There is a difference between “putting your best foot forward” and all out conceitedness in dating. Surely, yes, we must choose to show our best side and better attributes. But dating is not about you, it is about you getting to know the other person, and not about you making sure everyone knows how great you are. Not only are conceited persons incredibly annoying and irritating to be around, but focusing on yourself, and not the other person, will fail you in the long run. What does it matter if the other person thinks you are as fabulous as you think you are or at least as fabulous as you told them you are, if you don’t know anything about them?
There is a need for humility in dating (particularly after you have left your more prime years). The acceptance that you are not perfect, and neither is the other person. And part of humility is giving the other person a chance to shine, doing what they want, or listening to a really boring story. (Note: I am saying humility in dating, not humiliation. A great date will not only know what humility is, but will make sure his/her date is never humiliated on a date.)
And then there is the flip side of dating. The person who is so convinced there is nothing to like about him or herself that they just don’t say anything personal. (Sometimes this person is misconceived as a good date- the person who never talks and lets you do all the talking. Not true. Dating requires getting to know the other person.) Or the person who isn’t sure if s/he likes you yet, and therefore doesn’t trust you with personal information. So s/he refuses to say anything personal, while interrogating (sounds harsh, but it can feel like that) you to see if you are good enough for him/her.
And then there is me. I know I am not alone in making this mistake. My worst trait is the tendency to dump all my flaws out on the table. (“Take me and all my baggage as I am! Love me for my mistakes!”) If a guy only goes on one date with me, guaranteed he went home knowing every stupid thing I have ever done, and probably learned little about my better traits. (And really, after all of that, can you blame him for not wanting a second date?) And let’s not forget, I’m a chatterbox, a habit that has only gotten worse in the past few years of working from home and near isolation in my lifestyle. I know that I calm down and even out after a while. Heck, I can even be quiet sometimes. Sadly, I don’t blame most of the men I’ve dated for baling long before that more normal side of me comes out. Nerves coupled with a little too much excitement at a night out, equals a really lousy date with me.
Embarrassing Personal Experience Ahead
As I write this I’m putting myself through a little mental dating therapy. (Sorry, but sometimes this column is pretty much that- my bi-weekly dose of self-administered therapy. I’ll try to be your therapist next week.) I can’t help but recall a great guy I dated a while back. He was (still is, as far as I know) exactly “my type.” Smart, charming, spiritual, funny, a little nerdy on the same subjects I’m nerdy about, musical, and just the right kind of looks I can appreciate. He met the initial checklist- Temple worthy, active in the Church, and employed. Everything I learned about him after that just made me like him more and more. Thankfully, he seemed to like me back. I had met someone very close to my idea of “Mr. Right.”
I think I pretty much blew it on our first real date. I was under a great deal of stress that day. He and I were both pressed for time, and our date was a hurried affair, both of us just wanting to make it happen, rather than wanting to make a great date happen. We had a good time- plenty of chemistry, laughs, and good conversation. Except I’m pretty sure my stupid nervous mouth told him every stupid mistake and choice I’ve ever made. I don’t know if I told him one good thing about myself. I’m sure he went home thinking I was mostly insane. I don’t blame him.
Somehow there was a second date. That one wasn’t a hurried mess, but again, for a variety of reasons, I was under a great deal of stress. (In fact, each of our dates were complicated by the fact that in order to see him, I had to travel several hours. I was always exhausted and always stressed (traffic, rushing to drive there, sleeping on a friend’s couch, etc.) on our dates. It was never a great combination. It’s hard to look cute and be cute after 5 hours of driving!) Yet again, this was not my “best foot forward” night. If I remember correctly, I actually came really close to passing out from heat exhaustion and dehydration within the first five minutes. Except, I don’t think he knows that. I think he just thought I was really tired and cranky, and didn’t want to get up off the couch. Truth is, I couldn’t stand up or I would have blacked out! But I never told him that, not wanting to look like some girl who uses her health to get attention. There wasn’t a lot of conversation that night. I had a horrible headache and it took several hours for me to perk up after we ate and I got some fluids back in me. It was a good enough evening, but really, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had never heard from him again.
So what did he know about me so far? Every stupid thing I had ever done (thanks to my nervous verbal verbosity), and that I was cranky and irritable.
It’s okay to be shocked that there was a third date. I was! This date yet again involved me being under a lot of stress. I should explain here- I’m not a stressed out person. In fact, I am/was a very laid back person who handles a lot of responsibility and stress pretty well. I rarely complain about stress or react to it. The fact that each of our dates coincided with huge stressful events in my life was unavoidable and very unusual experiences for me. But he had no reason to know or believe that. All he knew was that every time he saw me, I exhibited way too many signs of anxiety. It frustrated me as much as I am sure it frustrated him. But this third date, wow, now it was bad. Massive traffic jams, horrible heat, and work and personal phone calls that had to be taken. He was stand-offish at the beginning of the date, which led to me getting more anxious and feeling desperate to fix the situation. It was just awful.
