5 Things No One Tells You About Dating Until It's Too Late
Do you like dating? Don't lie. You hate that shit, and so do I. It's an unpleasant precursor that you have to trudge through on your path to love and sex, a task not unlike having to wrestle an oiled Donald Trump before being allowed to enter a party.
It would be dishonest to claim that I can accurately describe what dating is like for you, specifically. Much like defeating the Crimson Warlord and saving the kingdom of Yrr, it's something only you can do. Then again, as an ill-advised Internet comedian that is vaguely aware of the concept of dating, it is practically my duty to try my hand at a field that has been so long dominated by Captain Obvious-style relationship gurus whose revolutionary secrets are generally in the vein of "people with shared interests are more likely to get along."
So, ladies and gentlemen: let's rock this joint with a bunch of dating knowledge I've gathered over the years. Maybe you'll find something that will help you, or maybe you'll walk out the other end laughing at my inept flailing at understanding the opposite sex. There's only one way to find out, isn't there?
Everyone Is Equally Clueless
The only thing that really matters about dating is how you work the field yourself. Everyone's a fucking expert when it comes to other people dating, but when your own balls/ovaries are under fire, things suddenly get seven kinds of difficult. That's the reason "dating experts" are able to exist at all: they may seem hot shit at telling you what to do, but I guaran-damn-tee they get that same empty, sinking feeling inside when they actually face the object of their affection.
I'm writing this from my own sexual perspective because that's the only one I've got, but feel free to mentally substitute whatever you're into in the appropriate brackets.
Here's a relationship tip that I wish someone had explained to me a long time ago: most people get anxious about shit. It's not just you. This may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but good luck remembering that in the dating game, where everyone is doing their best to hide all such awkwardness from the prying eyes of prospective partners while secretly sweating condensed terror.
These dice come preloaded with bullshit.
Oh, there are plenty of guys and gals who can talk with members of the opposite sex just fine ... when they're emotionally detached, i.e. nonsexual acquaintances or "just" bartering for sex. Insert a bucket of actual human emotion in the mix, and most folks' cool demeanor will melt into a slushie of barely contained confusion.
If we're discussing dating, this seems like a pretty good starting point: you might still be the same mess you were a minute ago, but try to keep in mind that so is everyone else.
The Best You've Got Is Not What You Think
What's the most impressive thing about you? Your butt? Your sense of humor? The way you can fit an entire tube of Pringles in your mouth at once?
Fuckin' nope! Or, you know, maybe. But probably not as much as you think.
As Cracked has previously pointed out, it's nigh-impossible to accurately gauge your own looks or personality, and chances are you're vastly overestimating both. A fun side effect of this rampant mis-estimation is that our qualities that actually interest other people can sometimes be very different than we think.
Cue an example from the real world. This is me:
Note that I didn't specify which particular world.
On a scale from orc to Soren, I might as well pack my bags and head for Mordor. Still, if someone pressed a gun to my head and forced me to name the things I think are the most attractive about myself, I'd probably come up with a long list of stuff like my eyes, my prehensile tail, or, normally, a lack of guns against my head holy shit please don't shoot me.
Yet, what compliments I've historically drawn tend to be focused on vastly different things than I expect. Like my hands. For whatever reason, they've been complimented a few times, and I've always, always had the same reaction: my brain goes all, "Neat, a new Sex Weapon!" and I start gesturing and waving and generally making sure my hands are constantly in sight in a really awkward fashion. This could not be more transparent or silly, yet I've never once realized it until the inevitable post-date "oh, shit, what have I done?" phase (you know the one) kicks in.*
*Note to people who know me in real life: I fidget like a motherfucker anyway, so unless you've seen me in full-on jazz-hands mode, all that flailing and twitching probably wasn't a flirting attempt. Probably.
Which brings me to a related point. Tons of guys seem to have an inbuilt need to flaunt whatever the other person seems to like about them as a courting ritual of sorts -- a dude version of wearing a low-cut top, if you will. What we tend to forget is that it doesn't matter whether the thing your date digs is your amazing WoW skills or your hulking musculature. If you force-feed it to them to the point of exhaustion, you're only going to look like a dick.
