Attraction used to be simple. You spotted a cute boy on the playground and dreamed that he liked you, too. The only thing you had to worry about was one of your classmates finding out about your crush, or, even worse, discovering your loose-leaf notebook with page after page of doodles of his name. While either situation would have been traumatic, things were easier. Little boys hadn’t yet developed into meatheads and little girls had yet to become high-maintenance and complicated.
Dating isn’t easy. For most of us, learning to ride a bike on an oversized cycle with no training wheels was a less painful endeavor. Everyone’s advice to “just be yourself” becomes a challenge when you’re with someone you want to impress. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case 10 minutes into the date.
If you make it through the awkwardness of the first date, following dates provide you with a world of opportunities to fail – whether you become brutally boring, say something offensive, or accidentally reveal your passion for computer games, there’s a good chance you’ll blunder somehow.
Understandably so! The dating journey – a complex system of predictions, heartaches and mysteries – doesn’t come with a map, or many second chances, but not to worry! Some cornball devised an idiot-proof playbook for dating to help the clueless, the inept, and everyone else who hasn’t even been able to blink before it’s pronounced: “GAME OVER!”
The dating manual is similar to instructions of the board game “LIFE.” You put your stick person in the little green car and need to make all the right decisions and land on certain spaces and have just enough fortune before you’re able to add a spouse in your car. Yes, very similar. Only in the beginning of the “Game of Dating,” you aren’t handed a stack of $10,000 bills for lounging around in your sweats. Can you imagine how many more first dates there would be if that were the case?
Initial introductions and first dates are rule-heavy. Do’s and Dont’s swarm around common sense topics: Don’t wear your high school football jersey to a nice restaurant. Avoid texting for more than 65% of the date. And, if all goes well (cross your fingers!) there are a few simple follow-up rules: Don’t kiss on the first date. Don’t be too available. One date doesn’t validate you to call – unanswered – eight times the next night.
Finally, a person makes it past the do-this-right-and-don’t-do-that-or-it’s-over stage and onto the realm of no rulebooks – a relationship. Unfortunately, this is the most confusing part.
Should I open the door, or is that trying too hard? Is it too early to buy a gift for the upcoming holiday? If not, what type of gift is appropriate? Are we exchanging gifts on our one month anniversary? If they expected it at one month, will they expect it on month two? Every month for the rest of your life? When you go to dinner, should you pick up the bill? Let them pay? Offer to split? Ignore it and get it the next time? Speaking of the next time, you called last time – they should call this time, right? All ultimately leading to the most crucial question: Is the ball in their court or yours?
Think of it this way, if the ball is in your court and you don’t make a play, at least you’ll still have the ball when your next date comes along.
Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously. It can be found online at www.areavoices.com/shootin.