A few months ago I was asked on a date. This wasn’t just any date, it was the first date I had ever been asked on in my 21 years of existence. Technically, I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 14 – family rule – but that still leaves me with 7 years of date-less weekends.
It was like any other weekend: a group of girls gathered in a cramped apartment, racing the clock to get ready to head into the city for a night of fun. Then all of a sudden, I got a message:
dude u r hawt
I wanna take u on a date
Yes, I know what you are thinking – terrible speller, right? Okay, so that may not be what you were thinking. While his spelling was certainly creative, I had my doubts about the execution. Although I don’t credit romantic comedies as valid sources of expertise when it comes to one’s love life, I’ve seen more than enough to know that dude u r hawt I wanna take u on a date wasn’t exactly the typical, or appropriate, means by which one party asks another on a date.
Regardless of the extremely blunt nature of the message, I was frantic. I asked for advice from the women around me, confessing that I had never been asked on a date. They acted shocked. Me, a twenty-one-year-old cynic of slightly above-average intelligence and a winning sense of dry, sarcastic humor had never been asked on a date.
You’ve never been on a date?
Nope, I said, never been on a date.
A collective Why? flooded the tiny apartment.
…because I’ve never been asked…
Regardless of my (in)finite wisdom about the dating world, I had still never been asked on a single date until now. Dates aren’t exactly something you go on without both parties agreeing to the arrangement – even I knew that.
The truth of the matter is I have always been a late-bloomer, in nearly every aspect of the term. I learned to tell my left from my right and how to tie my shoes after my little sister did it first; for the longest time I was one of the shortest kids in my class; I got my drivers permit and license relatively late when compared to my other classmates; and I hadn’t had my first kiss until hours before my 19th birthday – I was a freshman in college.
There always seem to be 3 possible reactions when telling someone you have never (insert any socially-perceived rite of passage here) before.
1. Shocked – What do you mean you’ve never _______?!
I always find this response to be a little absurd. People will often follow up the slack-jaw look with some sort of glowing compliment: But you’re so pretty. You’re super charismatic. You are a great person. The list goes on. While I always make an attempt at a sincere smile and a heart-felt Thank you, I can’t help but think to myself Thanks, I’ll list you as a reference on my résumé; you can give a testimony on my winning personality.
2. Empathetic – Usually some type of apology is used here with a concerned expression, followed by the comforting reassurance that “You’re not missing much” or “Don’t worry, your day will come”
This response, though not intended to, promotes the idea that there is something wrong with being a late-bloomer or making the choice to wait for whatever the situation may be.
3. Relief – This last reaction is quietly shared exclusively with surrounding closeted late-bloomers.
The last response is what prompted this post. Several months ago I was with a group of friends waiting around for the next train and making conversation to pass the time. Somehow we made it to the discussion of dating and relationships. One of the group members stated in a hushed tone that they had never been on a date or in a relationship. This sentiment was echoed quietly throughout the group as we gathered closely to compare stories – or non-stories.
By the end of our discussion we had all come to the conclusion that 1. Late-bloomers are not as uncommon as one would believe, and 2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not keeping up with society’s prescriptive timeline – it’s not a race.
Though the dating world often feels like a sprint, it shouldn’t. In high school, I felt as if the gun had gone off and I was aimlessly running around, trying to look at my opponents for some sense of direction. As I entered college I was still nervous and confused, like I was trying to run but my feet weren’t moving, until the night before my 19th birthday.
I was hanging out with friends who had been drinking; I on the other hand was extremely sober and bored out of my mind. As the night started to wind down we all slumped on to a rickety old couch. It looked like something that had been pulled out of an alleyway with its questionable stains, protruding nails and staples. There were four of us in the room, one passed out in the corner of the room, the other three on the couch. Another one bit the dust, and then it was just the two of us. Before I knew it there was a dark, indistinct figure coming toward my face, and then it happened – the worst kiss that ever was – or that I’ve experienced thus far. Even then I knew this kiss should not be happening: he was drunk, I was inexperienced and nowhere near interested in kissing this particular person. Regardless, I did it to check “been kissed” off of my list as my 19th birthday was hours away and I had it built up in my mind that having not been kissed by age 19 was something to be ashamed of.
Making matters worse was the fact that there was no connection between the two of us – no feelings, vague relationship, or even a real friendship. This was a guy who I helped through biology class in high school, though I’m sure he doesn’t remember. Through high school we rarely spoke, as our circles of friends were seemingly worlds apart. In college we hardly spoke, and in the three years since that night no more than a sentence in passing has been shared. I felt a little invincible at first, and then I felt invisible. I let someone use me and I used them just to check a box off society’s list, mistaking it for my own.
Now it’s a different story. I learned to keep to my own pace. I’ve thrown some shades on and slowed down enough to take it all in. I still get a little anxious when I see others fly by, but sitting comfortably on the sidelines has given me a new perspective. It has allowed me to learn from others and listen to my own sense of judgment.
Regardless of what you have or haven’t checked off your “list,” own it:
- Never been kissed? Own it.
- Never been on a date? Own it.
- Never selected “In a Relationship” on Facebook? Own it.
Because at the end of the day, what you have or haven’t done isn’t a character flaw, and it is certainly not something you should be ashamed of.
I, Nat, was not kissed until I was 18.9999 years old – and it was awful, but I learned from it;
I, Nat, have still never been on a date;
I, Nat, have never had a boyfriend;
I, Nat, am a late-bloomer, and frankly I am perfectly okay checking off my boxes in my own damn time.
Whether you are a sprinter, a marathoner, a jiggle-jogger, a walker, or maybe you haven’t started yet – you are still you and that is all you need to be, so hold your head up high and walk tall, because you’re awesome.