New York City. The land of the quick fix. By the click of a mouse I can have cat litter, craft beer and my folded laundry be delivered to my apartment. Human contact has become optional, if you so choose. Within the hour I can have weed and pad Thai at my door. In that order, obviously. Applications can tell you the exact minute your train will arrive and exactly how many feet away your next sexual tryst is standing. Disputes are settled with instant access to Google and my bank checks are deposited by my camera. It’s a beautiful time to be lazy, indeed. It is also a beautiful time to be productive. I do all of my writing on my smart phone during my daily commutes as well as practice my foreign languages and learn new things through my beloved TED talks. Some of my friends have tried to sway me from using technology to meet men. “You don’t need it, you can find someone easily” they say. I argue that dating aps are just another tool I use, not exclusively, to meet people. Sure, I have met some creepers and crazies, but I’ve also had a lot of fun.
Today my employee was teasing me about my shoes. “You got a hot date?” I laughed as it is not uncommon for me to wear cute shoes to work. My nurse chimes in “you look so good these days, you must be in love!” The assumption that I am the type of person to be positively giddy in love made me laugh even harder. I caved and told them that I did, in fact, have a date tonight. “Oooh is it “Scorpio”? Is he cute?” People in my life sometimes forget that I long ago stopped being excited about dates, but their excitable faces made me satisfy them with “it’s a new guy and I can’t wait!”
I know I sound pessimistic, but I prefer to see myself as a realist. I am a career-driven 30-year-old who doesn’t count chickens before they hatch. If I base my life on my current working theory that I will keep dating until I find the “one”, my math says that I will have dozens of break-ups under my belt when that day comes along. Forecast for a potential break-up? Likely. I have not completely thrown in the towel, as I do put my best foot forward on every date and occasionally my heart melts a little revealing my abandoned romantic side. Unless someone really special comes along who is worthy of my monogamy, I typically do date multiple people at once. This way I keep my heart and expectations in check. I also have noticed that I wax and wane through dating phases. Sometimes, I want a real boyfriend. Other times, I participate in what I refer to as “expiration dating”.
“Expiration dating” is reserved for that hot guy from Barcelona who is in New York for the summer. My mind is in a completely different head space when we get together. We will never work out long term, but we can have a blast in the here and now. “Expiration dating” is reserved for the guy you really don’t like, but you got drunk and invited him to your cousins wedding. “Expiration dating” is for the summer flings, winter spooning partners and anything with a limited shelf life. I have dated many men solely on the prospect of a good story. I even dated a guy once because he crafted the best date scenario ever: a library date where we make pop-up books, eat apples, duct tape each other to rolling chairs and push each other down the aisles.
I caught myself fancying another “expiration date” the other day. Kendall and I were discussing a recent date with a man that I hated within the very first sentence I knew him. There was literally nothing redeeming about this guy. I had gone against my better judgement and agreed to a date with an “actor”. I have learned this lesson one to many times, but I went anyway. He met me at a nice-enough bar and said “you are four minutes early, you couldn’t wait to meet me, huh?” He then talked non-stop for two hours. He spent the first thirty minutes telling me about staring contests he had been in and won. The rest of the time was spent telling me about how his dad was killed by an oncoming train, his pituitary gland issue got him bullied in grade school and about his intolerance for tickling. I had been double fisting red wine and shots of whiskey and decided that I was drunk enough to stick it out. As he was later walking me to the train, we took a shortcut through the park. It had rained that evening and the grass was so slippery and sloped that I was falling down constantly. He pulled me close for a hug and whispers in my ear “I had a lovely time. Did you know that touching is my love language?” I saw his wet lips coming at me for a kiss as I pulled away. I yell “no touching” as I belly flop on the grass and slide down the small hill. It was, truly, a new low for me. I had ran out on dates before, but this was the first time I would have road rash because of it. This guy asked me out on another date, and I got my ass back to my apartment. Kendall asked “so, are you going on another date?” Without thinking it through, I responded “ugh I hated him. But, probably.” I knew that I was on the verge of a story-date situation and I had to resist the urge to drink that Kool Aid again. Just because I hadn’t dated someone I hated before doesn’t mean that I should. This newfound logic is one of the only signs that I’ve grown-up a little. The “I’m dating this guy because he has gun shot wounds” attitude was super fun for a while, but it’s also gotten super old.
