Becoming Dated

Lately, the nightmare of Online Dating has turned into rather the opposite. Suddenly, guys—and these are nice, normal, well-adjusted, attractive, healthy guys—are coming out of the woodwork and dating me. I changed a few things around about my attitude and my ad, and so far it’s all working out swimmingly.
Since I previously derided the entire Online Dating scene as being for losers and ne’er-do-wells, I thought it only prudent to amend some of my comments and pass on what I have learned about successfully diving into the world of online relationships.
No. 1: You are the reward.
Previously, and probably due to a lack of self-confidence and a dearth of recent dating experiences, when I was preparing for that all-important First Date where one makes one’s First Impression and one makes one’s decision about the all-important Second Date, I would do everything I could to be the best possible me.

That meant double-checking everything in the mirror, making sure there was nothing on my teeth, changing outfits at least four times (“Is this too conservative? Does this say ‘I am sexy’?”) and finally setting out, palms sweaty and short of breath, to meet the future man of my dreams and settle down for the long future.
At some point, I decided “Fuck that.” What I was doing was trying to be the best possible guy for whomever I was meeting in order for them to fall hard for me every time. I had it in my head that I was not good enough for anyone and the obvious answer, then, was to become someone else, someone they wanted, someone extra smooth and funny and charming and, you know, sexy.
Inevitably, that always backfired. I was thinking that they would be my reward, that I was the one in the position of need and that they had all the power. So I reversed that and decided that, whether I had contacted them or they had contacted me, I was the prize. They had to win me over.
That isn’t to say that I went into these things all stuffed with ego and preening and assholish (I hope). Rather, I went in thinking that they needed to show me they were worthy of my attentions. I would just be me, but I was in the Power Position.
Immediately, this turned everything around. I was much more relaxed, I was much more confident and I started to have fun on dates.
No. 2: The point is to have fun.
I used to think: Every date is an opportunity to screw up. Now I think of it this way: Every date is an opportunity to meet someone cool.
I never really considered myself a people-person, mostly due to the fact that when I am put in a situation where I am to meet a whole bunch of people and “have fun,” like going to a party, I would immediately clam up and go stand in the corner. The thought of all those people scared the bejeezus out of me. I am not the extroverted life of the party (unless there’s Tequila involved, apparently, in which case I start kissing everyone on the mouth like an Italian film director and propositioning all the cutest guys with classic lines like “You are so going to fuck me”). I shut down and try to reserve my energy.
But when I am in a one-on-one situation, something altogether different happens. I find that I genuinely like people, but only if I can meet them one at a time. I do fine walking into a bar or cafe or restaurant and sitting down across from some guy I’ve never met and shooting the shit with him. I learn what he likes and dislikes, I learn about his past and his friends, his frustrations and longings, and I tell him some of mine. We discover what we have in common, we smile and touch and make faces and discover there’s someone cool sitting across from us that we would likely never have walked up to in another situation.
Relax. Have fun. The pressure’s off. Don’t worry about preconceptions and how you’re coming off and all that crap. If there’s interest, you’ll know it. If it’s all on your side of the table and he’s clearly more interested in the cute coffee guy behind the counter than you, chalk it up to fate and move along. No harm, no foul.
No. 3: Relax.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood was right. Why do I never listen to Pop Songs and obey what they tell me?
Breathe. Calm down. Unclench your jaw muscles. Don’t worry about your chapped lips. Stop squeezing your hands into fists. This isn’t a job interview, it’s not meeting your boyfriend’s parents, it isn’t breaking up with someone and nothing, literally, depends on the outcome of this meeting at all.
Undoubtedly, your first sight of you date will inspire something in you. Might be lust (i.e. ‘Holy fuck! He looks better than his picture!’), might be shock (i.e. ‘Holy fuck! I wonder if he saw me already and maybe I can make a quick exit!’), might be indifference (i.e. ‘Holy fuck! Those brownies sure look appetizing!’). But you’re sure to feel something. Don’t worry about processing anything yet, unless what you’re feeling is all occuring down in your crotch in which case, a little advice: always wear underwear.
Exchange a polite handshake. If he goes in for the full hug-embrace, reciprocate out of deference to him or, if that doesn’t appeal—for example, if he reeks—simply state, “I’m not comfortable hugging, if that’s okay.” Even if it isn’t okay, he’ll back off. From my P.O.V., always start with a handshake even if the first thought in your head is, “I have to see this man naked immediately.”
Then, let the conversation flow. Uncomfortable silences may occur, but don’t recognize them, it only makes them more uncomfortable. The fact that what you have in common is a dislike of talking to each other is not a good sign, and certainly not worth commenting on as a method of trying to eliminate the silence. Don’t see it as your fault or his fault but as something that simply is.
Try to make the conversation 50-50. Don’t talk too much about work, which inevitably turns into a bitching session, and don’t dwell on past relationships at all. Instead, talk about food and pets, your friends, vacations, things you enjoy, give him a sense of who you are based on what you do. Getting into politics and religion are also generally not great First Date fodder. Again, talk about things you do, not things you think.
No. 4: Be honest.
Don’t make your life seem more exciting than it is, but also don’t make it seem worse. You don’t have to, for example, admit that you’re very bad at dating and you feel awkward and weird and isn’t this horrible and life just sucks, doesn’t it? Whee, lovely date we’re having, hello, my name is Mr. Downer, won’t you be my neighbor?
No, no, friends, your job in Date One is to be upbeat, interesting, lively and involved. Unless you are not naturally any of those things, in which case faking, while it may be your first inclination, is the worst thing you can do. Me, I find that by just shutting up and listening, I make it through as if I am a real person.
Honesty is not subjective, you understand. My honesty is the same as yours. There’s no fence to sit on here, you need to bite the bullet, particularly if it winds up that you’re interested in Date Two. I mean, let’s face it, if this is the end of the relationship, say anything you damn well please. “Yes, I just got back from Africa saving the wild bush boar from extinction! It was very fun! And now I plan on leaving this restaurant before your particular brand of malaise and inattention swarms over me rendering me just as lifeless, dull and uninteresting as you! Ta!”
No. 5: Carnal Knowledge is Not Required.
You can always say no. It doesn’t matter how drunk you are, how cute he is, what he looks like when he suddenly removes his shirt to showcase the hours he spends on the basketball court and whatnot, you have every right to say no. You don’t even need an explanation, but a good one is always “I don’t

