Friday, July 25, 2014

Petey's dating manual: On the other side

Never criticize a man woman until you've walked a mile in his her moccasins.

When Becky sent me a text asking me if I'd be around on a particular day, I knew I'd be around. I also knew that she wasn't asking out of mere curiosity. Had I been disinclined to go on a date, I might have felt uncomfortable. But as I'd been thinking about asking her on a date, I was happy to say yes.

I made a point to tell Becky that I was happy to take care of the logistics or leave them up to her. She said she'd plan it since she asked me. As I don't enjoy planning dates, I was perfectly content with the arrangement. The result was that basically the whole date happened with a reversal of the gender roles typical in dating (in the Mormon world). I'd never been on a date so fully planned by my date before, so I see things differently now. Accordingly, I've written this article about it and Becky has written a post of her own.

I'm very used to planning my dates. I know what to expect because I'm the one who arranges things. I know what to wear, how active we'll be, when to eat, and so on. With Becky planning it, I only knew what she told me. Since it was days after we set the date that we decided on a time and a place to meet, I didn't even know what time to put it in my calendar. I settled on just blocking out the whole evening.

On the evening of our date, I discovered the joy of waiting for a date to come. I didn't know if she'd be early or late, but I wanted to be ready on time. I also wanted to find something to do that I could interrupt at a moment's notice. There was also the fact that my roommate and his girlfriend were over. Naturally, they were curious about my date. I'm open but was already feeling some nerves about all of the possibilities I couldn't account for and a part of me didn't want to deal with all of the variables that a four-way conversation between people, many of whom had never seen each other, might go. It turned out fine; I ended up hearing about their crazy day and they left a few minutes before Becky arrived.

Before she came to pick me up, Becky suggested a couple of places to eat. As long as there's food, I really don't care. I told her I was fine with either and offered a tiebreaker in the event that she didn't care, either. But by the time she'd picked me up, she had thought of another option. I had a mild preference but, as before, I didn't care enough to just make the decision for both of us. It was clear that she was interested in it being a good experience for me. I wanted the same for her; I don't know about her food preferences, financial situation or anything else and so didn't want to make a decision that would make her uncomfortable.

I recognize that this reticence was a little unreasonable; after all, she'd suggested the restaurants in question. Ultimately, all I wanted was for us to get food. But irrationality has never nullified feelings and that's what I felt. Eventually, we decided on one of the options. When we got there, the wait was long enough that we wouldn't have had time to eat before the concert. So we went to the other restaurant, which also had a long wait.

I'd been trying to not take charge, partially to not step on her toes and partially so that we'd both have the full experience of being on the other side. At this point, though, she was out of ideas. We happened to be very close to a restaurant tucked away inside of the upper floor of a department store and I suggested that we give it a try. Given how hard it is to find, I wasn't surprised to find that there wasn't a wait at all.

As we sat down, Becky made a point to tell me I could order anything I wanted. Not being in the habit of having my dates pay for me, I was grateful that she said something.

Everything was fine; dinner was good, we arrived in plenty of time, found a great parking spot, and even bumped into some mutual friends as we walked to the restaurant. The concert itself was enjoyable, if a little different from what I'd anticipated. I enjoyed seeing veterans and their families standing during the medley of songs from the armed forces; we were surrounded. And I was amused that someone asked Becky during the intermission if the gentleman she was with was in the military. It wasn't the first time my straight back and lack of hair had led someone to that conclusion. There were even a couple of songs we got to sing as part of the audience.

This one date completely changed how I think about date planning. I'd always thought it was a little bit silly that we worry so much about the details. In all of my dating experience, I've put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to take care of the details. The hope has always been that if I take care of the details well enough, my date won't have to worry about anything and we'll be able to just relax and be ourselves. In other words, I've always felt that well-planned dates were a prerequisite to any success in dating.

This experience taught me that, no matter how well planned a date is, it's still easy for the party who isn't planning things to worry about eventualities. More importantly, I realized that although it's nice to have things go smoothly, it really isn't crucial. If both parties want to be there, they'll enjoy themselves. If one party is uninterested, it really doesn't matter how well planned it is.

I'm still going to plan my dates and I'm still going to make sure that my dates are aware of at least the relevant details ahead of time. That said, I'm going to worry about it a whole lot less.

Thanks, Becky.