Picture this: you’re standing in a bar with 1000 people, gender or non of your choice. Your “person”, the one you’re looking for, if you believe in that sort of thing, is standing at the back of the bar. That’s right. Behind all 1000 people. And guess what? There’s no path you can take, no secret side door, no tunnel, no magical waves parting. You have no choice, if you wish to reach that person, but to get through all 1000 people first. How, you ask? It might be a handshake, a makeout, a few hours conversation, you might even get hung up talking to one for days, weeks, or even years. The point is, there’s no quick way. So rather than spend a whole bunch of time trying to figure out what the quick way is, and how to not have to do this, which is truly the only real way to waste time when you’re dating, get in there! Dive in and start talking. Or dancing. Or smooching. Whatever suits you.
As a dating coach, I hear ALLLLLL the time: “I just don’t want to waste my time.” Really? You really think having an encounter with another human being is a waste of your time ? When what you’re trying to do is find the absolute best person (or people) for you? I’ll tell you what’s a waste of time: thinking that you’re wasting your time. That’s it. EVERYthing else is worthwhile. You don’t know if the person you meet could be your friend, business partner, great lay, funny story, or love of your life. I’ve even heard of multiple times when the two people knew they weren’t right for each other but they thought of a friend to set the other person up with, and now those two people are together! It happens! And it would NOT have happened if one or both of those people decided they were wasting their time, and acted as such. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve gotten to a date, thought “no, not for me”, emotionally crossed your arms and sat back and waited to be proven right, and then went home pissed just brimming to tell your friends or your cat or your mom or anyone who will listen, what a waste of time dating is. Too bad for you. You missed an opportunity.
And you didn’t just miss an opportunity for all the reasons I mentioned above, but you missed an opportunity to have a good time. Dating does not have to suck. In fact, believe it or not, it can be FUN. It can be an exercise in self-confidence rather than the opposite. It can be a chance to like people and the world more, not less. When I work with clients, the very first thing I say is, I’m not here to GET YOU A BOYFRIEND. Or girlfriend. Whatever. I’m going to use boyfriend for efficiency. I’m here to MAKE DATING FUN. And yes, that very well may lead to what you’re searching for. But it will definitely lead to a bunch of other good stuff along the way, and that will make all the difference.
When you’re swiping, swipe as if you’ve had three tequila shots and you’re at that bar I talked about, and you’re in college. Why do we decide that past age twenty-five we have to “GET SERIOUS”? Why do we stop looking around us and decide we now “know ourselves and what we want” so we can’t entertain anything that isn’t that. We make up very strict parameters on the apps, we fill our precious profile space with “I’m looking for…(list of generic ideal qualities)” and “Don’t message me if….(list of generic offending qualities)”. We do everything we can to narrow and narrow and narrow our lens. Why? How many times was the person you dated someone you would have dated if you saw them on paper? Almost never. And if you’re so sure about “your type” and “what works for you”, why are you not with them right now? Seems like maybe you don’t really know, and maybe what you want isn’t exactly what you need (there’s plenty of psychological science to back up that what we chase and think of as “the click” and “the one” is actually just what we’re used to associating with love relationships from childhood or our past, but that’s for another time. For now trust me. If you think you know...you most likely have no idea and it’s time to look for a new experience rather than the one you’re so sure about wanting.).
So open up! WIDEN the filters! PLEASE delete any and all waste of words that describe what you are or are not looking for. No one is going to look at that and filter themselves accordingly. No one is “ready for a relationship”. They’re ready for the person that makes them want to be in a relationship. Get to know a PERSON. Open yourself to new people; you do not hit an age where it’s time to stop learning and exploring and kissing someone you never imagined yourself kissing before. Make yourself a playlist that brings you back to that freeing college time when you weren’t looking for SOMETHING SERIOUS and start swiping with abandon. I recommend about 80% yes, and don’t look for reasons to eliminate someone. Look for green flags, not red. Respond to a smile, a funny line, a cute t-shirt, WHATEVER. Say yes. And this doesn’t just go for what’s on your screen, though lord knows we’ve forgotten anything exists outside that. The WORLD is your dating app; why limit yourself? Look around. Make eye contact. Give out your number! Ask for theirs. Make someone’s day with a passing compliment. Develop crushes just for your own enjoyment. Get yourself a Bachelor Girl t-shirt, for Pete’s sake, and let people know dating and singledom is not something to run from, it’s something to embrace (I’m partial to the spooning ones, as they communicate warmth and affection we’re often afraid to show these days. I also love a simple “Bachelor Girl” or clear-cut “Swipe Right” because everyone could do more of that, you included.). Drop the hankie, so to speak, with your presence, your openness, your ability to laugh and share your experiences. FLIRT, in the world, on the apps, on dates most of all. Desperately trying to escape something will never work; learning to love and enjoy it will often get you out of there sooner than you planned! And then you’ll miss it. Trust me.
I only left the wonderful world of dating because I finally found someone who was actually better than all the fun I was having getting to experience someone new every night/week/month. I never thought it would happen, but it happened at the height of my love affair with dating. We were set up on a blind date by my hairdresser not because I lamented how hard it was to be single but because I would tell anyone who would listen just how much fun I was having with dating. And who doesn’t want to set that person up with their friends? Far more than someone who says, “Can you set me up, but ONLY if the person is looking for a REAL relationship; I am OVER this.” That person is terrifying to the potential yenta; I just seemed like I would have a good time and make sure the potential date would too.
And in fact, I came home from that first date and said out loud to no one, “Welp, I guess I’ll just keep dating forever!”. I was wrong. I’m now married, as of two months ago. And I’m very happy about it. So what I’m saying is, embrace! Be the person willing to tell the world, I love dating! I’m happy just to meet someone new! I’m looking to have an experience and get more dating reps in; put me in coach! (Because yes, dating, like anything else we care about, is a skill you can get good at with intention; it doesn’t fall into your lap like a rom com, as we’ve been taught to believe).
Use your first dates for seeing if you have a good time; not seeing if you’ve found your lifelong someone because I guarantee you won’t know that for a while (and I have more theories about how long that takes, but please, even if you are mildly enjoying your time with someone, humor them for three dates and get a kiss in there somewhere for some pheromone information), and no matter what, every experience is valuable. Be bold. Be brave. Wear a shirt telling people to yes, approach, because you’re up for the ride of your life and you’ll only get off when the destination is as fun as the journey. The journey, through the 1000 person bar, that YOU have the power to create.