What It Is Wednesday: Dating Sucks
“Dating sucks!” The guy in front of me stopped and yelled at both everyone and no one in particular as I was starting my sunrise miles. The woman with him–a relative, maybe a sister?–shushed him but agreed.
They’d stopped right in front of me, and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop as I passed them.
“It’s all a game,” the 30-ish guy was saying to the younger woman. “It’s all about who can be more disinterested than the other.”
The woman chimed in, “And **** if you ever let them know you like them, they’ll run like **** or call you a clingy psycho. And nobody wants that, so you have to pretend they’re **** if you want them to like you back.”
I almost laughed because it’s so painfully true, though I’d thought it was more a mid-life dating thing than multi-generational. I’ve gone through “spats” of dating at mid-life. Mainly, I’ll dip my toe in the dating pool, get my toe scalded, and go for long periods of not dating at all because it’s almost never about building a relationship anymore and only about socializing. I’d be happy to build friendships at the very least–otherwise it’s a waste of time.
Right after the end of a long-term marriage, I dated quite a bit while I figured out who I was and what I wanted. Dating was a part-time job, almost, but that’s what you do when you’re actively hoping to be in a relationship again (as opposed to it just coming to you when you least expect it and everyone being pleasantly surprised). Most of those were single dates and, as an empath, I knew very quickly (23 minutes, max) that I wasn’t interested and never feigned that I was. I’m picky as hell, okay? I ended up mostly figuring out what I didn’t want, and there were problems specific to that era that I thought were true of dating in particular at that time. I guess if I had to pinpoint it, I would say that everyone was looking for perfection. I like attractive partners, too, but for me, it was always more about the mental connection, and deep conversation and a soul connection meant more of an aphrodisiac than 6-pack abs and 10 inches of, ahem, manhood. Looks fade but soul connections do not.
Speaking of which….don’t laugh…then I got into a short but hot relationship with an underwear model (not really, but he looked like one), but I had to dumb down most of our conversations and that took its toll. Let’s just say, I need a man who’s brilliant, and this one, in spite of being a lot of fun, was not verbally stimulating. He moved, I stayed, relationship over.
When I re-emerged, dating was different again. More like people were jumping from potential love interest to potential love interest without even bothering to actually break bread together. The actual process had changed, and it seemed no one was willing to connect on a deeper level or even commit to a “real” date. Hanging out had become the norm, and very quickly.
Then after a couple of years, I was in a relationship again, and when that ended, things had changed again. That’s where we are now, and I have to agree with the couple I encountered on my sunrise walk: over the last few years, dating seems to have become an exercise in who can pretend to be the most disinterested. All these people running around wanting relationships–all on the spectrum between desperate and hopeful, let’s be honest–and yet the majority of them are walled off from connection. They want the connection, yes, but can’t afford to show any emotion, and very little interest.
Sure, you can buck this trend and show your emotions, but then that’s interpreted as a bad thing. I’m an emotional girl and I live in my emotions and I refuse to feign disinterest. It’s just not authentic for me, even though it may mean I get hurt by allowing myself to be vulnerable with someone new. I mean, I socialize a decent bit, especially now that I’m not working insane hours, but mostly it’s just socializing. I meet a guy here and there who is interesting but I’m a rare breed and find guys I realllllly like only about every few years, not every few nights. I never play those games of pretending not to be disinterested, and if I like someone, they have absolutely no doubts because I tell them. That’s one of the things my romantic partners have always liked–they don’t have to guess my feelings because I’m like, splat, there it is, all on the table and nothing hidden or faked.
Though I can see the trend over the last decade of how we got from there to here in the dating world, I don’t like where the whole dating world is now. I’m not sure who or what to blame. I’d thought it was my generation but I’ve been assured that it’s not. Maybe it’s technology or social media or no longer forming deep connections from behind our screens or so used to seeing all the smiling faces of happy couples in photos manufactured for sharing on Facebook. Maybe its the Rules book that says to not text back for X number of hours to show you’re not overly interested so he’ll chase you or to respond to his text with a text of fewer or equal number of words (I am not kidding) or to refuse a goodnight kiss until…oh, I forget which date…all to play psychological games to dangle what a guy can’t have in front of him until you can reel him in. I figure that’s the foundation for a happy marriage, right? Manipulation?
I don’t know. But the coldness and the aloofness and the insistence at showing other people that we’re not really interested, for whatever reason, when we are is a long, sick game. If the best you’re hoping for is to progress to a long-term relationship, then how exactly is starting it off with showing how disinterested and unemotional you are a good thing? Is it to avoid any hint of vulnerability? Is it to avoid being hurt? Is it to show that nothing and no one can get to you? if what you want more than anything is connection, how can insisting on being disconnected move you toward success? We want other people to have deep, warm feelings for us, but we’re not supposed to be willing to express that kind of depth or to allow them to express that kind of depth?
All I’m saying is that these seem to be the new unspoken rules for dating…or non-dating dating. For both sexes. Be cut-off. Don’t let them know you really like them. Wait the prescribed length of time to return that message or call so they won’t think you like them.
Yeah, whatever. Games.
I’m not playing. I choose real or nothing at all.
Key Takeaway: Dating sucks because it becomes a game of pretending you are not interested when you are and if you intend to take the relationship further, it has been built on a bad foundation. People are eager to date and have relationships but are afraid to bare their emotions and be vulnerable.