To my little brother who is now taller than me,
With no brothers or father figure in your life, I know you've felt cheated out of valuable dating advice. And while I regret not reaching out sooner, now that you've graduated from high school and are entering college in the fall, I figure now is a better time than ever to pass down some advice.
Here are the 19 pieces of dating advice I've acquired throughout the years:
1. Always make sure you stay within their comfort zone.
Whether it be sexual, physical or verbal, the best way to avoid hurting someone or getting hurt is clear, calm communication. Always check up to make sure they are OK with any given situation.
The biggest excuse you'll hear for someone behaving inappropriately is, "I was really fucked up." The part of them being a fuckup is on point, but it's certainly not a good reason to harass someone. If you or the other person are too impaired to clearly agree on a given situation, it should be avoided altogether.
2. People often pretend to be more sexual than they are.
I've had several friends who went out of their way to brag about their sex lives just to reveal to me later in our friendship that they've never orgasmed. People at this age want to please. Know the different between a sexual person and a broken person looking for affirmation.
Sex is about the connection between two people, and that should make them both feel equally as good. If you feel like they're not connecting, find out why.
3. Form your own opinion about the people you choose to date.
Never date based off reputation. Slut-shaming is wrong, plain and simple. Anytime you hear someone ridicule someone else for "getting around," respond with, "Good for them!"
People also love spreading rumors about their exes. They assume if they call their exes crazy, people will think they will look level-headed and still dateable. Listen to your friends' advice, but ultimately form your own opinions of people.
4. Opposites only attract initially.
I once dated a guy who's now a mechanic, and the other is a physical therapist. Now that I'm dating someone who's pursuing a life in film, I finally feel like I connect with a significant other on a deeper level.
There's something special about sharing a passion with your partner, even if it's just something simple like the outdoors or writing.
I'm sure you remember when our sister, the biochemist, moved in with the saxophone player. People were doubtful, mainly because it hadn't been that long. But, the opposites lost their attraction, and even more upsetting, we lost our Nintendo 64.
While you don't have to have same career, appreciating the same art or being interested in a similar hobby means a lot more dates you'll both enjoy.
5. Don't worry about being friend-zoned; worry about being friend-used.
Sometimes being friend-zoned can be the highest form of compliment. Sure, they may not be sexually attracted to you or see you in a romantic light, but people also experiment in college with people whom may not be their "type."
When friends have decided to hook up, they at least subconsciously weigh the consequences of altering a friendship. If they choose to stay good friends, that's far more valuable than a drunken hookup.
At the same time, don't let that friend take advantage of you. Some people like to take advantage of a friend they know has a crush on them. If you're not sure, take a step back and ask yourself, "Are these favors any one of my friends would ask for, or something I would ask this person?" If not, they are making you a friend with one-sided benefits.
6. Listening is the easiest way to be romantic.
Forget the roses; the best way to show someone you care is to show them you truly listen and want to get to know them on a deeper level. Remember them saying they enjoy classical music? Ask them if they want to go to the school's showcase.
Even referencing something they said in a previous conversation will instantly make them feel valued.
7. Don't ask for a nude.
If someone you're talking with wants you to see them naked, they will let you know. The same goes with sending a picture. It's a turn-off, especially if it's out of nowhere. The only way to hope for that is to warm up the situation as you would in real life. And even then, I'd say it's worth the wait.
8. Always try to say good morning and goodnight.
At some point in a relationship, someone's going to complain that their significant other is either too absent or too clingy. No matter how busy or upset you are, the best way to simply show someone you care is wishing them good morning and goodnight.
9. Be active and social together.
You don't want to be that couple who rots on the couch and watches reruns to distract themselves from how boring their relationship is.
It's ideal to try to find someone more adventurous than you. Anyone who can help you out of your comfort zone in a positive way will always provide you with a fun and lively relationship.
