“Put your best foot forward.” This seems like dating advice your Mom would give when she’s staring longingly at empty picture frames where photos of grand children should be. “Wear your blue dress and don’t talk about your brother going into rehab. Keep asking questions about him as it will take his mind off the fact that you’re thirty five and still haven’t managed to snag a man yet.”
Why do I suddenly feel like I should be wearing a poodle skirt and bobby socks?
Dating is a complicated web, and one that gets more involved and frenzied as the internet offers more and more choices. Plenty of Fish, Lava Life, Match.com, E-Harmony-all offering their wares. Couldn’t we have just one stop shopping? A Prince Charming Department Store where you can order one and then send him back within thirty days if he doesn’t fit?
As I hit my forties and still hadn’t found my Prince, I started to get a little worried. Why was I a left over in the world of marriage? I definitely was not ready to lie down and play dead with spinsterhood looming on the horizon. I was almost ready to get some dating advice from my Mom. Instead, I took some new photos, updated my profiles and hit the internet with gusto!
At the same time I had found a spiritual path that was opening up a whole new world. It ended up helping me in the dating realm more than I could have expected.
As I delved further and further into myself, I was able to accept and share more of who I am. Instead of “putting my best foot forward”, when I would meet someone, I was authentic. I was able to share my wins, my disasters, my passions, my deepest fears, my goals and I would do so without fear of judgement. I was finally secure enough in myself that I wasn’t worried about making a good impression. This doesn’t mean I would show up to a date in my oldest jeans with no make-up and my hair three days dirty. That’s not who I am either. It means I started looking for a different kind of connection where we could shed pretences and enjoy a real person instead of the fantasy of one.
Looking back, the impression I wanted to make sure I gave was that I was fun, sexy, low maintenance and up for any adventure. I can now see how I was trying to fit any guy’s fantasy by being everything they wanted. I had no needs, no emotions and would never be a burden in any way. My stomach starts to churn just thinking about it.
I also realized I was looking for the same in return. The fantasy guy from the movies who made you melt with just a look, would protect you from all evils and who could read your mind to fulfill your every need. Could leap tall buildings in a single bound, and, of course, would stop whatever he was doing to help old ladies across the street. Sigh.
The more I learned to let that go, sharing and being curious about the person in front of me, the more I saved myself a lot of time, a lot of energy and likely a lot of heartache. Some guys immediately ran away as fast as they could. Others didn’t run, but did sit back in their chairs a bit and of course, never called again. If I had been doing my old routine, these guys would have stuck around for at least a few more dates with both of us trying to be someone we’re not.
Others embraced what I had to say and started to open up about themselves. And as my criteria for a first date changed from “cute and able to fog up a mirror” to “wants to have an open, insightful conversation”, dating got a whole lot more interesting. I found there were fewer men to date that wanted the same things as I did, but I had more dates with men that had real potential to become long term relationships.
In the end, I didn’t find a Prince. I found a man who adores me, and is kind and loving. On our first date, he was the one to open up and share about himself before I even finished my appetizer.
Eddie and I married just over three years ago, are still going strong, and are still discovering new things about each other all the time. The happiness of wedded bliss wears off soon enough, but I’m happy to have found a relationship where I can really be myself and continue to learn and grow. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
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