A friend of mine (married) recently chuckled as he said, “Oh I love that one story about the guy who went on a date with you and didn’t ask you anything about you. That’s my favorite.” I looked at him in complete deadpan calm and said, “That’s EVERY date.”
Truth is… the NUMBER one thing men do wrong on dates (are you paying attention, guys? This is it! You’re always asking and I’m here to tell you) – is using all the time to talk about themselves and never investing in getting to know the woman. Not engaging at all in getting to know who I am.
And I’ve tested this a bit. When on a date with a guy and having realized we’ve spent the last 10 minutes talking about him (partly because I ask…I really do want to learn about him!), I’ll use a counseling trick and let us sit in up to 30 seconds of silence (which, on a first date, is a LIFETIME, by the way) to see if he’ll fill the uncomfortable quiet with something meaningful. And 9 times out of 10, it’ll end with me having to pick the conversation back up with, yet, another question for him.
I’ve even tried just inserting facts about myself into conversation, unbidden. He’ll finish a story about his family and I’ll say something overwhelmingly smooth, like, “speaking of families, I’m the oldest of four kids…my dad’s a pastor…”… and then wait as the crickets play their symphony of discomfort around us.
A few times when the guy texted the next day to ask for another date after a first date I wasn’t thrilled with…I’d explain that I felt like he wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know me. One time, a guy came back with, “I know ALL about you! You’re the oldest of four kids! Your dad is a pastor!”
Good job, detective. You pieced that together from me TELLING YOU, did you? Sigh…
I suppose this isn’t just a male problem, per se… it’s a cultural problem that plagues us all – men and women.
We are increasingly self-absorbed and unaware. (which is a paradoxical combination, if you think about it.)
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is walking into a building/store/restaurant in front of you and instead of holding the door open for an extra 2 seconds to allow you in, they let it slam behind them. As if you weren’t even there.
And don’t talk to me about how chivalry is dead. Letting the door shut on the girl behind you goes way beyond chivalry (which, I don’t actually think has all the way died. It may be on life support, but there are still a few gentlemen out there opening doors and telling women they look pretty. Not many…but they’re out there.)
No – the reason people don’t hold doors open or ask questions on dates is, I think, not because we’re losing our sense of good manners…but we’re losing our sense of SPACE.
My brother posited a theory which I’m loving more and more (well…not LOVING in its application, but in its wisdom). He said… as we become increasingly drawn to the small space between our eyes and our smartphone, we’ve become ONLY aware of that small field of vision… so much so that, even if you’re not currently looking at your phone, you’ve trained yourself to be unaware of anything outside that zone of attention. The world, for all intents and purposes, is invisible.
I think he’s right.
As technology has grown, our awareness has narrowed. Noticing the beauty and peculiarity and intrigue around us has been replaced with apps that do just about anything we could ever want or need. No need to even make eye contact with the Starbucks barista… just swipe your phone and move along. If you play it just right, you might not even have to stop your game of Trivia Crack to get your drink. Walking to your car after grocery shopping? No need to look up… just use your app to find your car and then let another app tell you what route to take to your next location. Heck… there are apps to tell you how you slept and if it was a particularly restless night and your phone got lost in your sheets, just use your FitBit to find it.
I have no problem with technology, mind you. I love all my nifty apps. But, it seems if we want to have things/people in our life that MATTER, we’re going to have to make a concerted effort to look up from our screens and see the world around us… engage with it… ask it some questions. I know I’m not the first person to say this. But, I contend that this issue is part of what makes people BAD at dates.
You see…as the space we ‘live’ in has narrowed, so has our scope of interest and awareness. It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to only care about what’s right in front of us…what’s easily accessed… what doesn’t take any work or energy on our part.
Not only that… but our smartphones haven’t just made us stupid about things like mapping your way to a new location, but even knowing yourself. People depend so much on devices telling us what to do, where to go, what’s funny, what’s trending…that we spend less time in self-reflection and self-awareness. And if we can’t even be self-aware (a very sexy quality in a date, by the way), then how ever will we manage being “other aware?”
I suppose if all you’re interested in is getting me into bed, plying me with the drinks and talking about yourself all night might actually work. (I don’t know…that’s not really my thing).
But if what you want, ultimately, is to make a meaningful connection with someone and build the relationship to a place where it brings you pleasure and a deep-down satisfaction, …then you’re going to have to KNOW me. There’s no getting around it. So, why not start from the beginning? Move your attention from your virtual smartphone and engage the world around you….or at least across the table from you.
It’s easy to do. Ask questions! Anything, really. People love to talk about themselves, so you don’t even have to be particularly clever…just provide the conversational springboard and let narcissism do the rest.
