Lessons from 52 weeks and 52 dates – Early days
August 14, 2014 was the day I walked out of my cushy life and started again. After being with the same man for 17 years, a man who drank too much, controlled too much and made me feel unappealing, this new dating life was daunting. I was 48 years old and didn’t have a clue what happened to the dating scene since 1996. Boy, have times changed!
Given I felt divorced in my mind for many years, I jumped into the dating scene. I quickly found out that is wasn’t very easy to meet men “in the wild.” At my age people are consumed with their kids, work and their smartphone. After trying to meet men IRL for a bit with not much luck, I signed up for OKCupid, a mostly free dating site that allows you to create a profile, upload photos and answer lots of questions. Voila, complete and then I waited. Wow, it was within minutes my inbox was filled with messages from men, young and “old”. I was a proverbial “kid in a candy store.” Men of all walks of life “liked” me and sent me messages. Little did I know that hours upon hours would be spent messaging within the OKC site, then messaging via text or a messaging app like Kik or Whatsapp and finally setting up a “meet and greet.” It honestly could have been a full time job.
Get the first date, the “meet and greet” within a week. No matter how many photos you see of that person, pictures and texting words have no way of displaying the chemistry that is needed to agree to the next date. Some men, I have found, want texting pen pals. It is fun at first learning more about a person but gets old and takes up a lot of time. If they are too busy to find time or your schedules don’t align, chances are they never will.
This whole dating thing was a bit of a novelty for me. All of these men wanted to pay attention to me, text me, woo me and I ate it up. Coming from a marriage which I was constantly seeking approval from my ex, this was instant approval and gratification. The illusion of so many man caused all the wrong behavior. I dated 52 guys in 52 weeks because there had to be someone better than the guy I just met. And voila with another swipe right, there my new knight in shining armor was messaging me and paying me the attention I sought. This illusion of a constant flow of eligible men is just that, an illusion. Out of the 52 dates there were about 10 that probably would still be in my life if I gave them more time. But there was always something, this guy wore a funny shirt, he slurped his coffee wrong, this one bashed his ex, he didn’t offer to pay and the list of excuses were endless. Take my advice and give a guy a chance. I wished I had done that more.
Paranoia is your friend. Of course I made some pretty horrible mistakes at first. Don’t give out your real cell phone number. I had my cell phone number for 20 years and the last thing I wanted to do is give it to a stalker guy. Take my advice. Get a Google Voice number (https://voice.google.com) They are easy to get and free. Once you have one, you easily hook it up directly to your cell so it rings just like your cell does. Even better, use a messaging app like Kik or Whatsapp and create a fake identity so your personal information is guarded a bit. Sounds a bit sketchy, I know, but trust me you won’t regret it.
Although I like to think the world is a good place filled with good people, I have run across a few that were not so nice. Like the guy who tracked my computer and knew where I was located. Somehow this tech guy thought cyber stalking would be a redeemable trait. Scary, very scary. I stopped using my computer to Gchat and started using Kik. I stopped including a lot of personal information on my profiles because once a person knows the city you live in, your current employer, past employers, college, etc., they can easily search for you on the internet. On the other hand, I try to get the guy’s full name or details so I can Google them. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? Well, ladies your safety is more important than fairness. Once I met a guy named Kent. While exchanging the typical first date pleasantries he mentioned his last name. Bingo! I excused myself to the restroom and did a quick Google search. His picture popped up as the first entry in the search results because he was on the Children’s sexual predator watch list. I immediately gathered my senses and raced away, not looking back. Thank goodness for the Internet!
Once you decide to a “meet and greet,” plan for a 30 minute coffee in a public place. You can always extend the time if you like the person. Establish a person that knows where you are and who you are meeting. I send a text message to a friend with the time, place, name of the person, phone number (if you have it), kik or whatsapp ID and a screenshot from their profile. Just in case something happens, your “person” will know exactly where you are. I make it a point to interrupt the conversation half way through the meeting to text “my friend.” I make sure my date knows what I am doing. I usually say, “I forgot to text my friend and let her know where I am.” This gives your date a clear signal that someone else knows where you are.
If you decide to go for a drink at night more caution should be used. I learned the hard way, don’t let him walk you to the car. This sounds like I am a paranoid prude but guys will be way more forward in the dark of night and expect more. I got out of the way of more than my fair share of kissing attempts. No thanks, unless of course I am interested 🙂
What I discovered is I can tell within 2-5 minutes of meeting someone if there will be a date number 2. Up to that point you probably know a bit about them through the messaging you have done either in the dating app or messaging app. The moment I meet someone I can tell if their 2D image matches with what my brain expected. Most men post recent pictures and generally there were no surprises and it wasn’t a problem. The goal of any one of my 52 meet and greets was to have an easy conversation, listen to what they say and assess. Of my 52 dates about 20 yielded second dates. For those who didn’t make the cut I didn’t let much time pass before letting them know. Some had the nerve to ask on the spot and I would leave it a bit open ended. I never got the nerve to tell him to his face it wasn’t moving further. I definitely became a wiz at the “thanks but no thanks” text. The text went like this: “Thanks for the drink. It was nice meeting you. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the chemistry between us I am looking for in my next relationship.” That’s all. No “I’m sorry.” No “You’re a nice guy but . . “ No stating some lame excuse. The truth is the best.
When I went into the dating scene I had a good idea of what I wanted out of a relationship. I was just out of a 17 year relationship so I wasn’t looking to get married again but I certainly didn’t just want sex. There is definitely an in between but finding it was not easy. I did a few experiment along the way. I set out to date someone that I normally wouldn’t have selected “on paper.” At one point over the course of this year I dated the equivalent of the Village People, A cop, an American Indian, a biker, a construction worker and a Navy guy. I’m a tech exec and normally go for the business professional. I stepped out of my comfort zone. There were no “love connections” but I gave it a shot. After that I went for the hippie/burning man type. I found much better luck. I still date button down tie wearing professionals now and again but my heart was captured by the free spirit and super smart hippie type.
During this time I met some really nice men, some of which I am still friends with and hang out occasionally. Meeting so many diverse people made me realize we are all seeking the same things . . .validation, affection and appreciation. It really hit home hearing so many stories of love lost or betrayal. It’s also important to know that most of us are broken to some degree but not defeated. Be kind and be accepting.
Finally and most importantly I found that I, and I am sure many of you out there, have a lot of unmet needs and asking one person to fill all of those is next to impossible. I stopped trying to find that person and instead I now date a few different guys who meet my differing unmet needs. That concept is for a different blog post.
Happy hunting out there and be safe . . .It’s a jungle out there!