As a longtime romcom lover, I spent many years imagining what dating in my twenties would look like. Perhaps I’d be out at one of my favorite bar haunts in the Twin Cities and someone would send over a round of drinks. Or maybe I’d accidentally bump into someone at my weekend coffee shop, spilling coffee and inciting conversation over what a klutz I just was only to have the mysterious stranger slip me his number. Or how about a meet cute between the shelves of the book store, discovering that you and the hipster glasses-clad man both love Wuthering Heights? Y’all, I am here to tell you that literally none of these scenarios actually happen in real life.
If by some miracle of the universe they have happened to you, know that I’m truly happy for you and would love to meet for coffee so I can hear everything and live vicariously. But for the rest of us who are just out here trying to figure out how you actually date in 2019, I’ve got some news: dating is hard.
Now before you accuse me of being a Debbie Downer for stating the obvious, let me clarify:
Dating is hard, but it’s also fun, challenging, and exciting. Most things that require us to be introspective and step outside our comfort zones are usually are hard — but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.
Surveying my friends who are also in the dating pool seems to result in a lot of melodramatic sighs and woes of the lack of prospects, most of which are a result of endless swiping in apps that don’t lead to anything.
I’m not here to rag on dating apps; in fact, many close friends have gone on to marry their S.O. that they met on an app. I myself have had a generally pleasant experience on apps, but I don’t exactly love them. Everyone kind of blends together and has basically the same profile (the number of people who ask you to rank The Office, Parks and Rec, and GOT, is surprisingly high, y’all.) I know for myself and many others, it’s hard to tell what someone is really like without knowing them in person, as we all tend to hide a little behind our online personas. I’m not one to lean into “dating advice”, because dating is such a different and personal experience for everyone, but I also don’t mind sharing my own experience. So in case you’re looking to glean some insights from one woman’s adventure of learning how to put yourself out there outside of a dating app, keep on scrolling.
image by Hideaki Hamada
Prince Charming isn’t going to magically show up in your house (’cause that would be breaking and entering.) You’ve got to get yourself out there.
As a proud introvert, this was an unwelcome realization I’ve had to deal with. You mean I need to actually leave my home to meet people? Yup.
So while I applaud anyone who wants to join me in the lazy afternoon Netflix-binge club, I am also going to say that if you really want to put yourself out there, actually get out there.
A few weeks ago I was enjoying an evening in with no plans on leaving the comfort of my home. One of my friends asked if I’d want to join her and her husband in checking out a new eatery down the block, and ordinarily my answer would have been a firm no. She’s a close friend and she knows I love my alone time, so it would have been no big deal. But in the spirit of literally getting myself out there, I went along. One of her husbands’ friends ended up joining us, and you know what? I ended up on a date with that friend the next week. Was I planning on getting a date out of it? No. But by literally getting out there, I opened myself up to an opportunity that would have otherwise been missed. It was a lesson learned to my introvert heart that while nothing is better than some quiet time, sometimes you need to just push yourself a little bit to make an effort. Who knows what could happen as a result?!
image by Naba Zabih
Now that you’re outside, tell people you’re single. No seriously, I mean it.
One thing I’ve noticed (and tell me if this has been true for you) is that when someone asks “Are you seeing anyone?” it’s like you’re disappointing someone when the answer is “No.” Like they almost always need to add a sincere comment about how you’ll meet someone soon and things will work out.
Most people mean well by this. And instead of feeling less than stellar after being asked this question, own it. Heck yes I’m single, single as a pringle and ready to mingle. (I have indeed uttered that exact phrase many times and I love it.)
And don’t stop there, ask your friends who inquire if they know anyone who might be a good setup.
You don’t need to ask every person who asks about your relationship status with that action step, but just by asking, you’re being proactive and working within a network of vetted options. Even if they can’t think of someone in that exact moment, you’ve planted a seed and let them know that you’re open to the opportunity.
Put the phone away and just talk to people.
With our eyes constantly glued to our phones these days, we’re literally passing by potential connections all the time. I’d like to pretend that a meet cute could happen at my regular coffee shop, but why would it? I’m usually sitting at my favorite table, giant headphones in and blaring music, staring and typing away into my computer. I’m not exactly exuding a message of “Hey come and talk to me!”
Next time you’re out running errands or grabbing coffee, put your phone away and just be present. Making eye contact, smiling, and saying hi to a stranger literally seems like such an effort these days, and sometimes it feels downright terrifying to put yourself out there like that. So now that your phone is away and to make it a little easier about talking to the actual people around you, think about those who you see almost everyday but have never interacted with.
Example: I’ve seen the same guy almost every evening in my apartment building. We get to the lobby around the same time after work and frequently pass each other at the gym, but like almost every other passerby, we both avoid eye contact and actual interaction. The other week I started small by holding the elevator door for him, then when in the gym a few days later asking if he was finished with a machine I needed, and now we have pleasant interaction. I’m not saying this is the beginning of some whirlwind romance and it sounds kind of silly to think about having to work your way up to getting to know people like that, but it’s been the smallest effort resulting in a boost of confidence.
image by Melissa Marshall
At the end of the day, it’s about the journey.
I happen to work in an office of mostly women, many of whom are married, and the majority of them have told me that the second I stop thinking about finding the one it will happen. Or that the right person will come into my life when I least expect it.
A part of me believes this: most of the things that I have truly wanted in life come to fruition the second I stop obsessing over them. Another part of me thinks that dating and meeting people does in fact require some work on your part.
At the end of the day, you’re going to get out of dating what you put into it. That doesn’t mean you need to make it your full time job, but it means that the more opportunities you give yourself to get out there and actually live the life you want, the more chances you’re giving yourself to meet someone who could be there for the long haul. Dating can be hard, and things aren’t going to change overnight. Give it time, enjoy the process, and have some fun along the way! Even in my short time of going through the motions, I can see how much my own perspectives have changed and how much I’ve learned about myself.
A few other actionable steps for all my fellow type-A’s ::
- Set goals. Like almost anything else in life, setting aside achievable goals give you something to work towards. One of my best friends gave herself a target of going out on four dates in a year. Not a lofty goal by any means and very type A of her, and it wasn’t necessarily her favorite thing to do, but it got her going into the process. It was hard at first, but each date seemed to get her more comfortable in figuring out the right way for her to approach this dating game. Your dating goals don’t need to be numerical by any means, maybe your goal is to be more vulnerable during conversations or to plan a date that is totally out of your comfort zone.
- Join something and actively participate. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s really the easiest way to meet people. Whether it’s a rec sports league, a volunteer group, you name it. Take part in something you’re actually passionate about, regardless of if you meet someone you’re interested in dating, you’ve expanded your network which only opens you up to more options.
- Love your single self. This is less an action step and more a state of being. As someone who has two best friends who both got married within a year of each other and are the epitomes of amazing relationships, it can be so hard to feel like I’m playing catch up or comparing myself to someone else’s timeline, and then feeling like I just need to grab at whatever option comes up because heaven forbid they are the last single man on earth. Y’all, just start with owning and loving who you are on your own, because that’s really the most important relationship you have.
It all really boils down to this – dating is not a science, it’s going to take some work to figure out the right method for you, and just because it seems like everyone out there is using the apps, that doesn’t mean you need to depend on them to meet someone.
Have y’all learned any lessons about dating and how to get yourself out there?