The world of first dates would be infinitely different if people could begin to look away from their smartphones, look inside themselves, and then look at me. Eyes up here, folks.
Right, right, I can hear many of you reciting that over-used line, “It’s just a ‘Hallmark holiday’.”
Is Hallmark inherently evil?
Don’t thousands of companies latch onto holidays to boost sales? We’re capitalists!
We don’t hate Presidents Day because linens are discounted, do we?
Does Egyptian Cotton trump flowers and candy?
Perhaps you’d say, “It’s an invented holiday.”
OOooooooh, ok… not like those organic ones we’ve found while out farming the land. Right…
Maybe you’d respond with, “Why should someone else tell me when to show the person I love that I love him/her. I SHOULD be showing them all year ‘round!”
Go do that! Valentine’s Day isn’t keeping anyone from showering their loved ones with affection on the other 364 days of the year.
Are you afraid you’re going to think up a romantic gesture for your sweetheart and right when you’re about to leave her that note or give her that gift, you’ll get a firm knock on the door from the Valentine’s Day Police?
“Sir, …sir, are you aware that it’s April 12th? What were you THINKING? Loving your significant other is strictly forbidden. Any thoughts, words, or actions of amorous expression must wait until next February 14th. V-day LAW.”
Truth be told, Valentine’s Day isn’t making anyone do anything. It just is.
If there were such a thing as “Hug Day,” would you fold your arms and refuse free hugs? What about “Compliment Day?” or “Get $100 Day?” These are all good things… things that should not make people bitter, but excited!
The beautifully sweet thing about this holiday is this:
It’s one day a year, set aside, to celebrate love.
The most important thing in this life… ought to have a day…right?
I mean… even people who aren’t at all religious, let baby Jesus have a day. (That’s Christmas, y’all)
And hardly anyone turns away green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
No one complains that the 4th of July FORCES them to play with fireworks and eat BBQ.
Why does Valentine’s Day get such a bad rap?
I think the answer is this: people resent the fact that they don’t have the love they most want.
Valentine’s Day shines a light on the places where we feel lonely or hurt. Stick with me for a moment.
– Married people who are unhappy in their marriages – hate the idea of a spotlight on love… because they are feeling that awful cringing pain of not feeling loved.
– Boyfriends and girlfriends in undefined, ambiguous relationships, don’t enjoy the holiday that breathes down your neck and whispers, “you know… you really ought to think about what you want, and what this is. …I’m just sayin’…”
Anyone who is at all unfulfilled in any relational way – feels the heat of a day whose focus is the very thing you want, but don’t fully have.
And I get that… if there was a day that celebrated designer clothes or cool cars or fancy big houses, …I might feel left out. Like, “hey – I want those things too… but, alas… not this year.”
The DIFFERENCE is that Valentine’s Day is about ALL love… not just the Rom-Com, smoochy, McDreamy, end-of-the-movie-swoon-worthy-speech, PDA, fluttery tummy, grand gesture, sweeping soundtrack, surprised by flowers and poems kind of love. Valentine’s Day is about so much more.
Those things are all fine…but they are one sliver of the story.
I propose… you look a little further.
Celebrating love doesn’t have to be a romantic love.
I know, I know…this sounds trite…you’ve heard it before, …but all those super classy corner tables/tents full of roses and cheap teddy bears don’t exactly scream equal opportunity love…they ONLY make us think of 2 groups:
1. gooey-eyed lovebirds – new to the sweetheart scene, and untarnished by the world. Or,
2. guilt-driven men in panic-mode, on their way home from work
But, I’d encourage you to look beyond the consumeristic piece of this holiday and contemplate the heart of it. Aha! The HEART! 😉
You really can take a step back and look at your life…and appreciate the love of your parents, you can ponder the love you have for your children. You can take an honest look at the friends, co-workers, roommates, neighbors, etc. in your life…and have a moment of happiness when you realize they are all gifts. And maybe, …maybe you’ll even be inspired to tell them so!?
And if you look around at your life, and you truly have NO one to love… then (and I’m not pandering… I mean this), reach out. Maybe that means seeking out friendship, maybe that means reconciling with someone who’s caused you pain or who was the recipient of your anger/distancing/etc. Maybe it means visiting a church to find a new community. Heck, come visit MY church!
I know you all probably get sick of me going on and on about how I still have hope for finding love… and I do. But today is about appreciating and celebrating the love you ALREADY have. I’m blessed to have so much love in my life – amazing friends (I mean, AMAZING), awesome family (who I can call ANYTIME when I need a ‘shoulder to cry on’), and the two most beautiful, creative, sweet children a person could hope for. So, on a day made to honor love… I am full to the brim. 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!