A Date Sometimes Leads To A Great Story
But, you know what? I love dating. Most of the time, it's really fun to meet total strangers and look for points of intellectual/cultural/experiential overlap. Sure, the logistics, the choice of clothing and venue, and the emotional investment, even for a blind date with a total stranger, can take their toll. And for every really good date, you probably have three to five mediocre to miserable ones. But -- and here's this month's take-home message -- the bad dates are just as important and worthwhile as the good ones.
Stop swearing and stay with me, because this will all make sense by the end of the column.
I snuck out of the office last week to grab a chai with a buddy I hadn't seen in a few months. Jen has had a bad time of it -- she's in her mid-30s, got out of an unhappy long-term relationship a couple of years ago, can't seem to find a guy who stays sweet after they've been going out for awhile. She has that "I should just cut my losses and stop dating" vibe when she talks about being single. Every new date for her has become a lesson in disappointment. She couldn't understand how I could derive so much pleasure from being on the scene.
Of course, I have been married and I have a child, and dating is still a novelty, so meeting someone new doesn't have the same urgency for me that it does for my 30-something female friends who have never married or had children. I'm not actively looking for my soul mate or someone with whom to start a family. If I end up with a girlfriend, great! But my life is not incomplete without one.
After we talked for a little while, though, and I explained to Jen that I go on dates expecting nothing more than a diverting evening, she began to see some personal value in my take on the situation. It provided her with a different way to look at the process.
See, it's all about expectations
It's easy to pin high hopes on the latest friend-of-a-friend set-up -- by all accounts (or at least those of your not-single friend, who, really, doesn't know either of you very well, and probably is just setting you up based on very little empirical evidence that you're right for each other), you two have a lot in common, and that picture on her web site is damned cute.
Your three and a half phone conversations went so smoothly, it was almost as if you'd spoken before. So you go on the date expecting to meet your next relationship. And then it turns out that she doesn't actually like to read, or that she's really not even a little bit attractive, or she's painfully boring, or she orders crazy customized meals, or has a tendency to smack her lips before she starts every sentence. And you sit there, in your own clammy discomfort, wondering how to bring the evening to a close. This is not your next girlfriend; what the hell was Sandy thinking? And your brain really takes off -- you're wondering how to handle the check, if she's going to try to kiss you, if you could fake getting an emergency phone call saying that your daughter stuck a French fry up her nose, and now she's burping up mashed potatoes -- and you have no idea what your date has asked you, so you nod your head absently and get a puzzled look?
But? wait. Why not show up expecting only this: an interesting evening and a story to tell?
See, the worst dates become the best yarns. And really, in the dating world, what are we besides our stories? I mean, not only do our narratives help our shackled friends feel better about their situations, but they make our lives more rich and interesting. The weirdoes, the blatantly incompatible, and the clueless troglodytes we meet in our quest for good company enrich our perspectives on the world. And they make other people laugh.
No, seriously! Think about it -- what makes a better story to tell your best friend: the one where you talked and talked with the cute guy from accounting, or the one where your date showed you his colostomy bag over saag paneer and basmati rice?
So that's why I love dating, and why I even relish the rendezvous that don't go so well. Because, no matter how bad it is, you'll get a story out of it. In fact, the success of the date is inversely proportional to the quality of the story (and if the date is bad on an epic level and you still end up together, that's a prize winner!).
The point of all this is that you need to remember to keep some perspective when you go out with someone new. Enjoy it for what is really is -- an opportunity to horrify and amuse your closest friends.
And when things get really ugly, just mutter this mantra under your breath: "This is going to be a GREAT freaking story."