A Small Fish in a Large Pond (That’s Filled with Barracudas)


Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend from college. The most level headed and down to earth girl in a group full of competitive nurses, Carla and I quickly became fast friends during my first year at Carroll University. After that first year, she decided to leave to pursue a better program elsewhere. But nearly four years later, Carla and I have managed to remain friends by keeping up to date while trying to find the time to visit each other. So, after more than a year of being physically distant, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with her and have a conversation face to face as we spent the day together earlier this week.

The conversation started off as usual, updating each other on the path our lives had taken us since graduating in May. She had gone on to become successful in nursing while living her best life, working and saving money with the intent to get her own place. She was interested in my writing, my family, and gave insight into my thoughts about a potential career in teaching. Then we got down to business, delving deep into the nitty gritty of dating and relationships. She talked about dates she had gone on, reveling in the freedom of being single and able to play the field. Of course, she asked about me and was surprised to hear I did not share the same vigor when it came to finding like-minded people to romantically spend my time with.

It is no secret to those that know me that my dating life has been less than ideal. By waiting to come out in my Junior year of college, I had inadvertently set myself behind the curve. While other gay men I knew had gone through the stages of dating, courtship, and long-term relationships, I had yet to experience my first kiss with a boy at age 20. I am sure this is an experience shared by other queer men and women who found themselves in my shoes but that knowledge didn’t bring me comfort as I walked to El Palmar to meet my first real Tinder date.

Fast forward to now and I have a veritable portfolio of dating horror stories, from awkward to downright bizarre experiences I have had over the past four years. I’ve met men who were convinced they could levitate objects, others who’ve stolen from me, and droves that were interested only in my body or who fell in love before knowing my last name. At times, I have been ready to throw up my hands and give up on it all, resigned to the fact (at times happily, at times miserably) that my future may very well be filled with lone nights and a litter of cats. 

But from talking to Carla, I have a renewed vision of what dating and relationships can be. Our conversation hasn’t, by any means, removed the struggles of dating or wiped away the damage others have done, be it purposeful or inadvertent. I think our society has a tendency to romanticize love; through media and movies, we are told that love comes along through a chance encounter and, following a series of comical misunderstandings, blooms easily into a beautiful flower that requires little to no care. That’s why I love novels and movies that depict the trails of dating, that normalize finding love in your 30s and 40s and even 50s. Our capacity to love and be loved does not end when we hit 30: it grows deeper and more beautiful the older we get. So I’ll look while not looking and when the day that love comes to me, I know I will appreciate it all the more because I had to wait to get it. On that day, when the chapter of dating horror stories closes and another, better one opens, my loved ones and readers will be the first to know.

As always, stay safe and hopeful! And remember that even if 99% of the population finds you uninteresting or unattractive, that still leaves about 75,000,000 people who don’t.

One thought on “A Small Fish in a Large Pond (That’s Filled with Barracudas)

  1. It will come, Joe. I had my share of horror stories, and awkward/bizarre experiences, starting when I was 48! Apparently, you’re never too young or too old to go through that. I did find a keeper, and had enough sense not to throw him back into the pond.

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