on the first date. Yes, we’ve all had our share of little accidents, primarily when Tequila rears its ugly and somehow unavoidable head. Perhaps you find yourself semi-clad or naked next to the object of your disgust and cannot fathom how that happened. And then what do you do?
If you end up at his place, Advantage: You. That means leaving is at your discretion and you can use any excuse you want. “Oh, my God, I just remembered! My cat is on fire! I have to skedaddle.” If, however, the deed has been done in your abode, your choices suddenly become quite limited—unless, as has been mentioned, you don’t give a damn about ever seeing him again, in which case feel free to scream at him at the top of your lungs, “Get out! Get out! You offend me!” and toss him and his clothes to the curb, locking the door behind him. Who gives a shit if he thinks you’re insane? You never want to smell that lad again, anyway.
Date Two is likely to involve some romantic and/or sexual activity. This is practically a guarantee. Whether or not you throw down in Date One, Date Two is about exploring the carnal compatibilities, i.e. Can he or she kiss well? Be prepared. Shower well, cleaning all parts thoroughly because you never know where a tongue will end up. Shave, for God’s sake! Wash your hair with a clean-smelling shampoo. Do not douse yourself in cologne. If you just can’t face going out with spritzing it somewhere, a dainty touch on the inside of your wrists, behind your ears and, ahem, at the base of your spine are all that’s required. Pulse points, boys. Your own bodily warmth with spread the scent of you without splashing it all about your person. And use deodorant judiciously. Again, the tongue rule, and have you ever licked your Old Spice Sports Stick? Well then, nor should your date.
Most important of all, brush and floss your teeth. If nothing else occurs, you will be kissed. If you have a tongue scraper, use it. Use everything. Make your mouth like a minty fresh garden of Eden that anyone’s mom would be pleased to French. This will go a long way to endear you to the object of your current attention.
If and when you end up horizontal, try not to spring all your traps at once. Don’t overwhelm to impress, the point here is to end up feeling mutually pleased, not mindblown. Do you honestly want that sweet, funny, handsome man next to you to realize you’re the Olympic fellatio champ already? No, you do not. That’s something to save up for when he thinks he knows you, when it’s a new surprise and he starts moaning and squirming and gasping for breath and knows it’s love. So go slow, test the waters, ask a lot of questions (“Do you like this?” “Is that sensitive?” “Too hard?”), volunteer a lot of info (“Lick the left side, I’m more… oh, God, yes!”) and you’ll both end up sated and ready to mark your calendars for Date Three.
No. 6: The Goodnight Kiss.
This is a requirement if the date went well, whether or not you whored yourself out and slept with the guy 90 minutes in.
The point of the kiss is two-fold; it’s a “thank you for a lovely night,” and it’s a “i want to leave you feeling like you can’t wait to see me again,” assuming you want to see him again. Keep that in mind while you are kissing him. I mean, don’t actually keep anything in mind while kissing him except the kiss, right? Like, distractions while kissing tend to cause problems, you really need to “be there” for it, so to speak. So I’m not advocating that you do a lot of prep work beforehand, because then he may “be there” before you and that means teeth crashing into teeth, or the side-mouthed slop, or something even weirder.
No, kids, aim for the mouth, make contact, keep going until you’re done. And also: those little mini-kisses after the main kiss. Those say “don’t go, don’t go, don’t go, oh all right go.” No one doesn’t like those.
I hope you use all I have learned to your advantage and go out there into the big, wide, lonely world and find someone or somethree or somefour and have yourself some fun, because that’s what it’s all about in the end. It’s not a search for fulfillment, it’s not a method of proving your worthy of someone else’s affections (because we all are and no proof is required) and it’s not a contest. Really, it’s not. Really. No, really.
It’s about having fun. If it’s not fun, move along. If you feel pressured or tired or bored, move along. If you feel anxious or scared or nauseous… move right along. There really are other fish in the sea, to use a rather tired but apt cliché, and you’re the prize, baby!
You’re the prize!

January 16, 2004

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