17 First Dates.
2017. The year of 17 first dates.
On my first official online date this March, I was 15 minutes early. Walking into the coffee shop, I felt so nervous. I was also curious and intrigued...but mostly nervous. I quickly (frantically?) scanned the patrons to see if I could spot this first date fellow, the filing cabinet in my brain using my recollection of his one online photo as my sole reference point. He wasn't there. Sweaty and trying to calm myself down, I ordered my drink, found a spot against a wall so I could scope out the entire room, and waited. He showed up 5 minutes late.
Fast forward to my most recent official online date, 3 days ago. Coffee shop. My date was 15 minutes early. I was 5 minutes late. I had zero nerves. I only had curiosity. Walking in from the cold and scanning the patrons to see if I could spot this first date fellow, the filing cabinet in my brain used my recollection of his 6 online photos as my sole reference point. There he was. Of slighter build in person. Nervously engrossed in his phone. His eyes lit up when he saw me. I walked over. He stood up. I gave him a hug. We sat down.
After being mostly single since 2013, I started 2017 feeling ready to try my hand at dating. Online dating. The big leagues. No more stealing glimpses of handsome men at Extra Foods, wondering if the dude walking his beagle at the dog park was single, or randomly smooching longtime friends just for the fun of it.
Let's take this seriously. Let's go online.
So online I went.
Over the course of the past 9 months, I have chatted with many wonderful men, I have chatted with a few terrible men, and I have gone on 17 in-person first dates. I counted them this morning, in preparation for writing this post, because I'm weird like that. Order, organization, information. Collect, analyze, conclude.
And here are my 17 first date conclusions:
- Sometimes, the profile you see is exactly as advertised.
- Other times, the profile you see is nothing like advertised.
- Almost always, a man is way more handsome in person than in his profile photos. Whoa. Hottie! Your profile photo does not do you any justice! This has led me to seriously consider starting a portrait side business, just for men who are online dating, to capture their handsomeness. I shall call it An Accurate Portrayal.
- Men are just like women, in the sense that they just want a wonderful partner to hold, to make them feel good, and to adore them.
- Men might just be more scared of women than women are scared of men.
- Men in their 40s seem to understand me the best.
- Never underestimate a 26 year old.
- On a first date, the person across from you will always say three notable things: a) something that indicates what they long for; b) something that indicates their deepest insecurity; and, c) what they truly think of you in terms of first impressions.
- Every single man I go on a first date with is a direct reflection of exactly where I'm at in my life. Every single time, without fail. It's super cool! Mirrors!
- Red flags never turn into green flags. Ever never.
- There is nothing more attractive than a man talking about his passion.
- Take backsies - there is nothing more attractive than a man actually doing his passion.
- I have come so much further than I thought I had, in terms of respecting myself, setting boundaries, and just having fun.
- I still have some walls to let down. I still have some work to do (*as evidenced by the fact that I am writing a post titled 17 First Dates).
- When I have the thought, "If only this guy was XYZ, or did XYZ, or said XYZ...then I could date him long term," I know I need to end things. Why? Because if I go into a relationship trying to change a man, I am setting us both up for disaster, or at least, a ruined friendship.
And the second most important thing I've learned during my 17 first dates?
It's not nearly as scary as you think. Seriously. How many things do we put off because we're scared of it? Moving across the country, taking the painting class, starting online dating. So scary. We put it off, building that thing up in our heads as super intimidating. However, once you dip your toes in, you realize you just want to run wildly into the waves. And into the waves ye shall run.
But the very most important thing I've learned during my 17 first dates?
You'll do it when you're ready. Take the time to heal. Sit with the uncertainty. Not know how it's going to turn out. Then, when you're feeling brave, sign up for the dating site. Join the painting class. Find the job across the country. And know that your version of 17 first dates will be the most eye-opening, exhausting and ultimately, heart-opening thing you can do this year. Because when you're ready, it's not something you should do, but something you truly want to do.
You will learn to move through each element of the experience, appreciating it exactly for what it is - growth, boundaries, affection.
You will come to appreciate 17 men, in each of their own ways.
You will find more of yourself there, in each of those 17 dates.
And maybe one day, you will arrive to the coffee shop on time, seeing a man there who is exactly great just as he is, and there won't be one single thing you will want to change about him.
Or you'll take a painting class, and a really rad dude will be covered in paint beside you.
Or you will move across the country and there he is, wondering what took you so long to get there.
No matter what, give all of it a go. All of it. You just never know.