I’m having the hardest time not obsessing over the fact that Tom just liked my Instagram photo of me as a child wearing a tiger costume. That obviously means he thinks our kids would be cute, right? All I want to do is see if he’d be interested in going to get almond milk lattes, but then he’ll think we’re friendzoning our already-existing friendship. Almond milk sets more of a “professional, co-working” tone doesn’t it? How do I make it clear that, yes, I’m interested in seeing if our friendship is perhaps something more?
I prefer the ambiguous approach. Let’s see if our mutual interests in mental health, gender, urban gardening and bees will lead to making out, right? And then if the making out seems pretty cool without bad breath, we can go to the other stuff a few weeks later? Seems reasonable.
The reason why I can’t call it a date is that I typically sabotage it. I make it about creating a relationship when a date is really a getting-to-know-you dance. We waltz about, understanding our world perspectives, what we like and hate, what our future goals are, how we want to feel with each other, and if we even like being around each other, until we finally decide that maybe we can take it into the sexy massage incense candle time moments. That waltz is so crucial to creating healthy boundaries. Instead I’ve typically jumped into the relationship pool too soon, desperate for connection. But really, there’s no need to rush it like it’s some kind of Slip n’ Slide, all wet and wild.
The idea of getting to know someone is so much less pressure-filled if we don’t call these things dates, right? A “date” sounds like it has to be written down on a calendar, with set times and ideas of the coolest places to meet. I mean, that is typically what a date on any calendar looks like, if you’re a busy person with a life of some kind.
Instead, if a “date” is called a “hangout session,” (like those group meetups at the mall when you’re in seventh grade), you don’t typically have the mindset of needing to tell your life story, which usually, by the way, doesn’t lead to anything beyond one date. Instead, it usually leads to one person not responding to the other’s internet messages and comments for fear of seeming like they like the other person, then the other person feeling rejected and losing hope and running away from any further interaction ever again, which is a little extreme, but it happens.
I’d rather casually get to know someone through really light conversation, asking about favorite foods, hobbies, and health care regimens. Maybe these conversations take place over a brunch or tea or a picnic or at a mini-golf course or some sort of creative collaborative gathering where people paint ceramics or something.
But “hanging out” is for high school students, my therapist says. Hanging out is for people that don’t take romance seriously. It doesn’t serve either person to keep it casual. Interactions need not be equated to summer attire at the office. I’m struggling though. Why can’t it just work out naturally, the stars aligning at just the right moment to let me know, that no, I’m not going to be alone forever?
Of course, things don’t always coincidentally happen and you don’t always get to decide whom you’re going to meet next. So, maybe being intentional and calling a date a date is actually a good thing, despite the fact I have so much resistance towards it. If you pick very specific places to spend your time in, where your interests have time to steep and soak, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself. If you visualize and dream up what you’d like out of a partner and how you want to feel when you’re with that person, you’re more likely to find the mate who aligns with your values. When you plan out how you’d like to take each stage to the next level, putting more thought into every step, the more likely you are to not “give in” to your whims. The more likely you are to stay true to yourself, and take your own idea of romance seriously.
My dating plan keeps me in check. It makes sure that I get to know someone before I get intimate, emotionally and physically. And it’s not like I tell anyone about it, except you, of course. No, I keep it in my back pocket. It’s like my self check-in. It’s a “Hey, how are you? I’m here to make sure you’re not going to go too insane over that Instagram photo "heart" from so-and-so.” And then I breathe…and I realize that obsessing and worrying over someone else’s actions isn’t serving me. The only actions I can control are my own. And what works for controlling my actions, as much as I hate to say it, is calling dates dates, and creating dating plans because I’m a free spirit. If I don’t reign myself in, I’ll do too much of what I want, without thinking of the consequences. And even if you’re not a free spirit like me, a dating plan is still a good idea. What does your dating plan look like? What does your ideal date look like? Set your intentions and you’ll most likely get what you want back.