I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
After telling someone you’ve been on over one thousand first dates, you can expect to be asked some questions. Some common questions are: “So tell me about the worst one.” “Tell me about the best one.” “Tell me about a crazy one.” And once they feel comfortable enough, the inevitably whispered, “So how many of them did you bang?”
Sometimes I entertain the questions, but most of the time I deflect and move the conversation on to a less salacious topic. I save all the entertaining stories for late nights with friends over pizza… and a book or two, I suppose. But the most common question I am asked is, “So what do you feel you learned the most.”
It’s really difficult to pinpoint the exact aspect of human nature that I gained the most insight, but I can tell you that it is without a doubt, the most dense and comprehensive information I have ever taken in on any subject ever. Now I know that sounds cold, as if each date was some kind of social experiment and not a walking talking individual, but if you do anything enough times you will gain knowledge on whatever it is that you’re involved with whether you like it or not. And while I never went into meeting anyone with the false representation that I would write about our interaction (even if they asked me to), I did take mental notes. As a curious person by nature, I enjoy learning what motivates and inspires people. I am fascinated with the idyosyncracies of people and their approach to attraction. To put it in perspective, I would often stare at the person as we were just into our second minute of our first date – anxiety and nerves at their peak, and just watch their facial ticks. I would watch as they tried to get comfortable in their chair and how they continuously pulled their pants up over their stomach. I listened to the words they fumbled over and what they thought was good first date story material. It’s very telling what a person will lead with. I like to leave the conversation open ended just to see where they take the conversation. Nervousness is an interesting ingredient, especially with someone who is unaccustomed to meeting a stranger in public for coffee. It’s that nervousness that causes word-vomit and makes some people blurt out whatever is on their mind. And it’s so adorable to watch a person squirm while they attempt to back pedal and recover from talking about their ex-boyfriend while my coffee is still warm. But I never held it against them.
But I guess the real answer to that question is, I learned more about myself than anything. How I respond to a person’s callous nature. How I handle second-hand embarrassment when a date accidentally tells me she loves me 15 minutes after meeting (true story). How I handle a racist. Entitlement. Arrogance. But not only how I respond to these things, but how to manage the feelings they stir inside me.
I learned that there is more than one way to approach dating, and life in general. And that no one way is perfect or will work with everyone. I learned the importance of doing my best to leave someone better off for taking the time to meet me. Whether it was to make my corner of the world a little less shitty, or to attempt to make them think, or simply leave them with a smile – I was constantly cultivating new ways to inspire my dates. Maybe as a thank you, maybe because I actually believe the words I write, or maybe because of my deep-seated self-loathing that constantly makes me feel like everyone should leave with a parting gift just for taking the time to walk through the door of my low-rent haunted house of a life – but really, that’s probably just the 2am talking right now.
Whether we just left with an “I’ll never see you again” hug, a two hour chat and a hook up, or the beginnings of a relationship, I did my best to pay attention to what behaviors of mine left a bad taste in their mouth. What illicited disapproving responses and what questions caused them to feel more invested in the conversation. Basically, I never want anyone to feel like their time with me has been wasted so I did my best to make it enjoyable – even if they told me to my face that they didn’t find me as attractive in real life as opposed to my online pictures (another true story).
Whenever I tell a stranger that I have been on over one thousand first dates, I know what they think. That I must be some kind of “player” who uses women, manipulates their emotions and moves on to the next conquest – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because while I have had some unique experiences, I made sure to learn from each person. And as a symbolic thank you, I made sure that none of that time was wasted. Sure, the relationship may have not worked out, but few rarely do. And through those thousand plus dates, I wanted to make myself a better person through those interactions – so that one day, I could learn to make the people in my life, on my side, and on my arm happier and do my best to make them feel like I was a good investment. Even if I am more attractive online.