I’m a hopeless romantic in the sense that I have no hope at all and don’t like to try. It’s my fault for putting a few people on pedestals in the past, but I feel like it’s obvious when I do work up the courage to go on dates that I’m half-assing it. I end up cutting things off really early and patting myself on the back for trying. I’m a little too comfortable being alone so I know I have to put myself out there, but it’s hard to do that authentically when you feel like it’s not going to pan out from the start. Any advice?
Emotionally Constipated Hermit
Dear Emotionally Constipated Hermit,
Apathy is a curious, strange thing. It creeps up on you slowly, like finishing the entire bag of tortilla chips and only realizing once you're scrambling to catch the crumbs at the very bottom during a commercial break. Seriously, one second you don’t seem to care about getting to the classes you’ve irreparably indebted yourself for, and then gradually it becomes the job you’re waking up for every morning. But then one night you’re hooking up with someone in your new apartment (because every new home needs a christening, right?) and halfway through your steamy makeout sesh you realize, “Hey, I feel nothing.” Don’t let yourself get to that point.
If you’re feeling apathetic about your love life, chances are this is the beginning of what can be a dangerously pervasive problem, or you’ve already been feeling that way about other areas of your life, too. I’m sure this isn’t a revelation because it’s easy to recognize. It’s also almost too easy, to accept it. You wake up. You put your legs through some pants. You get on your shitty metro commute and you do what needs to be done. Hopefully without spilling any coffee on yourself. Sleep. Repeat
Now in this situation I’d tell you to change it up. Binge cook five pounds of chicken one night just because you can – and accidentally set off your fire alarm. Or treat yourself to a new book, a Disney movie classic you haven’t gotten around to, maybe even, dare I say, a new haircut? A frozen walk by Lake Michigan can do the trick, in between damning yourself for not bringing gloves. Choose something that will make you look around and think, “hey, this place and where I am is pretty darn cool. The space I’m taking up is important.” Force yourself to be excited that it’s 60 degrees out, or the fact that you woke up five minutes earlier than your mind-splitting alarm clock today, or because the barista at the Starbucks around the corner said good morning.
My question for you is: Are you too comfortable being alone or are you too comfortable in the routine of accepting that this is what your life is like now and that’s something you’ve decided is okay? I think trying to find some meaning through relationships and dating when you can’t really find it elsewhere at the time is problematic in itself, but I also believe just because you’re juggling other issues doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of participating in the dating game and having fun in what should be technically “enjoyable.” Fuck that “you can’t love someone until you love yourself” bullshit. You can be not your biggest fan and still be rooting for someone else. You can be flawed and unapologetically figuring yourself out, while also going on shitty Netflix and chill Tinder dates.
The wear and tear of dating can also lead to the onset of apathy. Let me guess, you go on the same first dates where you ask the same first date things. You eat the same first date meals. You wear the same first date outfit (because don’t front, I’m sure you have a first date outfit). It’s like you're stuck at the same table with a different face and hairdo in front of you every time you agree to do that crazy, stupid, but thrilling thing of saying yes, let’s get coffee/dinner/drinks/whatever other social construct we’re practicing these days. What you cannot do, Hermit, is go into these dates thinking it won’t work out. You cannot let yourself reduce what you’re doing to a mindless game (like I just did).
You shouldn’t blame yourself for putting people on pedestals. The people we put on thrones tend to say more about ourselves and the moment we’re living through than anything about that person at all. These people begin to represent something we want or need in that moment. Like the blonde, bland, dad-esque dude who was the object of my desire for most of my freshman year – who really just represented the idea of what a normal relationship could mean for me. A nice Cuban boy that my parents would love and I would grow bored of in T-minus five minutes, and consequently spend the rest of my life happily arguing over mortgage payments. He was my scapegoat. So look back at the people you’ve romanticized the hell out of and figure out what it was you wanted from that relationship. Were they the complete opposite of an ex? Did they offer a normalcy you couldn’t find in other parts of your life? Was thinking and obsessing over what could be a way to distract a very bored mind?
Whatever it was, those are valid things to need. Now you need to pinpoint exactly what it is YOU want and go looking for that.
Dating around, as dreadful and desensitized as it can seem with every apocalyptic right swipe, can be fun (I promise) and freeing. But only if you push yourself to get that experience out of it. Go on the dates you really want to go on. Don’t just grab coffee because it’s what people do. If you like miniature golfing or wandering around secondhand book stores looking for the weirdest novel you can find, then go on those dates. Become the person you’d fall in love with on a first date. Ask the questions you really want to know, besides “what do you do” and “what did you study?” I like hearing people’s embarrassing stories, so I always ask for that. If you want your dates to go beyond just small talk over an overpriced burger and fries, then you’re going to have to work for it. If you never ask for these things, for this substance, excitement and extra pizazz from your dates, you’ll never get it. No one is a mind reader and hearing the shitty mechanics of someone’s 9-5 gets old. Chances are most people want to hear about your favorite color and stupid things you did in high school. Not everyone will care for it, but if that’s what you want why waste time on someone who can’t and won’t give you that? If you want romance, it’s not going to fall in your lap. Life isn’t a Caucasian Nicholas Sparks utopia, unless you make it one. Identify what it is you want from a relationship with someone else and go after that. It’s not fair to assume a date won’t pan out from the start. It’s not fair to expect someone to have instant sparks with you over a medium roast, tasteless coffee. Sure, it can happen, but you can’t shoot it down immediately if it doesn’t. If you do, you’re just wasting your date’s time and yours. Ally fell in love with Noah after he swung from a ferris wheel to get her attention, not when he asked her to get watered down drinks at Nevin’s (RIP). Please don’t swing from a ferris wheel, but consider that maybe you too could go after what you want with such tenacity and vigor for life.
Once you realize you’re in control, can have the dates you dream of and can have the love life you want (or at least know you’re trying to get there) that’s a pretty freeing moment. Romanticize the hell out of your life, instead of a person, Hermit, because if you don’t, who will?
You know I’m right,
Send me a DM here at our anonymous google doc.