Date Traumatic Stress: How To Avoid It
It was a Wednesday afternoon, and a pigeon flew into my face at the Third Street Promenade. None of the street performers looked up. This must happen a lot.
I was trying to find an outfit for a blind date I had later that night. I didn't usually get nervous for dates, but for some reason I had been having fear blackouts all week, and had been spiraling throughout the day. I mean, have you ever written in lipstick "You're beautiful and you're going to nail this!" on your mirror? LOL. Me neither!
Things weren't going so great. I got so lost at the mall that I almost laid down on a bench and took a nap outside American Eagle Outfitters. And no, random mall elf, I did not want to sit on Santa's Lap and take a picture. I had a date in 7 hours, and I needed to find a blouse that made me look skinny and made my boobs look like they didn't belong in National Geographic. Unemployment was keeping me very busy.
I couldn't find a single thing to wear at the mall. My recent weight gain made it hard to find clothes. My genius friend Bronson put it well: "We aren't fat… we're approachable looking!" I went home more annoyed than when this all started.
I was pretty clueless when it came to dates. I always canceled them last minute. I was an expert at faking migraines, and I had created several fake family members who were suffering from fake illnesses that only I could help them with. This date, however, I could not get out of. I decided to ask my friends for advice.
First I called Annie. Annie had told me to wear heels, and to definitely, under no circumstances, wear pants. Emily told me I needed to wear jeans and boots.
Then I called Jen. She told me to wear a high bun. "Wear my hair up? What are you, insane?!?" This seemed counter to anything I had ever heard, and Jen was a serious feminist and had spent much of college with a shaved head in support of Britney. What did she know about hair or first dates? She had been off the market and engaged for years. "You should also wear pants." This was getting confusing.
My inner voice told me I just needed to sit in a bathtub and cry.
That's when I called my best guy friend, Spencer, who gave me the best advice of all: "Just be yourself. It takes zero effort and you are cute and funny anyways."
Oh… well, that's easy. Why hadn't I just thought of that myself? And why hadn't any of my girlfriends told me that advice?
For years, I'd learned from friends, family and books to be everything but myself. I should be flirty. I should be mysterious! I should always wait to answer texts. Why had I never thought that I—weird, funny, sometimes festively plump—was enough?
Guess what? I am. And you are!
We need to remember that the purpose of dating is to find someone who fits into our own lives. Sometimes I get so preoccupied with wondering if someone else will like me that I forget to even consider whether or not I like them.
You can't hide who you are forever. If you go into a very first date pretending to be something you're not, the foundation of your relationship will be based on a lie. Are you going to pretend to be a different version of yourself for the rest of your life? Don't pretend to like surfing when you don't even know how to swim. What happens when you're confronted with the ocean?
Believe me, I have kissed one too many frogs. These are some things I have learned to ease date anxiety:
- Feel awkward the moment he picks you up from your apartment? Start the car ride off with a joke. A "thanks handsome!" when he opens the car door is also a great way to start to form a connection.
- Pretend you already know him. Imagine you are hanging out with your best friend. It will relax you!
- Tease him a bit! It will ease the tension and is a great icebreaker.
- Avoid interviewing. People watch at the restaurant instead. Make up fake stories about the lives of the waiters, waitresses, and other customers. Imagine what they might do when they are off work, or try to guess what other couples at the restaurant are also on a first date. It's fun and interactive, and way less boring than, "so, how many siblings do you have?"
Before you suffer from Date Traumatic Stress (DTS)—I think I made that up, don't steal it—remember: you are good enough. Be yourself. And instead of worrying about whether or not he will like you, turn the table around and ask—did he have what you need?