“Working on the Me before He”- tagline for www.nomrdarcy.com
On one of my internet trawls (I use this word, as it is very much me swimming head-first with my mind wide open, scraping for information) I stumbled on a blog entitled ‘No Mr Darcy’. Feeling very intrigued, I entered, only to fall down the rabbit hole yet again. 22 year old Sara, qualified in writing/literature/publishing from Emerson College, Boston, gave herself the challenge of not dating for a year. And then opened up the doorway for the rest of us to peer in curiously. It’s a treasure, and she spills all with astounding honesty on her blog. But why NO Mr. Darcy? And how can we use Austen to relate to our own lives? It’s all below in a Q&A.
Maintaining two blogs and a Twitter account (@SarainOhio – which you will see me #FF frequently), she is also a nonfiction addict when not reading Austen. Other than “being a total goof (which I usually am as I try to take myself with a grain of salt), I am trying to find new hobbies.” Being a fan of walking, dancing, coffee and conversation- she’s my kind of girl. “I am normally a dog gal but recently got a kitten and am working my way towards becoming an old cat lady over the last couple of months,” she says.
Her insights are lovely, and while she is occasionally sad, often funny and frequently whimsical I think that everyone (especially those of us with an unhealthy obsession with Pride and Prejudice) will find something to “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I think!” about in her writing. Want a taste? Here you go:
Why did you decide to start No Mr. Darcy?
I started No Mr. Darcy as kind of a challenge for myself. I have jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend for over 6 years and when the last one went south I just got fed up. I had known I was in love at 17 and dated that boy for 4 years, certain he was the one, but when timing and distance and emotions won out I lost that and never stopped regretting it. I walked away mostly out of fear I suppose, but what came next was a sequence of inconsequential boyfriends (3 to be exact) that I didn’t really love and who love me and who I worry now I led on far too much. So in an attempt to end the madness, and stop dumping boys after dating just 4 months at a time I made the site. Also some friends didn’t think I would last a month without a boyfriend and I wanted to prove them wrong. I am a stubborn Taurus like that.
Which Pride and Prejudice heroes (or otherwise!) have your past boyfriends been most similar to?
Ha! I love the question about my exes. I must begin by saying I have not yet dated Darcy. For a long time I believed that I had but in the last couple months realized I put Mr. First Love on a pedestal. I would even go for Bingley if he existed, but he has yet to be cast into my life as well. In order I would say that my second boyfriend fits Wickham by his need to impress, and the entire he comes first while also being impulsive attitude. My third boyfriend was Mr. Collins with a touch of Wickham thrown in, he wanted to be well known but didn’t necessarily focus on the right details to get there. I often felt like he treated me as an inferior when he really had no reasoning behind it. A snob without being a snob. I find it hard to classify the last one as he was far too quiet and not very social, he almost had a Collins side to him in the sense he didn’t care much about taking the initiative to make things happen. Thinking about it though, beyond the Bennet in laws (and they were more practical than quiet) their aren’t many quiet characters in the book and the last man in my life was far too silent.
I think far too many women fall for the Wickhams of the world, or in my case Collins gets settled on because he pays a tiny interest and his authoritative (albeit fake) personality makes you think he knows what’s right. When really women should be Elizabeth and figure out what’s right on their own- easier said than done, especially when Mr. Handsome and Interested keeps knocking.
What have you learnt about yourself so far?
It’s funny how scared I was to get to know myself and attempt to have a carefree, boy-free identity. And I think a lot of people can be like that, like relationships become a safe little bubble where you don’t have to look inward and ask the hard questions. The most surprising thing that I have learned is that I actually enjoy not pretending. I had acted for so long and been a different girlfriend to every guy that I forgot me. That and a lot of other emotional baggage along the way (my other website addresses this) made me realize I only felt validated when I had someone Else’s name defining mine. “Blank’s” girlfriend sounded better to me than simply Sara. But now I am terrified to date again. That I didn’t think would happen, I thought I would be so lonely! And I do have lonely days, everyone does, but I am more scared of being lonely with someone else (like my last 3 relationships) than being just me.
Do you think dating is easier now or in the Regency era?
It always surprises me when I notice similarities between Austen’s portrait of regency times and the present. Obviously the class systems are not as rigid now, but I think dividers still exist. But more pertinent than socially acceptable dates is the gender divide. True we no longer need a dowry and for our father’s to bargain us off, but a lot of women share in the Bennet women’s frustrations of where a man’s thoughts are. Sometimes I even think I would prefer for my father to arrange my dates, at least that way their failure would not be on my shoulders. Seriously though, I could highlight multiple conversations that I have had with girlfriends where the subject revolves around what the man must be thinking, what he wants, needs, etc.- mirroring Elizabeth’s conversations with her giddy sisters. In fact, since we are thrown out into the dating world without knowing as much background for Mr. Right Now and unaware of his intentions, I think dating is harder now. I would very closely consider the change of pace. Knowing where your date comes from, whether he has a job, and his intentions for courting would be a breath of fresh air. Instead I feel stuck with cryptic flirting, unknown desires, and the insecurity of where his head is at.
What are three major things you want to accomplish in the “No Mr Darcy” year?
I think the dating challenge has become less about making it a year and more about not repeating old habits. Along those lines my main goal would be not to settle for the next boyfriend who asks, to actually find out his intentions, who he is before I start dating him and 4 months in change my mind. Before that goal can be accomplished I need to discover my own intentions- why do I want to be in a relationship with this person? what are my intentions? And finally I think I just need to learn to live in the moment. Which may sound backwards when I am trying to think more clearly about dating, but let me clarify. I don’t mean in the moment where I start partying every night, but rather live today just for today and not wondering who I will meet and when he will love me, etc etc etc. Be here now is what I always (try to) say.
