I have a pretty active imagination. Working in a creative field, this often works to my advantage. I love being a storyteller, someone who can dream up the crazy ideas and then make them happen. Unfortunately, this active imagination, paired with the Type-A side of my personality that loves to list and plan, does not do me any favors when it comes to dating.
Whether going out with someone I met IRL or online, if the first date goes well (e.g. an attraction, an initial curiosity, a “spark”), it’s at this point that my imagination/Type A combo starts to run amok. The rational part of me tries to keep my cool, keep my distance, keep my shit together; the insidious irrational part of me creeps in, making pro/con lists, trying to answer the “What ifs?”, making up stories when my mind least expects it. One minute I’m on the subway, figuring out what I’m going to make for dinner; the next, I’ve caught myself thinking about when/if I’m gonna see Justin Long again, and where we could go if we do see each other, and whether we should go to that new whiskey bar because he said he liked whiskey, but maybe it’ll be too loud and crowded…. You see where I’m going with this.
Vocalizing these thoughts at home one night this past month, my roommate stopped my descent into dating madness.
“Maddie, just have fun. Why are you dating if not for that one goal?”
In that moment, I realized he was right. Why was I so stressed about something that was meant to be fun? I am 23 years old. I have no idea what the hell I am looking for in a life partner, and don’t plan on settling down any time soon. If I stress over every great first date I ever go on, there will be a whole lot more stress in my life where the fun is meant to be. All of the pressure is self-inflicted; a choice that I didn’t realize I was making.
So now, I’ve decided to choose fun. It’s not always easy, and I don’t get it right all the time, but this new goal has shifted my dating mentality for the better. Here’s how I do it: I’m on my way to date #2 with Andy Samberg. I’m in the cab and my mind starts to run wild (“Hey look, there’s a poster for that movie he said he wanted to see, maybe we could talk about seeing that movie… What else should we talk about? Maybe I could make a mental list of topics just in case…); it’s at this point that I stop the downward spiral, take a deep breath, and repeat the phrase “Just have fun” a couple times in my head. It’s the simplest reminder, but it makes all the difference. The worries and expectations are wiped away, and I’m left with a beautiful, clean slate (perfect for enjoying some charcuterie over a glass of wine).
Dating is about meeting new people, exchanging ideas, perhaps being challenged by a world view that is different from your own. It is exciting and unpredictable. When you keep your heart and mind open to these initial encounters, you never know where they could lead you or how they could shape your frame of mind — but then, that’s exactly where the fun lies.