I’m not really that great at dating.
I often forget that my date is not an audience. They’re a human.
I was particularly a train wreck at dating in the years following my Mormon mission. I didn’t know how to approach it like a normal human. I always felt like I was performing, which, for me, is always a high-anxiety state of being. I used to have moments on first dates where I would step out of myself and realize how extraordinarily spastic and goofy I was being. (But I couldn’t stop it from happening.)
I remember one double date where at some point during dinner I had picked up the cedar plank my salmon was smoked upon and declared it an object of my affection? I was often extra ridiculous. It seems my coping mechanism for all the anxiety was humor and clownery.
There was one girl whom I had waited quite a while to get the chance to go out with. She was nice, she was fun, we had a lot in common, and she was gorgeous. She was pretty used to quite a lot of attention from other guys, so I was extra on edge about the whole situation. I felt like I could lose out on the chance to keep dating her at the drop of a hat. On our first date, true to form, I was in full actor mode. I remember trying to make her laugh constantly. When our dinner had concluded, it seemed we both had had a decent time. My audience enjoyed my performance!
…now the real problem…
Nothing else that happened that evening is of note.
I think we may have gone on one other date, but what sticks out in my memory is the phrase this great woman used for her impression of our time together (which was akin to what I would hear from almost every other woman I dated) … “It feels like we’re just friends hanging out.” She was used to guys wanting to hold hands, kiss, make out, etc, or, at the very least, act interested in doing those things. This was not me.
Here’s the lesson I ultimately learned from this time… dating people you’re not actually attracted to doesn’t work very well. It turns out, physical attraction can have a pretty big effect on how we interact with one another.
When I started dating men, it was remarkable how different it felt. I understood the void that had been there for all the women I went on dates with, because that void was now absent. There was suddenly this whole other element that made a date feel like a date. I mean… two humans interacting, getting to know one another, and forming a bond (or not). Somehow it made me capable of just focusing on testing the relationship waters in a more natural way. It was no longer me simply on a stage with my counterpart meant to just sit there and enjoy my buffoonery.
To be sure, I’m still a clown. I’m still a goofball. I’m still anxious. But I’m being me, and not acting.
Dating is not a high priority to me at present as I’ve recently concluded the first and only serious relationship I’ve ever had. But I do know that having the ability to interact with honesty of word and heart is vital to my future success with dating.
I guess the point for my blog audience is, learn what it takes to just be you in your relationships. Don’t be an actor.
You can’t fake your way to real friendship, real companionship, real love.