Yesterday, at the Shobbos Kallah of SMF (soon to be married friend) #8, I had the audacity to say that I thought dating was fun.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like dating. I hate the research and the buildup and the prepping and the wasted time and the anticipation that inevitably precedes disappointment. I don’t like most of it. But I do think it can be, like many time wasters, fun.
“Nooo,” protested the friend and purpose of the get-together. “Maybe for the first date or two, but afterwards, no way.” She has the luxury of holding this opinion because she’s getting married tonight.
I disagree. I think the first date or two are the most miserable. They’re the ones where you’re not sure what to wear, what to do, what to say, how to act, how to react, how to feel, when to say no, and what is good grounds for saying ‘no.’ People get pretty messed up on their first ever dates.
Case in point, a sorta quiet guy was set up with a more-than-sorta-quiet girl. Which is to say, she said maybe a half dozen words the entire date, and they weren’t consecutive. The shadchan convinced him to take her out again and again, and he chose locations he thought she ought to enjoy, based on what he heard about her. Didn’t work. By the seventh – yep, that was seventh – date, he knew about as much about her as he had before they started going out. Afraid of facing his bully of a shadchan again, the guy walked her to her front door and said, “I don’t think we’re meant for each other.” He later heard that she was expecting a proposal.
Yeah, that’s what we call a learning experience type of first date, and also a miserable experience type of first date. That’s not even the type of story that makes a good bad-date story. Most first-ever dates don’t. It’s only later, once you’ve learned to relax, be yourself, and not care that you can begin really enjoying yourself.
And there’s plenty to enjoy. You’re getting a pretty personal snapshot of a human being, a bit of entertainment, maybe something to eat or drink, and in the worst-case scenario, a good bad-date story. You can look at the goings on with an ironic detachment because you don’t care as much.
Like the time I was sipping my carrot juice when a woman who looked ten months pregnant walks into the restaurant. She needed about 2 extra feet of clearance in front. Not only was she walking, but she was very nicely turned out in a baby-blue outfit with ruffly stuff on the collar, cuffs, and hem.
“Did you see that pregnant lady?” my date giggled after she passed. “She looked funny.”
Naturally, I was taken aback for a moment. Then the humor kicked in. “If Gary Larson drew a dating comic strip…” I thought. And mildly amused, I turned the conversation elsewhere.
Despite the view of SMF #8, I think most girls take their dating relatively lightly – relative to guys, I mean. Girls expect some bad experiences before they find The One, and will more casually go on a date just to see/just in case. Guys don’t, and it’s not just because of the travel and money. I mean, my brother is dating in Yerushalayim. He dresses, she dresses. He travels, she travels. He pays for a drink. He talks she talks. He goes home, she goes home. At the end of the date, he’s invested a grand total of 10 shekel more than she has. And he still finds dating more frustrating and jading than I do.
“Girls figure they’ll date a little and eventually find their bashert. Guys decide to start dating when they want to get married,” claimed the mother who interviewed me on behalf of her jaded dater son, who, it seemed, was sick of dating without making progress (whatever that would mean) and therefore required this sort of thorough research before any date could happen.
There’s certainly evidence supporting her statement. I don’t know many girls who really thought they’d marry the first guy they’d date. I was rather hoping I wouldn’t. But both my brothers hoped they would, and one even did. Girls tend to think there’s a certain amount of dating you have to do before you get married, so they want to start early. Guys push it off until they’re ready, be it with a degree, an income, or whatever. And when they’re ready, they want to do it. When you enter with that kind of expectation, you get frustrated pretty fast. And that takes all the pleasure out of it. Instead of thinking, “At least I got a good salad and a great bad-date story,” you just think, “Another evening wasted on a lemon.”
Which could be why, despite having dated the same amount of guys as jaded-dating-guy has dated girls, I’m not jaded, and he is.
My mother should be grateful.
PS: If this theory is at all accurate, I ask the readership: does jadedness eventually peak, drop, and plateau? I mean, a person can’t be exceedingly jaded forever. At some point you get used to it, and apathy kicks in, right? I ask only because I feel another chart coming on… It would look something like this, I think: