Dating Out of Your Depth

This evening a fellow blogger linked up one of his blog posts to ’30 Dates by 30′. He was writing about the ‘Seven Fears’ which stop him asking girls out on dates, and Fear Number 4 was that he worries that he won’t provide a good enough date. (To which he linked my article ‘Cooking Up a Good Blind Date’)

It’s interesting, because obviously my current project revolves around comparing good dates to bad. However, I’ve personally never really worried that I wouldn’t ‘perform’ on a date.

Whilst there’s a partly traditional reason behind that – the age old idea of the man choosing the date, and impressing the girl (who then assesses the success of the date), in this day and age, I think there are three more important reasons why during this challenge I’ve not been particularly worried about my personal dating prowess.

First there is the reason behind the dates themselves.

This Challenge has turned my love life into a three-month conveyor belt of first dates. I’m not actively looking for ‘The One’, or investing any emotion or expectation into the date beforehand, (in fact I barely know more than the name of my date before I meet him) and so I’m not overly worried about the date outcome.

Interestingly the only time I’ve really worried about my first impression was last Friday on my way into London to meet Enigma. I’d had a busy week at work and was looking less than sprightly! My Shellac nail polish was peeling off my fingernails (in a manner I couldn’t fix without the help of a professional!) and because of Dress-Down Friday, and the fact I didn’t know what the date would involve, I had dressed a lot more casually than I normally would for a date. Thanks to the awkward start to my communication with Enigma, when he’d all but hung up on me a minute after calling (and before actually scheduling the date!), I found myself worrying that he might look down on me. I knew he worked for an investment bank, and considering how beautiful the girl who had recommended him as a date was, I jumped to the conclusion that he would be both very confident, and highly attractive. By comparison, I was an exhausted shadow of myself.

And yet my concern wasn’t being a ‘bad date’, rather I was worrying that I might really fancy him, and that he might not deem me ‘good enough’.

Reading Danny’s Seven Fears blog post, however, made me realise though, that my approach to this summer’s dates is quite a unique one. Few people go on dates simply for the date experience (and with no hidden agendas). Unless you’re internet dating for one-night stands, you’re going to obviously put more emphasis on the date than I have been with my thirteen dates so far.

If you’ve invested time and energy into getting to know the person you’re about to meet (the way I had with Henley Boy a couple of months ago), then you put more pressure on yourself, and you worry far more about the outcome of the date.

So the first question to ask yourself, if you’re worrying about how well your Date will go, is ‘why am I going on this date?’ And if building it up into something bigger than it ought to be is just going to make you less confident, and more nervous, then I would really suggest downplaying it to yourself. That doesn’t mean don’t make any effort. It just means that you shouldn’t focus too much on the Date Outcome. As The Challenger wisely said on Date Seven – live for the now, not for the future. Enjoy the date for what it is – an opportunity to meet someone new, and don’t worry too much about any future role they might end up playing in your life. If you take dating one step at a time, and enjoy each date for itself, then any future developments just become a bonus, as opposed to an ‘end goal’.

One of the reasons my thirteen dates have been so easy so far, is because I approach my dates a bit like meeting new people when I’m backpacking, and this leads on to my second reason why people worry about dates….

Personal Confidence, or rather a lack of it.

I’ve always been a chatty person. In fact when I was a toddler, a random stranger approached my Mum to tell her that she should watch out, because I was ‘too friendly to everyone’! I’m a self-confessed chatterbox (as you may have noticed from this blog!) and really enjoy meeting new people. And if three years of backpacking, and four ski seasons have taught me anything, it’s how to talk to strangers, regardless of whether you have anything in common with them. So I approach my dates like I’m backpacking, and I try to tailor conversation to common ground with the person I’m on a date with. Even if it’s a simple four minute speed date, I try to talk about something it’s clear the other person enjoys talking about, and try to find something in common with the person I’m talking to. (Remember the public transport fanatic at Date in a Dash?! 😉 )

I’m also pretty happy in myself. Aside from pre-date skanky nail panicking, I’ve grown to happily accept that I’ll never look like a supermodel or weigh seven stone, and so twenty-nine year-old me is pretty content in my own skin. The great thing about getting older, is that you learn what hair and make-up suits you, and which clothes look good on your figure. You can finally embrace lumps and bumps, and realise no one in their late twenties looks like a teenager any more! And when you’re at ease with yourself, it makes it a lot easier for other people to be comfortable in your presence.

I have a friend who I don’t see often, but who has real issues with food. Not an eating disorder, but a very loud, public need to maintain her weight by telling everyone around her exactly what she isn’t eating, and to let you know for weeks on end the minute anything remotely unhealthy touches her lips. One of the reasons I rarely see her, is because her insecurities end up bringing me down, and making me question what I’ve eaten and feel bad about myself.

So I could imagine how someone who is less than confident not only worries about how they will ‘perform’ on the date, but also about the tone of the date too. If you’re feeling out of your depth, it’s easy to project that unease on the other person. Three weeks of speed dating events has shown me how much longer four minutes can feel in the presence of someone who is feeling awkward, than it does chatting to someone who is comfortable and confident.

If you’re a less confident person, then choose a venue where you’re more at ease. Choose a place you know well, and an activity that you are enthusiastic about. Your enthusiasm for what you’re doing will come across as confidence, even if you’re feeling far from it, and if you feel comfortable and at home in the venue, then this will translate to the person you’re on the date with. If a posh restaurant makes you feel awkward, and like you’ll spending all night worrying which fork to use, then don’t put yourself in that situation! Choose your local pub, or somewhere where you can grab a casual bite to eat, and if your date is interested in you, and compatible with you, then he or she will enjoy it too, and be put at ease by your lack of discomfort.

