I don’t have a lot of experience with dating. At 41 I have been in 4 relationships: Two were short, one was long, and one was a summer fling that resulted in a child and months of failed co-parenting before it was over. All four were men who I knew as friends for months or years before simply changing our status from friend to relationship virtually overnight. I moved to my high school town in tenth grade. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone else. Even though I was welcomed and people were very sweet there, I still felt like an outsider. While I had crushes, I never dated or pursued anyone seriously.
College was fun and I hung out with a few guys, had my first real kiss(along with a few other good make out sessions), but I was never serious about anyone there either. After college, I barely had interest in dating. I wanted to travel and meet people from different cultures and continents. I willingly went into a Guatemalan prison and was surrounded by violent tattoo covered gang members, but the idea of getting married and having kids was terrifying to me. There was no hope chest or scrapbook filled with wedding ideas stashed away in my closet. I was happy living with a wide variety of roommates in an even wider variety of apartments and houses. Each living environment and trip to another country or state was an adventure in itself. When you are hanging out the roof of a Land Rover flying through an animal reserve in Kenya in pursuit of the perfect photo of a giraffe or hippo, it doesn’t occur to you that you are a 28 year old childless virgin. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I wasn’t settled down and that I lived in an apartment with a bunch of other people and mismatched furniture.
My first three relationships happened in my 30’s. They were all fun, but complete failures. I spent the entire decade thinking that somewhere along the way, everyone was given a guidebook to dating and relationships, but I somehow missed it. I mean, it was possible. I moved a lot when I was growing up. Going from school to school means you sometimes never have certain subjects. I somehow managed to graduate without calculus or physics, so maybe I missed the course on dating too. My friends seemed to know what they were doing and my siblings definitely got it. So, while I am a confident person when it comes to education and career, I have never felt comfortable with my abilities when relating to the opposite sex.
So, with my most recent relationship, like many single women I know, I decided to use google as a sage experienced girlfriend who could give me advice and guide me in the right way. I soon found out that there is an entire industry dedicated to guiding people through the dating world. There are hundreds of gurus out there who wanted to help me navigate the world of my new relationship. Just like some beauty products tailor to insecurities about our looks, dating experts tailor to, and make millions of dollars from those who have insecurities about dating. The majority of their clients are women because surely we can’t possibly know what to do on our own, right? I am one of them. I even paid for some of this advice. So, if you are considering paying that $39.95 or more to get advice, let me save you some money and let you learn from my experience.
The following list is advice I got from these experts. I put my commentary in italics:
- Don’t text too much and don’t ever text or call first. Always wait for him. What is this? 1950?
- If you feel like texting him or calling him, text him or call him. Be confident! But you just said not to call or text him. I’m so confused.
- Be available but don’t be too available. Can you just tell me where the line is? I’ll do my best not to cross it.
- If he doesn’t text you x number of times a day, he is not interested anymore. Well, that’s just stupid. Most of the guys I know are my age. We didn’t even have texting capabilities till we were almost 30. This is still new for us. I’d be more excited if he passed me a note in class anyway.
- Be vulnerable with him, but don’t share too much about yourself or your problems. God forbid I am a real person with real problems.
- Be a strong woman, but ask him to do stuff for you so he can feel still feel like a man. Honestly, if I have to ask him to do stuff for me just so he can “feel like a man,” he’s probably not man enough for me in the first place.
- Be there for him when he needs you, but don’t sacrifice anything about your own life for him like your time, money, etc. Wait, how can I be there for him then? Don’t all good relationships require some level of sacrifice on both sides?
- Men are like toddlers, so take away their toy once in a while so they will beg for it again. He will lose interest if he’s not constantly chasing you. What am I, 15? Why would I want a man who is like a toddler anyway? Gross.
- Don’t plan anything. Make him decide what you are doing and where you are going. I like planning things. Call me crazy, but it seems like it would be more fun to plan and decide things together anyway?
- Be yourself. I just spent $40 for you to tell me to be anything but myself. Make up your mind.
This is only a taste of what I read or heard. There is one “guru” who does nothing but tell you exactly what to text a guy and another who does nothing but tell you exactly how to kiss a man and claims that kiss will make him yours forever! I am a single mom in my 40’s. The man I was dating was a divorced dad in his late 30’s. Someone I have known for 25 years. The advice given to a 21 year old girl dating a guy she met on tinder is the same as the advice sold to me. All of the advice assumes every man is the same and will react the same. If some of these experts helped you, great! I am glad you and your situation fit the mold so they could help you find happiness. As for me, I say bullshit on all of it.
I am not someone who is bound and determined to get married and settle down. I’m just a girl who wants what I have wanted since I was a kid: to find someone who has my back, makes me laugh, and calls me on my shit. I want someone who is honest and kind. I want someone who sometimes makes me forget that everyone else exists when I am with him.
I don’t have a lot of experience. In fact, there are high school students who have more experience than I do. I don’t know a lot about dating, especially in today’s world. What I do know, however, is that I had a guy who made me feel like I was home. When I started to get scared I would lose that feeling, I listened to a lot of crappy advice and changed into someone I didn’t even recognize. Instead of making me feel better, the advice just made me feel more paranoid and insecure. I don’t know if my relationship would have panned out differently if I had just followed my gut and I probably never will.
So, here is what I’ve learned: Be yourself. Don’t get so deep in the dating advice wormhole that you start acting like someone you aren’t. We are all awkward and have baggage, and we all have insecurities when it comes to dating and relationships. When those come up, don’t search for answers online or elsewhere. Talk to the person you are in the relationship with and be honest about it. If they are the right person for you, they will embrace those parts of you that make you unique. There is no one in the world like you and there is no one in the world like your partner or person you are dating. In the end, you are the only two people who will know what works best for your situation. A real relationship isn’t built on who plans what or what texts are exchanged. A real relationship is built on laughter, sacrifice, trust, honesty, and a genuine respect and support for one another. The other stuff will all fall into place when the time is right. If I am naive for believing that, then let me be naive.
“The truth is none of us are easy to date, deal with, or please all the time. We all have our vices, attitudes, and way of doing things that make us who we are. You won’t like everything about somebody, it’s impossible. This is life, and it isn’t about finding the perfect person, it isn’t about living some fairy tale. It’s about finding someone you’re willing to work for, and who is willing to work for you.” -Rob Hill, Sr.