Saturday, March 14, 2015

You get a date! And you get a date! And you get a date!

Here's the awesome/challenging thing about writing a blog - you have to do the things you write about because you published it online for the world to see. And then you promoted it on all of your social media accounts. Being a blogger is a wonderful accountability tool.

Several weeks ago I mentioned in a "coming soon" note at the end of one of my posts that I was planning to apply for Date Lab this spring. What's that? You're not familiar with Date Lab? Date Lab is my favorite part of The Washington Post Magazine. I started reading it when I moved back to the DC area in 2006 and quickly turned my mother into another super fan. The basics are this: two people are matched up and go on a date paid for by the paper (and agree to the fact that WP staff are responsible for setting them up). They agree to take photos on the date and be interviewed following the date. Most of them don't end in a second date but it's always fun to read and see how people's expectations differ from reality. My favorites are the older couples (especially the couple in their 70s from a year or so ago); they have their priorities in order.

I've been joking about applying for Date Lab for years. I'm not much of a dater and I'm naturally introverted so things like small talk and bringing attention to myself are not my favorite activities. When you date, you have to do both. It's weird because I talk for a living (teacher, trainer, docent) but it's different in a dating situation. I know I'm making excuses for my lack of a significant dating history but it's my blog so I can. Anyway, I decided that this would be the year that I would apply for Date Lab. There is no guarantee that I will be matched in the near future; the database is pretty big and there have been people who are married by the time Date Lab gets around to them. Maybe that's the real power of Date Lab; you put yourself out there and love or whatever finds you without their assistance.

But let's focus on the task at hand: completing the Date Lab application. When deciding to do any type of online dating you have to be prepared for answering a lot of questions about yourself that are probably not the types of questions you've spent time contemplating. That's probably why dating is hard; none of sit around thinking about the perfect date or even these "would you rather" questions. There should be some sort of class that we're all required to take that forces us to go through the process of really deciding what it is we want in a significant other and how to talk about yourself without sounding like an idiot. I don't think taking this class would mean that we'd never date awful people but at least we'd be more aware of the fact that we're making a poor life choice.

I'm taking some time off later this month (it's March use it or loss it PTO time) and decided that I would spend a bit of my staycation working on my Date Lab application and creating a account. The Date Lab application does not have a save and return option so I thought it best that I get prepared for this exciting endeavor by going through the questions in advance and having an idea of I will respond. I may have printed out the online form. My inner planner must control everything. It's not a long application but I do have to find some photos of me that I like (up to three!) and answer some rather difficult/interesting questions. Let's examine some of my favorites from the application:
  • What is the first thing you do in the morning? Not a challenging question but is it too boring to say I make coffee, feed Pumpkin, check my email, and take a shower? On the weekends, I go to the gym before checking email. That's how crazy my morning gets. Should I have a more significant morning routine?
  • Pitch your dating history as a tv show. I have no idea how I'm going to answer this question. How does this sound: Smart, sarcastic, but incredibly nice young woman expects too much from the guys she dates so she never finds the right one. Instead, she dates men that could only be described as man-children and watches more of her friends get married while hanging out with her cat and traveling? I'm guessing that's a bit too bitter. What if I dress it up with a fun friend played by Tina Fey or Neil Patrick Harris? People seem to like them.
  • What ways are you very DC? I actually like this question a lot. Part of the challenge of dating for me is that I live here and I have an aversion to being too DC because that means something somewhat unpleasant to many people. I also don't want to be too NOVA because I'm not really from here and don't own it either. This is the problem with growing up with a transient suburban existence. I guess I would say that I'm very DC because I judge people based on whether or not they know how to navigate the Metro, their opinions on commuting, and whether they consider Arlington a suburb or a city. I also know that the best way to experience the monuments is at night. I'm very NOVA because I think it's problematic if a person doesn't know how to get to their house without using public transportation. You're an adult; you should know how to get home.
  • What makes you a good catch? I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggles to answer this question. It's not that I can't but you have to strike a balance between talking yourself up and not sounding too full of yourself. I have a lot of varied interests so I can keep up in conversations, I like nerdy things so that will appeal to a lot of people, and I think I'm amusing and fun to be around. That's a start.
  • Dream date - whom or what kind of person would you like to date? I'm assuming I  should avoid quoting the Bonnie Tyler song from Footloose so do you think asking for someone who is a combination of Andy Dwyer and Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec and might also play the drums, hasn't been arrested/convicted of a felony, has a job, and likes cats is too much to ask for? I like slightly goofy and nerdy guys with good hygiene and who can cook. Liking the same/similar music would also be a plus.
  • No-go - what would rule someone out? The easy ones would be a convicted felon, someone who clearly hates women (you know what I mean), someone without any manners, and someone who dislikes fun. Being employed would be nice. Should I include that I have an aversion to both Enya and Kid Rock, movies starring James Franco, men who wear incredibly skinny jeans and deep V-neck t-shirts who are not famous rock stars, and professional basketball? How much is too much?
There are about fifteen additional questions but they're fairly straightforward. I need to pick my theme song and the superpower I'd most like to have (I waiver between telepathy and teleportation), whether or not I'm religious (not particularly), eat meat (yes), or drink (yes please), and my Gilligan's Island scenario (three hour tour that gets stranded - who would you want to be with, what foods would you take, and what movies would you bring to watch). I also like the question about what differences I'd like my date to have from me; I had this conversation with several of my guy friends (always have guy friends to help give you perspective) and I feel pretty confident about my response to this question. I'd never want to date my twin in everything; musical tastes need to be similar enough and I don't see myself dating an incredibly conservative man. That would not start or end well.

Introspection is a good thing. When I was younger I didn't feel so great about myself; I was always comparing myself to my friends (skinnier, prettier, knows how to apply eyeliner) so it was just amazing when a guy paid attention to me and wanted to be around. I was less interested in thinking about whether or not we made sense or if he was what I wanted in a partner. Now, I'm less concerned with how I compare to others and more focused on how awesome I am. I think that's the key to dating; you have to be comfortable with who you are so you don't become someone else because of a guy. RuPaul said it best, “Honey, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?"

I guess the only thing left to do is play my theme song over and over again and get this application done.

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