I guess everyone has his or her one Kryptonite. The one that will always define what they are looking for in someone else, whether that is a subconscious preference for blondes who like cats or the mere thought of a man who’s favorite perfume is the one your first boyfriend wore. And in the end that is okay. Because by the real heartbreaks we have encountered, by the thoughts we have put into the illusion of being in a lasting relationship we have already made up a picture in our minds of the person we are going to end up with. And even if we don’t like to admit it, we think of someone to grow old with from time to time. It can happen when you encounter an elderly couple sharing ice cream or simply seeing a very beautiful person and imagining your life with them on the subway ride you share in the morning commute. And dating people wont change that.
Since we have developed this strange habit that allows us to go out every weekend for random hookups which may or may not then develop into “seeing someone casually, without making it exclusive” does not help us finding something more deep and fulfilling (pun not intended). It is just as sure that seeing people and going on dates will help us to find out what we like and what we would rather not have around us in another person, yet giving so much of yourself- be it in physical contact or simply by sharing secrets and details about your past or personality, we open ourselves up and therewith become vulnerable for people we “casually know”.
Pillow talk is barely ever about Ice Hockey and favorite bars downtown, but much rather about the connection were trying to find while we don’t even know the other persons last name. We don’t need dates anymore once you have been in a relationship.
I remember the feeling I got from going out with someone I hadn’t spoken to before when I was in a new city by myself for work. Obviously, the no-friends-around-feeling is hard to deal with so looking for someone to replace that empty space in not only my heart but also my schedule was the exact right thing to do. But right on the first date, right there and then in that small bar in downtown New York, I realized that I would rather spend time by myself and ask myself the questions he was not asking me; find out what I want and what I don’t want and to what extend I would be able to cope with disagreements on morals, religion, politics, society and the future. And really, answering all that did not take very long.
Once you’re comfortable answering all these to yourself; once you are comfortable spending time with nobody but yourself, you will come to the realization that giving yourself away with whom you disagree on many levels and the only thing the two of you really share is the mutual feeling of the other person being “cute” makes you realize just as fast that many things are mediocre, but love should definitely not be one of them. In a time where FORCED MARRIAGE is a mere word we hear and think is so far away from our culture and ourselves we put the burden on ourselves to be with someone for whom your feelings will yet have to develop and grow, if they will exist at some point at all, when we have the chance to be alone and love ourselves first in order to meet someone that loves all the little things about us and that accepts, supports, pushes and encourages us.
Someone we fall in love with in exactly that one second when their eyes meet yours and the first word leaves their lips. And yet we decide to stick around that guy we met in college, the one we have grown comfortable with rather than spending time with answering all these necessary questions that actually define who we are, so we can hide away from responsibilities and are never alone after a long day. And no matter how awesome the idea sounds of ordering Chinese food with someone that will support me to wear pajamas of a 5-year-old on a Friday night only to cuddle up in front of the TV and share all the spring rolls – the feeling you have doing that in the mediocre relationship is absolutely nothing compared to the feeling you get when sharing that Chinese food with the one.
You know, I get it. Dating is fun, it really is. And I love dates! At least the ones from which you get the feeling that the person across from you has put at least one single thought into this (or you have, depending on who asked for the date) and that you both enjoy the time. And no matter how its going, and if you know early on you either do want or don’t want to see the other person again, it’s a nice way to spend your time and to distract yourself a little bit from the craziness of your day. But the part that comes after is what’s truly terrifying. The “is he going to call me again or not”-part. And even if you have decided that you didn’t want to see him again, you still want him to want to see you again.
It’s as simple as it gets: of course we want the validation of another person and the feeling of him thinking of you and your shiny hair and your loving personality! And how your sense of humor compliments his understanding of a good conversation! And you would rather find an awkward, unnerving and not very truthful way out of the situation in which he asks you out again, its still an acknowledgement of how great you are.
I’ve been in exactly that situation: A moment in which you realize that the guy is nice (he really was), but that quite some things to really meet your idea of the future boyfriend. And yet, I sit through the date, we have a beer and then decide to go for a walk (Times Square, very authentic) and chat a little more before I say good night and take the A Train back home. And while I’m still sitting in the much too bright light of the downtown train I wonder if he’s going to text me and ask if I got home safely. And already then I decide that I would not want to meet up again if he didn’t, even though I had made that decision long before (when he started bragging about how many bootie calls he had on speed dial (don’t ask)). But still, I wanted him to want to see me again, it was almost eating me up, it was frustrating, it was irritating, it was unnerving and it drives me crazy every single time.
I’m glad I didn’t have to go through the “Oh you know, I’m leaving the country soon, but thanks again for the beer!”-conversation, but still: Why didn’t he want me? What was wrong with me? What did I say that threw him off enough not to even ask if I made it home safely? Is it my hair? My teeth? Was he annoyed by the sound of my laughter? What does he not like about me? And – I might be the only one but I’m pretty sure I’m not – every single date that had me going out causally even though I knew we weren’t going to get married has had me asking myself the same list of questions.
Every guy I went on one date with just to not speak to him again, or even the guy I went on three dates with (which went great and then surprisingly) after which we stopped talking makes me question myself more than it makes me question and doubt the guy. Which obviously is neither good for my confidence, nor my will to ever date again. But the fact is that every date is also a learning experience. I found out that I don’t want to be with someone that doesn’t like dogs, I don’t want to be with someone that thinks being spiritual is stupid, I don’t want to be with someone that hates reading and I definitely don’t want someone that has bootie calls on speed dial. But still; why do they not want me? No matter how ridiculous it sounds, the question remains. And it gets worse after every date you go on. Which is why we don’t need this modern dating culture. We hurt ourselves more with every date we go on, knowing beforehand that his eyebrows disturb you, his laughter is a little off, his college major is plain weird, whatever it is that keeps him from being the possible future husband, hurts us. Because we both know this is not going anywhere, yet we want the other person to feel differently about it.
We want to hurt them rather than hurting ourselves by facing the truth. And that’s why we don’t need this modern dating culture. Really, the answers I’ve gotten from going out with (let’s call them) Chad, Ted, Jake and Blake were there all along. And I can buy myself some beer if I want to (USA! USA!) And it’s not like I’m opposing dates, not at all! My opinion on why to date and how to date has just changed rapidly once I had figured out the real reason to go out with someone. It’s less of feeling wanted by a meaningless stranger you’ll probably never see again and free food and drinks (best case), but more of feeling a connection to someone before you have even gotten the change to go out. It can be reaching for the same book in the crime section of Barnes and Nobles as well as the shy smiles and looks you exchange with your colleague at the printer.
I think there has to be something before making the decision of washing and styling your hair and putting on pants for someone you don’t know at all. I think that once you have been on a date with someone with whom you have had that certain connection before, the way you look at dates just changes rapidly because the way your dates go is different. The way you say hello isn’t as awkward and the silence in between your sips of coffee isn’t as awkward. The way you say goodbye isn’t as awkward and waiting for the text won’t have you wondering whether he liked your choice of clothes or if he hated it, but rather make you smile once your phone vibrates and his or her name lights up the screen. We don’t need this modern dating culture, which takes away the importance of a real conversation and makes us use each other for a short distraction of reality, we don’t need it. What we need is to realize that dates shouldn’t be a mere avocation without much sense and reason, but rather the first time you possibly meet the love of your life.