Movies break the romatic experience into two distinct categories: committed relationships and first dates. The former is warm, fuzzy, and full of mutual acceptance of the other’s faults. The latter is awkward, full of static electricity and far too many minutes spent staring in the mirror without making any decisions on clothes.
But there’s another, murkier category: dating but not actually dating.
See, when you first meet someone, you put on your shiny, impressive exterior. It’s like going on a job interview, only instead of telling about your excellent customer service experience and the one time you sold massage appointments to women who spoke only one sentence of English each, you’re telling about your astrological sign and why this particular bar (whichever one you happen to be in at the time) is absolutely your favorite bar in town. There is a Standard Operating Procedure for these moments, standard topics of conversation, standard methods of avoiding embarrassment (No, I won’t tell you what they are. Figure it out. Hint: Being short helps). And if you’re actually in a relationship with someone, then presumably they love you no matter what, stare longingly into your eyes and cleverly stare only into your eyes because you haven’t plucked your eyebrows in seven or eight days.
But when you’re dating but not actually dating, there are no Standard Operating Procedures. How to appear quirky but not crazy? That is the ultimate question. After all, this guy could totally walk away without a blink, and then he would inevitably become the one person that you run into EVERYWHERE. The laundromat. The grocery store. Wal-Mart while buying toilet paper. A new bar while using the same lines on a new guy (Oops…). You want to avoid these situations, plus if this guy made it past the awkward first couple of hang outs, then he’s probably a keeper for a while.
Now comes the big decision. How much, exactly, about your gloriously imperfect personality do you share with this guy? And by “you,” of course I mean “me.” While the second person perspective is frowned upon in literature, I find that it works excellently well in blog posts about such things, so I will continue to use it.
He should know about your siblings, yes? And about your annual bet to see which cousin can finish all of the food on the Thanksgiving table? But will that give the wrong impression that you’re an overeater? Or if you don’t mention it, will he think you’re one of those weird women who only eat salads? If you say you’re not crazy about vegetables, will he then assume you’re a picky eater? Oh, but he should know about the no-noodles thing, right? Because at some point he might suggest Italian, and that would just be awkward to look at the menu and decline any and all pasta dishes. Does he like Italian? Sometimes you talk like an Italian. Meaning very fast and sometimes with lots of hand gestures. Rarely in a New Jersey accent, but often in a Midwestern one. Your family is from Minnesota; it’s just a natural gift. (Also Drop Dead Gorgeous is a cult classic, and you are not ashamed of it. Much.) If he heard that, would he respond well? Perhaps respond with a Southern drawl or a Jamaican outburt a la Cool Runnings? Damn, that boy gets major points.
And speaking of movies, how much do you reveal there? You used to own a copy of Cloverfield, a terrible and motion-sickness inducing movie of giant, alien proportions but which always gained you points with the straight male variety for at least having viewed said movie and not ducked under the seats with fear/nausea. But sadly, that copy has been lost in the moving abyss, and “used to own a copy of Cloverfield” is neither a pick-up line nor a stay-with-me line. The other movies in your cabinet are chick-flicks, the first and third High School Musicals (the second one was just awful), and the LOTR series; if he is overly excited about any of those three, there is a problem. It is ok for you and your younger sister to have unrequited crushes on Zac Efron. It is not ok for you and your potential relationship to have unrequited crushes on Zac Efron. (Actually, I can think of several scenarios where this would be ok depending on who “you” is. See? Second person comes in handy sometimes!)
When you tell him that you used to work at a gym, does that make you look like a cardio-obsessed workaholic? Clearly not, because of the muffin top. Oh god, you didn’t mention the muffin top, did you?! Stupid, stupid, stupid! And so far, this entire post has been focused on the things that you shouldn’t say. But there have to be things that are vital to tell. Like your charming way with words such as “myriad,” “inconceivable,” and “persona.” Impeccable taste in shoes. Natural, flowing blonde locks. Love– deep, passionate love– for one of the most losing teams in baseball. Sunburned inner arms from reading at the beach.
Oh yeah, those are the best things to share. Of course, none of them will come to mind when you need them, but have faith that they will be brought up eventually. Not until after you quote something (only knowing that quote and that quote only) and then he actually knows where you’re quoting from and asks you questions about it. Beware of that one; it’s not fun. But just remember that this period is the “test period.” If he can’t take the heat in your signature enchiladas– possibly the only complete meal you are capable of cooking– then he should get out of the kitchen! Happy dating but not dating!
And P.S. some but not all of these things are true because there is a good chance that a man who shall not be named could read this in the present or future, and it’s not fair for him to know ALL of my life just yet! Quirky, not crazy, remember?