So, the next time someone compliments your hair and you feel the urge to spend the rest of the date fixing it while bombarding them with hair-related information, remember the idiot from the Internet who has spent more than one evening playing the invisible piano to some poor soul who made a passing comment about his mitts. Trust me, you don't want to be that fucker.
For a female take on awkwardness around the opposite sex, please consult Christina H.'s column on the subject.
It Often Happens When You Least Expect It
In a dating environment, it's all too easy to spot the Badge of Desperation the second the person carrying it opens their mouth. We wear it in our awkward smile, in the way we laugh a little too readily at jokes, and, of course, in the way we clumsily flourish our hands in front of anyone who compliments OH GOD WHY DO I FUCKING KEEP DOING THAT. But the worst thing about the Badge is this: after a few bad dates, or an extended period of little to no action, it tends to attach itself to you whether you like it or not. Now, whenever you meet someone of interest, you reek of Eau d'Esperation. This is not necessarily an off-putting thing (I'm betting a not insignificant percentage of all sex is had because of it), but it's not exactly productive when it comes to building a relationship, which I generously choose to assume is your endgame when it comes to dating.
It's either that or the date is part of your daring heist plan.
With that in mind, I present a suggestion. Imagine yourself at your most relaxed. Maybe you're hanging around with your Internet friends at your favorite online haunt, telling that story you know makes everyone laugh. Maybe you're sitting in a seedy bar, idly smoking a cigarette and nursing a whiskey because it's 1946 and you're a grizzled private detective. The thing is, you're smack dab in your Cool Place and have absolutely zero interest in hooking up with anyone. The thought doesn't even occur to you, really.
My point being: ever notice how things always seem to happen when you least expect them?
I'm not saying you should just sit on your ass playing video games until the person of your dreams rings your doorbell naked. That way lies nothing but embitterment. I'm saying that chance plays a huge part in these things, and by getting out there and doing the things you enjoy you vastly increase the chances of meeting someone interesting while being in your absolute comfort zone. Shit, "getting out there" doesn't even necessarily mean leaving the house. Plenty of people have met online, if that's where your game lies.
I met my girlfriend purely by chance when a mutual friend brought her along to a concert. I was recently single, still piecing my life together, and expecting nothing more than a great night out with friends. So I behaved the way I usually do on the rare occasion I'm out in the company of people I can genuinely relax with: had a blast, got shitfaced, burned half of my face somehow. You know, like one does.
And then, at some point, I realized our mutual friend had strategically evaporated. I was now alone with this awesome lady I only marginally knew -- and probably would have never dared to talk to in most other scenarios -- yet both of us were having a great time.
We've been having that great time for years now. And while I doubt that I could personally repeat this random success (and, obviously, hope that the need will never arise), the point is that these things can and do happen. Ironically enough, those relationship gurus I so mocked earlier agree with me on this. Does ... does this mean I'm one of them now? Do I get a special hat or something?
Don't know why it crossed my mind. "Special hats" and "clueless dudes giving advice about dating" just seem to go together, somehow.
So, let's say that all of my dubious advice somehow works, and you find yourself in a dating-related position where a more serious relationship suddenly seems to be an option. Wait -- don't bust out that celebratory champagne yet! There are still steps to take ...
It's Vital to Establish the Rules of Engagement
Tell me, and be as honest as you've ever been about anything in your life: what are you like when you get angry?
Do you like to scream and throw things? Are you into the whole "say nothing but keep them guessing and sulk for hours" scene? Do you put on a clown outfit and stare at people, silent and unblinking? If the answer is that last one, I'm sorry -- nothing short of a silver bullet can help you. If it's pretty much anything else, chances are you're still as annoying as a vuvuzela that shoots mimes. Relationship-wise, though, that shouldn't be a problem ... as long as you remember to do one thing as soon as it's possible without seeming weird:
Tell the other person what brand of angry you get when provoked.
I mean, the least you can do is warn them in advance.
