This post is a first in a weekly series called Dear Little Lights, in which we try to figure out things together and I just happen to be the pencil (or typist) writing down what we figure out.
Dear Little Lights,
I don’t have a wild backstory or a crazy question, I just want advice on dating and
finding my person when I’m 100% not into hooking up. It really has nothing to
do with religion or strict morals, I just know that it takes more than hanging
out a few times or even going on a couple dates for me to feel comfortable with
getting physical, or really to do anything other than kiss a little. If I don’t
feel emotionally connected to a guy, or know him to be a kind and trustworthy
person, I’m going to be nervous, awkward, and unhappy doing anything physical.
So I don’t do it. Unfortunately, it feels like that’s so expected now a days,
and it makes me feel as though I’m not going to find anyone who is accepting
and understanding of my mindset. As someone who has dreamed of finding my
person, getting married, being a mom, etc. my whole life, being a young
20-something who has never seriously dated anyone and who has no prospects on
the horizon, coupled with the fact that I don’t feel like I jive with today’s
definition of dating (which often seems to start with hookups), I feel stuck.
And it makes me sad.
Sparknotes: I wanna find my person, I know I
have a lot to offer, but what I have to offer includes not getting too physical
too quickly and it feels like that’s a huge set back in today’s dating culture.
Dear Not Crazy,
Have you ever been out dancing? Let’s go with the assumption that you’re a normal twentysomething and say you have.
Who are the best dancers you know? By best, I don’t mean most technically skilled or
best at leading or have owned a pair of tap shoes at least once in their lives.
I mean the people who are having the most fun—these are the dancers we all secretly or openly want to be. They are crazy joyful, a spectacle, and probably a little sweaty if they’re really trying.
Outsourced: Expert of fun, Amy Poehler.
I’m not the first nor will I be the last to use the idea of dancing as a metaphor for dating, but I want to ask you to think about good dancers when you think about dating.
The best people to go dancing with are the ones that know they might seem ridiculous or a little too gangly in the limbs but they still just go for it, and want you to go for it too. Your worries about dating reminded me of dancing because in search of your lovely and good dream about your ~person~, you may be putting a lot of pressure on yourself and that *person*. Don’t feel bad—I think we all do it some of the times.
If you go out dancing, and you’re really there for it, you’re not worried about how you look, if it is technically correct, or what the point of dancing is. You’re in the moment, and everything is about that moment, Hips Don’t Lie coming on, and where your best friend is who also loves this song. When we look at dating, I think in having the right idea to search for our forever person, we can sometimes go too far and end up making a first date or a little conversation the thing our entire future turns on. Don’t do this (says someone who is a frequent doer of *this*).
If you want to date how you want to dance, the first thing is taking the pressure off of yourself. Let’s pretend that you’re guaranteed to meet your person exactly four years from today—but not a minute sooner or a minute later. How would you handle your life if you knew that love was coming for you, you just had to be patient? You would probably be calm, excited, and trying to live in a way that when this great person comes into your messy life, you have a bunch of great stories to tell them and are ready to be a gift to them, too.
No one can give us any love guarantee, but if we take it as a wager, it’s pretty easy to see that regardless of when, where, and if love is coming, the best thing we can do is to live a life to the full—of gentleness, of family, of blooming friendships, and of care and love for the gifts that we are as individual persons. Love isn’t just found in romance, but in bringing your neighbor a batch of scones from the extra ones you tried to make one Saturday morning and finally succeeded in, in calling a friend on your walk to work who you haven’t thought of in a few months, and in taking the second to look up and interact with the person who checks you out at your local coffee chain of choice.
Now, onto hook ups. Ironically, I’m going to use dancing (which often is the playhouse of hookups) as a continued metaphor for dating and the question you seem to be asking: Do my standards make me undateable?
The short answer: No.
The medium answer: No, but only if you think that.
The long answer: No, having standards different than what the culture makes us think everyone and their dogs want doesn’t make you undateable. Very little makes people undateable or incapable of finding love, because all of us are just a teensy bit messed up and a teensy bit ugly about some things. However, if you treat yourself like having a different set of values for whatever reason is a detractor from dating you, then you will show that to other people. You seem like you know what you want. Believe in that. Know your why, and give it to other people gently when they’re curious and want to know you. Remove your defensiveness and your worries, and tell them it’s because you know what is good for you, and you always do what you think is good. More people will be understanding than you think, and genuinely respect you for it, but not if you never tell them and only get all tense and weird whenever anyone brings up the subject. Why get tense? You’re choosing what you believe in. And if anyone gets weird and tense at YOU for that, thank them kindly for showing you so concisely that your time would be better spent elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.
This relates to dancing because we have all had that night where we thought we were REALLY working it, and that one friend makes a face at you like “Wow, can you chill?” and then we get insecure and less confident and we do in fact chill but also have way less fun.
This will happen when it comes to your standards, my girl. People will question them, hate them, love them, and find it “really interesting” that you have them.
There are two options when you get the question “Can you chill?” when you’re out dancing, and there are two in dating as well. In dancing, you can respond by freezing, getting embarrassed, getting mad, and getting a little petty, or you can look at them, make your weirdest cross-eyed-tongue-out face and show them you’re still gonna have fun, and they are welcome to join.
When you get push back on your standards in dating, you have the same two options: get mad and embarrassed, and lose all the fun of dating and in the good search to find love, or you can keep dancing—limbs flailing, sweat-inducing, grinning and wearing your heart on your sleeve the whole way home. And hey, don’t forget what Beyoncé taught us:
(hand drawn type by maddy nye for designlovefest.)
Out like a smooth cupid shuffle,
If you want advice with pretty hand-drawn quotes and strange metaphors, email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.