Following is a list of “facts” and “rules” I’ve discovered about myself when it comes to dating, online, offline, in a supermarket line, out of line, whatever. I by no means hold them to be true for every human being, but to the extent that life is often a solipsistic affair, I offer to you the few non-trivial patterns that emerge before me; some are patterns, other habits:
- Excitement and unease both descend upon me before a date. I don’t know exactly why this happens, and sometimes I wonder if this whole dating thing is not just a distraction from fulfilling my life in so many other ways. But before many, and perhaps most, of my dates, a sense of dread that isn’t quite nervousness sets in. Suddenly I have to act, I have to entertain, I have to needle, tease, flirt, provoke, and appease. The best of these encounters, which are few, will punch through this stupid onset of self-induced pressure, but quite often the “hour before” is beset with agitation. In a sense, this might be good. After all, we all need deadlines and a little fire under our feet to rise above the social flat-lining ennui of daily singledom and low-pressure routines. And yet no matter how excited I might feel before (and after!), it can seem like such a chore.
- What do I say next? Maybe this is applicable to most ice-breaking in social situations, but I really hate the feeling of having to come up with something to say. This takes away from genuine enjoyment and organic dialogue as you can never devote attention to what the person is saying and literally “live in the moment.” Imagine going on a thrill ride and ignoring the thrill as your mind races to consider what ride it’s going on next. Of course, age and wisdom have brought a more introspective attitude and I’m now often able to feel comfortable saying only what I want to say and even “enjoying the silence” on occasion. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the unproductive and unenlightening conversational race to the bottom.
- Picking out just the right place like it’s my OCD business. Now, I know that my general proclivities for endless filtering and curating through catalogs of choices, facilitated by the convenience of modern recommender systems like Amazon, Netflix, and Yelp, amplify my tendency to spend much too much in planning than execution. But I can’t help it. Most of the time, when I propose a date, I want it to be really cool…and super fun…and awesome…oh, and have an edge. You get the point! And if there’s anything I’ve found to be an almost indisputable fact of life, it’s that ultimately the venue shrinks in significance the moment a date begins. Sure, an artistically inclined girl might appreciate some gallery hopping or some conversation pieces, and a girl who loves fish tacos might have a foodgasm when you stop by some four-star taco truck. But looking for romantic connections is not tourism. Our minds soon disappear into a rhythm of careful prodding, gentle teasing, and mental shopping. Even when we’re not asking if this is the person you want to kiss/shag/date, your mind and body are making small calculations, writing things down, weighing and calculating. That’s why we end up listlessly paying the check at amazingly romantic cocktail dens or making out with reckless abandon in the back of seamy dive bars.