Remember that girl in high school that refused to date while in high school because the guys are all too immature? I always laughed at this sentiment as it expressed the sheer definition of immaturity; trying too hard to be mature.
But these types of people also miss a central conceit of romance, even in the zygotic cesspool of dating before college. While most people would say they date because they want to find “the one” or at least someone they could get along with for lengthy periods of time, dating is actually far more complicated than that. Each relationship you have had before ended for any number of reasons: they (or you) were too clingy, too distant, too irrational, to coldly rational, owned way too many tarantulas, owned way too many DVD box sets of One Tree Hill. They weren’t ready, you weren’t ready. They didn’t have enough time, you also thought of this excuse to push aside someone you have simply grown to dislike.
Dead relationships seem like failures, especially if you were not the first person to leave the relationship. Even if you are embarrassed to relate whom you have dated, they seem inseparable from your own past. I had a roommate in college who could break down his calendar years by epochs of who he was dating. “Crazy Megan” went 4 months, “Ginger Sophina” went 13 months, “Barely Legal Debbie” went five weeks but then another six weeks between “Law Student Rachel” and “The Summer Of The Girl He Met At A Bar And Decided To Be Soul Mates Grease-style But Damn If He Could Remember Her Name”. Aside from being an absolute douchenozzle and not taking these girls for who they might have actually been as people, he did have the natural instinct we all have to–like a season of Friends— design our life history around the people with which we’ve been.
Relationships are not merely a way to pass the time; they are often how we measure our time. Indeed, a relationship which feels toxic in retrospect we might often blame for taking part of our lives away. We feel a bad relationship is like a traffic jam or NPR’s Pledge Week. And this is why some among us are inclined to avoid any relationship they feel will waste their time.
However, no relationship is actually a complete waste. The larger purpose of dating is to find a longterm mate, yes, but it is also a social experiment. You are wont to avoid someone you know will lead you or themselves down an unhappy or unhealthy path, but those people are rarely so identifiable. The girl who will poke holes in your condoms and borrow your debit card for a weekend does not advertise this information while sitting at the bar sipping SkinnyGirl cocktails. Nor does the blue-haired girl in the Cursive concert tee let you know she might drag you down a godawful path of borderline anxiety and manic surfing of the DSM-IV, only to threaten to kill herself and lock herself in your apartment frightening your roommate Jeff (not that I have any experience in such a matter).
So how do you avoid such situations? The aforementioned girl from high school went into college with very little idea as to what sort of person she wanted to be with. Past relationships educate us. We fulfill ourselves by deciding what we want, but how do we know what we want if we’ve never tried anything? She might as well have been a child who refuses to eat spinach merely by its appearance, its sliminess, its habit of calling Jay Gatsby gay in English class.
And this extends past high school and college. As you venture into the Mad Max world of dating in your twenties, remember that failures lead to more successes. Dating is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration, and 1% desperation. As with anything, however, you must actually learn from your mistakes. Identify the warning signs: Does he think a Roth IRA is a gamertag? Does she wear a “Free LiLo” t-shirt? Do they actually believe the broccoli in a Hot Pocket is a suitable serving of vegetables?
So date. Date the odd and the boring, the freaky and the vanilla, the fedoras and the pencil skirts. As long as you are keeping yourself intact, their should be no fear of any non-abusive potential relationship. It’s cliche to tell you to try new things, but it’s different than that. People are each their own experience and so are you. It is a mutually beneficial social arrangement whether it fails or not. Know what you want, but also know the more you try, the more you can be sure of it.