A wise man once said, "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."
By Alicia Lu
But if you can turn your mistakes into experience, then you're well ahead of the curve, and you don't need Oscar Wilde to tell you that.
Dating is perhaps where many of your life's mistakes are concentrated. The fact that alcohol is often a requirement — like an oxygen tank is for scuba diving — might be a compounding factor. However, when you reach a certain stage in life, when life's given you just about every dating situation possible, you start to look at each date differently.
I came out of a serious, long-term relationship at the beginning of the year, and then, like the often impulsive and reckless girl I am, jumped into a relationship a month later. Naturally, I wasn't ready at that point and I had to break it off, and the poor guy moved back to Texas. After that, I decided to take the whole casual dating thing for a longer drive. Most importantly, I just wanted to have really hot, no-strings-attached sex. So what does one turn to for such a quest? Tinder, obviously.
After giving myself a decent enough time to decompress from my sweet Texan, I scheduled as many dates in a week-and-a-half time period to plant the sex seeds. I knew that just based on probability, and the pitfalls of online dating, that at least half of them wouldn't work out, so I had to really plough the fields, you know?
In the end, I went on seven dates in nine days. It was an exhausting whirlwind that was at times exhilarating and other times completely demoralizing. But ultimately, the experience taught me some pretty invaluable lessons — and introduced me to someone pretty great.
1. A first date is like a job interview.
You've probably heard this analogy before, but maybe not the full version. The crucial part of that comparison is that if a first date is like a job interview, then you must establish yourself as the employer. That's something I learned between my long bout of singlehood at age 26 and my recent bout at age 31. Man, are those periods like night and day.
At 26, I was the interviewee, no doubt about it. I treated every date and every decent-looking dude in a flannel shirt at the bar as a potential employer — in other words, I was letting them do the choosing, all the while projecting an air of desperation that all but kills your chances in dating. Coming off desperate and eager is one thing in the job hunt, but in the man hunt? It might even surpass poor hygiene as the least desirable trait.
Now, at 31, with more road behind me, I have settled comfortably into the position of the employer. And all I did to get here was have one simple revelation: you're in control of who you date. It seems like common sense, but many girls fall victim to the mentality that they'd be lucky if this guy or that guy went out with them. No. The guy would be lucky to even get to talk to you.
The next time you go on a first date, keep this dynamic in mind. Ask questions, process the information, and carry the conversation in a way that suggests you know exactly what you're looking for and you're sussing him out, just like an employer would with job candidates. By the end of the date, you should have all but said, "Thank you for your time. I'll be in touch with my decision either way." But, you know, in your mind.
2. The options are endless, so take your time.
To help bolster your confidence as the "employer," it's helpful to remember that there really are plenty of fish in the sea. Women have a tendency to treat every guy like the last one they'll ever meet for some reason, so they make excuses and justify bad behavior, incompatibility, that lip ring.
Not everyone is going to be boyfriend material (and in places like New York City, far from it), and that's totally normal and expected. You're not going to be every single man's dream girl either, and guys certainly don't have a hard time letting us know that (or not letting us know that, aka disappearing).
We shouldn't project a narrative on every guy we meet. Know your criteria and stick to them. If the guy — if 25 guys — don't meet your qualifications, don't sweat it. It takes time to find the right person, and when you do you'll be glad you were patient instead of settling for someone who half knew who the vice president was.
And just remember: you're not being slutty, you're being thorough.
3. You can turn anything into entertainment, even a terrible date.
This one's for the sake of your own sanity. You're going to go on a lot of bad dates — that's just unavoidable, because humans.
However, every sweaty, balding, shorter-than-their-picture-suggests blind date doesn't have to mean a night ruined. In fact, if you have the right attitude, you can turn an epically terrible date into pure entertainment (it doesn't even have to be at the expense of your date).
For example, he's a lemur enthusiast — like, he started advocacy groups. Use this rare opportunity to grill him about lemurs and learn a thing or two. He'll relish the task. Then, politely never call him back. If the guy is just a downright pretentious assh*le, even better. He'll help you practice the courteous exit. But feel free to tell him off a little before you do, because those opportunities are also rare and life's too short not to be totally honest.
Speaking of the courteous exit . . .
4. Bowing out gracefully is an artform.
There are few moments in life more dreadful than meeting a blind date and knowing immediately you'd rather spend the next year with Netflix and boxed wine than the next minute with this dud. But, since you were raised to have manners, you stay for one drink.
