So about last October, something weird happened. One night, I got bored. I got bored and I downloaded an online dating account. It started off slow and I would only occasionally meet people. But it was fun and addictive so I went on more.. and more…and more.. And before I knew it, my schedule was full of dates. I had too many guys’ numbers on my phone to count, free drinks every other day, and a constant fear of falling for somebody. In short, I had become my own worst nightmare and the last person who I would have wanted to encounter: A serial dater.
This is what I learned so you don’t have to.
1. If you online date, meet as soon as you feel comfortable.
I honestly think that online “dating” services should rebranded as online “introducing” services. Maybe I’m particularly unperceptive (this is very
likely possible), but I personally haven’t found a strong correlation between my initial impressions of guy’s persona via the internet and what they were actually like. The single best date I went on was with a guy whose profile I hated. I only replied to his message because of how persistent he seemed to be (There weren’t any red flags, I just thought he seemed annoying) (Plot twist: I ended up becoming the annoying one). Likewise, I once spent too much time talking to somebody before meeting up, became attached to a preconceived notion of who they were, and ultimately became disappointed when it didn’t match up. Of course, I still believe, I still think that you should wait just for safety reasons and in case they’re a serial killer. But don’t build it up too much.
2. Filter by important things.
Yes, we all want a 6’5” Greek God with blonde hair and blue eyes. I get it.
I mean, I really don’t because I have always preferred button-cute, socially awkward, and nerdy-looking physics/math majors but I think this is just me. But is that what really makes a relationship work? No. It’s your similar values, personality dynamics, and compatible Netflix tastes. Knowing what you want/need in a partner requires a lot of self-awareness and a keen understanding of what you work well with. Of course, finding out what you work well with is really the whole point of dating in your twenties and everybody is going to figure it out differently. BUT to save some time, (or give you a jumping off point) I have two suggestions
1.Look at your friend group.
What do these people all have in common? Are they free-spirited, imaginative, and earthy? Or are they calm? Rational? Intellectual? How, in the past, have your qualities worked with each of them? Are there friends whom you fight more with? Is that because of your personalities? Which friendships most closely resemble your ideal romantic relationship and how can you apply these traits? In my case, for instance, I would roughly divide my friend group into the highly-sociable empaths and then the more introverted rationalists. And whilst I love both groups equally, I know the types of relationships I have with the rationalists most closely resemble what I would want from a romantic partner. I am definitely academic but am ultimately an emotional soul. I need somebody rational to balance me out. Additionally, I think I can really offer to balance an overly rationalist person out. So, if anybody had noticed, that was why every single person who I went on a date with had a background in math and/or science
and why I think physicists are so damn sexy. CALL ME, BOYS.
2. Take this quiz.
I’m normally a proponent of the idea that personality is a myth and that personality tests are just intellectual horoscopes, but I’ve found this quiz to be quite precise. The empathic/rationalist dynamic that I discussed above is given a lot more detail here.
Thus, my point is to not filter by meaningless things like height or hair color. Find what you know works with you and filter by those standards.
3. Timing is everything.
This lesson, personally, was the hardest one for me to learn. You can want something to work with somebody so badly, and maybe they want it too, but ultimately, the cards have to be in place. Maybe they’re dealing with a personal crisis, neither of you is at similar/the same points in your life, or you get job offer in another city that you cannot refuse. In addition to more pragmatic factors, we are all constantly evolving and changing. Somebody who was good for you in 2015 may be completely wrong for you in 2017. You have to meet somebody at the right time for it to work. And I think it was the hardest lesson for me to learn because it’s not fair but it’s also not anybody’s fault. You can’t throw your hands up and tell yourself that the other person was bad, but you can’t change the situation either. It’s really, really hard. Make peace with whatever God you believe in to accept it.
4. Skip the niceties.
I don’t understand why the first few dates are full of the superficial things. I’m sorry but I honestly do not care what your sister’s boyfriend’s job is. Not yet.
Tell me about your interests. What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Are you a feminist? Who is your best friend? That dress was really blue and black, right? (I once brought this up to a date. Turns out he used to do neuroscience and I heard all about it….So actually maybe don’t bring that one up.) What would you do if you had a year to live? Have you ever been to another country by yourself? How do you feel about Taylor Swift? I think people are hesitant to bring up hot button/deeper issues like this because they can be deal breakers for both people. But I think they’re deal breakers for a reason. Do you really want to date a UKIP/Trump supporter? Don’t make out with me and then casually drop the fact that you “hate Muslims.” Waste of my lipstick, time, and spit tbh.
