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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Auditioning the Future


Dating in your teens and twenties is like eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet, whereas dating in your thirties and beyond is more like getting a sampler plate that’s been passed around the table a few times.

In our teens and twenties, romantic relationships often grow from friendships or from what Carrie Bradshaw calls “zsa zsa zoo.” Dating later in life, however, is a completely different story. Instead of just seeking chemistry and connection, many of us are also auditioning lifestyles. Because, face it, by the time we’re in our thirties, we’ve already made a number of decisions about the direction our life will take, and most likely we won’t change drastically, and neither will the other person. This means that we don’t just date a person, we’re also dating their career, exes, possible children, pets, habits, and interests.

Envisioning a future wedding
It’s no longer just about “hey, he’s good looking” or “he’s so nice.” Choosing whom to spend time with can mean the difference between being with someone who’s married to his job and someone who hasn’t yet found his passion. Or maybe it means spending vacations visiting in-laws when you would’ve been touring Europe if you’d ended up with another guy. Not one of these things is better than another, but each presents a different type of life.

As I navigate the dating world in my thirties, I imagine what my life would be like with each man that I go out with. Although I try not to, the truth is that when I’m dating, I’m looking for someone who could be a potential husband as well as a father to my future children. Dating is no longer just about whether or not you feel an attraction and enjoy each other’s company. It’s also about finding a partner to balance the checkbook and make dinner with you. And it’s about finding someone whose dreams you can support and who will do the same for you.

The advantage of dating in your thirties and beyond is that you have a pretty good idea of what you’d be getting into with each new prospect. Unfortunately, that advantage doesn’t necessarily offset the fact that as the dating pool gets smaller with each passing year, there are increasingly more factors to weigh. You find yourself asking, “What would it be like to be with a musician, a radio show host, a carpenter, a lawyer, a winemaker, or a math professor?” What about someone who’s obsessed with snakes and keeps caged rattlesnakes in his studio apartment, someone who has a two year-old child, or someone from another country who lives here on a work visa? (These are not random hypotheticals. I’ve been out with each of these men.) And then you picture yourself in this scenario and ponder, “Is this life for me?” and “Is this what I want?” And, of course, these men are most likely asking themselves the same questions about you.

Getting ready to go out dancing at 24 years old
I’ve been through the dating trenches and have emerged with a wealth of experience. I’m grateful for this opportunity because it has allowed me to imagine a myriad of possible futures, somewhat like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I enjoyed as a kid. The past few months, however, I’ve been taking a break from looking for love in order to allow myself time to reset. When I start dating again, I’m aiming to approach it more like I would've as a 24 year old, rather than the 34 year old that I am.

Whether you’re happily married or looking for love, if you’re like me and find yourself holding auditions for your future, I encourage you to join me and make a pledge to live more in the present and seek joy now rather than planning for future happiness. And who knows, we might just find long-term contentment where and when we least expect it.



Braised Red Cabbage with Apple

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it fuses everything that I love into one day: food, friends, and family. It’s about being in the moment and savoring the experience of breaking bread with those that you love. It also reminds us to be grateful for the many blessings that we already have in our lives. On Thanksgiving, rather than pondering my future, my mind will be filled with thoughts of turkey, potatoes, and braised red cabbage. What joy!

This is a good dish for holiday meals. It pairs well with roasted poultry (and for a quick weeknight meal, serve leftovers with German sausage). I especially like how easy it is. Once everything is chopped and in the pot, it needs very little attention, so you’ll be free to do other things.

Serves 4-6

1 tbs. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced (2 cups)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 head of red cabbage (2 lbs.), cored and roughly chopped into 2-in pieces
2 lg. firm apples (1 lb.) such as braeburn or fuji, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
½ cup apple cider vinegar

In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot over medium, cook the onion with the olive oil and salt until the onions are soft and translucent. When I’m cooking, I like to have one thing cooking while I prepare the next. So, while you’re sautéing the onions, chop the cabbage and peel and slice the apples. Add the cabbage and apples along with the cider vinegar to the pot, stir. Cover and slow-cook on medium-low for about an hour and a half. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the cabbage is soft and tender.