Speed Dating: Part 2

So I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to do speed dating anymore.

This isn’t to say speed dating is terrible. I think it works for some people. Recently, I went with a friend who’s in town until the fall, and feeling frustrated dating-wise, and it worked out well for her, and so in that sense it was worth it for me to organize this for both of us.

We went to one organized uptown, and because my friend is a year older than me, it means that we ended up doing an event aimed at a slightly older demographic than I’m used to. By which I mean the ladies had to be 35-45, and the men 37-47.

In part, I was interested to see what that would feel like for me, since in the past five years I’ve dated younger (both relationships the other person was four years younger). For lots of reasons I’m now prioritizing maturity, but that doesn’t always track with age, but I was just curious to see if this would feel good or weird or interesting or just different.

And it was… just different, basically. It was slightly better organized than the TPL one, though also slightly less interesting. I’m not able to make genuine comparisons about more than just my two individual experiences, but the older crowd seemed to have their shit together a bit better. They also dressed a bit better. Most of the men I talked to were in insurance, or were headhunters. This is not a super important fact except that it always seems to throw people when I say I’m a grad student? Like, whenever I say this around people who are older, I kind of feel like I’m 20 again or something? I mean, I’m not the oldest grad student ever, by far, but somehow still ‘being in school’ makes me feel like I’m not old enough to be there. Not to mention the fact that I look young, which I’m happy about but at the same time, I think the combination of how I look and the grad student box means that I kind of seem too young for this crowd. At one point, the very handsome gentleman I was talking to leaned forward and said: “So, (my name), how … old … are you?” I think he was maybe just checking that I wasn’t in the wrong place (there was a parallel speed dating event happening next door for a younger crowd) or something but to be honest it felt kind of condescending.

There was a guy I heard about from some of the other ladies who was kind of aggressive and ‘touchy’ and kept offering to bring everyone to an oyster bar/his wine villa (or something), but I am still not sure who that guy was because apparently when I get nervous I just talk about myself a lot to avoid having boring conversations with strangers? I dunno. I’m not sure if that means more work for me, or if it’s a brilliant tactic, but it is what it is.

There was one guy who was pretty verbally aggressive, shouting about how dating is like looking for a job, and you have to know what you want, did I know what I wanted? Was I serious? Did I want marriage? Children? It was pretty near the bell-ring, so I thought I would just fuck with this dude, so I was like, “Lol, yeah I know what I want, I want a feminist.”

He sat way back in his chair and was like, “WELL WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? THAT I THINK WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL? OF COURSE I THINK THAT. I THINK WOMEN ARE EQUAL.”

Mmmmmhmmmm. Sure you do, dude.

Anyway the main reason that I won’t do speed dating again is that I don’t trust my judgement. You see, if I’m presented with a string of people like that, I’ll choose the best ones out of THAT GROUP. (And by ‘best’ here, I just mean, closest to being a match for me/someone I’d maybe be interested in going on a date with.) And so I checked off two lovely gentlemen: a Scotsman living in Toronto and a doctor who talked about how he might be a novelist if he couldn’t be a doctor. Both handsome and interesting, at least from what I could tell from a 4 minute conversation.

And yet. And yet? And yet when the Scotsman contacted me I realized I wasn’t actually interested in going on a date. But I didn’t realize that until days later, when the reality of going out with one of these men sunk in. I mean, he’s not horrible, he’s perfectly lovely, but I just wasn’t interested. It’s like the context of the speed dating event tricks me into thinking I’d go on dates with people that I later realize I don’t, and then I need to say no when I’ve checked them off as a ‘yes’ which feels kind of mean, like I’ve developed buyer’s remorse or something and it’s just too damn stressful.

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Dating and Rejection, Part Two

About a month ago, I went on a date with a guy from Tinder. I increasingly appreciate OKcupid for helping out my intuition about who is and is not going to be a good date. I just don’t have enough info on Tinder and more and more I’m wary of it as a dating medium. For me at least.

Anyway we met up, and it was okay. He’s an attractive guy, but a bit awkward. I mean, I try to be generous about people’s awkwardness since it’s something that makes a lot of people nervous. I realize that’s just going to influence people’s behaviours, so I try not to let it guide my sense of someone too much. But between the fact that I wasn’t getting a spark/vibe/whatever about him, and the anxiety attack that I spent half our date trying to breathe and smile through, after about an hour and a half I was ready to get out of there.

