The First Date of the New Year
I wonder which guy will show up? On finding love in all the right places, and the problem with lying.
Want love in the new decade? Don’t we all, including those who are partnered, married, committed or otherwise joined at the hip. It is the one single thing that we all want. Single or otherwise, this article is about what not to do, and what to do about it, if you struggle with honesty about who you really are.
Dave (not his real name) strode up to the barstool where I was sitting and introduced himself. Burly, handsome and funny, he was a Catch. A major Catch. A mutual friend had set up a blind date.
For the next three hours Dave and I regaled each other with tales about being in the military (he was an ex-Marine) flying (he was a pilot, too) scuba diving (same) and skydiver ( yup).
Later that weekend we found ourselves in bed, but didn’t consummate the connection. Instead, we became very close friends. Later, roommates.
For several years I would introduce Dave to my friends with all the impressive monikers: Marine veteran, pilot, skydiver, scuba diver. I even hosted an Adventurer’s Party of all the impressive folks who did what I did: travel, adventure, do epic shit. Dave came too.
Then he got busted for a DUI, and went to jail. While we processed through this I got to know his parents. Very well, in fact.
One day in their living room, I asked Dad (his, not mine) if Dave had been a drinker while in the military.
Dad coughed, turned red, and looked sideways.
You can see what’s coming.
Not only had Dave not served, he wasn’t a pilot. Nor had he been a scuba diver. Nor had he ever jumped out of an airplane.
However, this is where we were supremely fortunate. By this time, Dave and I had become such good friends that when I later cornered him about this, he turned beet red.
“DUDE,” he stammered in that beautiful bass voice of his, “ DUDE. I thought you were blowing smoke up my ass that night. I was just returning the favor. That’s what my bro Philly and I used to do with chicks to get laid.”
Philly, in this case, had indeed done multiple tours, and was a badass black ops guy. Dave just got a surfboard and climbed onto his wake. Most women never woke up to the lies.
Here’s how that discovery went down:
I was out of town one fall weekend doing some local leaf-peeping. Dave had stumbled across my three log books while bumbling around the house. And my DD214,which is what military folks are given when they leave the service.
Logbooks for my 130 skydives, my 70 hours of flying, my 40 scuba dives. Proof I was ex-Army.
He was gobsmacked. I was the real deal. Well no shit, Sherlock.
That was twenty years ago. We still laugh about that. But here’s the piece: we weren’t dating. And by the time his flub got found out, we were close enough friends so that we could laugh. You can forgive, and guffaw at, a lot of stupid shit from your buds. But fundamental dishonesty when you are seeking to become deeply intimate, when trust is of the essence?
DUDE. Don’t. Do. That.
These days, Dave, whose black hair is now snow white, is a bona fide hero. He’s the top guy at his fire department. To say the least, the only smoke around Dave is the result of fires he and his crew extinguish. He’s got enough true hero stories that he hasn’t had to bullshit anyone to get laid for a long, long time. True dat.
Do you lie to get laid?
Will you fucking PLEASE.
As I wind down this decade with a big fat plate of sesame chicken (oh lord that’s good) and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (oh lord that’s bad), I was reading this article from The Good Men Project. The author explores something that I first heard from a close friend who was in the military with me some many years ago.
This was back in the Eighties. My friend, who is as remarkable as they come, was wondering if she deserved the success that she had earned.
EARNED. Bought and paid for with hard work, education, failures and immense dedication. Yet she wondered if she was a fake.
I have rarely met anyone more authentic.
Yet, we question. It is human to wonder if we are enough, or in our terrible insecurity become so narcissistic that we are unbearable. Both behaviors spring from the same deep, unsettled waters.
That was years before cell phones, the Internet or online dating. Long before you and I could put forth an online avatar and Be All You Can Be (an old Army recruiting slogan) without actually being anything other than a right fake.
And then, naturally, terrified to be outed as a fraud. For we are.
Those waters today are a veritable raging sea of doubts, driven by constant comparison to fake Influencers, airbrushed stars who don’t look much like their photos, and the carefully-curated bullshit lives of those who are trying to sell us snake oil. Those images, should we consume them daily, can convince us that we are not date-worthy, much less worthy of love. And so….we manufacture what we think someone might want, rather than be who we really are.
The Medium article discusses how to be yourself while on a date. The author prefaces this with the following:
We often convince ourselves that the other person won’t like the real us so we embellish, stretch and sometimes lie to make up for the parts of ourselves we think are inadequate.
What an understatement.
I have a date today at 9 am at a Starbucks in Golden. I can count the number of actual dates I’ve had in the last several years on one hand, with three of the fingers amputated.
While that isn’t particularly useful for typing, it does help to illustrate a point.
