My First Date

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I went on my first date, yesterday.

I wasn’t afraid of him. He was much bigger than I, and I still was not afraid, that is how mild mannered he is. Perfect, really, for me.

We met on a dating site, and he invited me for coffee. I ran a background check and found his wide open social media and went willingly.

Over a year ago I Skyped with a much younger man for the first time, ever. We had been talking for three years, via forum and text boxes. He thought I was cute. I was flummoxed. He knows my story.

Since then he has insisted I am beautiful, repeatedly, consistently. Until I began to have suspicions of my own that my self perception might be off.

I shaved my head. I still could not accept my face, and my hair grew in.

I complained in therapy about this, was it a dysmorphic disorder? My therapist was incredulous. “No one ever told you that you were pretty?” She asked me. She did not offer an opinion. She approached it thoughtfully. She had suggestions.

I started taking selfies. I skipped the filters and played with light. I read tutorials on eyeliner. I put my face online in places where I was known, but not my identity. Didn’t have a great response, but didn’t have a bad one, either.

I wrote a dating profile. I sat on it for months. I put it live. I got some responses, but all women do. I shut down the profile and started talking to some of those responses.

I got to my first adult date invite. Ever. The day before I go, my friend who insists I am beautiful tells me he wants to move here, where I live. He knows I love him, I don’t bother to hide it anymore, but he probably does not feel quite the same and I don’t think he should. The therapist tells me to let him make his own choices and stop deciding what is best for him. I start calling in favors via phone. I take time off work to do this.

I go on the date. He asks me for another. I plan it for two weeks from now. I can’t afford the sitters but I can’t afford not to go, either.

I don’t know what I am doing. How do you get to know someone without confessing things up front like “I am in hiding. I am an apostate, they want to kill me. He wants me dead. My children have PTSD. I have PTSD. I survived. I understand honour violence from the inside out. I am not a product of my culture.”

The small talk is killing me. I want more. I want everything, all at once.

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4 thoughts on “My First Date

  1. Wow, is that really you? Nice to finally see you! I know you struggle with accepting certain things about yourself. How much of it is still not being used to life without the headscarf, and how much is longtime insecurities from earlier in your life? I think you are doing great.

    I have so many issues with pictures. I don’t know that I would ever be okay to show my picture to others. I have never been very photogenic, but living in the faith made it forbidden or disliked to have photos at all unless absolutely necessary. Somewhere along the line this became more relaxed in my own circle at least. I now take lots of pictures, but never of myself, always of my kids.

    I agree with your therapist that your online friend is an adult and can make his own decisions. At the same time, if he had moved to be close to you it might have created pressure on you to be in a serious relationship before you were ready.

    As far as telling the new guy about your past, I don’t think you need to open up about it right away, but you definitely should if things became more serious. Some of it may come out in normal conversation as you get to know each other, he may ask about your kids’ father. Keep in mind how much does he need to know? You dont have to reveal everything, but if you were ever found, he could also be in danger. He would also eventually need to have some idea of your PTSD and what triggers it. Your therapist, or maybe your local domestic violence agency might have some advice on how to approach a new relationship after what you have been through.

    How to have these kind of conversations, I don’t know. I haven’t been through the same experience as you. I tried once to explain to someone what happened to me. I did it in writing and it was pages and pages of confusion. I began questioning my motives for doing so. Did I want sympathy, understanding, or someone to validate me for being so angry? In the end, I explained very little and saved myself the anguish of telling my story, but I also lost that chance to connect with someone openly and know whether they would offer me acceptance and friendship. There are risks in opening up, and risks to remaining silent.

    • It’s me! I am glad you can see me!
      Yes, I can relate to the pages and pages of confusion and then scrapping it all in favor of nothing-I have done it myself. I have been coming out lately. I know a lot of people here now, and if they want to judge me, they are welcome to remove themselves from my life. I consider it a favor, for think how much I might have wasted on people prejudiced against me, simply because they did not know who I am and have been!
      I went through a lot of pictures last night and I think I have less than ten of me during my religious times- and that is a long time!
      I don’t really recognize myself right now, either, but it feels good. A bit overwhelming and new, but good.
      I do look far better in a scarf or a turban . I look better in niqab, frankly, though I was never allowed it. Modest dress is most beautiful to me, and every spring when shorts come out I get a bit of a shock.
      I want to take these risks now. If I never take them, how much will I regret it? I felt like putting off my life until the children were grown was too much. I should be living now, while I am alive. What do I teach the children if I sacrifice my own happiness in favor of theirs?
      I worry about what it says to them about self care.

      • I know all about self sacrifice for the sake of my kids and/or other people. I come from a family that is full of kind, generous women who sacrificed for others while putting themselves last. I used to admire it until I realized how unhealthy that was for them and for me. It is a hard thing to change. I’m working on it. Even small steps count as progress.

        You absolutely should take these risks and do the things that make you happy. Hopefully your children will learn a healthier way from your example.

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