But through all of this, one thing stayed true- we got along beautifully. We made each other laugh and had great conversations. As far as I know/knew, we really liked each other.
Which brings me to date #4. It wasn’t a date actually. It was one of the worst days of my life, and I’m not just saying that.
I was on my way to a funeral. (The person had died on the day of date #3- again, like I said, I was under a lot of stress.) Everything that could go wrong did. He was not on my list of people to call and ask for help that day. I already worried that he had only seen the absolute worst in me. I did not need for him to see me at my actual worst. One thing led to another, and he found out about my circumstances. And in an act of generosity and kindness I will never forget, he rescued me that day.
What did I know about him thus far? He was patient. He was a great listener. He puts up with me even when I am cranky and tired. He pretended not to notice I was at my worst. He tried to make me feel better when I was under stress. He was always a gentleman. And he displayed artwork scribbled by his nieces (which, by the way men, was one of the things that completely sold me on him). (Another thing he never knew about me- I love kids. I love other people’s nieces and nephews. He could have spent all day and night telling me about them, and I would have been okay with that.) And he was my knight in shining armor when I was in denial that I needed one. Not to mention, he’s adorable and makes me laugh.
Anyone else see the problems here? He’s seen me at my worst. I only saw him being wonderful.
There wasn’t a real fourth date. We did have one, but it was a quick lunch, nothing big. We saw each other as friends a few times. We were never a couple, but we did have one of the most amicable “break-ups” ever. We’re still good friends.
Be Smart, Learn From My Mistakes
It isn’t lost on me that I know he still hasn’t ever seen me as I really am. He doesn’t know the more normal, casual, “natural” me. He’s never seen me in my best settings, or doing something I love. I’ve never had the chance to share those things with him. One of the things I liked about him is how much we had in common. We had many shared hobbies and preferences. We discussed them, but we never actually shared them. I will always feel I missed out on the wonderful opportunity to share something I love with someone I really liked. I will always regret that. It is something I crave and want- to share experiences with someone I love.
Where did we go wrong? How did two people who had a ton in common and obviously liked each other, go wrong? (I may not have made it clear, but he did like me. Although I really couldn’t tell you why.) Well, me, for starters. I made way too many of the classic blunders. I did not put my best foot forward. I don’t blame him one bit for having the completely wrong idea about me.
But we made another major mistake. We did not have a purpose to our dating. Our dates and conversations were not designed to really get to know each other. We ate, we talked, we hung out. Sure, in theory, that’s one way to get to know someone through conversation while eating and hanging out. But we never saw each other in any other settings except restaurants and living rooms. I’ve never seen him with his friends. I don’t know what kind of people they are. I’ve heard a little about his family, but never met them. Same goes for him about me. He’s never met my friends or family- the people that are most important to me. He never met my dog. He saw my dog once- through a window. How a man treats pets and animals is actually something important to me. You don’t have to love my dog, but I do want to see how a man treats my dog (especially if I know he does not like dogs- it says a lot about a person!). He’s a musician of sorts, but I never heard him play. I love to sing- but I don’t think he knows I’m even in a choir. We never shared or did anything musical together- what a waste! We never actually “did” anything together except talk about ourselves. So now all I can really do is give you his resume. I know some facts about him, a checklist of sorts, but I don’t know him all that well. And the same goes for him about me. He knows only the worst facts about me, but doesn’t really know me.
I can’t speak for him, only myself, but I feel like we lost and wasted a great opportunity. I won’t call him the “one who got away.” We are still friends, but not great friends. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks of me as the psycho girl, because, really, shouldn’t he?) Oh I’ve tried to correct my dumb mistakes and show him my better side, and I think maybe he has seen a glimpse of it. But I fear my efforts to show him when I’ve done something good or one of our shared hobbies, that I come off as desperate and pathetic.
There are enough girls in this world chasing after a guy she thinks is a great, desperate to show him that he just hasn’t seen her best traits, and that she’s good and worthy of more attention. I don’t need to be another one of them. I’ve been that girl too many times before. At least that is one lesson I have already learned.
Sometimes it is best to just shake it off, laugh, and say, “Well, I messed that one up!” and just walk away. What is that old clich? If you love it, let it go, and if it loves you, it will come back? I’ve actually always thought that is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Well, in this case, maybe it applies. Maybe someday he’ll see something good about me and give me a second try. I won’t go chasing him down the road to make him come back.
Dating is nothing if a lot of mistakes. I’ve never met anyone who has ever done it “right.” We all make mistakes, and we’ve all played the fool. What matters the most is whether or not you have learned from it, grown from it, and moved on.
Here’s to moving on to bigger and better things!
Erin Ann McBride is the author of “This Just In,” and “You Heard It Here First,” both available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She recently launched a new website to help self-published and commercially published LDS authors reach their audiences directly. Check out www.mormonbooksandauthors.com to find the latest books from your favorite writers!