Here’s why: this research paper points out how some 81% of us lie on our online profiles about at least one key thing (height, age, weight, marital status, kids, income). That’s just who’s fessing up. Most of their subjects were 21–30, which fits the profile of folks who largely grew up online.
My experience, and it is far more than I care to admit, would argue that we older folks are in some ways even more blatantly dishonest. At the lower end of the age spectrum the priority is for both reproduction (nice genes for the kids) and the ability to provide (do you work for McDonalds or Marriott, or do you write for Medium in your parents’ basement)? Understandable.
Older men have a ridiculous habit of posting photos of themselves from before God had diapers, with fuzzy fros and bell bottoms. Or, of themselves in military uniforms back when they could still button the jacket. Or a partial photo of a bald pate with a few fuzzballs visible. I am not making this up. You can’t.
Or, and I have yet to fathom the attraction of this, photos of their faces obscured by a dead (bear, fish, deer, sausage, gerbil, who the fuck cares) or photos of nothing but cars, boats, guns and whatever else the guy feels is going to make us feel warm and fuzzy. Oh, hey, that AK-47 really does it for me, Billy Bob.
To be fair, we women do much of the same thing. Please. I’m not dating a sunset over the Gulf. I’m -hopefully- interested in YOU.
Older women -not without excellent cause — post airbrushed photos of themselves to obscure the wrinkles, understate their weight and lie about their age. And much worse. The pressure on us as women to still be sexy after sixty is enormous. Of course we’re insecure about our looks- as are we all. But that is no cause for blatant dishonesty.
While I agree with the article that for many of us, the notion that we’re not enough can lead to a certain amount of anxiety, I would prefer that kind of discomfort to the shocked look on a first date’s face when they see that our (rather loosely interpreted) version of athletic and toned is, well.
Honey, you’re still the Before picture.
Before you eviscerate me for being a fat-shamer, that’s not the point. The point is the dishonesty. There are plenty of people who find large simply luscious and that’s as is should be. This is about lying about it.
One of my two-and only- Big Dates in 2019 was at a Bruegger’s. The guy in question walked in and waved at me. He looked like a very heavy distant cousin of the guy on the profile. He clearly hadn’t set foot on a running track since he was twenty, yet he self-described as athletic and toned.
Being a serious jock, I prefer athletic and toned. Because I am, and because that’s what works for me. That’s a preference, and it’s also because it’s a fundamental life value. Someone who doesn’t share this will be deeply annoyed and inconvenienced by how much time I am spending working out, which is essential to what I do for a living. To my point: I tried hard to make things work with a man who despised exercise. Won’t do that again. This is a perfect example of why if you mislead a date about your value set, it will blow up on you later.
The only other date I had in 2019, I arrived early. Checked the Starbucks for a window escape route in the women’s bathroom, or a second exit. You learn. Boy do you learn.
Guy came in and sat down across from me, clearly in shock.
BUT YOU LOOK LIKE YOUR PICTURES, he said, aghast.
No shit, Sherlock. And you don’t. Next.
I’ve written extensively about how often men have shown up with the equivalent of an additional adult human being tucked inside their shirts after claiming to be gym rats.
Look. I AM a gym rat. All my photos are accurate. ALL of what I claim on line can be easily verified. Everything I say I am and have done is true. And that now is the exception, not the norm. I’ve got scars and wrinkles and my teeth come out at night. That is all on line, out there, and I make good fun of it. Because, what the hell else can I do? If I can’t laugh at what is, not only will I always and forever be ill at ease, but my partner will be, too. Hard to enjoy love on those terms. Been there.
Today’s fear-driven, fundamentally dishonest dating environment means that not only do men lie outright to get a date, they assume that I have lied about my profile as well. As though we’re going to nudge nudge, wink wink, well I lied, so did you, we’re good here, right?
NO. It is NOT all right. It is NEVER all right.
Because, and let’s be fair, those men have walked into the same Starbucks and been shocked to their shoelaces that the woman presented on the profile looks nothing like the one waving at him from the corner booth. Because she posted photos of her sister, the swimsuit model. They are just as exhausted as am I, as is anyone who has been at this long enough, with the dishonesty.
It is supremely sexy when you and I are comfortable in our skins. That comfort comes from being out life, living vividly, and being interested in others. The intense self-focus that hours upon hours on our devices tends to engender robs us of the experiences we could be building that a) make us interesting in our own right and b) they teach us to be other-focused.
To the advice offered in the article above, I would posit a few more points:
- Be interesting.
If your world revolves exclusively around you, two things can happen: first, you become narcissistic. Nobody else exists, you’re so self-focused that all you can talk about is me. And me. And by the way, let’s talk about me for a change.
