I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about love. I understand the concept of love—and how I think love should look and feel—but falling in love? Staying in love? Being in love? Uh, no … definitely not my domain. I’ve never been engaged or married, and I’m not the type of person who falls in and out of love in the amount of time between a polish change. I have friends who love to fall in love and, honestly, I’m slightly envious of their total abandon to submit themselves to someone else so completely and effortlessly.
I read a quote that I think about often: “Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, but trusting them not to.” Just typing this adds a heaviness to my heart. Perhaps it’s fear or lack of trust (probably both), but I’m just not this open (working on it—thanks).
However, dating—well, that’s something I definitely have experience with. In full transparency, there are A LOT of first dates, very few second and third ones. It’s been said that practice makes perfect, and if you believe this adage to be true, then I’ve transformed myself into a Gold Medalist dater. And not because I love dating—I actually loathe it—but because I’ve gone on enough dates to know what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve adjusted accordingly. This DOES NOT mean if you follow these dos and don’ts, then you’ll find your permanent plus one (hey, hasn’t worked for me—my ring finger is still bare and lonely). But at the very least, it’ll make dating a little less like a job interview, and nobody actually likes a job interview, do they?
Granted, I’m still single, so if you read this and think, “What the f is she talking about,” please disregard immediately. But if you find any solace in the advice below, use it. As they say in AA, take what you need and leave the rest (a useful life lesson, TBH).
• DO talk to him prior to the actual date. And by talk, I mean on the actual phone (old school, I know). A few reasons to do this: 1) you get to hear his voice and, if you’re anything like me, the wrong voice can easily be a dealbreaker. What if he speaks in whispers? Or pronounces your name with a bizarre enunciation? 2) you can get a sense of his interpersonal vibe. Does he listen? Ask questions? Keep the conversation flowing? Or is he the type to leave awkward silences, filled with heavy breathing? (Don’t laugh, this has happened to me, and all I could think of was, “This is what he’s going to sound like having sex.” I faked sick and cancelled the date—#sorrynotsorry.) Does he talk over you? Interrupt? Only talk about himself? and, 3) you get a sense of what he actually talks about, which can immediately be a glaring red flag—or a welcome sigh of relief. If he talks about how his ex stole all of his money and his dignity, perhaps he needs a good therapist, not a girlfriend. But, if he talks about common interests—a great movie that you both enjoy, a book he’s reading (he reads?!), a podcast he recommends—you’ll likely get along painlessly on the date. At the very least, you’ll have decent conversation, and that connection is half the battle.
• DO drive/bike/Bird/Uber yourself to a first date. This should be common sense, but if you’ve never met, don’t give him your address. There are crazies out in the world. Don’t become a statistic. Plus, the drive home can get super uncomfortable if he’s wanting a goodnight kiss and you’re not into it. Why put yourself through it? And if he doesn’t pick you up, it’s so much easier to escape a bad date.
• DO go on the date if someone sets you up—or at least be open to it. If they present red flags or non-negotiables, don’t waste your time, but if you believe that the Universe gives you what you desire most, you have to put in the effort, if even just to show the Universe that you’re serious about getting serious. Still feeling blasé about the D word (dating, you dirty minds)? Fake it till you make it.
• DO get online. You’re not too good for it. Sorry, but that’s the ego talking. Everyone’s doing it, which means that you’re more likely to meet a guy/girl online than out and about. Dating is a numbers game: the more dates you have, the more likely you’ll actually find someone worthy of a second date (and, GASP, maybe even a relationship?).
• DO let it all go: the baggage of bad dates past, the failed relationships, the fear—let it go. Negativity begets negativity. Be the most positive, optimistic version of yourself, despite your past relationship hardships. I’m not going to lie, this is easier said than done, and something that I am still working on. It’s so much simpler to say, “Every date I go on sucks and is a massive waste of my valuable time, therefore I’m never going on another date again.” But that line of thinking is really my defense mechanisms kicking into turbo gear. If I’m serious about finding a partner, how do I expect to do that if I don’t put myself out there? As much as I wish that [insert name of hot actor on your current binge-worthy series] would hop out of my TV screen and come join me in bed, it’s never going to happen.
