Last Thursday, we started talking about dating. The big issues were:
(a) Why does dating have to be a disaster so much of the time?
(b) The best dating “secret” we’ve found is: Stop focusing on the finding the other person and put your energies toward making yourself the best “you” there is. If you’re rocking your “A” game, the right person is gonna find you.
The whole dating thing took me a l-o-o-ong time to get the hang of (subsequently this blog is a tad lengthy…sorry). I mean, nobody shared the big dating guidebook or taught me the rules. I had to fumble my way along.
I had an amazing mother but she didn’t know a thing about dating. At about 27 years-old, I became friends with a gal who clued me in that I was “doing it all wrong.” (Like it was a big surprise to anyone at that point.)
This girlfriend came from a family of all females while I came from the exact opposite. She was astonished at how many men friends I had, and put it down to growing up with brothers.
She was eager to go out with me and my posse of guys since everyone knows you’re more likely to meet men when you’re out with some. (Same with men going out with women friends. Y’all know that, right?).
To my surprise, once we were out, she got so quiet that I cornered her in the bathroom and asked her what was wrong.
“How many of these guys have you dated,” she asked. “I’m detecting a vibe.”
“None of them, there’s no vibe. We’re friends. They don’t think of me like that.”
She pounced. “How did you know they weren’t potentials? Because I have to say, several of them look at you like they’re crushing on you. (Note: ‘Crushing’ is code for ‘wanting to date you.’). Trust me,” she said, “I’m never wrong about this sort of thing.”
I insisted she was wrong this time.
“I’m not betting on this! There’s not even a way to verify this kind of data.”
“I’m going to go ask them,” she said, and sailed out of the bathroom.
I charged after her like a high school girl, hissing at her to stop.
She let me catch up and leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Simmer down. I’m not going to shout it to the whole bar. I’m just going to inquire – QUIETLY – about how they met you and whether you dated, yadda-yadda-yadda. Ten bucks says at least two of those four guys started out wanting to date you.”
To make a long story short, she was right. It turned out to be the best ten bucks I ever lost.
Here I thought guys just didn’t see me “that way” and what really went on in my dating world is that they thought I didn’t see THEM that way. My most glaring sins (there’s more but these are the big deal-breakers) in order:
- Whenever I’d go out with a man, I’d pull out my wallet when the bill came and offer to split it with him. Growing up, my mother told me to “always have enough money for myself and cab fare home.” She neglected to say, “just in case” at the end of the sentence. (Hence, all the dude friends.)
- I’d turn really shy when a man I was interested in started flirting so I’d deflect the verbal “I want to date you overtures” they made.
- I was too nurturing and sweet (apparently reminiscent of “Mommy”).
Ladies, I know we are in different economic times now when more checks get split – the above experience was back in the early Dot Com days – but most men at the time were trained to interpret the scramble for the wallet as a cue that a woman just wanted to be friends. Let me tell you, I had a LOT of guy friends!
I started mending my ways but it took time. Finally, the day came when I turned 35. I’d just broken up with the last Mr. Not-Quite-Right and was moaning about the years that I’d wasted. Was I going to EVER going to meet Mr. Right? The chances were looking slim.
Obviously, with a Romance Record like mine, I have very patient girlfriends. When I bemoaned the wasteland of my love life and the biological clock that was hurtling me with G-force toward menopause, my three best girlfriends all told me the same thing: I needed a better system.
Plus, I needed to get a second opinion (or third or fourth) from someone with a better track record in the dating decision making process (all three mentioned that they were happily married).
The verdict? I needed to date by committee.
The initial plan was Speed Dating and they all agreed that was a good one. I’d meet maximum numbers of men (10-15 in an evening) with minimum effort (I just had to sit and talk to them each for 3-5 minutes). In sales terms, I was taking the fast track to build the dating pipeline.
The Dating Committee encouraged me to spend time with as many of these prospects as possible with one single caveat: at least one person on the Committee had to meet them before (1) any significant physical contact, defined as anything past a good-night kiss outside the vehicle I was driving home or (2) by the third date…whichever came first.
The Speed Dating was fun but exhausting – I often had as many as four “first dates” in one week (I don’t recommend it). The men shared some key desirable characteristics in a first date – most had jobs and wanted to meet women. However, not a single one of them tempted me to present them to the Committee.
My friends began to suspect that Secret Dating was occurring but, really, when you’ve got the Dating Police Force managing your life, your standards about who’s a potential third date rise in a huge hurry.
