I spent most of Thursday afternoon reading through the first two years of these blog posts, partly because I’ve been feeling nostalgic (already) but mostly because I’m prepping a little surprise (it’s a book!).
I learned several things about my former self through all that reading – I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life; I spent an inordinate amount of time at bars; I had exactly the same amount of shoes – but paramount among the themes was this idea of “the rules.”
I wrote a whole post about how to initiate communication with a potential date via Facebook. 500 words. I’d link to it here, but I’m too ashamed of the fact that it exists. There was a post on the proper way to speak to an attractive person at a bar. There was a whole expose about whether or not one should hook up on the second date. I did a full week on what constitutes cheating.
I was obsessed with this idea of modern dating etiquette, or, more specifically, how to survive dating unscathed. I was all about removing any grey area so that time wasn’t wasted and feelings weren’t hurt. I really, truly thought that there should be an agreed-upon way we should all be going about this insane “process” – from how to text your true intentions to when to sleep with someone to ensure they won’t start dating you just for the sex.
If there are hard and fast rules – my former self seemed to think – then we can know with certainty whether someone is really interested or just using us. And if we know that, then we can avoid wasting time on a relationship that’s ultimately going to hurt us more than it will help us.
“It’s like gambling,” I told R this morning as we walked to Ed’s Diner on Robertson (the best eggs in Los Angeles). “In blackjack there’s that whole ‘what the house would say’ rule that usually prevents you from busting. That’s how I used to look at dating and relationships. What move is offer the least risk and most potential reward.”
R liked that, but mostly because he taught me everything I know about gambling even though, as he reminded me this morning, I tried to hit on a 21 in Vegas…more than once.
“I get that,” he said, “I think we were all doing that in our early 20s. But why do you think we were grasping at rules so much?”
I’m still not sure I know the answer to that question. Part of me thinks it’s because everything else in our lives was so unstable after graduating from college – career, home, friends. We needed rules to understand our new place in the world, and since dating was top of mind at the time, that’s where we focused. But another part of me thinks we were too bored and immature to think about anything else. When your job is to answer phones and transfer calls at an internet company, you have plenty of time to write 500 words on how a man should approach a woman at a bar. After actual responsibilities enter your life, there’s life time to deal with and worry about the bullshit of dating. You don’t have time to dwell on it; you barely even have time to do it.
But when I re-read all those rules that I wrote almost six years ago, I see a person who was, above all, afraid, and fear breeds and need for order. The idea that there are no rules (a jerky pick-up line can be the start of a march toward marriage) or that you’re better off trusting that you’re the exception to the rule (he’s just not that into you…right now) is often too much to bear at 22…or 27. It’s not until you’ve experienced those rules working or not working or blowing up in your face that you realize the “rule” you should be trusting is your gut.
As it turns out, all those rules can get in the way of what’s really right for you. It might not look “right” by the standards you set five years and 800 posts ago, but that’s life. Messy, unpredictable, and totally unruly.
So I guess what I’m saying is that if you haven’t read the 200 posts I wrote from 2007 through 2009, maybe don’t. Then again there’s some genius ideas about how to completely overhaul our entire dating system in there. They’d never work, but they’re pretty clever if I might say so myself.