Dear god what a bore.
Or you are so obsessed with your faults, both real and imagined, and your world is so obsessively online and through Instagram filters that you have absolutely no hold on reality. Everyone else is perfect and you’re a schlump.
Of course these are exaggerations. But I’ve met both. Bet you have, too.
However they make a point. Which leads me to….
2. Get a life. Get active, engaged, read, have a hobby. Look, I don’t care if you carve penises out of piano legs, GET A HOBBY. Far too many of us cocoon ourselves away from life. We spend more than eleven hours a day on our devices, kindly, and that research is already two years old. It’s even more now. That can make you awfully, awfully one-dimensional.
God, what a bore, part two.
People who get out and do have things to talk about. Their social skills are far better developed-at any age- and they can cope with much more of what life throws at them.
Kindly don’t whine to me about how hard it is. Of course it is. The vast majority of us are terrified of networking because of the potential for rejection. Given today’s snarky, demeaning, judgmental behavior, especially online, the world feels increasingly like a hateful place. If you’re not perfect, better not leave the house. I get that.
I’ve been training networking skills for almost forty years. I still suffer from social anxiety, and I HATE going to events for this reason. But I grabbed that fear by the short and curlies when I joined the Army and became a journalist. I learned to shove my insecurity into a box and ask people about their lives, work and backgrounds. I had to. I had a story to write, a deadline, and we had newspapers to publish.
There is nothing like an angry Master Sergeant who controls your destiny to push your recalcitrant ass out into the world and learn how to fucking talk to strangers.
From the article:
Ask open-ended questions you are genuinely curious about and listen to the answers. My favorite is “if you had a free day to do anything you desired, what would you choose to do and why?” This question moves people off their resumes into their passions.
In other words, be a journalist. Have the common courtesy to be curious about other people. The best conversationalists in the world spend most of their time asking and listening. This is a hugely effective strategy for shy folks, and boy can you learn a lot. The other person walks away feeling terrific because you put the spotlight on them for a change.
What a breath of fresh air.
Need to learn how to have a real conversation? Please see this, a perennially-perfect primer on how to converse with just about anyone.
3. Finally: Don’t lie. Don’t lie. And by the way, DON’T FUCKING LIE.
If you, like Dave, blow smoke up someone’s nether regions just to get laid, frankly, that’s behaving like a loser.
I didn’t say you were a loser. You’re behaving like one. You don’t need to.
Because being real, being genuine and having a sense of humor about yourself are all sexy as hell. You are enough just as you are. If someone can’t deal with that, they’re not the real deal for you. Next.
Let me say that again, in case you missed it the first time:
YOU ARE ENOUGH JUST AS YOU ARE.
To find love, make friends, be accepted, you and I do NOT need to be perfect, have a set of six pack abs, have found the cure for colon cancer by the age of 22, have a trust fund or any other stupid damned thing that our fearful minds generate.
It does indeed help to stop being so self-focused, so insecure about your value, and to put some time in to expand your options, activities and interests. Not only do you feel a lot better about you, all that acts as a magnet to true North. Or put another way, the happier you are in life, the more likely you are to draw someone to you that really is, just right.
You might well be able to find someone who is just as addicted to the screen as you are, but I have a hard time imagining hot sex and great conversations with someone whose screen is velcroed to their faces. Hard to kiss like that. But that’s just me.
Let’s wrap this with a success story In Real Life:
My Millennial buddy JC is madly in love. He and his partner travel in an RV while he works with his clients. Not long ago we were on a video conference. His love walked into the background.
His GF is a big girl. Snarks would attack her, body-shamers would have their day. But to JC she is the angel incarnate. He is nuts about her.
And and that’s the whole point, folks. Love is not limited to those with jutting hipbones and abs like Chris Hemsworth. It is available to all of us all the time any time. But not if you lie.
Each and every one of us is in some way acutely fearful that we are not enough. However, when you show up as you are and accept others just as they are, magic can happen. Nobody wants to open up the perfect package and discover a fresh dog turd inside. That’s what happens when people lie. (Okay okay, you CAN leave those packages for the porch-snatchers)
Got doubts? Get out. Get active. Get busy. Put the device down. It’s right amazing who you might run into out in the river of life.
Want love in your life? Don’t lie. Lying is for losers.
Love is for, well, all of us.
Love yourself enough to be who you are, in the fullness of your individuality. That is plenty enough. Love yourself enough to put yourself out there just as you are.
Now, I am off to a hot date. Stay tuned. (PS, update, we talked for three hours, great guy but not a match. Still, we both got out, had a lively conversation, and by any measure a terrific way to start the New Year: with excellent company, as opposed to swiping left and feeling left out.)
Happy New Year.