What have you discovered about your life so far?
So far my greatest discovery is that I romanticize the past. Memory is so selective and it is so easy to convince yourself that your first love is the best love out there. I have learned that is not the case, it can’t be the case. If it were he and I would be on the same page and I probably would not have this blog.
How would you describe your ideal Mr. Darcy?
My ideal Mr. Darcy is honest. This is a big piece for me, honest with me means not just sharing feelings but also being willing to call me out when I piss him off (I am not a perfect person) and call my crap. I want to date someone who is not afraid to be goofy one day and emotional the next and serious the next. But I know I want Mr. Darcy’s reserved nature, I have been smothered by the emotional types and I do not need that. Reserved, yet relaxed is how I would summarize my Darcy. He could also be played by a young John Cusack.
You mention a few of the rules for this year on your blog- have you stuck to them so far, and are you finding it hard?
Ah the rules! I tried to keep them both loose and rigid but the main rule is no love. I do not want to say or hear the three “i love you” words in the next year. I sometimes have love word vomit and so to me this fear will keep me from nabbing a boyfriend. I have gone on casual dates, and made connections in that sense. But still no boyfriend. The hard part? I miss the anticipation of a great first kiss.
Are you an Elizabeth Bennet character/which Austen heroine do you most aspire to?
I think I strive to be Elizabeth Bennet, she is so strong and voices herself so well. I feel like when I am passionate about something or someone I can just get word vomit or breakdown entirely when someone hurts me instead of calling them on bullshit. Realistically though I am Emma. I see so many similarities between myself and the way she thinks and acts it can be scary. Even my family sees her as me in terms of a literary character (television character I am oddly close to Erica Strange from Being Erica- if you have not watched this Canadian show I promise you will love it, look it up!)
Would you recommend this sort of dating ban to anyone else?
I don’t know if I would recommend attempting a time limit on dating. Here’s why, my recent entry discusses a guy I have been seeing and now I hesitate with him because the blog has brought forward so much of my baggage. I worry that I will either relive habits by continuing to date or pass up one great guy because of all the shitty ones to prove a point. However, I would recommend a dating haitus for people who are love-a-holics like me and need to test the notion of taking things slow. And I mean that on an emotional level. Just because you get butterflies from someone you don’t have to dive in and assume it will be love. It probably won’t be, and in my case if I start thinking of the L word at the beginning of a relationship it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy where in the end it was forced love and never real. Which hurts all parties involved. I think everyone needs a break from watching Chick Flicks. That will be my next blog, they really mess with your head and build up false hopes and expectations!
Do you want the marriage/kids/etc combo?
I used to know I wanted those things, like I was 12 and certain I would be married by 22. Now I am like hell no! I want to travel, to write a book, to live in Europe before I am married. And kids? Yes I want them but I don’t want to assume it will be in the cards for me until I meet a guy I can picture that with. Until then my new nephew (9 weeks old!) will fill that void.
What are you going to do when the year is up? You will keep blogging, right?!
I think I have to keep blogging especially now that things are at a fork with a guy I want to date. I think it could evolve into a realistic dating blog at some point. More a check in for taking things slow in love. Or maybe it will get other voices involved of women with dating woes. If anyone wants to guest write that is.
All relationships, whether they evolve into love or not, are based in chance. Your closest friends from the third grade is as chance an encounter in the lunchroom bonding over the last chocolate milk as meeting the man of your dreams on the local bus. It all comes down to opening your eyes. I am not saying peel your eyes open and search for love everywhere you go, but I do think closing off completely is just as lethal as taking too many risks. Like a relationship with another person, the self relationship is all about balance. I stopped listening to my gut at 19, but in the last few months I have played my logic above all else, with a dash of impulse.
Ed.- Honestly, anyone that doesn’t go and check out her blog right now is a fool. Dating advice? Jane Austen? Someone halfway across the world who is giving her heart and soul to us on a plate? Brilliant.
And the latest?
People tend to say you always find the right person when you’re not looking. I can’t think of a more “not looking” time in my life then when I started the blog in the beginning of October. This started my period of wanting nothing to do with men, in the beginning (even though the rules say causal dates were okay) I didn’t even want to flirt. I was over the disappointment I caused in relationships and even more fed up with the empty feeling I was left with knowing I had failed once again and let another guy down. But then I was asked on a date by someone I felt the urge to say yes to. And he kept asking and I kept wanting to get to know him. I will admit at first I questioned it completely, with the blog challenge in the forefront of my mind I almost said no to him off the bat. But the way he made me laugh (the kind of constant smile laugh that I hadn’t had in years) made me want to say okay, I’ll try this.
So I am, trying, I am trying to hold onto this one and not acknowledge that a curse is on the horizon. That I can date longer than 4 months is the new challenge. And I will succeed in that one more than I did in the year goal, simply because I already see the outcome of this as much better than a year alone. Being with someone who makes you feel as though you are motivated constantly and capable always is something I have never had. Now that I do I understand it to be a better reward than proving I don’t need a boyfriend. The thing is I don’t need him, I want to be with him. And that is why it has a chance to last.
That and the fact that he still makes me laugh. A lot.
Too cute? (I’m still all “Squeee!!”-ing at this!)