I like to think I can do first dates.
We all know I’ve had enough! After six months of serial dating, I got to a place where dating had become a hobby. An entertaining pastime, as opposed to an interview for a partner. The less I built up meeting strangers, the more I was able to enjoy the dates. And the more relaxed I became, the more accurately I portrayed myself.
Because the key to dating is being true to yourself. Whether you’re selecting a photo for Tinder or deciding if you want to kiss your date at the end of the night.
In today’s world, online dating has become an act of self-marketing. We literally create adverts for ourselves on dating profiles, and aim to package ourselves in the most attractive manner.
But what’s the point in packaging yourself in a certain way, if underneath, the real you is very different to the picture perfect image your suitor has fallen for?
Obviously it all depends on why you’re dating. If all you want are brief and fleeting encounters, then the packaging means a lot. But if you’re looking for something more long-term, then there is no point finding a ‘match’, if the only parts they match up with are the smoke and mirrors.
A large part of dating revolves around first impressions, and no one wants the first impression they create to be that they don’t know how tall 6 foot really is, or that they looked six years younger, or two stone lighter, in their photos.
But being true to yourself extends way beyond dating profiles and first encounters.
Those of you who regularly read the blog, will know that New Year’s Day was something of a surprise to me. Because for the first time in months, I went on a date, and really clicked with the guy.
And, yes, in case you’re wondering, I was about as true to myself as I could get in the process. So much so, that I rocked up wearing my glasses, with last night’s curls still part hair-sprayed into my hair, and wearing a chunky beanie and wellies!
My date was with Mr Second Chance … a man who had originally refused to meet me as soon as he realised I write a dating blog. Ironically, it was this blog itself which changed his mind, and two days after originally sacking me off over Plenty of Fish, he returned to ask me out on what ended up being the best date of my year so far (I’m allowed to make that joke … it was New Year’s Day!).
In the days which followed our first date, we quickly realised we were equally excited to have met one another. And after a whirlwind of non-stop texts and phone calls, we ended up on a second date, just three days after our first one.
Butterflies filled my stomach, and I bounced around work, Cheshire Cat style. The Henley Boy Effect. But better …. Because Mr SC had read all about Henley Boy before he ever even asked me out!
But if this blog has taught me anything, it’s that real life isn’t like the movies. And good things really don’t always come that easily.
The more I learned about Mr SC, the more I began to wonder where the catch was.
He was in the Army and had a daughter – things I would perhaps have seen as issues six months ago. But 30 Dates has taught me a great deal about both dating and about myself, and a number of things which I would have once seen as turn-offs are no longer deal breakers for me.
So where was the catch?
Ironically, it had been staring me in the face since our very first conversation. I just hadn’t registered it.
Mr SC is an Officer Cadet at Sandhurst Military Academy.
When I think of Sandhurst, I think of lavish balls, and guys in hot uniforms. My only experiences of the officer training academy are of a friend’s commissioning – a gloriously traditional day which ended with one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.
I didn’t think too hard about the twelve months which lead up to that celebration. After all, Officers are just managers, right? Wrong!
Officer Cadets call Sandhurst ‘The Factory’. A grueling training ground where aspiring officers are literally pushed to their limits … and beyond. And the irony of it all, is that whilst Sandhurst poses countless mental and physical challenges for Mr SC, it has also inadvertently become my biggest dating obstacle so far.
A few months ago, Champagne Hero touched upon his time at Sandhurst, and how difficult it had been maintaining a relationship while he was in the Academy. Even after several years with his then-girlfriend, he will openly admit what a strain the lifestyle put on things. Cadets regularly get as little as four hours sleep a night, are often cut off from all contact for days on end, and when allowed their phones may only be able to text or phone during the few sparse hours when they should really be sleeping.
Normally, when you start seeing someone, the first few weeks of getting to know each other are filled with never-ending late night phone calls, tentative excited texts, and hopeful plans of future dates.
Mr SC’s last fortnight has been filled with sleep deprivation, inspections, gas chamber sessions and trench digging.
And my last fortnight has consisted of sending countless supportive text messages, worrying I’ve overstepped or said too much, and checking my phone all the time in the hope that Mr SC might have had chance to reply to reassure me I haven’t overstepped.
I like to think I can do first dates.
But no amount of first dates could have prepared me for the realities of trying to start something with a guy in one of the few places in the modern Western world where he doesn’t have the freedom to communicate whenever he likes!
The issue with Sandhurst, is that it has inadvertently divided both our personalities.
In order to function effectively at Sandhurst, Mr SC needs to have two very different versions of himself. Real World SC and Sandhurst SC.
Where Real World SC would ring me without hesitation, and spend time careful crafting cute responses to things I had texted him, Sandhurst SC glances at the text when it comes through, if he happens to be near his phone, and then replies curtly six hours later, in between someone shouting at him, and a 5 mile run carrying a rucksack full of stones!
Where Real World SC might spend his Saturday night wining and dining me on a third date, Sandhurst SC meets me on Skype, at a god forsaken hour of the night, tired and stressed by his day, and then falls asleep midway through our conversation!
Where Real World SC was openly excited about how close we were getting in such a short space of time, Sandhurst SC has no time to process the changes, and puts his emotions to one side, to simply get through the challenges of his day.
Where Real World SC saw me as an exciting new encounter in his life, to Sandhurst SC I’m a distraction. And a not always welcome one.
All that may sound really blunt and bitter, and I promise it’s not! It’s simply a rational description of the situation I have found myself in, with a guy I really do rather like. And for whom, I have a great deal of respect. Both Dapper and Champagne Hero have been quick to remind me (as Sandhurst veterans themselves) that the very fact I receive regular text messages from Sandhurst SC, let alone have hour-long Skype chats, are testament to how much he is trying.
