If We’re Always Looking For Something Better, Is Dating Doomed?

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I notice his shirt first. The broppropriate uniform of untucked button down, jeans, and sexless shoes stands in stark contrast to the no-frills brewery. He is out of his element. 

She arrives after he’s had time to get a drink and situate himself in a booth where he pretends to laugh at the hilarity of a fictional text thread, though, really, he’s just crushing candy. 

They shake hands but don’t make eye contact as he continues to sit while she goes to the bar for her own drink.

And the horror hits.

This is not a business meeting between colleagues or a divvying up of the will from some wealthy uncle, this is a date, like an online I’ve only seen pictures of you from 2005 which apparently was a GOOD YEAR because I definitely won’t hug this stranger who is allegedly you date. 

While my friend and I watch, captivated, partly from the fascination at the handshake kick-off, and partly because we’ve been there too — we’ve all been there — I wonder why she doesn’t run straight for the door. Because if your date can’t be bothered to get out of his seat to buy you a drink, and if you can’t be bothered to offer more than a handshake, is this going nowhere fast?

She returns to the booth, having foraged for her own libations, and begins talking animatedly, while he checks out some neighboring nachos and fidgets.

I don’t know what’s worse, the actuality of this date STILL happening before my eyes, the fact that half of the bar is watching and taking bets on which dating site they met on, or, the simple truth that this is the reality of the majority of dating. Because the way some physical connections are instantly palpable when two people are near each other — well, for every one of those interactions, there’s ten duds like these.

Maybe not to the extreme where HE CAN’T EVEN BUY YOU ONE DRINK FOR YOUR PAIN, but, two people clicking, having the kind of chemistry that’s like your first sip of morning coffee — that lingering taste that reawakens your senses — is the less-likely scenario.

Thanks to online dating, there is this increased accessibility to go on dates without ever really having to put yourself out there, and, with that, comes the unspoken assumption that dating is somehow easier because you have the opportunity to find and go on dates with way more people.

While this opens up some good things, it’s also created a culture of dissatisfaction.

“I found someone great, but WHAT IF there is someone even greater? I mean, what if my next date has a puppy?! Sorry, great someone who made me laugh and bought all my drinks, but I must find the even greater someone now.”

So, despite all these people you can meet (who you may never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise), it all comes back to the rarity of clicking with this other strange person, appreciating the value whenever you do and learning that just because you can meet and date more people, more frequently, that doesn’t increase the frequency of finding someone who fits. 

The thrill of newness always fades, and when it does, you’ll be left thinking of someone who stuck even when the newness was long gone, whose little details hit you in pangs of love and loss every time you hear the song that was playing the first time you met.

This doesn’t necessitate immediately deleting forever the three online dating profiles you spent two weeks of your life (plus four years of liberal arts training) carefully crafting. It just means, relax your fingers and eyes from skydiving pictures (remember when that was cool?) and Kerouac quotes for a moment. Figure out the qualities in others you need to feed your soul, the qualities you need to walk away from, your deal-breakers, the offbeat humor that makes you laugh, the thoughtfulness you value highly, the ethical standards you live by, and, leave room for the wildcard feelings that catch you by surprise. 

Instead of dating as much as possible, assuming one of those dates is bound to be exactly what you’re looking for, date with purpose — not just for the sake of dating.

That purpose doesn’t need to have some grand, future end-goal of permanence or marriage or a kingdom-binding union — just the purpose of getting to know someone you like and enjoying every delicious detail of how that feels. TC mark

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