At the Date in a Dash event last week, a man who admittedly both worked and ‘played’ with IT ended our four minute date with the very awkward statement ‘Urgh I’m just so out of my depth here ….’, something he said out loud almost like a cry from help rather than as part of conversation. The fact he actually admitted it just showed how generally awkward he was feeling. And whilst I have a lot of respect for him for stepping so far outside of his comfort zone, equally I don’t really understand why he was doing it …

Because the third reason why someone might feel out of their depth on a date, is because they are choosing the wrong date forum. If going speed dating is your idea of Hell, then the chances are, you won’t meet your ideal partner there.

This particular Dating Challenge clearly works for me. If it didn’t I wouldn’t have subjected myself to it! I’m happy meeting random strangers for blind dates, I have happily trusted my friend’s references, and the idea of meeting new people and going on a wide variety of different dates with them is genuinely my idea of fun.

The best dates I’ve had as part of the challenge have been with guys who know about the challenge, and are just as up for a spontaneous mystery blind date as I am. We have something in common, and are both up for that particular kind of date. But doing this challenge wouldn’t work for everyone, as evidenced by Stitch’s response to finding out about it. He was a really nice guy, but even if he hadn’t reacted so badly to finding out about the blog and the challenge, I know that I wouldn’t have been attracted to him, because some of the key features I’m attracted to in men are confidence and spontaneity. A willingness to take part in something a bit mental, like this challenge.

There are other dating forums which don’t work for everyone. I can’t imagine the IT guy ever meeting his perfect partner at a speed dating event, because I think the type of girl who he’s looking for, is equally shy and out of her depth at a Speed Dating event. Likewise, I have friends who really don’t enjoy writing, and don’t come across as themselves over email or text message, so I wouldn’t recommend they try to meet people online, because they wouldn’t be conveying an accurate version of themselves.

They tell you to choose internet dating sites by working out which sites would attract the type of guys you are interested in. That seems simple, but isn’t necessary something that would spring to everyone’s mind when perusing the hundreds of sites now available on line.

It’s actually just a re-vamped technological version of age-old dating advice. If you want to meet someone, think about the qualities you are looking for in a man, and work out where those people might be … For example, if you like outdoorsy types, you’re far more likely to meet them in a walking group than in the middle of Canary Wharf.

With this in mind, if, like Danny the author of the Seven Fears, you actually don’t seem to enjoy going on dates, then there is no point forcing yourself to do so. The scenario is just going to make you feel awkward and out of your depth, and it won’t be fun for either you or your date.

Instead, find some other way of meeting people who are on your wavelength. For example, if you’re a fan of a certain sport, or type of music, then why not just carry on doing the things that you enjoy? Surely you’re more likely to find someone like-minded at a concert or a sports event, than you are at Dating event which you have no interest in?

And use your friends. If your friends are similar to you, then their friends will hopefully be people you get on with too … I think almost every man I’ve ever had a relationship with either started as my friend, or was introduced to me by a friend. Why do you think I’ve orchestrated this challenge so I meet up with friends of friends? Obviously there’s a safety aspect, but also, I assumed that anyone who got on well enough with my friends to be recommended as a date, would also have enough in common with me to make for an enjoyable evening. Something which has been proven by how many of the dates I’ve come away from saying I would happily become friends with the guy.

So yes, whilst it might not seem it from my brash, honest conveyor belt of blind dating, I do actually understand why someone might be scared of dating, and scared of messing up on a date. But with some careful planning, and some reflection on what you actually enjoy doing, what makes you feel most comfortable and confident, and perhaps considering the smaller dating picture, rather than focussing too much on what you’re hoping to achieve from dating in the future, maybe you can take some of the pressure off yourself, and not end up dating too far out of your depth.

There’s a time and a place for doing something that scares you. Personally, I’d prefer that place to be on a sky dive, or a bungy jump, than putting myself in a scenario where I feel socially uncomfortable and vulnerable for an entire evening!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

4 Comments on Dating Out of Your Depth

  1. “I can’t imagine the IT guy ever meeting his perfect partner at a speed dating event, because I think the type of girl who he’s looking for, is equally shy and out of her depth at a Speed Dating event.”

    – I don’t know, don’t opposites attract? That is my experience anyway. Being fairly shy, I am attracted to people who are not…

    • It’s an interesting one, because whilst opposites do sometimes attract, I don’t know how successful you can be at attracting someone else when you’re so out out of your depth that you can’t communicate with anyone? IT was so socially awkward he all but sat in silence on all of his speed dates? I think you’re right in that you don’t need to be completely the same as your partner, but perhaps the ‘opposites’ we think of as attracting aren’t full polar opposites?

      Miss Twenty-Nine xx

  2. No, OK, so perhaps he was an extreme case, and a bad example. But I was so similar to the last person I dated it ended up not being a good thing.. My view is that relationships tend to be more fulfilling if you force each other out of your comfort zones a bit. Just my impression… and of course I acknowledge that it’s great (and useful for organising holidays, day to day life, etc) to have shared interests.

    • Yeah I would agree- I’ve actually been preparing a blog on ‘hard expectation’ and ‘soft expectations’ from a partner – the things you definitely need, the things that are flexible. Some shared interest or beliefs – like religion might be a hard expectation for someone, whereas sometimes it might be a unmovable requirement for a person that their partner has different interests so they can have separate lives xx

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