I'd seen the outfit on Pinterest for months now and knew I wanted to try it: a black top, dark wash jeans, red lipstick, and bright red heels. I had the perfect shoes too: a pair of vintage, Spanish-leather-soled, two-toned, bright red satin pumps, with little bows on the toes. The problem is: they never made it out of the back of my closet. I adored them, but they always seemed either too flashy or else impractical for the ever-present Seattle puddles.
But for this date I wanted to try them.
We met in the lobby of the theater. As he walked in and met my gaze, his eyes quickly scanned from my tousled-curly hair down to my toes. When he got to my shoes, he stopped.
"I love your shoes!" He blurted excitedly, leaning forward to inspect them more closely.
I knew I'd made the right choice.
From early on in our friendship to later subsequent dates, in getting to know this man I realized that he had so many of the qualities I was looking for in a relationship partner, and so, naturally, I began to panic:
"What if he gets to know me and doesn't like it."
So, in an attempt to hasten the heartbreak I was sure would happen, I decided I was going to be unabashedly myself on all future outings. You know how you’re supposed to be really cool and normal on the first few dates and then slowly let him see your weird side later? I figured if he was going to find out I'm a little nutty before too long, I should just speed up the process. If we were going to break up, we might as well just get it over with.
I remember once on an early date when I enthusiastically launched into an in-depth overview of women's fashion from the 1920s through the 1960s, explaining how wartime and post-war economics influenced the rapidly adjusting hemlines. I rambled on and on, gesticulating wildly over the table. He just grinned and smiled, nodding and tracking with me, laughing when things were funny.
I figured he was just doing this to be nice, but many months later he was still there: listening with amusement, eyes twinkling and grinning as I talked on and on about one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, all the way from the kitchen out to the car.
I slowly began to realize that he was actually enjoying getting to know the "real me” that I was revealing.
One time I thought I would really throw him a curveball and divulge that sometimes I think maybe I’m not cut out to be an artist—after all I'd always secretly dreamed of being a spy. Without missing a beat he said "Well, let’s think: how would you go about doing that?" Nevermind the fact that our similar career goals were a major reason why we worked so well together, if I wanted to pursue something that led me towards greater self-actualization but away from him, he encouraged me.
Even though we as a couple didn't last, my time with this man taught me so much about the importance of being myself both on dates and ultimately in relationship with other people.
I hadn't realized how much I’d hidden from men I previously dated, all in the name of presenting the “best version” of myself. I had tempered my personality and blunted my interests so much, that it was no wonder I ended up time and time again on mediocre dates with men I didn’t ultimately click with. By being myself from the start, I was able to enjoy the wonderful reward of spending time with a person who truly loved the honest “me” I was revealing. I was blown away by what became the most authentic dating connection I’d ever experienced, so that even after we broke up, I vowed to never again go back to dating someone while not being myself around him.
"Really? You like them?” I said. “I feel like in the winter they would just get all slushy if I wore them, so I never do, and then in the summer I figure I ..."
"Would look awesome?!" He interjected, still gesticulating wildly at The Shoes.
I laughed. "Yeah, I guess so."
He smiled. I smiled. We headed into the theater and I congratulated my past-self for not getting rid of those shoes that I had been so afraid to wear in public and yet couldn’t bear to part with.
It's only by being yourself that you'll find someone looking for you. And although we weren't ultimately looking for each other, I was grateful to have been pointed in the right direction by the guy who shared my exuberance for a fantastic pair of vintage, two-toned, bright red satin pumps.