Side note: never commit to a meal for the first date. Parks, museums, or anything that involve wandering are out of the question, in case you need to make a quick exit. A bar is always the best bet for a first date, or a coffee shop if you don't drink alcohol. But never feel obligated to stick around just because he's nice. Hey, my time is precious. I'm a freelancer.
So after the longest drink of your life, during which you strain your brain for questions to ask, how do you leave without seeming like a b*tch? Well, sometimes you can't, and that's OK. The best protocol is to just be direct. "Thank you for meeting with me, but I should be getting home now." Simple. You don't need to give any reasons if you don't want to.
If he presses, then be honest. He's literally asking for it after all. "I had a nice time, but I don't think we'd be a good match." No need to get into specifics. If he still persists, then you can throw social graces out the window and start ignoring him. The silver lining there is that he'll have confirmed your instinct to leave.
5. The first impression can mean nothing.
But maybe don't ghost everyone so fast. If you're not completely repulsed right away, keep an open mind. He may reveal a laundry list of attractive traits and similar interests and transform into your perfect match before your eyes. Or he may not. First dates are often just meh, and sometimes you'e just not sure if you like the guy or not. If I've learned one thing from my seven dates, it's that the first impression can sometimes be completely inaccurate.
During my date with — we'll call him M — he very assertively pulled me in for a kiss and we basically spent the rest of the date making out passionately. We had undeniable sexual chemistry. Very promising for my mission at hand, right? Well, that's what I thought.
I scheduled a shag session with him immediately, and we even built anticipation by texting back and forth over the next few days. It was all crazy hot. The sex . . . not so much. Sometimes the guy who's really good at making out is just a guy who's really good at making out.
On the other hand, when I met R, my first impression was that he seemed a little safe, a little dorky, and a little dad-like. I didn't feel any sexual chemistry right away, and in fact, I almost wrote him off as just an asexual-type guy. But I gave him a second chance, and even a third — because we did have stimulating and humorous conversation — and boy was I glad I did. Because the guy who I initially deemed asexual turned out to be the best sex of my life.
So. First impressions be damned.
6. Don't let a guy's snap judgment of you bother you.
In the words of Taylor Swift, I knew this guy was going to be trouble. P worked in finance, had the kind of face that said "Yeah, I wear boating shoes . . . because I own a boat," and didn't seem very interested until I mentioned that I was just looking for some fun. Maybe it was because I had never dated this type before and was curious, or maybe it was because I was watching a lot of Gossip Girl at the time and wanted to play Blair Waldorf for a night, but I said yes to a date.
The date went perfectly fine. He didn't hack me into bits Patrick Bateman style, and we even kissed goodnight. But the next day, he texted me this: "You know what I don't like? Girls who talk about chivalry and then don't thank a guy when he pays for all her drinks." Horrified, I racked my brain to try and remember if I had thanked him. No one's ever accused me of being an ingrate before — if anything I have a habit of overusing "thank you" and "sorry."
I wrote back apologizing and admitting my mistake (if it was even true). P didn't respond for hours. The more time that went by the more indignant I felt, so I decided to stand up for myself. I texted back, "Look, if you think I'm some kind of freeloader, then you have a very wrong impression of me." And the brosicle wrote back something completely flippant, making me feel like an idiot for being so upset all day.
The lesson here is that just like we make snap judgments about the guys we go out with, they're going to make snap judgments about us — but that's all they are. They don't actually know us enough to form judgment that matters.
So if they're petty enough to call you out for something you did or didn't do on your first date, don't even dignify it with a second thought. Because he don't know you like that.
7. If you're on the fence, go for it.
This relates back to not letting a first impression inform your decision about a guy.
Like I said, many dates will leave you not with butterflies or disappointment but simply a shrug. In the case that you're completely on the fence about a guy — as in he could marry someone the next day or ask you to go ice skating and you'd be OK with either scenario — then channel your inner "yes" person and just go for it. Go on that second date.
Like I said, after my first date with R, I was pretty indifferent. I did find him cute, smart, and funny, but because I didn't feel the sexual chemistry, I almost ghosted him or fed him some excuse about getting back together with my ex. However, I was just curious enough to say yes after he asked to go out again.
And whaddya know — I'm still seeing him. So yeah. I guess sexual chemistry can develop over time, because — not to rub it in, but — damn.
This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.