The realization hit me like a brick after the plans had been made, when backing out was no longer a viable option, but an assh*le move. That knowledge turned to slight terror, as I group-texted my girlfriends frantically: "SOS. How does one go on a date?"
The question garnered a myriad of responses, ranging from a string of emoji to "hahaha" to general feel-good advice. However, no one really had an answer for how a real date involving an actual meal would work, logistically.
We Millennials get a lot of flack for our dating habits, or lack thereof.
We're the hook-up generation, the lonely, label-less 20-somethings who can't sustain healthy relationships, and to some degree, it's true.
I'm nearing 23 years old. At the time of this scheduled date, I hadn't been on a real, purposeful, properly-labeled date since the wonderful boyfriend I had when I entered college.
My next serious, long-term boyfriend took me on exactly two "outings": one where he swiped his meal plan card, and a double date for which I paid (that was particularly romantic).
My dating history has an ever-growing list of pseudo-somethings that left me stranded in relationship purgatory -- a place which is surprisingly comfortable.
You see, guys may be crucified for avoiding commitment, but they are not the only ones who long for no-strings-attached relationships.
I've mandated that nearly every boyfriend ignore Valentine's Day to avoid the possibility of forced awkwardness, and I usually get out of the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts. I once didn't even realize I was dumped until I logged onto Facebook and saw the guy I was currently seeing was back with his ex.
The best (or worst) part of dating was my extreme apathy. When things didn't work out with a guy, it generally didn't faze me; it was just par for the course. My pattern simply became delete and move on.
By evading commitment, I thought I was just being a strong, independent woman, and that desire to remain as such was, in fact, part of my motivation. However, sidestepping relationships, burying my feelings and latching on to passivity was also just a way to play it safe.
As one of my good friends put it, I had become an emotional robot.
What is an emotional robot, exactly? Well, we can recognize emotions. We see love, jealousy -- all those pesky, "deeper" feelings many others express on the reg.
We know what those feelings are, and we may even want them for ourselves (well, maybe not the jealousy); we just don't necessarily allow ourselves to feel them directly.
We are the individuals who have ruined the dating culture in our generation -- I will own up and take responsibility for the other emotionless members of Generation-Y.
What I didn't realize until recently is that my blatant lack of caring screws me over when it comes to real potential suitors. I am all but completely incompetent in the dating arena that is New York City.
I barely remember dating etiquette because I really haven't utilized it since high school, if I'm being completely honest. I highly doubt I am alone in this.
Luckily, there's hope for us 20-somethings who haven't quite figured it out. There are steps we can take to remedy our coolness towards relationships and teach ourselves what it means to truly go on a date with someone that might just set us up for a future.
Step One: Know Your Type, But Keep An Open Mind
Every women's magazine on the planet details the many reasons we should break out of our "type"; why we shouldn't judge a book by its cover; why our requirements are too unrealistic for a relationship. Frankly, that's just not true for either gender.
Sexual attraction is the main and possibly the only thing that differentiates between friendship and a relationship.
So, if you just aren't attracted to the person with whom you're on a date, if you don't want to see him or her naked, or if you just don't have that sensual something, I hate to break it to you, but you guys probably don't have a strong romantic future together. Sorry.
I personally know what I want in a partner. I'm not an idiot. I don't need a bunch of women sitting in a room listing reasons why their preferred "type" of guy is better than mine, just like you don't need me telling you what you should look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Some of you may want a douchebag with a heart of gold (the heart of gold is key); some of you may want an endless wanderer, and some of you may want someone just plain vanilla. That's fine; to each his own.
What I will say is if you're unsure about someone, give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
It's fine to stick to your type, but if the tiny, nitpicky details are telling you no to a second or third date, it's probably just your internal emotional robot taking over. Don't play "The Host," though. Power him off and keep trying; it's worth it.
Step Two: Actually Go Out On A Date
This may be the most difficult step of all. However, it is a necessary evil for anyone looking to break his or her vicious cycle and eventually have potential with another in the semi-near (or distant) future.
The good news for all the other free spirits out there? It turns out that a date is still fairly non-committal, and you aren't guaranteeing that you will spend your life with someone just by going on one.
Hell, you aren't even promising a second date; all you're saying is that you see potential, and it is okay to go on record with that.
Part two of this step actually involves etiquette on a date. Put your phone away; do not text, answer phone calls or Instagram a picture of your third glass of wine. More than anything, it is incredibly rude and self-indulgent, and no one wants to hitch his or her wagon to that.
Be present; ask questions; get to know someone. The worst that can happen is you pay for dinner and spend one evening with someone you'll never speak to again. Best case scenario, you find your soul mate.
What will probably happen, though? You'll make some sort of a connection with someone that will either blossom into something more or plateau at a pretty decent friendship.
Step Three: Be Yourself... But Also Be Beyoncé (Or Jay Z)
So, this step may or may not be named after the best piece of text-messaged advice I received regarding the aforementioned date at beginning of this article.
Be yourself; it sounds simple, but it can be hard to share pieces of yourself with someone when you're used to living your life guarded. Do it anyway.
Be the best version of yourself. You are fabulous, smart, funny, beautiful intelligent, handsome... the list goes on and on. This person is lucky to be on a date with you, even if it amounts to nothing in the end.
Go with your gut. You'll know when you don't feel chemistry, when something is right, when you don't see a future or when you are freaking out due to internal self-sabotage. Be aware, and things won't take you by surprise.
Just do you. Eventually, when you meet the right person, you won't have to worry about that emotional robot -- he will have already moved on, and you'll be free.
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