The Strange Rules of Dating

Trust

“It doesn’t make sense to anybody,” A girl in one of my Lit classes explained to me one day. “I may feel one thing one day and change my mind overnight. There aren’t any absolutes in dating. There are feelings and there are instincts. Your feelings want exactly what your instincts don’t want you to do.” I sat back in my seat and leaned my head against the wall. In this particular classroom one quarter of the seats in the classroom were flush with the wall so if you sat on that side of the room you could rest your head against the wall during class. Since it was a three hour class, I was always sure to get there early so that I had the luxury of resting my head against the smooth concrete when class seemed to lag a bit.

When I first saw her I remember thinking to myself that she wasn’t anything special. That’s a terrible way of looking at someone, but that’s how I look at almost everyone. Unless you wow me with your incredible comedic timing, zany banter or clever wit it is unlikely that I will think of you as anything worth remembering. It’s unfortunate I suppose both for me and those I encounter that this is the way my mind works, but as my generation is so fond of saying: it is what it is and I have to agree however much I might despise that saying. I never make eye contact when I speak to her. I hate making eye contact. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable and unbelievably nervous. When I make eye contact all I can think about is what that other person is thinking about me. What judgments are they making? What do they really think about me? These are the questions that mark my awkward glare and distract my mind from what I should be paying attention to.

The reason we found ourselves talking about the subject of dating was because we had, throughout the previous sixteen weeks of the semester, been completely unable to find anything else that we had in common. I didn’t read sci-fi books or fantasy novels, I didn’t play Minecraft or Magic. She didn’t write obsessively like every day came with a deadline for unassigned work to be completed and turned in. On the surface of things it seemed like we had nothing to talk about. Occasionally she’d talk about her kids, but I don’t have kids and I don’t really care about them because I don’t have them. On this particular day she was talking about how her eldest son was going on his first date and she asked me if I had any advice. I don’t know why she picked me. I was probably the person in the room with the least amount of actual dating experience. When I told her as much she immediately inquired as to why that was. When I went through the usual reasons that I give people: I don’t like going out, I’m usually very busy with either school or writing or running a business, I don’t live near any large populated areas and I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs her mouth hung open like I had just revealed to her that I was dying of Cancer. I imagine her reaction was the same as it would have been had I been terminally ill. She must have thought: “you poor thing.”

I couldn’t help but think about all the weird things that kept me from dating like a normal guy my age for the rest of the day. Sure I had problems approaching women, but that’s something that all guys with a conscience have to deal with. As I began to delve deeper and deeper into my reasons for either not dating at all or picking the women that I did choose to date I realized that my choices made about as much sense to me as my High School Algebra teacher. Indeed, I discovered during that afternoon of aimless mental wandering during class that I had very strange requirements and deal breakers for potential dates, but what I soon realized was that I was not alone. After this breakthrough I started listening in the hallways in between classes to the best dating stories you’ll ever hear: those of college students. Though most of these sagas began with some variation of: “I was so drunk that night I tried to drive someone else’s car home” they were nonetheless enlightening.

One girl explained how she didn’t want to ask out the guy by the keg because at 6’2” he simply wasn’t as tall as her last two boyfriends who averaged 6’4” between them. One guy didn’t like the color of a girl’s yoga pants that she wore to the party despite the fact she bent over right in front of him when he was playing beer pong. My favorite story however came from a female member of the LGBT movement who was gay “sometimes” and straight “most of the time,” but didn’t consider herself bi-sexual because she disagreed with that identification on principle. She had seen a really cute guy dancing by himself at a bar one night. She approached him and they went out for drinks the next day when he revealed that he was bi-sexual. She vowed never to see him again. This case is so filled with dualities that I cannot even begin to decipher them all and there certainly is not enough space here to expound upon them in a manner that would do justice to the complex matters being batted about. One thing was for certain though: she had the strangest rules of dating of anyone I had yet come across.

All of this made me think about my own rules for dating and they are numerous. I have a rule about names. If your name is the same as that of one of my family members I will not date you. It’s just too weird. If you look like one of my family members I likewise will not date you because that is creepier still. If you like country music and only country music I will not date you because I have no interest in spending every Friday night for the rest of my life at your farm. If you drive a car whose interior is messier than my bedroom I will not date you. There is such a thing as being structurally disorganized and that is what I am. Everything in my room is in a weird place, but it is there for reasons that even I probably do not fully understand. I will not date you if you do not like animals. I cannot live a life devoid of dogs or cats, so if you are allergic to them or don’t like them for some reason that is a dealbreaker.

Perhaps my strangest rule for dating is what I call hero worshipping. I’ve dated a couple of girls like this. Basically what happens is they decide way too early on in the relationship that you are the greatest thing in the world and that you can do no wrong. They’re not exactly clamoring to have your babies yet, but they’re close. What really annoys me about these women is that you simply cannot reject them. It does not matter what you say or do to them they are convinced that your heart is in a good place and that you only did it because you loved them despite your protestations to the contrary. Remember in Wayne’s World when Wayne’s ex-girlfriend Stacy buys him a gun rack for their non-existent anniversary? That’s how these women behave and don’t get me wrong, it’s not just women who act this way, in many respects men are even worse. You could burn their house down and they’d come running back. One would think that the one thing that we would want in life would be to be loved unequivocally, but that does not mean that we want to be loved blindly.

The problems that having strange rules of dating cause are mostly rooted around errors in communication. We’ll never be able to communicate all of our turn-ons and turn-offs for various reasons, but the rules that we have for dating in the first place are often even weirder than our turn-ons and turn-offs. Rules that we have that govern whether we will even date a person to begin with kill romance before it even has a chance to begin. This isn’t to say that I’m against having rules in dating, I’m not. I simply think that as long as there are rules in dating there are going to be misunderstandings and hurt feelings on both sides. There is also the high likelihood that one side or the other will simply not understand why the other person who seemed “perfect” rejected them outright without giving them a chance. Maybe if we looked at our own rules for dating we could understand where everyone else is coming from when they make their decisions about us, but such an approach seems far too rational to be given serious consideration, so by all means; as you were.

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