Friday, March 19, 2010

Don't Blame Yourself For a Bad Date

I am a bad date expert. I didn't date much in college, so when I graduated and became a single girl in the city, I vowed to go on any date that presented itself to me. And I did. And it was ridiculous.

There was the guy who told me he could only be with someone who was okay with the fact that he occasionally didn't contact anyone for weeks at a time, the guy who insisted on driving and then got us lost, the guy who turned out to have a daughter my age (I didn't think he was that old; he didn't think I was that young.), the guy whose favorite movie was Notting Hill (Okay, that one was my fault. I thought he was joking and laughed at him. Oops.), and the guy who thought The Rainforest Cafe was a romantic dinner spot. My favorite, though, was the date that went fine, with the guy asking me out again at the end, then emailing me two days later to say he'd thought about it some more and decided we shouldn't get together again. I would still like to find that guy and punch him.

I also went on a bunch of dates with perfectly nice men who were clearly bored by me and whom I thought were dull as dishwater. I would get home from those dates and wonder what the heck was wrong with me that I had gone out with half the city of Boston and couldn't find one guy who was interested or interesting. At first I thought I must be a defective dater. I worried that I was doomed to lose out on the love of my life because of my inability get beyond stilted small talk about my crappy job and the Red Sox.

But around the middle of my mediocre date odyssey, I noticed something. Quite often, the guys across the table from me had a restless look in their eyes that mirrored my feelings of constant, low-grade dating panic. I realized that they were probably sitting there with an internal monologue that was the guy version of my inner voice, sounding something like this: She seems nice. But not great. But there's nothing wrong with her. But we're not really hitting it off. Man, this date is boring. She's boring. Or maybe I'm boring? Am I boring? Why doesn't she like me? Wait, I don't like her. But there's nothing wrong with her. This is not a good date. None of my dates are good dates. I'm going to die alone. (You might think men don't worry about dying alone. This is not true. It was a serious fear for a few of my guy friends, especially when we were in our early 20s and they subsisted entirely on frozen pizzas. They worried that all the cheap cheese was going to shorten their lifespans to the point where they wouldn't have time to date and marry anyone before the inevitable heart attack.)

The fact of the matter is, unless you do something ridiculous like get drunk and belligerent or say something insulting, bad dates are not your fault. You could be the most charming, witty, fascinating person on earth, and the person across from you could be well-read, intelligent, and committed to saving the whales, but if your interests and personalities don't complement each other in just the right way, sparks aren't going to fly. It has absolutely nothing to do with you or with your date for that matter. If getting along with someone nice and decent-looking was all it took to make a relationship work, I'd be married to the kid I took to my freshman formal.

Instead I dated and dated until I went out with a guy who started talking my ear off thirty seconds after we met. Yet instead of going dull dull dull my inner voice supplied, what a weirdo. And you know what? Thank god I had been on enough crappy dates to realize that what a weirdo was a good reaction. I was intrigued instead of bored! I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to plumb the depths of this man's oddness over two hours worth of small talk, and I was delighted by this fact.

Seven years later, I still think he's a weirdo. But he's my weirdo. And he's got even more bad date stories than I do. (A girl once bit him. And not in the fun way.) So despite how it might feel while you're poking at your pad thai and listening to a nice guy tell you about a hobby in which you have zero interest, sometimes all the bad dates are worth it for just one good one.

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