Since January, I’ve dated six men. By dated, I mean I’ve gone out, gotten excited, gotten hopeful, gotten intense, felt it fizzle, watched it end, and made the usual crying phone calls to my sisters and friends. We have the obligatory “this wasn’t the right guy” conversation, mention three to five friends we know who dated around before finding “the right one,” and I return to hopefulness, refusing to become jaded or bitter.
It’s an exhilarating (read: exhausting) cycle that makes me highly valuable to my psychiatrist and wireless service provider, but frankly, it has to end.
None of these guys are bad guys, and I don’t wish any of them ill–well, I had some choice words for the 38-year-old who was dating me while apparently in an exclusive relationship with another woman, but whatevs. The problem, I’m realizing, is me. I engage in this cycle, allowing it to devastate me, when a lot of the time the cycle wouldn’t have even begun if I was more honest with myself about how I felt during the dating process.
I believe it’s becoming increasingly hard for women to be honest and listen to their gut when they’re dating. Between all the apps, the swipes, and the messaging that ultimately leads nowhere, it seems like a miracle when you sit down on a date with someone you’re actually excited to see. We all have our criteria before we go on that first date. For me, I’d love it if a guy is educated, employed, passionate about what he does, and taller than I am. Oh, and someone who doesn’t ask for nude photos prior to meeting. If we date, I may send him a photo of my cardigan tied around my shoulders, but THAT IS A SPECIAL THING.
So here’s where the cycle begins. You’re on a date with a guy who meets your criteria, and you likely meet his. Things are good. Not, like, picturing monogrammed towels good, but good. But then, you can’t help but notice how he’s talked about himself the whole time. Or he says something like, “I’m so glad you look like your pictures. There are a lot of fatties on Hinge.” Or he does something else that makes you pause–but because you seem to match up on the aforementioned criteria, you let it go.
He asks you out again. You go, because you convince yourself that the “fatties” comment was a one-off, and his tasteless comment about your expiring ovaries wasn’t malicious, and–oh, my God, will you ever swipe right and eventually sit down with another viable option again?
Here’s the thing. Go on the second date. Go on the third date. Part of dating is taking time to get to know someone. First impressions are valuable, but so are second chances. (Let she who hasn’t gotten too tipsy on Chard during a first date cast the first stone.) But the gut is a powerful thing, and I have–six times this year–ignored mine. I’ve not only ignored it, but I’ve gone out of my way to overcompensate by getting excited, getting invested, and getting wrapped up in the idea of “someone” with little regard to whether he’s “the right one.” I willingly engage and set in motion my own cycle. My argument here is not for getting up in the middle of a date and storming off if a guy says something that doesn’t totally sit right with you. Instead, it’s for reminding yourself (myself?) to slow. the. eff. down. Like, way down. Like, Florida retirement community speed limit slow.
It seems women are fed a confusing slew of messages now more than ever. Early on, we’re told we are princesses deserving of a rom-com ending, and then we enter adulthood and are inundated with articles about how we’re too picky, too easy, too bitchy, too selfish. We go from being told to have the highest standards to feeling like we’re making a mistake if we employ any at all. There has to be a middle ground. We have to value our judgment enough to know when it’s worth pursuing, and it shouldn’t be because you’re fearful you won’t have another chance.
It’s hard to admit, but I am fearful. So I find the middle ground, but I immediately start tilling the soil with far too much intensity, in the hope that I can sprout some flowers that will distract me from whether I actually like this guy or not. Understandably, he then bounces and I’m like “Hello? I PLANTED THESE TULIPS FOR US!!” I feel devastated, but why? I don’t even like to garden. (I took a chance on this metaphor. If you’re still with me, I appreciate it.)
As of this column, I’m dating the seventh guy of this year, and I’m hopeful. It’s good to be hopeful. So far, no red flags or pangs of concern in my gut. But it’s early–so if you see me planting tulips, please call the authorities.