I HATE MIND GAMES!!! There is one really big reason dating conversation is so unnatural: because you’re wondering how the other person is going to take it. You know they’re going to go home and analyze your statements while they brush their teeth, picking apart your statements and maybe even applying Freudian analysis.
Did you lean against the door in the car because of some physical repulsion? The fact that you confessed to doodling mice in the margin of your notebooks – does it mean you have self esteem issues, do you perhaps feel hunted or hemmed in, or are you just going to be the next Walt Disney?
Is your fondness for kickball a displacement defense mechanism for inner aggression? And when you accidentally said “brother” instead of “mother,” is it because your childhood nurturing figure was your older sibling and you don’t have a normal family background (or whatever)?
You hesitate to tell the story about the time you make a kumzitz around an alcohol fire in seminary, because what if he thinks you’re a proud rule-breaker on principle, or even a rebel, or that you have a creepy attraction to combustion? You choke back a reference to a line from John Donne, even though it makes your point so well, because you know he’s never heard of Donne, you’re afraid you might have to describe the context, and it’s from a love poem. The offhand mention of a Hollywood celeb dies in childbirth, lest he think that you actually follow their lives with any amount of interest.
It’s like being a politician. You can be nailed for the slightest slip, so you need to make sure you don’t make one.
And I confess, I do the same thing to my partner. I once dated a guy who got praised by his references for his involvement in a certain cause. Yet on the date, though I approached the subject from three different directions, I couldn’t get him to breathe a word about it. Naturally, it made me wonder. Was he not really so involved in it? Was he embarrassed of it? Was he just being modest? What’s a girl to think? If it was a friend, I would probably come out point blank and ask, but if this was a friend, I wouldn’t know about stuff through references. And a friend would feel more comfortable saying “none of your business” whereas a date would just feel put on the spot, assuming he really doesn’t want to talk about it. Possibly, he just doesn’t know how to, and the point-blank question would be welcome – so maybe I really should have asked…
The mind games can totally paralyze communication.
Then, while popping out your lenses, you go over your own bloopers and wonder how they’ve been interpreted. When you hesitated to discuss your job, did he interpret it as lack of satisfaction instead of repressed enthusiasm? When you joked about ordering some fancy drink off the menu, did he think you really wanted some alcohol? Were you too ambiguous about your future plans – will he think you have none? It becomes a “he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think” situation. Then you make a note that you should clarify it on the next date, and you hope that he doesn’t think that you’re clarifying it on purpose to clean up a slip, and and and it can go on until you want to bash your head against the wall to end “the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes.” (Well part of Hamlet’s issues were shidduch-related, you know.)
There’s something to be said for meeting people in a natural setting, like a street corner. With the exception of undercover journalists, they’re usually non-judgmental when you utter unedited and uncensored scripts. Hurrah for candidness.