Just as I was getting the hang of these new dating rules, my mother died suddenly, tilting the axis of my world. All of you who have lost a parent know that those first months are full of dark, lonely times.
My patient girlfriends dragged me back into life, ignoring my bitter protests, and one April night, I was coerced out on the town. The plan was to meet up with two couples I know – they were having dinner at a restaurant/bar in Newport Beach called the Quiet Woman. (For any of you non-locals, the logo for the restaurant is a woman in a peasant dress with her head lopped off. I’d be pissed off on behalf of all women, but the food’s too good.) After dinner and some dancing, we moved on to Woody’s Wharf.
If smoking were allowed indoors in California, all the smokers in Newport Beach would hang out at Woody’s Wharf. The air was thick with the promise of a Saturday night singles scene when we walked in.
Upon arrival my girlfriend, Mary, and I hit the dance floor. A few minutes later, a dark haired man with stunning blue eyes danced up to us. “Can I join you ladies?” he asked, bobbing his head to the music. What do you say to that? (Especially when the man can’t dance worth a damn.) I admired his nerve and smiled.
When the song ended, Mary sailed off to the bathroom. I followed Mr. Blue Eyes, whose name was Steve, back to his seat at the bar where we began whole getting to know you Dance of Singles. This was helped along by Mary who zoomed up a while later and elbowed me out of the way so she could exercise her Committee Rights.
She held out her hand in introduction. “Hi, I’m her girlfriend Mary. How are you?” And she proceeded to pepper this man (my future husband) with questions.
“What do you do? Oh, a Computer Guy! Uh-huh. Great! Jen works in computers!
Where do you live? Oh, Newport Beach…close by…Great!
How old are you? Forty-four? (She gave him a suspicious stare.)
Have you ever been married?
Really…did you have any kids? No? Hmmm. Well do you WANT to have kids?
(I tried to slink off right about this time but Mary trains dogs for a living and she’s got a grip like a pit bull.)
How do you feel about pets? Oh, you’re afraid of dogs? Well, cause she has a dog, but Hoshi’s a really nice dog. She really likes men – Hoshi, not Jen…well, I mean Jen likes men too. Anyway, you guys will do great!
What kind of dog? An Akita.”
At the end of this conversation, she gave me thumbs up (right in front of him) and sashayed off. I’m sure she went back to her husband Mike, who loves good gossip, to share the news that “Jen-Pooh was talking to Dance-Floor Guy who stood up to the Inquisition.”
I gave Steve a pained smile and we continued talking for the next hour, when he asked if he could have my number. When Woody’s closed, the six of us piled into a car to return to the Quiet Woman. I was squished in the back seat between Mike on my left and Steve on my right.
Steve was cabbing it that evening so we offered to drive him home. As he directed us up to the gates of a glitzy Newport apartment complex, my heart sank. I’d been to several parties here and had seen nothing but pretentious men at every single gathering. (Just look at me making assumptions – obviously I hadn’t read the Four Agreements yet!)
“Why do you live here?” I blurted it out, then moaned silently that I actually said that out loud.
Steve didn’t even hesitate. “My parents are getting older and I like to live close to them.”
“Ohhhhh!” Mary and our other girlfriend sighed in unison from the front seat.
Steve got out of the car and shut the door. I turned back from watching him walk away and found Mike staring at me like something he’d stepped in at the dog park.
“Why do you live HERE? You had it in the bag, and you say ‘why do you live here?’” He threw up his hands. “He is never going to call you!”
Well, it took him almost a week, but he did call and we did arrange our first date. Three years later we got married and we’re coming up on five years of marriage.
The big secret to our success is (wait for it…): I DIDN’T PICK HIM. My Picker has been proven flawed.
I just didn’t run away when he picked ME. And I trusted the opinions of my Committee, my family and my beloved dog (who fell for him like a ton of bricks). They kept me from bolting in the beginning until, gradually, I recognized him too: Finally, the One.
About a year later we were discussing with a single friend that she needed to raise her dating standards. She asked about mine and Steve laughed and said “Jen’s bar was set so low, all I had to do was just roll over it.”
So, here in our Thursday time together, when we’re discussing the Triple D of Disastrous Dating Don’ts, you can feel comfortable that the Queen of Dating Don’ts (that would be me) is giving you the straight scoop.
Out of curiosity, for those of you who are in a happy long-term relationship…how did you meet, and who picked who?