Amongst other characteristics, this man wasn’t the best at picking up on my signals, and after I got back from the washroom he had his camera out, as though we were going to go on a fun photography excursion? Or maybe just to show off his camera? I mentioned that I needed to get home to do work (which was sort of true) and he said ‘awww I was hoping we could enjoy some of this weather’. (Uh a first date does not usually involve that much of a burden on someone’s time, dude.) I was a bit nervous as we were leaving, but his awkwardness also translated into being kind of slow to speak so when we got outside I turned and said, ‘okay well it was good to meet you! Have a good day!’ and turned on my heel and walked away. I was super relieved that I got out of there so easily, though felt a bit bad that I’d made it pretty clear I wasn’t interested in a second date.

Or, so I’d thought.

A few days later I got a text, saying: “So, how’s your week been going? … I am curious to hear how you felt about our meeting. I thought it ended a bit abruptly, but I was grateful for the outing. And you?”

I wrote back: “Heya. My week has been good! I don’t think it’s going to a second meeting for me. Good luck with all your projects, they sound really interesting!”

But, that wasn’t the end of it. Next I get:

“What put you off?”

Which like, omg. So, on the one hand, ON THE ONE HAND I do get this question. When dating doesn’t go well it’s frustrating, and he’s looking for feedback.

HOWEVER.

There is just absolutely no good way to answer this question. There just isn’t. And here’s why: there is never (or like, at least, only very rarely) an objective answer to this. Any answer I give will be personal to me, because I’m not looking for ‘the best one’ or whatever, I’m looking for a match. A match for ME.

I replied saying just that: “that’s a hard question to answer, to be honest. In cases like this there isn’t usually something that ‘happened’. Dating is about figuring out who feels like a match and who doesn’t. this just wasn’t a match for me.”

To which I got: “I get that a lot, and it’s really depressing. There’s nothing I can do with it to better myself. I feel completely disempowered by this sort of response. Do you expect to be swept off your feet?”

So, I was feeling compassion for this guy, sort of, up until the last line.

I mean, yeah. Dating feels personal, rejection feels personal. And, in some sense it is – this person isn’t into YOU.

Like I’ve said before, dating isn’t about being objectively ‘good’. It’s not a competition. It’s about finding a match. So with that in mind, what does it mean to ‘better oneself’? It might mean figuring out if you’re doing something wrong consistently, which might be the case for some people. But it’s not as though he was doing something I could point to, like talking over me all the time. (This happened once, and when the guy noticed that I was visibly frustrated, he asked what was wrong and I told him.) That would be a concrete thing that is fixable.

But what worries me is the bit about being swept off my feet. Like, what does that even mean? Like the guy is supposed to swoop in and be impressive and then I, the lady, am impressed and amazed and entranced into a second date? And somehow he’s annoyed because a) I think this and b) that he failed to do it, and please can I just tell him how to do it better?

I just worry that is the wrong way to think about bettering yourself, as a means to an end, to ‘get’ a lady, whose affection will deem you worthy of value?

I am seriously reminded here of Fred from Middlemarch by George Eliot. Fred is from a ‘good’ family, but is kind of self-absorbed and lazy. He is also head over heels in love with Mary, who is deeply unimpressed by his inability to get his shit together. When Fred sends his friend to vouch for his potential (yet again) she gets visibly frustrated:

‘I think Fred ought not to need telling again what I have already said to him,’ Mary answered, with a slight resentment in her manner. ‘I mean that he ought not to put such questions until he has done something worthy, instead of saying that he could do it.’

This is like, one of my favourite lines from literature, ever.

What I love is how Mary is calling bullshit on Fred’s inability to take responsibility for himself. That somehow Fred can think himself worthy of improvement if Mary is his prize for that, and I love how right here she totally eschews the responsibility for that, and throws it back to him.

Like, if you think you need to improve things, IMPROVE THEM. If not, that is also fine. But women are not prizes. I find that attitude somewhere between manipulative and lacking self-possession. Don’t expect a woman to give you a ‘reason’ to improve yourself. Just take some responsibility for yourself and do it.

If, on the other hand, there’s nothing you feel like you should improve, and you are just feeling compelled to because you aren’t finding a match, then it seems like the opposite of what you should be doing? Like, changing yourself to fit what others might want or expect from you is the fastest way to find someone who will like you for who you are not. And that just seems like a bad route to go.

But yeah. I feel sort of bad, like I’m being too hard on this guy? Because I get frustrated and annoyed too, sometimes. And it’s really easy to let that resentment bubble over at people, but it’s also really important to resist. Because no one owes you anything, and people are not prizes for getting your shit together.

And the thing is, dating is frustrating and invalidating a lot of the time. And as I get older I try to combat this the best I can by taking care of myself, and not overdoing the dating thing, and focusing on myself and my projects and self-care, not as a means to an end but because that stuff is just really important for its own sake.