Useless Internal Narrative

Right now I haven’t been posting much because I’m sort of stuck on a post I started writing. The post itself covers a lot of ground, and is more feminist than some of my posts have been, so I want to take my time with it; and yet, I need to try to subvert the bottlenecking of thoughts that it’s caused, so I’m going to try to write a few shorter entries while the rest of this one cooks.

Dating causes anxiety. I am also an anxious person. This is not a great combination, in theory. One of the single best pieces of dating advice I have ever gotten has addressed the intersection of these two things.

Dating is often thought of as a game. I don’t like this metaphor, for lots of reasons, but I understand why sometimes people use it. Dating is a weird combination of both a genuine attempt to get to know someone else, and figuring out how you feel etc, and also a kind of exercise of and performance in judgement. So, you’re interested in getting to know this person, and you want to know what they think about you, and this causes all sorts of doubt and speculation and will very easily bring many an insecurity to the surface of one’s thought. At the same time, it’s hard to just be really honest about all of this, because you’re also trying to put on your best behaviour and show the other person not only a good version of yourself but that you have good judgement, you understand social cues, social norms, that you are not creepy, etc.

So you go on a date. It ends well, and as you part they say that they will be in touch or that you should go out again, or whatever. A few days go by, they don’t call. Doubt starts creeping in. What’s going on? You had a good time, you thought. It doesn’t make sense.

Has something happened to them? Did they get in an accident? Did they actually hate you and were just being polite? Did you have something on your face the whole time and they were so disgusted but they didn’t want to say anything but now their impression of you includes a big smudge over your nose? What if that thing I said about that thing was totally stupid and now they hate me? What if they met someone else at a party and eloped? WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF.

Continue ad infinitum if you are an anxious person with a creative imagination, like me.

A good friend of mine, who was my dating guru for a time in my mid twenties, coined a term that exactly describes this line of thinking: Useless Internal Narrative. UIN, for short.

Once I had this concept, every time my mind would wander in the direction of the dramatic and unknowable, I would repeat this to myself, as a mantra. UIN. UIN. UIN.

Dating is seriously hard enough without speculating about people’s lives and motivations. It’s useless because it’s time consuming and anxiety-inducing and most of the time, it’s not even close to being accurate.

Maybe they DID meet someone else. Maybe they have a deadline. Maybe their bunny died. WHO CAN SAY. Maybe CALL THEM AND ASK THEM OUT AGAIN. If they don’t respond, or say no, then at the very least you will have that information and you can move on with your life.

Because honestly, even if the answer is that they aren’t, after all, interested, there probably is no dramatic reason for it. It is not personal, it is not a final judgement on you, it does not mean that you are failing or somehow un-datable. If I think of all the people I have had decent dates with but not wanted to go out with again, there was never a ‘reason’. It wasn’t that they said something stupid, or had something on their face or did anything in particular. It was that, on reflection, it just wasn’t a match. And there is something kind of banal about that answer, but it’s also often the most true.

And, if you can accept it, it is also very reassuring.