Currently, I am somewhere in-between the land of “expiration dating” and wanting something real. I find that a summer romance is exactly what the doctor has ordered, and if something grows from that then all the better. My heart vacillates between the land of the living and the land of the dead, but I am just fine with that. My favorite thing about being in my thirties is that I don’t have room in my life for shitty relationships- friends, lovers or family- and I’m ok with walking away when needed. I’m happy just where I am in life and don’t really give a damn if I’m following some arbitrary time-line for my love life. I may still enjoy my “expiration dates” from time to time, but I let go of my own expiration date on love. One of the most inspirational people in my life, Anne, told me about how she didn’t find her “honey” until later in life. She looked over a table at me and my single friends and gushed over pictures of her husband on her phone with the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl. If that kind of love is worth waiting for, then it’s time I throw my “egg timer” out the window and stop stressing so much. I can always adopt if I want to, and my life is fantastic without a perennial plus-one. Who knows what tonight will bring, or what will happen with the Scorpio, or if I will live as an international woman of mystery for the rest of my life. At least I know I have cute shoes and can handle my liquor. So, off I go….
A few years ago, I was the focus of an intervention. “You’ll never get a boyfriend when you spend all of your time at gay bars!” The look of genuine concern radiated off of about five of my friends. I stopped laughing once I realized that they had put some planning behind this ambush. I had my stock arguments against their logic, but recently I started thinking honestly about their words. Sure, I love the dancing, music and cute bartenders at my favorite gay bars. I dance on stages with my few friends and dozens of new friends. I never have to worry about getting rejected or impressing a potential date, and these beauties let me touch their luscious abs. For a few hours, I feel completely free and exceedingly fabulous. Above all, it was a guaranteed good time and it was safe.
Safe. That was the word that made me wake up. I had found another cynical bone in my body. I reviewed my dating history and realized that at some point I had unknowingly thrown in the towel. I spent quality prime dating years in my twenties prioritizing funny dating stories and my gays over finding a good match. I don’t regret this in the slightest, but it made me look at dating under a new micro and macro lens.
New dating expectations show a scary glimpse into the state of our social society. In the past, I would look forward to a new prospect with as much anticipation and anxiety as a child looks forward to Christmas. The first flirtation usually contained compliments and coyness. Getting asked out was like winning some sort of lottery and the first phone calls leading up to that first date would last for hours. Discussions about each other’s family, vacation history, dreams, and sharing each other’s interests paved the way for future meaningful conversations. I would spend hours choosing the right outfit to match the right venue. His choice of activity or restaurant usually translated into how hard he would work to win your love. It would also show a peek into whether they were traditional, creative or lazy. My prepping had to be perfect, from the right scent to the outfit that shows that I am dressing up just enough to impress, but casual enough to seem down to earth. He would come pick me up and I would get butterflies the instant I opened the door to see a put together man, complete with a smile. Sometimes there would be flowers. The date would be an experience including nerves, opened doors and pheromones. He would grab the check and I would offer to help pay as he would tell me not to be silly. A sheepish thank you would escape my mouth as blush spread over my face. As the night would wind down, the biggest questions I had were: is he going to kiss me and will he ask me out again? I would immediately phone my friends and dish on every last detail such as what he looked like, his hobbies and if he went in for the kiss or not.
Believe it or not, these dates weren’t fifty years ago. They were less than ten years ago. In such a short while the dating experience has changed so drastically that it is no wonder many newly divorced individuals are in a blind panic when they get back into the game. Not all change is bad, as progress is progress. Gays can now date openly in most places -hell- they can even marry in some states! Women have not broken the glass ceiling, but they have gotten closer. Alternative relationships are no longer taboo, and in some cases will earn you a special on TLC. If the 1960’s were the decade of love, then are the 2010’s the decade of “love everything, kinda”?
