I’ve been a professional dater for a long time. My first date was to the movie Breakin’ with my secret sixth grade boyfriend Chad. Chad asked me to go steady in a note he passed to me in band class. He sat in the saxophone section; I, the clarinets. We’d never spoken to each other before. I agreed to go with him, so we snuck out together and met up at the movies, the first and only date of our short-lived romance.
I learned several things from my relationship with Chad: first, don’t agree to go steady with someone you’ve never spoken to. It’s pretty important to have a foundation of common values, beliefs, and experiences in order to make a relationship thrive.
Second, if there’s sneaking around involved, the relationship is likely doomed. Sneaking is not a promising start to a love story.
Third, novelty movies based on passing cultural trends tend to suck. Save your money for movies of substance.
I’ve created a long list of personal dating rules over the years. I’ve also sought the advice of others and read lots of books on the social politics of dating including The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You. Dating advice is everywhere, overwhelming.
What I’ve found as I’ve gracefully left my 30s behind and entered my 40s is that all dating advice has some kernel of truth. But rather than trying to follow ALL the rules of dating outlined by the well-meaning and the profit-motivated, I prefer to keep it simple. Lately, I’ve been tossing out rules that no longer fit (or perhaps never did). Here, in no particular order, are the three rules of dating I’m ditching:
Don’t be too picky.
WTF? Last week, I stood in the tampon aisle for a full 10 minute trying to decides which brand to buy. After pondering, weighing price points, and reading the glowing reviews of each individual product on the packaging, I purchased my old stand-by, OB regular.
When certain people (this means you, Aunt Mildred) tell me to “be less picky or you’ll never find a man” I want to laugh. It takes me 10 minutes to decide to buy the brand of tampons I’ve bought for years. Does it seriously make any sense to be less picky in choosing a life partner?
If anything, looking around at all the couples divorcing or staying in miserable relationships, it seems to me that we should all be a bit more picky. Because I don’t want just any man. I want THE man. One who is exactly right for me. One who gets me, loves me, and finds my indecisiveness utterly charming. Why on earth should I settle for anything less? And what man would want to be with a woman who settled for him? So go on. Be picky. If you need anyone’s permission to be super picky, you have mine.
If you’re serious about dating, go online.
I’ve tried Match.com and similar sites. And I’ve never felt comfortable with the method. Again and again, I felt like I was putting myself up for sale on e-Bay, crafting the perfect personal ad to attract just the right guy. I never got over the “ick” feeling.
Yes, I know. You/someone you know/your cousin’s cousin met their soulmate on Match. I get it. It works for a lot of people. But it doesn’t work for me.
In addition to the “self for sale” ick, I also found that being on Match made me a bigger chicken in real life. I’ve always struggled a bit with my confidence in flirting with cute guys I meet out in the wild. Match gave me an excuse to try even less. When I rely on the real world for my dating pool (rather than the virtual one), I’m challenged to consciously make myself available. And you know what? I meet people all the time. My dating life is very full. So if you’re not into online dating, ditch it. You don’t have to do it.
Make a long, extensive laundry list and never compromise.
I’m all about having standards (see rule to ditch #1), but I think list-making can be limiting. I refer to the “laundry list” of qualities one seeks in the perfect partner, every detail from height to profession to hobbies. I have several friends who swear by the list, “within days/weeks/months of making my list, I met the perfect person!”. But in my experience, the list can become confining. In the past year, I’ve dated several men who met every criteria on my own personal list of preferences. But the magic wasn’t there, the spark. The heart wants what it wants. And your heart might long for a person who looks radically different from your laundry list of criteria.
And the #1 Most Important rule you should always keep:
Trust yourself. Pay attention to your gut. The right person will light you up, make you happy, embolden your trust, inspire your fantasy life. The wrong person will leave you cold. Butterflies of excitement? YES! Sense of dread or regret? NO! GO!
You know who’s right for you. Not me, not your friends, not your parents. Just you. Trust yourself. And my list of rules to ditch? Ditch ‘em if they don’t work for you!