Recently I asked friends on Facebook and Twitter for dating advice they’ve heard given to women that likely wouldn’t be given to men. As I read through comments about safety (bring mace, schedule a safety call, send a picture of him and your location to someone you trust), and finding ways you manipulate your date’s image of you (don’t order a burger so he doesn’t think you’re fat, be mysterious, don’t act too smart, laugh at all of his jokes) I’m reminded of why so many women don’t find dating very fun.
I’ve often lamented to girlfriends that it seems like when men are ready for a relationship they just jump into one as if it were an open cab they didn’t even have to hail. But for women, it seems like they are often waiting on the sidewalk trying to flag down a car forever. I began to wonder if at least part of this difference comes in what we say to women about dating versus what we say to men.
Let’s start with safety. This is a real concern, of course, not to be taken lightly, but most of us have internalized much of this already. We know that we should meet new people in public places, that we should get ourselves there, that we should let someone know where we’re going. It’s awfully hard to even think about enjoying meeting someone new when we’re looking into their face trying to discern whether they are a serial killer. What if you relaxed, just for a moment, and reminded yourself that it is statistically unlikely that you will be attacked in a well-lit cafe? It might be easier to figure out if you even like your date, or if you’re having a good time.
All this image stuff? Sure, you want to put your best foot forward, who doesn’t? You’ll probably wear something you like and maybe do something a little special with your hair—but I hate the thought of you sitting there wondering what you should eat because of how it will make you look to your date. Rare are the men who will judge you based on your order, whether salad or burger, and I’m guessing you don’t want anything to do with those guys. Find something on the menu you’d like to eat and order it. I can tell you that’s what your date will be doing.
My heart aches for women who feel that they have to dumb themselves down (because men don’t like smart women) or make themselves appear weak (because men don’t like strong women). Who are these men? I’m sure they exist, of course, stereotypes exist for a reason, but do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t like smart, strong you? Here, there is a counterpoint—many men are told to avoid emotions because it might make them appear weak. While some women might not want their men to be emotional, most of us welcome emotions and sensitivity.
Just take a minute and think back over your life, what dating advice has become part of the tapes playing in your head? Is it time to clean those out, to admit that they don’t serve you? Is it time to forget about some of those well-meaning platitudes? While Cosmo and your aunt, and that person at your office party might disagree, there is no way of being that will attract anyone. Should you meet someone while contorting yourself into being someone else, they’ll eventually notice. It’s hard to stop performing, especially after doing it for so long, but you’ll be giving someone a chance to get to know who you really are sooner. You might not be perfect, but you’re lovely, just the way you are.
Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.