We whole-heartedly operate within various degrees of FOMO, aka “fear of missing out”. We are so engrossed in technology and possibilities that it has become part of our identity. Don’t believe me? How many times did you check your Facebook today, even for a few moments? Did anyone comment on my photo of last nights dinner? Why didn’t that witty status only get two likes? Why hasn’t he responded to my friend request yet, it’s been three days! Did Kimye leave a new tweet? Did anyone send me a new life on candy crush? Is it time to become “official” with him by updating my relationship status, or will that scare him off? Should I take down my dating profile, or will he think I’m moving to fast? With all of this self-chatter happening in the space of a moment, the only way to cope is to convert it to white noise and take a deep breath. If you aren’t a slave to the cyberworld, then congrats! But, your next date only communicates with text message and status updates… So good luck!
Technology isn’t the enemy here. Without the convenience of Facebook, I would have lost touch with most of the 800 friends I have known in various capacities during my life. I don’t need to communicate with answering machines when I want to talk to my friends. A simple text or email will be answered when they have a quick second. An instant posting to social media and my photo/video capabilities on my smart phone save me from having to describe with words the crazy guy I sat next to on the train. “Here is a glimpse into my life” I portray to my network. Online dating has opened up a world of opportunity as well. I don’t NEED to meet the drunk guy at the same bar I go to every weekend. I can meet the guy outside of my territory and comfort zone who does something exciting that I know nothing about. By process of elimination, theory has it that I can choose someone whose values match my own in a matter of minutes. This, of course, is depending on their capacity for honesty. I am not cool enough to be above social media and I am usually the first to download the newest app. But, I would be remiss to overlook the temperature reading I feel after each first date. I feel an overwhelming sense of “meh”.
I often coach my managers to evaluate performance issues with our staff on a simple graph. Are they failing due to a lack of effort, or a lack of skill? With effort issues, can they be counseled into an attitude adjustment? For skill issues, will extra training and support help them learn the skill sets to perform to my expectations? I have learned so many useful life lessons from my work that it is practically embarrassing. I find myself using a similar graph to handle personal problems every day. Am I failing because of effort or because I need to learn a new lesson? This has helped me make hard decisions about my life path in everything from weight management to professional aspirations. This becomes even more complex when you add another human to the mix. Their level of performance in the relationship is based upon their own issues regarding effort and life lessons. Success is met when both parties are aware of where on their own graph that they reside and what they are willing to do to change that. This is much harder than it sounds. Self-awareness is a scary reality to live in. You can photoshop and edit the way you want the world to see you, but in real life you do yourself a disservice if you don’t take a hard look into the mirror to fix your true self. Admitting that you might be a “princess” who needs people to do everything for you, is not something anyone wants to do. Realizing that you are lazy in relationships and that the other isn’t acting “crazy”, but neglected…is not easy to admit to yourself. Your baggage isn’t going to disappear magically, and remember that every one of your friends relationships that seem to require zero effort…is a myth.
Our generation has become so dependent on instant gratification that the majority of us have become quite lazy. With our social interactions, you see this by birthday cards replaced by wall postings and showing up to a first date in a sweatshirt. Why place a large amount of effort into a stock without a guarantee? I still dress to show my best side when I go on dates, but when I feel a lack of effort on their part, either in wardrobe or in lazy conversation skills, I will admit that I feel less inclined to show my full effort. Why choose to care about someone, when they are busy wondering how many dates until intercourse. Why spend another drink with him when he is distracted by answering text messages -possibly sent by another potential date. No stock, no loss. We split the bills, feel pressured to sleep with people too fast in order to just maybe keep him around, and we drink to many beers. My follow-up gossip sessions are about who paid or and about what red flags I found. It’s not that women are losing the dating game, men have it hard too! There are men out there that genuinely want to take a girl out properly, but the girl is in it for a free meal or to buffer their heart while they are trying to snare the guy they really like. More possibilities can equal more dates. By sheer numbers, if a guy pays for every single first date then it is no wonder that dive bars are en vogue for the locale. Even break-ups have become lazy. We simply stop texting back. From the jump, we have a potential major effort issue to hurdle over, even before the baggage is exposed.
What if we stopped dating by quantity and considered quality? What if we considered our own graphing prior to going out with another? How can we be our best, balanced self? If this happened universally, we would have everyone showing up ready to make a real effort and ready to work on their daddy issues. What do you think, dear readers?