The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tough Love & Dating Faux Pas

“Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing over a million dollar Stradivarius to a gorilla.” - American writer Jim Bishop

I wrote this article last year for the college newspaper. I got a lot of feedback on it at the time so I thought I would recycle it and share it with all of you. Enjoy :-)

With the recent release of movies like “He’s Just Not That Into You” and TV shows like “Tough Love,” it has become apparent to me in recent months that dating is quickly becoming an art form. There are explicit and implicit rules that one must follow in order to avoid being placed into undesirable dating stereotypes.

In “Tough Love,” for example, matchmaker Steven Ward attempts to improve the dating lives of women — from “Miss Picky,” the woman who is too caught up in a list of impossible expectations to “Miss Wedding-Obsessed,” the girl that tells guys on their first date that she’s looking to be married within a year. Using a zapping contraption that resembles the electric fence that was invented for dogs, he “kindly” reminds the women of their negative tendencies.

Because of the show, my nightly coffee talks with girlfriends have quickly transformed into our own version of “Tough Love.” Once the doors of enlightenment are opened, there is no turning back. A mirror is placed in front of you and all of your habits and tendencies begin to stare you in the face.

“When you talk to a boy, your Southern drawl comes out big time,” one of my friends says to me. Following this (untrue) statement, all of the girls in the circle begin to ruthlessly imitate my most recent interaction with a guy. (I end up sounding like a cross between John Wayne and Dolly Parton). “Well, at least I don’t get all high-pitched and squeaky!” I respond. The statement sinks in and then laughter fills the room as we picture my roommate, a natural alto, excitedly letting out sounds only a dog can hear in the presence of her Casanova. My normally chatty roommate, not be left out, inquires, “What do I do?” We all think a moment and then come to the conclusion that she barely says a word — this once bubbly girl transforms into a machine capable of only nodding her head and smiling.

Though VH1 has yet to approach me about starring in my own TV show, I have compiled a list of dating faux pas. I am by no means a dating expert — I, unfortunately, have had to learn by trial and error. Here are a few helpful tips that might just save you some painful zaps from Steven Ward.

• When asked if you want a piggyback ride, don’t use this as an opportunity to practice for the Olympic high jump — After a sweet picnic in the park, I was jokingly asked if I wanted a piggyback ride back up to the truck. I adamantly declined, but after much persistence on his part, I consented. Never much of a track and field star, I somehow chose this opportunity to jump higher than I have ever jumped before in my life. It was like slow motion. I saw the expression on his face as he realized what was about to occur. Before I knew it, I had pancaked him to the ground. Humiliated, I was frozen for a moment. Quite the quick thinker, he kindly asked, “While we’re down here, do you want to look at the stars?”

• Don’t use dates as a time to research — “Seventeen” magazine is by no means one of the leading forces in fine-tuned research. As a high-schooler, though, it was a fountain of useful information. If a guy, while the two of you are at dinner, is telling you about his hard day at work or how his boss treats him, “Seventeen” said you should gently brush your foot against the guy’s leg. This — apparently to some demented writer trying to confuse the world’s teens — would let the guy know that you were really in tune to what he was saying. After careful experimentation, I found absolutely no response. I jokingly told the guy about the article and asked why he didn’t care about my efforts. His confused look told me all I needed to know; I looked under the table and found a large table leg right by his leg. We laughed about it, but he never confided to me without kiddingly looking under the table first.

• Trying to play it smooth usually results in the complete opposite — Whenever I over-think situations and how I appear to others, fate kindly reminds me to take a chill pill. Once, while in the student center line, I placed my wallet under my arm as I tried to carefully balance my tray and smile at a cute boy in front of me. Usually awkward, I was quite proud of myself for playing this situation out so smoothly. I went to take my wallet out from under my arm only to realize that it had wound itself into my sweater and was not going to budge. The guy’s eyebrows furrowed as he saw me tug and smile, tug and smile. “Let me help you with that!” he said as he bent down and attempted to free my wallet from under my armpit. I stood helpless, with my arm up in the air, as he meticulously worked to free the wallet. Similarly, while working out in the gym, a guy gave me a friendly smile. Attempting to finish my last sit-up, maintain brief eye contact and take a drink of water was too much multi-tasking for me to handle; I proceeded to douse myself in water.

While I sometimes wish that I wasn’t a magnet for embarrassing situations, I feel that ultimately they are a part of who I am. They allow me to let my guard down around people, show my vulnerable side and — at the end of the day — not take myself too seriously. Everyone, in some way or another, is nervous and unsure about what this whole dating thing is all about. It is time to put down the zappers and start being bold. Will there be awkward moments? Absolutely. Will we stutter and say the wrong things at times? Without a doubt. It will all be worth it someday, however, when we find that equally nervous, equally unsure person who warms our heart and makes the whole confusing process seem normal.


Blogger HannahKey said...

Hahaha, really enjoyed this one! I have witnessed the Southern draw when you talk to a boy, for sure! I love it--so cute :-) I am watching "Princess Diaries" right now, remember that movie?

February 11, 2010 at 3:28 PM  

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