Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Five Lessons to Learn from Online Dating

One saying I like to use is "Live and learn."  Sure, you are going to make mistakes along the way, and some will be horrific and some are the ones that no one really ever needs to know about.  Like the time that two people (who shall go unidentified) paid a woman who was probably a prostitute $5 to cough in her dog's face to see if the one person had imbibed too much.  Or the person who thought it would be a great idea to enter a bar-top dancing contest and carried the nickname of "Mustang Sally" for the remainder of her college days.  But if you can take a lesson away from the living, even a negative situation can yield a positive element.

As the online dating series draws to a close ( I know, boooo), I've lived and learned a few things and I'd like to share a few with you.

1.  People are better (and worse) than you think they are.  The lesson here is to not judge a book by its cover,  but don't jump into buying a book without at least first reading the back.  A wonderful, beautiful-living and acting woman I know who serves a multitude of people is sleeved up with tattoos.  Conversely, a person I vaguely know beyond his custom shirts and designer suits openly mocked a disabled person.  People are people-y, which just means that they are fallible and flawed but can also have incredibly wonderful moments.  Of course, if a person is consistently worse than you think he or she is, then it's time to have some healthy relationship boundaries.  However, if a person is consistently better than you expect, then you either need to make that your best friend or put a ring on it, depending upon the situation is.  ANNNNDDDDD then keep giving back like this person gives to you or even better.

2.  Don't judge people by their selfies.  Looking at the phone, not the camera.  Putting a finger in the shot.  Weird angles that are not complimentary.  If a pic is terrible, the photographer just takes terrible selfies.  Keep in mind that people over 40ish did not spend their formative years plastering every moment of life on social media.  We had these things called disc cameras; after taking the pic, you had to hoof it up to Eckerd's or the drive-thru FotoMat (neither of which exist anymore)  and drop the disc off, go home, wait 4-7 days, and then and only then could you pick up your pics and see how they turned out.  So it's not in a Gen Xers nature to be all about taking pictures of themselves, and thus may not have perfected the selfie pic.   On the flip side, if it's too great, there are likely 50+ pics that did not make the cut.  Or more.  (I blame this on media and magazines and the fashion industry.)  But don't only publish perfect pictures, because that perpetuates the idea that there is only one strict standard of beauty and her name is Barbie.  Be unperfect in a selfie and hashtag it #BeRealFriday or something like that.

So, when you are swiping left and right on dating sites, if a person just looks sketch (or is shirtless or is in front of a sports car or took a bathroom selfie), that may be a red flag.  But if the picture is just poorly taken, give 'em a chance.

3.  Accept that people are different than you are.  In my family, it would be weird to not celebrate birthdays all together at a birthday dinner.  In fact, Happy Birthday to my amazing sister Gigi, aka Sheila Saffold!  But there are families that don't celebrate birthdays.  We are also huggers, and there are families that are not huggers.  Our family is vastly different in some respects, but we love each other and accept viva la difference because we feel like if you don't have family, you don't have much.  So if you meet a great person that you would like to get to know better and his or her life does not embrace the same emotions set that yours does, don't let that scare you off or decide that this is not a thing.  Accept that a person who has had a completely different upbringing and life could have a different outlook on life and maybe not use the same kind of Christmas lights  you have always used.

4.  Trust your head, not your heart.  I am here to say that your heart will lead you astray.  Sure, if you like googly butterfly feelings and writing your first name with his last, have fun.  But if you can wade past all those doodled hearts with his name in them, you may see that oh, he is unemployed and has no desire to get a job but will happily move in with you.

NEGATORY.  Houston, we have a problem.  Absolutely not.  And it will not matter how attractive he or she is when you get left with rejection and heartbreak that you inadvertently created by ignoring red flags.  I know, that sounds harsh, but did you really think that for example, dating a tennis pro/bass player/supermodel/sanitation engineer 20 years your senior (not me, this was a friend of a friend) was going to lead to a long term, monogamous relationship?

Use your head and don't make rash decisions with the idea that it's all so romantic, because when your spouse forgot to get toilet paper on the way home and you now have to fish around for the Kleenex box, those romantic feelings will not be present and accounted for.  Trust me on this.

5.  Have some interests and hobbies.  One of the most awk things about a dating website is the part where you write about yourself and what type of hobbies you have.  If you portrayed your real life and wrote, "I like to come home after work, take a nap and then eat last night's microwaved doggie bag over the sink before putting in a load of laundry because I have no clean clothes" in this section, you may have cause to reconsider your lack of outside interests.  You will have to consciously make an effort to develop interests and hobbies, and the perks of that is you may actually meet someone interesting who you would like to get to know better.  For example, a croquet club meets down the road from my house and I would like to check that out.  So I am going to go Sunday and make myself acquainted with croquet.  What can you do?  Start looking in your area for bulletin boards that list events and activities, then go to something.  Take a friend so you can either make fun of it or have a great time together.  One of the funniest friend stories I have with my friend Melissa is when we went to the Serbian festival near her house, because I have a certain weak spot for Eastern European accents.  I am here to say that although it was advertised to the public, our reception was chilly at best unless we were buying something.  However, that was the funniest day and we still talk about it every now and then.

So should you get on a dating website?  I know of at least two people that are trying it thanks to the Flying Pants.  Just be smart, hold on tight to your values and standards, and you'll do great!  And if you make a mistake along the way, chalk it up to experience and learn from it, i.e., don't do it again.

Get out there and date!  I've got your back.