I keep telling people I’m going to write this, so before the guilt of not writing it completely destroys my will to live, I shall write it. My qualifications are these: I have dated a certain amount, and behaved like a prize pillock repeatedly. I have also dated some incredible specimens who could have used a sincere conversation about what they were doing wrong and, failing that, a slap upside the head. Further to this I have many, many hours of listening to friends of a variety of genders faceplanting their way through the turbulent world of romance, and there are a few basic rules which have suggested themselves to me from the off:
- Acknowledge that it takes courage to ask someone out. Whether you’re mustering it yourself to go and tell someone you’d like to go and see a lecture about the mating habits of penguins with them, or they’ve shown up in front of you with damp palms and are trying to articulate the phrase “maybe we could consume coffee in the same shop and not ignore each other sometime”, asking someone out is a scary necessity. Once you’ve acknowledge that it’s terrifying, you need to a) do it anyway and b) not be a dick about turning people down. This may well sound like it’s berating my fellow-ladies for telling weird hairy men who have crawled out of the sewer screaming HAVE SEX WITH ME JESUS SAYS SO to go fuck a bus, but it’s advice aimed at deal with sane members of the human race, not obvious lunatics covered in tar and liquid turds, and it’s for people of all the gender persuasions. Remember, if someone asks you out and you’re not interested, be firm but polite. “That’s really flattering of you but I’m not into men/women/people of no determinate gender”, or “that’s really sweet of you, but I’d rather not date anyone at the moment”, or “I’m really sorry, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person and will make someone a lovely partner but you’re not really my type, thank you for asking me though”. Note these are phrases men can learn too.
- Lose the sense of entitlement. This is more usually the province of straight men, but is something all genders and sexual orientations need to bear in mind. No one owes you their affections. While non-douchery may dictate that they have to be polite to you, there is no rule that says any human being on earth is required to find you attractive, interesting, or a potential partner, no matter how good you think the two of you would be together or how much you think their current partner is wrong for them. Yes, rejection is painful and sometimes humiliating. Sometimes people are dicks about turning someone down. There is no shame in having a bit of a private cry and a sulk about it, but the next thing you have to do is move on. If you ever catch yourself thinking “I’ll get them back”, “I’ll change their mind”, or “they want me, they just don’t realise that I’m right for them”, slap yourself in the face and repeat: this is demeaning me and unfair to them. I am better than this.
- Realise that while you’re entitled to nothing, you are worthy of everything. This means not freaking out if someone you consider to be “out of your league” displays an interest in you. Yes, there is always the possibility they’re a dickbag and they’re doing this as a joke, in which case they’re not “out of your league” because they’re in some way better than you, but they are out of your league in the sense that no one with any self-respect should be dating the kind of tool who plays mind games with someone. Do not wind yourself up about dates as if one of you were the embodiment of all human beauty, and the other a monkey with a pitchfork: remember that you’re both human beings and both probably a little nervous.
- Accept that perfection isn’t the natural state of the world. Statistically, most of your dates will be boring. The person you’re sitting opposite won’t be outrageously weird or entirely wonderful. They might just be an average sort of person for whom you feel no particular spark. This is no reason to be an arse to them, or for them to be an arse to you. You can be civil, friendly, and go your separate ways. This does not make you a failure and it does not make them a failure.
- Remember that no one can read your mind. Don’t, for goodness sake, hang around letting your attraction to someone fester until it becomes bitterness and delusion. Don’t mooch about waiting for someone to do something, or for them to act on the supposition of your attraction by making the first move. Gird your loins and anything else you have lying around, gird them again, get a pep talk from your friends regarding not being a spineless wussbag, then send them a friendly and light “hi I quite like you in the non-platonic sense, would you like to investigate the possibility of mutual attraction over some kind of entertainment and/or intoxicants?” only in a manner that makes you sound less like a robot. Don’t assume dropping hints will work. I say this as someone who spent four years dropping hints and only actually got anywhere once dropped the entire hint basket squarely on the other person’s head.
So, to recap: a sensible approach to dating is this -
Be kind, be brave, be realistic, be confident, be humble.
Happily those edicts work pretty well with most of the rest of life, too.