awkwardly tripping my way through an experience for which my friends can offer no relevant advice seeing as they did their dating a couple decades ago; when the Internet was in infancy, email was elusive to most, and cell phones were years away from conception.
With no single men in any of my church or social circles and the bar scene not being my forte, I took a plunge at the beginning of this year and completed a questionnaire on an online dating site. I’m sure if you listened closely enough the tapping of the keys might have matched the rhythm of that old Fiddler on the Roof tune as I hoped against hope, not really believing a match could be made for a soul like mine. A soul deeply marred by sexual abuse. Was there even enough soul fabric left for God to play matchmaker and weave a match? Could there be restoration for the frayed threads still clinging to the ripped edges of my soul?
I listened to the Whitney Houston song playing in the background, certain that it and many others that followed had been getting radio play the last time I officially dated someone, way back in high school, 25 years ago. It seemed a strange coincidence to hear these songs on this date, illuminating the massive amount of time I had spent dissociated from life, going through the motions, desperately trying to survive, never knowing it was possible to explore things like dating, believing I could be desired by a man, or believing it okay for me to desire a relationship with a man.
How had I made it to this place?
Had God been working a long, slow restoration on my soul? Tying together enough of the torn edges to create room to hold space for the dream of desire, for hope of healthy relationship, for enjoyment of the journey?
I tested it out a couple weeks ago when I went on my first date in over 13 years.
We met at a crowded little create-your-own-pasta place. At our corner table, amidst the chatter of the many other patrons, I listened to this man talk and talk and talk about himself for what seemed a couple hours — the clock in my car at the end of the date would inform me it had been only 45 minutes.
The loudest voice in that restaurant was an echo of my counselor’s words from our session earlier that day. “If he only talks about himself then it’s a no go, because you already have enough narcissists in your life.” Those wise words validated the absence of connection I felt with this man.
On the drive home I filed that experience under Good Practice and discovered that some piece of my tattered soul had actually formed and held onto a tiny pearl of confidence.
Back in the Japanese restaurant with the nostalgic 80s music, I am eating calamari tempura and zucchini, sipping on pink lemonade, and listening to this date tell rich stories of his adventures on international business trips. The echo of my counselor’s voice is a quiet whisper as I become aware of a stark contrast between the two men who have each spent the whole date talking about themselves. I’m aware of a difference in how I feel around him, how I’m actually laughing with him, how I’m enjoying listening to him, how the time flew by — the clock in my car at the end of this date would inform me we had been together almost 2 hours.
While I was growing up and throughout my adult years I was often taught a man should be strong, take charge, be in control, and initiate. This man sitting across from me was self-admittedly shy and somewhat insecure. We had slowly exchanged emails for a few weeks before meeting in person, after I had suggested the idea. I questioned if it had been okay for me to do. I now wondered if his shyness and insecurity would prevent him from making a move to hold my hand or put his arm around me on future dates.
On the drive home I pondered what our roles should look like in a relationship. Perhaps it was God’s voice I heard then. What if matching me with this man was an act of redemption? Was this God’s way of gently caring for and restoring my soul? To give me a relationship that allows me to initiate and give permission for a man to physically interact with my body.
All I could think is what an amazing kindness that would be.
Victory Suimara is a sculptor of words. She is a poet and an aspiring screenwriter. When she is not writing, she creates by playing with paints or playing on instruments. She is a victim and survivor of sexual abuse and sex trafficking, a wanderer and explorer on a sometimes treacherous and sometimes beautifully scenic journey of life. More of her word sculptures can be found here.