Me, I can be fucking terrifying to relationship-argue with. I'm one of those assholes who habitually raises his voice whenever there's even the tiniest of arguments, and when shit gets more serious, I do that thing where I become really calm and my voice gets low and tight and then I say shit that will cut you. I'm trying to teach myself to stop this, and I like to think I'm getting there, but it's slow going. In fact, after I wrote the first draft of this very goddamn paragraph, we managed to get into an argument over some petty matter that I forget (dishes?), and I immediately reverted to my default argument arsenal.
Picture not entirely unrelated.
Once I came to realize this potentially relationship-destroying defect a few years ago, I tried to be pretty upfront about it. This is one of the best moves I've ever made, and I highly recommend it. I realize it's not easy and there are downsides -- it gives your partner a handy cheat code for the next you-boss fight, for one -- but, ultimately, everyone I know who has been open about their fightin' ways has been able to avoid a ton of miscommunication. Think about it: every single relationship involves a fair amount of verbal combat. Everyone gets annoyed, bickers, and outright fights in a unique manner. And if you don't have a black belt in relationship aikido (you don't), there's a fair chance your Significant Other Taco will come with a side order of salsa incommunicado just because you declined to have one mildly embarrassing discussion.
I've seen relationships kamikaze screeching into Mount Fuck This simply because one person didn't know what to make of the other's mysterious battle signals, which ultimately led to the dreaded "you're not getting me at all" scenario. This very moment, too many otherwise excellent partners are slowly wearing each other out, simply because one of them is arguing by chess rules and the other prefers Halo.
Teabagging has its time and place, but it rarely works as an argument technique.
So, yeah. I'd say this is a discussion worth having.
The Dating Never Ends
When all is said and done, dating is just a means to an end. Hell, just ask Wikipedia:
Dating is a part of human mating process whereby two people meet socially for companionship, beyond the level of friendship, or with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or marriage.
Sounds pretty alienating when you strip it down to biology, doesn't it? Thankfully, once you find yourself a partner, that shit will finally end and you can get on with your life.
Which is what most people think until they realize that dating will never end.
Surprise, motherfucker! Not for one week will you ever be free from the clutches of dating, not for a single day will the prospect of it stop looming over you like a carrion bird waiting to pick the last remnant of tired sex appeal from your socially awkward bones. Not if you want to keep on having a relationship. See, dating isn't a Kleenex that you can just discard after you've used it to clean the spill that's threatening to stain your potential relationship. It's a ShamWow that you must use over and over again, because you can bet your butt that those spills will keep on coming.
Yes, I just compared romantic relationships to a questionable infomercial product, and yes, you're welcome.
Look, this is the future. The candlelit-dinners-and-roses dates of yesteryear are virtually nonexistent and were, in fact, always pretty arbitrary. Absolutely anything can count as a date as long as the intent's there for both parties: an online discussion, a trip to the mall, a simple walk, an elaborately choreographed joint battle against Ghror the Conqueror and his tusked minions. A date is nothing more or less than an excuse to spend time with a special someone, and if you ever stop doing that, chances are said someone won't be there for all that long. Think of your own past breakups, or if you don't have any, all the couples you know who have split up. I'm betting that no matter what the ultimate breakup reason was, at some point, they stopped doing those little things together, forgot to enjoy each others' company.
In other words, they stopped dating.
At some point, they got so complacent with each other that they forgot (or, worse, never realized) that a conversation over a glass of O.J. when the kids are finally asleep or watching Netflix and eating takeout Chinese on the couch they bought together are just as important as a dinner in a fancy restaurant. Because that's all dating ultimately is: two people who are interested in each other (or at least are both aware that this is a distinct possibility) hanging out and seeing where it takes them. That's not the kind of thing you stop at any point of a relationship. And if you ever do, don't go saying that life fucked you in the soul when you inevitably find yourself alone again. In that case, the monster was you all along.
For more from Pauli, check out 4 Important Things Self-Help Books Are Too Nice to Tell You. And then check out 21 Things We Secretly Suspect about the Opposite Sex.