5. Don’t get attached too fast
Because anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely do. And I have nothing but tears to show for it. People are fickle. People can and will change their minds. More importantly, I think that if you get attached too fast then you could be blinding yourself to any negative qualities that would otherwise be deal breakers. I have totally rationalized bad behavior by dates in the past simply because I was already attached to the idea of dating them. Luckily, none of them worked out, but if they had then I could have been in for an even bigger heartbreak.
6. But if you do
(IE: If you’re like me and your emotions hit you like an uncontrollable freight train) know it.
Realize when you’re jumping into something too quickly and keep an extra eye out for the aforementioned “bad behavior.” Of course, try and stop getting attached too fast, but remember that ultimately it is a strength of sort. Running into love (or like), opening yourself up, and becoming vulnerable is honestly terrifying. So consider it a beautiful thing that you can be so trusting, kind, and open to others in your life.
7. Stay busy.
can be is maddening. People can be bad at communicating, forget to text you, and even straight up ghost you (These all actually happened to me in one guy… Thanks Tom). It’s so easy, especially when you like somebody and have nothing else to do, to obsessively over-analyze their messages, plan your every move, and hop on the next bus to fantasy-land where you’re naming your kids. If you’re thinking of jumping into dating, make sure you have another hobby/activity/TV show to add to your life. Personally, I’ve found running/scream shouting Taylor Swift songs on the treadmill to be very helpful but, like many things in this article, I think this is just me.
8. Remember that you owe nothing to anybody.
9. And that nobody owes you anything.
10. But it’s important to be straightforward, honest, and kind.
I think too many people live their dating lives by the idea that “all is fair in love and war.” It’s not. It’s not okay to ghost people. It’s not okay to break your word to somebody who likes you (Obviously, these both have limits. If somebody’s being abusive, aggressive, or giving you an icky feeling then you straight up have every right to cancel a date). But remember that people have feelings. Opening yourself up to love, in my opinion, is one of the most vulnerable positions a person can be in. Play to get what you need. But play nicely.
11. “Your girlfriends will always be there for you.”
Back in 2015, I was texting my mom about my recent breakup and how I didn’t know how to deal with it. Her advice? Simple. Go hang out with my friends. My girlfriends, she noted, would always be there for me. It was true at the time, but this year has made that statement gain more weight than I ever thought possible. And looking back on this past year, nothing stands out more than my friends’ love. In October, when I went on my first disaster date, Theresa and Adiba, you two were right there for me and we laughed all night. Jess, in February you threw that amazing party and helped me forget about the guy whom I still am confused by. And Aleks, in May when I was finally stood up by somebody that you never even liked, you invited me over to your place for lasagne anyway. None of you were judgmental. None of you ever complained or said “I told you so.” You just listened. And so many other people listened to me over Facebook, the coffee shop, or the SU. I truly cannot believe how lucky I am to have all of you in my life. And I cannot believe how blind I was to this fact at the time. To be friends with just one of you would be enough. The fact that I have an entire group of people who are willing to drop everything in order to talk with and support me is remarkable. The love you showed me and continue to do so, is so incredible. And no matter what happens, even if I marry Harry Styles, nobody will ever replace any of you. If I have learned anything this year, it is that you all will still be the greatest love of my life.
Overall, whilst my experience was at times, emotionally draining, I’m glad I did it. I only fell for two people and didn’t end up in a relationship with either. I learned so much , however, about myself, the world, and love as a whole. Everybody who I met was genuinely interesting, cool, and special in their own regard. After two years of being surrounded by a bunch of hyper-masculine frat guys, it was incredible to finally meet and spend time with some gentlemen (And I’m not just saying that because I know some of them will read this article to check if they were mentioned). It really renewed my faith in guys. I’m really grateful.
But this is definitely the end of this chapter of my dating life. The lessons that I’ve shared here have a lot of good memories attached to them, but they also have a lot of bad ones. For every first kiss also came a teary walk to Waitrose to buy chocolate. For every guy who made me feel like the only girl in the world, came another who would stand me up. It was fun but it was exhausting. And for right now, I have decided that I am enough. I want to take the time I have left in this magical city and continue to develop my friendships. So, I’ve deleted all my online dating accounts, cut my hair, and bought a new handbag. Some things, after all, are just cliche for a reason.
** Or at least, I like to think I was. I like to think that nobody besides me and the guys I’ve dated are aware of just how romantically awkward I am.