I love a good date. No, I'll go one further - I enjoy dating even when it's not all that good. Sometimes there are other ways to describe them like comical, or horrible or "dear God I thought he'd never stop talking about the time he travelled the US in a campervan with his parents".
Maybe my life is so intensely boring that I have nothing better to do with an evening, but new people, new experiences and people watching in an extremely close proximity is like levelling up.
Even if this person that I'd been so excited to meet the last few days is an extreme knob-end at least I have a few more traits that I know I won't tolerate in a partner and a few laughs at their expense.
Dating is intense scrutiny.
Let's face it. Millions of micro-judgements. Billions of observations. Trillions of pieces of information all being received, assimilated and categorised to answer a single question.
Do I like this person enough to let them come on my tits, meet my parents and spend time together watching crappy reruns?
What even constitutes a positive response to that question? It's hundreds of moving pieces that need to align in order for something good to come out of it.
Comfort levels, humour, self-assuredness, dominance, manners, honesty, humbleness, sexual chemistry, the list is endless and they're all on a sliding scale. Too self-assured and they're moving into cocky territory move that further up the scale and we're in conceit.
We each have a pre-defined set-point for each of the traits we're seeking. It's a miracle we ever get to a second date or beyond.
But what happens when you do?
What if you get past the initial rifling through their personality, digging through their character to figure them out and realise that you want to see this person again and again and again?
Sometimes you pass all the hurdles, you’re compatible in so many ways, you enjoy your time together and you want more.
You like them and that’s a scary place to be.
Scary because it’s vulnerable. Now that you’ve acknowledged the fact that you caught the feels you have to take all that comes with it. The fear that they don’t feel the same way. It's a puke inducing, run for the hills and hide scenario.
What if they're wrong? What if they're seeing something that's not actually there? What if they did see something but now realise they were wrong and don't want to see you anymore?
Shame. Fear. Rejection. All the gut-wrenching emotions that come from vulnerable situations leave you questioning if this was even a good idea in the first place. Alarm bells are going off.
The potential for being hurt starts rising the second you acknowledge the feelings. Ignoring them is futile because you know they're there and almost ads a layer of shock to the prospective bruised ego.
So, in a somewhat desperate act to stop the hurt, we turn inwards. What can we do to make sure they don’t not like us?
Stay on top of current events so you can have more of an educated opinion.
Pay attention to your diet, because no-one breaks up with a hot person, right?
Make sure to not disagree with their opinions. People like agreeable people.
Always wear sexy underwear, never look not like "a snack" whatever that means.
This protective mechanism is so subtle it’s almost automatic. We hardly even notice ourselves slipping onto their Facebook page to gauge how we compare to their ex. We’ve spent so much of our lives tearing ourselves to shreds that it doesn’t seem unnatural to start seeing our faults again.
We think we’re being objective, brutally honest about the reality of what is. Making changes that should make it considerably less likely that we’ll be hurt. We’re minimising the risk, right?
But dating is subjective. The qualities the last person detested in you are the qualities that the next finds the most appealing. Your quirks and intricacies are what make you - you. A healthy relationship exists between two people who acknowledge and accept the other inclusive of kinks and quirks.
So what’s my point?
Dating is a minefield, vulnerability is a strength and as hard as it can be not to scrutinise yourself the best thing you can do is be yourself. All of it. It takes grit to go back to the dating scene time and time again and courage to open yourself to someone.
Liking someone is an uneasy place to be. Self-compassion is key. Be mindful of the vindictive bitch in the back of your head who's seeing this as a prime opportunity to tear you apart.
If the dynamic parts ways, which ultimately it could, you can rest easy in knowing that you stayed 100% true to yourself and didn’t alter yourself for anyone. And if it hurts, go back to self-compassion. You were a badass in the first place and no one can take that away from you.
You want the person you end up with to accept and cherish you for who you are not for who you pretended to be. So stay true to yourself wherever in the minefield of dating you are.