Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Dates

It turns out that I'm becoming quite good at first dates. 

An interesting skill, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

I've learned how to set aside all expectations on a first date - I know that it is really a meet and greet, and that the intention is to see if there is anything there, not to plan our lives together.  I have come to learn that people stretch the truth in online profiles (though this never ceases to amaze me: don't you think I will NOTICE that your hairline is two inches back, that your waistline is bigger, and that you're not as tall as you said you were?!).  I've also learned that online chemistry and real-life chemistry have absolutely no correlation: I've had long chats with gentlemen where I thought "wow this is fantastic!" and then in person it has been absolutely flat.

So, no expectations going in - and this removes the pressure, and I can relax and enjoy myself.  I meet people, hear a bit about their lives, learn about something new to me, and usually have interesting conversation.

I've also learned that coffee is the best first date ever, because it's not a date at all, it's an interview.  (The Huffington Post just did a little article on that subject, and I agree: ).  Drinks aren't good because they're very date-like, and because it changes the venue from somewhere light and bright (coffee shop) to somewhere either noisy (bar) or potentially intimate (nice restaurant)....but coffee is short and sweet, feels safe (no dark alleys!), and gives us a chance to get to know each other a bit in a low pressure situation.  No dressing to the nines or sexy evening

So, for better or for worse, I've had my share of first dates, and I'm losing track of how many.

I think it's really important to acknowledge the truth about a first date, and that includes "nice guy, no chemistry."  I have turned down men recently that I would have continued dating "just to see" if I was my younger self.  My older self values her time a great deal, and I'm a lot more honest with myself.  Last week there was a nice guy who was just far too laid back for me - I knew I'd end up running circles around him and feeling annoyed, even though he was a good conversationalist and an interesting person.  The flattery of his attention was not enough any more, as I'm holding out for a great fit, not just for a nice guy.

I've learned some surprising things about myself in the dating process.

1.  I am much, much shallower about physical appearance than I once believed.  My ex was so overweight that I didn't find him attractive at all in the end, despite his sparkling blue eyes and cleft chin.  Now, I find that I really only want tall (I'm tall, and I wear heels a lot, and all the men in my family are over six feet tall...), fit men who have good hair (bald can be attractive, and I don't rule it out, but they have to know how to rock the bald head!) and who have a sense of laid-back style.  Yes, laid-back style.  I do not want a metrosexual who is always more fashionable than I am, but I want a guy who knows how to dress.  (The man who showed up in his bike gear at a nice bar made my jaw drop a bit.)  A suit at the ballet, nice jeans and shirt for gear only when going on a biking date.  Looks matter.  It is what it is.  I am not a supermodel, but I present myself attractively, and I want someone who does the same.

2.  Fitness matters.  A lot.  I have worked hard on my physical self for a long time: first, as I tried to regain health after cancer, and then as I tried to be fit in general.  Our bodies matter.  I have found that they matter not just when out on a hike and it's nice to enjoy the scenery instead of huffing and puffing and feeling miserable, but they're nice for everyday activities: when I am fit, EVERYTHING is easier, including quickly cleaning up the dinner dishes, or dashing off on an errand, because my energy levels are higher and I just feel better.  What's more, I absolutely love being with a fit person who enjoys eating healthy food with me (which makes the chocolatey dessert we share taste even better!), and who suggests an after dinner walk for miles along the waterfront, because I find that a lot more attractive than plunking down in front of a TV.  Yes, I want the "oooohhhhhh!" physical chemistry that fitness provides, but I also want the lifestyle that goes with it.

3.  This one hurts to admit, but I'm going to admit it.  I want him to offer to pay for the first date.  I *always* bring out my wallet to pay, but there is something courtly about a gentleman paying for that date.  One bad date (a poor fit in many ways) ordered two glasses of Malbec to my one glass of happy hour house red (see?  I shouldn't have done happy hour, I should have stuck to coffee!), and then suggested we split the bill.  Really?  I did so - the extra ten dollars didn't kill me - but I also declined his request to see me again.  Offering to pay for the first meeting sets it up as a date.  It also says, "You're worth something to me."  It says "I'm taking you out of the friend zone, and into the date zone."  At some strange level, it says, "I'd like to invest in this relationship."  Now, the feminist in me is strong, alive, and well....and she's slightly appalled at me for feeling this way, but I've given up berating myself for these feelings.  If a gentleman doesn't offer sincerely to pay for the first date, I'm less likely to accept a second date.  (Note: Luke not only paid for the first date, but when I offered to split the bill he said, "Please let me do this, as the pleasure in meeting you is all mine."  Is it any wonder that I ended up sleeping with him?!  Also note - I continued to offer to pay for dates when we went out, and more than once I insisted on picking up the whole bill.)  I'm not out to use men for financial gain or free meals or what have you, but I want him to pay for that first date.  If he doesn't, I assume he's just not that interested.

4.  I like my life.  Oh, that is bliss.  Wow.  I like my life.  I like my life!  I LIKE MY LIFE!  No, I love it.  Now, as a woman who has been to hell and back, a statement like this one makes me want to get up and dance around the living room in my bare feet.  Meeting interesting strangers, hearing about their lives, and telling them about mine, is a reminder of how much I have to be grateful for.  Realizing that I do not NEED their companionship to be happy is a gift.  Recognizing that my life is so rich and full that I'd need a pretty amazing, special man to add to it - not just any man, but someone extraordinary - is wonderful, because it makes me appreciate what I have so much more.

5.  I believe that I'll find what I'm looking for.  Nothing is less attractive to me than a man who kvetches about how he can't find what he's looking for and women are too picky and all the good ones are taken etc. (I guess I feel the same way about women who say the same things about men.)  Such conversations, even when spoken lightly and with humor to disguise them, are a total turn off.  Here's the deal:  I believe that there is an amazing, incredible man out there for me, and that I will find him.  I believe that the world is full of fascinating people with a great deal to offer.  I believe that there are many people out there who want the same things that I do.  I believe that we're all struggling, and that for those of us in our forties who are trying to start over after divorce the world is fresh and bright and new, and the best still lies ahead.  I also believe that if it takes a long time to find it, that's okay, because it's worth the wait.  I mean, I've waited over forty years already...I can handle a few more!

While I've been typing this message, I've been asked out by two men.  I woke up this morning to an invitation to a second date from yesterday's date.  I'm being very selective (I said no to the two, and I'm not sure yet about what to say to the second date invite....which is at least better than wanting to yell "NO thank you!"), but I feel confident.  It'll happen when it happens.

And until then?  Wow I'm busy.  Back to work for me.  :-)

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