I sit across the bar table from a friend one Sunday afternoon, surrounded by TV screens showing football games. “I don’t know how to date,” she tells me, exasperated. I shove a tortilla chip in my mouth, not surprised the conversation has turned to dating. I nod in agreement and offer, “If you think about it, lesbian dating and football are not all the different”. She stares at me silently, eyebrows raised. I catch the server’s eye and motion for another round, adding, “I don’t know much about either”. And we have a good laugh.
And so begins a 5-minute it’s-really-not-that-funny-but-we-crack-ourselves-up-anyway back and forth on what it would be like if football really was more like dating:
What if, when a player gets hurt instead of clapping as he leaves the field, everyone talked smack about how they never liked the other player anyway?
What if football was played with no written rules?
What if football was like dating and used the honor system rather than referees?
At that, we clank our beer bottles together in one cheers motion. Looking around the sea of jerseys and cheering fans, I wonder: would dating would be clearer if only we had snacks and a rulebook?
Later, sitting in the quiet of my apartment, I think about the purpose of dating and wonder: since there aren’t any clear rules in lesbian datingland, do we just make them up as we go? I do an Internet search for “dating” that, in a not so subtle metaphor-for-my-dating-life-twist, yields “no results found” (for anything other than dating websites).
I decide to define dating on my own terms and create this description:
dating: The process of spending time socially with another person of romantic interest with the intention of getting to know one another to determine if there is relationship compatibility
I re-read my definition and realize that what I’m really hoping for is that by shifting my focus away from finding the right girl to getting to know a girl, dating will be less discouraging and I won’t feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Or at least I’ll have a healthier purpose to start.
The following Saturday, I find myself wandering through the library in search of a novel to escape into. A misplaced nonfiction book catches my eye: Football for Dummies. I do a double take, look around sheepishly and an hour later the book sits on the floor of my apartment.
That night, as I get ready to go out on a date, I stand in front of the mirror and let out a long, heavy sigh. Who I am kidding? I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Suddenly I regret agreeing to go on this date and plop down on the sofa in a huff. I stare at Football for Dummies sitting haphazardly on the floor by my laptop and wonder: if we can read books and learn the rules about first downs and helmet to helmet hits, why can’t we learn how to date? In a way that isn’t so unfamiliar and hard? Even if we have to make up our own rules.
Feeling a second wind, I revisit my dating definition, open my laptop and begin a rulebook for my pre-date self.
In order to date differently in search of real compatibility, I commit to:
- Showing up as my true self – not trying to impress anyone
- Paying attention to who she really is
- Focusing on getting to know her (without sex)
- ONLY going out on a date if I like what I know and want to get to know more
- NEVER going out on a date when I’m avoiding something, feeling anxious, lonely, bored, or sad, or because of ex-drama
And so, as I head out on my first date with my new view of dating I realize that up to this point, I was overly focused on the other girl and finding someone who met my laundry list of expectations. I realize that I also went out on dates for the wrong reasons – often to avoid being alone. I pause for a moment in my doorway and stare longingly back into my cozy apartment and wonder if dating healthier is a balance of seeing what is, focusing on getting to know someone, and having the courage to walk way when compatibility isn’t there. As I pull my purse onto my shoulder, and turn to close the door, I eye the football book and realize I still have no idea what I’m doing. And I shrug my shoulders and decide I’m going to try anyway.
The next afternoon, as I’m buying snacks for a visit to footballworld, the clerk asks “Who is playing today?” I tell her I’m watching the Packer game and we chat for a moment about who they are playing. It suddenly occurs to me that she might think I know something about football and so I confess hastily, “And that would be the extent of my knowledge about football.” We exchange silent smiles as I pick up my bags. As I walk to my car, bags swinging, I grin in spite of myself and decide that football and dating are not all that different after all. I may not know very much about either, but I can be patient with myself in the awkward uncertainty while I learn. I envision dating in a more healthy way as an open door into a new life.
Two weeks later I watch the Packers win the superbowl. For what it’s worth, I understand about 60% of the game. If nothing else, I call that improvement.
Kim is an educator, freelance writer, and blogger whose writing explores dating as lesbians in the digital age. Drawing on 20 years of dating, she is writing a dating book that redefines dating through the lens of mindfulness and connection. Follow Kim on Twitter: @sdwriter girl, or visit her website: www.sdwritergirl.com