At the age of 36 I was suddenly single. Surprise!
I had not dated as an adult, ever. After being single a while and enjoying that, I thought I would enjoy the adventure of dating, for the first time.
Online dating appealed to me because I could theoretically meet people outside my usual sphere of friends and business acquaintances. I wanted to be able to use online dating to meet a lot of new people, learn more about relationships for myself, and possibly end up in a happy relationship that could last at least two years.
But so many people told me horror stories about their experiences with online dating, I was hesitant. During my 46 Mini Date experiment, I experienced several “challenging learning opportunities” myself. Several stand out:
- I have lost a lot of weight. One nice but strangely-focused fellow got obsessed with the idea of loose skin and if I had any. He kept pressing for details. Finally, I had to tell him that it wasn’t a topic I was comfortable chatting about with someone I met ten minutes ago. I don’t think he ever quite forgave me to not divulging this information in detail!
- The day I changed my profile photo from a headshot to a head-to-shoes photo. It was not a provocative photo at all, to my eyes. My profile received over 1,000 one-sentence messages over the course of the next 12 hours, which when put in the kindest light possible amounted to: “You, Jane. Me, Tarzan.”
- I’m fairly sure I was invited to and taken on a choreographed date that had been carefully scripted and performed *many* times. If the guy had been more focused on me and less focused on drudging through to the next step in his date performance, it could have been a fine date (think Austin’s Town Lake at sunset, with a different topic for each bench and view – couldda been awesome!). He was so disconnected, even a fantastic date script couldn’t make up for it.
- I had three bad Mini Dates in a row one week. By bad I mean: someone was an hour late and I decided to wait to see if he would show up (he did and by the time we parted ways I’d wished he hadn’t!), someone tried to kiss me after I verbally said no when he asked, someone showed up very drunk. Something unpleasant happened after that third less-than-stellar interaction: I spontaneously disliked being around men! I didn’t mean for this to happen or make a decision for it to be so. I didn’t even want to call my dad, who I talk to most weeks. I believe I experienced, first hand, one way that sexism (and probably other -isms) can be created in the wild. Because I can evaluate the positive intentions of experiences, integrate the good learnings, and reconfigure the emotions involved, I was able to let go of the sexism and keep the learnings these experiences gave me. That’s a story for another day, for sure, and I’m lucky I had the tools to deal with this. I can imagine a less-well-equipped version of myself might have been stuck there for months or years.
- When my profile was brand new (up less than a day), a man wrote to me who didn’t have a profile photo, said he was married and his wife was sick, and that his wife was fine with him dating. Although it’s completely obvious to me now that even responding back once to such a premise is a bad idea, at the time, I was so new to online dating that I messaged with him a bit. It’s OK – I learned from it! I eventually learned better how to recognize profiles of people who do not want to meet in person or who are participating in emotional games that I don’t wish to play.
- One final note: 42 of my 46 Mini Dates were not so bad – they were fun and ended on a friendly note.
Before I had any of these “great learning!” moments, I was expressing my lack of faith in online dating to a friend and she told me she had met her current partner on an online dating site and had been seeing him for over a year.
That peaked my interest.
A week later, I discovered another friend who had been in a 3-year-long relationship with someone she also met online.
I was intrigued.
I decided to investigate further. It turns out that both of my friends did several important things, which I did my best to adopt and experiment with. This first date strategy, mined from our experiences and my observations about what worked, resulted in what I’ve come to call the Mini Date.
Read more in this series:
- Introduction: What I Learned About Online Dating
- Why I Embarked On a Dating Adventure
- What is a Mini Date?
- Mini Date Lesson #1: Invite Adventurously
- Mini Date Lesson #2: Keep It Short
- Mini Date Lesson #3: Choose Your Conversation Topics Wisely
- Mini Date Lesson #4: Meet In A Public Place to Talk (And Listen)
- Mini Date Lesson #5: The Sense of Abundance and Dating
- Wrap Up