And so, in an attempt to support him, and to show how much I appreciate his sacrifices, I’ve also inadvertently become a second version of myself.
Real World Miss Twenty-Nine does not dote or pine over a guy she’s known for a matter of weeks.
She enjoys making cute gestures, but those are things she reserves for boyfriends and close friends. Real World Miss Twenty-Nine would still be serial dating, until her status with Mr SC was more concrete. She would be cool and aloof, and too busy texting other dates to spend her time phone-watching for texts from Mr SC.
But Sandhurst has affected Real World Miss Twenty-Nine, by her own accord.
You see, when I realized Mr SC was going back to Sandhurst, and only had plans (and time) to see me for the forseeable future, I felt bad dating anyone else on the outside world. Whilst I’m still single, it seemed unfair to carry on dating other guys, and broadcasting my experiences of the dates to the world, knowing Mr SC could log on and read them at any point.
I may be a dating blogger. But I’m also a real-life human being, interacting with other real-life human beings.
And whilst there are times when I’ve hoped things would happen on the blog for dramatic effect – the Return of Henley Boy for example …. Sometimes I have to step back and put real life before the blog.
Because entertaining as all this can be … it also happens to be my life!
And so I took a step back, removed POF and Tinder from my phone, and let Real World Miss Twenty-Nine become Sandhurst Miss Twenty-Nine.
The problem is, Sandhurst Miss Twenty-Nine is a lot like the girl who dated Henley Boy. A girl so excited by a guy, that she’s forgetting herself and putting her life on hold in the hope he might get a spare hour to a chat, or a spare evening to escape The Factory.
And Real World Miss Twenty-Nine has come a very long way since the Henley Boy days.
The 30 Dates blog has taught me countless things, but one of the most important lessons I have learned is something Lil Miss D reiterated in the last blog post about her impending Divorce.
‘I need to be true to myself and to who I am.’
I am not Sandhurst Miss Twenty-Nine.
It’s taken me a very long time to appreciate the ‘Ideal Me’. And to understand the importance of finding and understanding that Ideal Me.
A version of myself who I enjoy being, and who attracts men I enjoy being with.
And to be honest, I think one of the reasons I clicked so quickly and easily with Mr SC is because he reminds me a lot of that Ideal Me. He’s driven, and confident and sociable. He enjoys travelling, and languages, outdoor sports and adventures. He runs endurance races, and ski races. In fact in a lot of ways, he’s arguably a more focused, more competitive version of me!
Yes, I’m sure there are a great deal of differences between us. And I’m not suggesting I fancy him because I fancy myself!
But one of the reasons I’m attracted to him, is because those qualities I like in myself are reflected in him, and I have a feeling he’ll enhance and inspire those qualities in me too.
But how does that work, when he’s locked away in Sandhurst?! And when, to be honest, I don’t even know if he has the time or capacity for a relationship on the outside?
I don’t know. I can’t speak for him.
But I can speak for myself. And I can find a way of making sure Real World Miss Twenty-Nine doesn’t keep acting like Sandhurst Miss Twenty-Nine!
If I’m to make this ‘thing’ work, then I can’t be Sandhurst Miss Twenty-Nine! I don’t like her! She’s needy, and paranoid, and not the ideal version of me!
I need to remember who I am. And to be honest, if I’m even considering properly dating someone who is locked away in an adult version of a boarding school, then I need to make the most of my own life away from The Factory.
Not just because I have a feeling that the ‘ideal’ version of me is attractive to Mr SC, but because she’s attractive to me too … and I enjoy being her!
Also, if things don’t work out with Mr SC (Sandhurst or Real World version), then I want to make sure I’m still enjoying being me for other reasons … and let’s face it, I can’t go on a 30 Dates Challenge every time my heart gets a little bit bruised by a guy!
Regardless of my dating status, I need to be able to stand on my own two feet, and be Real World Miss Twenty-Nine.
So who is the real Real World Miss Twenty-Nine, and how do I remember what she’s like?
My Ideal version of me, is the girl I was a few years ago. I’ve revisited her recently, primarily thanks to this blog and the challenge, and become a more adult modified version of that girl (accepting things like the need for a full-time job, and having to pay council tax …!)
But aside from the realities of adulthood, the Ideal Me loves to travel. She has a long list of countries to visit, and adventures to be had. She loves languages, and picks (most of) them up easily. She thrives on a Challenge – whether it’s a dating one, or a physical one – and works best when she sets out key goals for herself. She loves to write, and explore her imagination, and both sport and keeping fit are also important to her.
Travelling, languages, fitness, adventures, extreme sports, challenges, writing, culture and socialising with my friends are all important things, which put a smile on my face. Whether I’m single or not!
So … three weeks into 2014, I’m setting myself another Challenge. Or rather, Twelve Challenges.
Every month I will set myself a Challenge to remind myself of my ideal Miss Twenty-Nine. Whether those challenges are competing in a Tough Mudder, writing a novel, travelling to Uganda, or raising money for a Charity.
I’ll keep you posted along the way …. and you never know, I might end up slipping some dating challenges in too … but for me, it’s important to remember who I am outside of this blog. And outside of whatever my ‘relationship’ currently is with Mr SC.
I know there’s only seven days left of January, so I will need to use some of February to complete my first Challenge of the year! But my first challenge is going to be a physical one, linking back to my post about Body Confidence, and kickstarting my year as I mean to go on … in peak fitness.
My January Challenge will be to complete 30 Bikram Yoga classes in 30 Days ….
Wish me luck! (with the boy, and the Challenge!!)
Real World Miss Twenty-Nine 😉 xxx