As a 29-year-old single woman in NYC, I’ve had my fair share of down and out dating moments. Like the time when a cute guy seemed so interested in our two-hour conversation, only to leave without asking for my number. The random-bar-meeting that ended with an email detailing all of my first date faux pas. The time I was dumped on the phone 10 minutes before I had to do a live radio broadcast. The list goes on (and on).
So I have a lot of empathy for my fellow dating warriors. We women (and men) who keep putting ourselves out there, trying to figure out what the other side wants, striving to meet our best friend and partner in crime. I, like so many of my brethren, spent my early twenties contorting myself into the kind of girl I thought men would want. At some point, many of us get tired of the twisting and turning, fall down mid-somersault and say, “I give up!” Not even just give up. “You know what, I was fine to begin with! I will find someone to love me just as I am!” (Thanks, Bridget Jones!)
But you know what? That thinking is bull.
It’s not that embracing your personality is a bad thing. In fact, I’d say it probably isn’t going far enough. Because if you were truly to look at yourself in the mirror, and love who you are, you’d admit that you know the truth: there are things about you that might not be so great. And that’s ok. But it’s not fair to blame our shortcomings on the dysfunction of the opposite sex.
It reminds me of my favorite de-motivational poster: “Dysfunction: The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.”
Take, for instance, my last boyfriend. I’m an extrovert, and a talker, so I tend to offer up stories and information without much prodding. But I forget sometimes that not everyone works this way. As it turns out, my ex was an introvert, which wasn’t apparent me to at first, and in the heat of a discussion I would often fail to ask follow-up questions. When he pointed out to me that I didn’t ask for more information, and that it made him feel like I didn’t care to know, I was a bit incredulous and more than a little hurt that he had misinterpreted what is, to me, simply a personality trait.
Aren’t you supposed to learn to like my quirks?
Or the time I realized that I have what has been coined “resting not impressed face.” It’s not exactly RBF, rather more like a constant McKayla Maroney look, especially when I’m working. Poor Monica Gabriel, sitting across from me at the office, was freaked out on the regular by my facial expressions.
So, tell me: as a RNIF-toting, overly talkative gal—do I change my ways?
In short: yes.
Outside of the dating world, that’s called being a functioning member of society. Want to get along with your coworkers? Learn how to make small talk. Don’t want people to think you’re mean? Try smiling. Ok, there’s not much I can do for my RNIF for while I’m working—I’m in the zone, people!—but now I do make sure I face my computer against a wall, so as to scare fewer passersby.
All these things start to make me think that perhaps we’ve lost an important virtue on our way to finding our spouse: humility.
I’m not talking about being meek and mousy and letting every bad date be proof of what’s wrong with you. But humility is acknowledging that maybe we could do a better job of not being so hung up on ourselves that we can acknowledge our faults and start getting out of our own way on the path to finding a mate.
We so often think that we all deserve our own meet-cute, replete with “sees right to the heart of me” tender moments, that we can forget that we’re all deeply flawed human beings. That’s part of what makes us beautiful and interesting. And it’s also part of what makes us annoying.
The truth is, once you take a moment to swallow your pride, you might find that having something you can fix—namely, you—is empowering and therapeutic in a world where so much nonsense dating behavior is out of your hands.
Waiting on someone else to change is exhausting and also unadvisable, but if it’s me that needs to change? Well, that is something I can do, and I might even find that the me who is striving to be a better person, a more caring human being not so caught up in preserving my own ego—that person may even be a little bit more open to accepting someone else’s faults, and maybe be open to, I don’t know, falling in love.
So instead of throwing up my hands or brushing this ended relationship off as a loss, I have decided to take my exes' constructive criticism. The next time I go on a date, I might let my love of storytelling shine, but also be sure to draw out my date and let them know I’m really interested by asking more questions. It may not guarantee that I'll find a boyfriend, but adding in some humility sure seems like I'll be on a better track.