Remember when I was perusing Craigslist solely to gather information for you, fair readers? Well, today we’re moving on to part 2, dating advice. I may or may not be dating — if you want to find out for sure, you’re going to have to buy me dinner and drinks. A lot of drinks. But I digress.
I was with my friend Mike visiting our favorite bartender in Boston, and we noticed a young couple in the middle of what had to be a first date. It was pretty plain to see the body language. He was chatting and working pretty hard at being charming and funny — leaning in, if you will. Both Mike and I decided we’d be happy to have been on the receiving end of his efforts. But the young woman was less than enchanted. She was bordering on being rude, looking away, looking at her phone. Our favorite bartender confirmed our suspicions and filled us in because she’d been eavesdropping. Hence one of the many reasons she’s our favorite bartender. She was in favor of the young man, who was holding up his part of the date, but the young woman seemed to be too caught up in her own insecurities — there was a fair amount of tugging at her skirt, looking at her phone, and fiddling with her hair. She was clearly not present. And even if she was, hey, if you’re not into it, then you need to find a graceful way to end it. That’s what grownups do. Or maybe we all need to be aware of whether our date is into it, and if not, have the courage to end it gracefully ourselves.
The three of us heaved a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t us, and we agreed that this is what’s so hard about dating when you’re young. At that age, most of us often only want someone for the sake of wanting them, and we really haven’t figured out what we want from ourselves, never mind a partner. And yet there’s this great pressure to be out there and dating and finding The One! So you go on dates, dragging along your wheeled baggage that definitely does not fit into the overhead compartment. (I’d like to give shout out to my friend Lora who introduced me to this apt metaphor. She also told me plenty of stories of being on dates with folks in their 30s and 40s who should know better and still have a death grip on their luggage. So sadly, this does not just apply to the young ones.)
Sometimes I regret that I didn’t date more at that age, and wonder if it would have made a difference in my choices. But was I even ready for it? Would it have been just a series of dates like the one I witnessed, only it would have been me worrying about my body, clothes, hair, stupid shit? To be fair, back then we didn’t have phones to check, but would my eyes have been darting around like a trapped animal? Or staring into the middle distance like fictional characters do when their lives are hitting bottom? Would I have been able to learn from it? I’ve recently become addicted to enamored of a website called A New Mode, which among other things dispenses a lot of decent, sensible relationship advice aimed at straight women, but I think all humans can find something useful in it. There is also a lot of insight into how straight men think. I could write a whole blog on this topic alone, and maybe I will — it’s totally fascinating.
But for this blog, I like how A New Mode focuses on loving yourself first, having a full happy life without a partner, the fun of dating, and not taking anything too seriously at the beginning. And it’s good enough that I can overlook the fair amount of hard sell of various $49 videos that will reveal for the FIRST TIME! The THREE SIMPLE WORDS that will make the man you want crave you and devote himself to you forever! As a writer, I find the word “crave” an interesting choice. Obsession is too scary and in all states, illegal, but the word “crave” is marketing genius. It’s being wanted without the scary part, although it’s still too scary for me. As an older, wiser woman, I can happily skip the craving and devotion, and have many better uses for my 49 bucks, thanks.
But the other advice makes a lot of sense to me because it validates what I learned through hard-won life experience. I’ve spent my post-divorce time getting to that place of filling my life with things that bring me joy, being happy with myself, changing a few things I’m not happy with, and letting go what doesn’t really matter. But I wonder, would I have been able to truly understand this advice the last time I was thrashing about in this arena as a 20-something? I was definitely carrying over-regulation-size luggage, and I was an 80s angry feminist who had just extricated herself from a messy, abusive, dysfunctional relationship. OK, I waited two years after the relationship, but still. I think in that time I managed to unpack the equivalent of a cosmetic bag, and angry feminists don’t wear makeup. Would I have really been able to love myself and not just plaster on a fake sticker, “Yes, I love myself, now date me!”? I really had no idea who I was, and I don’t think I had any business dating, not even for purely recreational purposes.
But to be kind to myself, I Googled “Dating Advice from the ‘80’s,” just to see what advice was available to me at that time. And while I may not have been ready to follow today’s advice back then, I think I can safely say there was no way to be successful using the advice of that time. Phew, that’s a load off. Check this out advice from a book called How to Be Popular with Boys by Stacy Rubis (1984):
- “Boys get an ego boost from your awkwardness. It makes them feel more in control, more manly. And at the same time they get more protective toward shy, trembling you.” Hmmm. If that were the case, I should have been beating them off with a stick. Awkward was my middle name! Don’t get me stated on the trembling, what am I? Some Hollywood starlet from the ’30s?
- “Don’t take any chances when getting ready in the morning. Always put effort into looking good. Effort, plain effort, is often the only real difference between average and stunning girls.” Hey, I always made sure my “rat tail” (a little chunk of hair in the back that is about 4 inches longer than your short hair) was dyed blue and braided. Believe me it looked good. Really good.
- “Another good way to turn a crush into the real thing is to determine your man’s schedule of classes for the day…Figure it out and arrange when to bump into him…a lot.” Um, I think this is called stalking now, and is illegal in all 50 states…
- “Try eating at one of the ethnic food stands in the mall, preferably a taco place where it’s hard to discern the ingredients of a meal. Then say to a boy whose plate is piled high, ‘What is that you’re eating?’” Yeah, because meat, various vegetables, and cheese are so ethnic, that they are hard to identify. That aside, practicing inflection seems key to this advice: What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? I don’t think I quite have the sexy innuendo down right…
So, there you have it. Dating is never easy in any time or stage of life, but it sure makes for good blog fodder, and that, my friends, brings me great joy.