• DON’T make yourself look years younger (or thinner) in your online dating profile photos. Or use photos from a decade ago. Think about it: you want to actually meet the guy IRL, so he’s going to find out that that’s not actually how you look and, chances are, awkwardness will ensue.
I had a first date with a guy I met on Bumble, and on his profile, he had dark hair and a six pack. When I met him in person, he had a full head of grey hair and was a good 20 pounds overweight. BTW, I have nothing against greying hair—George Clooney is hot AF—and I wouldn’t have cared if he had represented himself correctly in his profile. But to be blindsided once I arrive? No. Just, no. Same holds true for us women. That prom photo doesn’t cut it anymore. You’re older—and wiser—embrace it! Also, starting your relationship built on lies? Good luck with that.
• DON’T make dinner dates. Are you a masochist? Then why did you say yes to the dinner invite with a man whom you’ve never met? That’s at least an hour and a half of your life you’re giving to someone you’ve never met. Drinks allow just enough time to figure out if you even vibe with him. If so, you can easily move it to dinner. If not, no need to do the fake emergency text that your fake cat ran away and you have to bounce, stat, speech. It’s one (drink) and done, and a total of 30 minutes lost. That’s only a single episode of Will and Grace—I feel OK with that.
• DON’T do day dates unless you’re 100% confident about day lighting. This may sound ridiculous (and it probably is), but we have enough to be anxious about pre-first date without also driving ourselves crazy over lighting. Daylight does not discriminate: the reality is that daylight is harsh for 90% of people over the age of 23.
A male friend told me he was meeting beautiful girls on Raya, but when he’d go on dates with them, they looked nothing like their airbrushed profile picture selves. So he began strategically setting up day dates in an effort to see what they looked like in natural light (rude, I know—he’s no longer my friend, FYI). His comments ranged from “She wears too much makeup” to “She has a full-blown mustache.” This somewhat accompanies the first don’t, about changing your appearance so drastically that he doesn’t even recognize the real you. If you can’t embrace—and flaunt—your insecurities, why would he? Also, to note: lighting really is everything—so even at night, choose a spot with the type of lighting that makes you feel your best.
• DON’T have diarrhea of the mouth on a first date. He doesn’t need to know your entire life history, including how your uncle used to call you Heifer Hannah because you were big-boned in elementary school and it hurt your feelings, or the threesome you had in college that subsequently gave you a gnarly UTI. Save this for your therapist. When it comes to dating—especially first dates—less is more. And don’t bogart the conversation. Ask him questions. Listen. Digest it. Respond. I get it, dating is nerve-racking, and nervousness causes involuntary rambling. But it’s actually a great life lesson. As the Dalai Lama so aptly put it: “When you talk, you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” BOOM.
Bottom line: leave him wanting more. More conversation … and more you.
• DON’T take it personally: the rejection, the discouragement, the disinterest. It’s not about you—it’s about him and his own sh*t. Let’s be real, whenever someone says, “Don’t take it personally,” I always take it personally because I’m a person and I’m my own ally (get it: person + ally = personally). So if it’s happening to me, I’m going to defend myself. But when it comes to dating, I’m really trying to brush it off. Someone once said to me: “When you go on a date, don’t make it about him, make it about you. It’s not, ‘Does he like me?’ It’s ‘Do I like him?’” Basically, flip the script—and take back your power. Chances are, if he’s not vibing with you, you’re not vibing with him, so don’t view it as a personal assault. Instead, think of it as: “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” You just escaped a lifetime of unhappiness. Praise be.
The final bit of advice I always give myself: if he’s my type, he’s not for me—because, clearly, what I think I want isn’t working. My picker is definitely off, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Acceptance is the first step toward change.