It's important to find someone who is social as well. I used to date someone I knew I couldn't leave alone at a family party to fend for himself. Now, I choose to date someone who is social and kind. I don't have to think twice about leaving him anywhere.
10. Make traditions.
Whether it's your favorite restaurant once a month or a secret handshake, we enjoy traditions because it celebrates time between us. By repeating your moments together, you'll created an inside joke and cherished memory.
11. Someone you're in love with should never feel like your enemy.
If you're having problems with the person you're dating, it is perfectly fine to seek advice from friends. Just make sure you're not bashing your significant other to become more likable. The worst kind of relationships are the ones in which couples feel like they are competing with one another instead of loving each other.
The same goes with conversations and arguments. Your goal should never be to hurt the person. The goal should always be to better both of you.
12. Sometimes it's OK to walk away.
I normally go for talking it out and "never go to bed angry." But if your partner has a temper problem, you shouldn't tolerate it. It's good to try to work through a disagreement, but if they start threatening you or get vicious, you can simply respond, "I won't let you speak to me that way."
13. Treat women as equals.
We don't want to be told, "Just sit there and look pretty." Our aspirations and opinions should be as respected as your own.
I know you know catcalling isn't the way to speak to someone, but catcalling comes in many forms. Any misogynistic comment or unwarranted greeting is similar to the feeling women get when they are hollered at from across the street.
You don't need to wear a "Proud Feminist" shirt. In fact, please don't. Without you having to proclaim your thoughts on women, we should be able tell from your actions that you acknowledge us as your equals.
14. Do you.
You go to college to explore your interests. By only doing things with your partner, you're not living your own life. It could be anything from trying a scuba class to going to a drag show.
One of my biggest regrets in college is not studying abroad because I didn't want to leave my boyfriend at the time. But the truth is, if it was that special, we would have worked it out or tried to when I returned. You want to be with someone who wants you to live your best life, not just simply be apart of theirs.
15. Be your silly self.
It took my boyfriend months to tell me he was an Eagle Scout and years to reveal what a board game fanatic he was. I found both of these admirable and adorable. People don't judge others like they did in high school.
The top reason I love my boyfriend is because of how funny he is, and the fact he can entertain me and make me laugh and smile. A girl might like the fact you're on the football team or that you started your own business, but she'll stay if you can make her laugh.
Keeping that silly part of myself that would run around with you and sing songs in our house is what has kept me a genuine person. Never lose that.
16. Experimenting is encouraged.
You're in college to learn, on all fronts. In this brief four years of your life, you work with, live with and completely surrounded yourself with people your age. This is the time to explore what you like.
No one should have a specific type. By narrowing your dating field, you close yourself off from potential romances. If you feel attracted to someone, explore that. And as I'm sure some student has cried out before, "It's better to have experimented in college than not at all."
17. There are no rules.
The only rhyming rule I've found to be true in college is, "Liquor before beer, you're in the clear. Beer before liquor, never the sicker." Other than that, don't listen to "Bros before hoes" or any type of timeline to make a move.
The only right time to text someone or go in for the kiss is when you're both feeling it. Advice from your friends is important to listen to, but rules are not.
18. There is dating FOMO.
Don't seek a relationship because you feel like you're missing out on that part of life. Yes, love is nice, but unlike all those dating shows, it's best when it happens naturally.
Speaking as a serial dater, I've always been a little envious of the single life myself. Being single doesn't mean no one wants to date you; it just means you haven't found someone up to your standards. Being free is just as much of a privilege as dating someone.
19. It doesn't matter if you don't find "the one."
You taught me this one. After three long-term relationships with little relationships sprinkled in between, I have never truly been on my own.
The night you graduated from high school, you told me you feel like you're evolving so much, and dating a girl now might mean growing apart from her later. And that's so admirable.
I hope one day you find someone you can grow with. And when you do, I'll be here to give you anything you need, from a shoulder to cry on to anniversary gifts ideas.