Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuition for Dating 101

If your date goes down the drain, give yourself a break. It happens. Life is a curve ball, an off-speed pitch, a fast ball low and inside. Even Ted Williams struck out more often than he hit a home run. It may feel lousy right now, but remind yourself, once again, it’s only one date. You’ll have tons more nights on which you can strut your stuff. Use the experience to learn something so it won’t happen again. An autopsy is a great idea. The date died — figure out why. Answering the following questions in your dating notebook can help you figure out what went wrong. Answer these questions as soon as you can after the date ends, when your impressions are still fresh. By keeping these notes, you can begin to look for patterns in your behavior.
Tomorrow, after a few hours have passed between tonight’s date and the rest of your life, I want you to reread your responses and see if they say anything to you. Don’t pass judgment; don’t look for hidden meaning. Simply read through and see what it says. If you haven’t already. now, give yourself a nonchemical treat (unless it’s chocolate), take a deep breath, prop your feet up, and chill out.
First, at the top of a sheet of notebook paper, write your date’s name, the date (day, month, year) and time of the date, and where you went. Also note when and where you first met. Then on a scale from 1 to 10 (0 = meltdown;
10 = divine), rate the date as a whole.
From there, reflect on the date and answer the following questions. Make sure you’re being really specific here (for example, nice smile when we met, good table manners, well-groomed).
  • What positive stuff happened? In what ways did the date go well?
  • What was icky poo poo? In what ways did the date stink?
  • What were your expectations? (Tip: See if you can make yourself aware of what disappointed you, which will instantly focus on what you expected.)
  • Were your expectations based on how someone acted before?
  • What patterns emerge that you have noticed on previous dates, in the other relationship? Is this déjà vu all over again? Now reflect on your current feelings.
  • How are you feeling right now?
  • What do you want to do? For example, do you want to try again, talk to a friend, join a monastery, reread the whole book, take a vacation from dating?
  • What can you do differently on your next date to offset this problem and change the pattern?
  • Did you feel that your date saw the real you, yes or no? If no, why not?
Answering these questions after every not-so-hot date and/or journaling about your experiences can help you learn from rather than focus on less than successful dates. But please avoid sending a “this is why you shouldn’t have treated me badly” letter to your date, which falls into the whining category I address earlier in this chapter. Every once in a while, in an effort to save face and salvage some remnant of dignity, you may be tempted to contact your date explaining why you deserve better or how the creep hurt your feelings. Resist this urge. You should never put anything into a letter or e-mail that you are not willing to have advertised on the front page of The New York Times. Even something like “have a nice life” can sound sarcastic. I know you may be hurting, but don’t write down your feelings anyplace, except for a diary that no one else will see.

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