Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dating or Not in College Station

I think I’ve finally found the word to put my dating experience into the right context.


Yes, I am a prude, at least by today’s standards.  I looked up “prude” on dictionary.com and absolutely loved the old definition:

“French prude a prude (noun), prudish (adj.), short for prudefemme, Old French prodefeme worthy or respectable woman.”  (Bold added by me.)

We should also consider the modern definition of prude:

“prude (noun): a person who affects or shows an excessively modest, prim, or proper attitude, esp regarding sex”

I’ve been called prim before, and while I know it is not a compliment, I have a hard time arguing with it.  I like my world to be orderly and logical, but I don’t like feeling restricted.  When it comes to dating, my prudishness is hard to ignore, because I know it’s best for me if I can trust and respect someone before I shed my prudish exterior.

I don’t mean for this to sound too judgmental or too old-fartsy, but I do believe that in today’s dating scene, hooking up tends to precede courting or romance.  Courting!  How very quaint of me to use such a word!  But it seems like the right word to use: people are much more interested in getting it on than they are in getting to know each other.  For me, that’s a problem because it’s the wrong order of events.  I have to know someone pretty well before I can reveal that I’m not really a prude, at least not in a way that leads to dissatisfaction.  Matt found it endlessly amusing to remind me that I self-categorize as Not a Fun Girl.  I still do, because I think I take life a little too seriously to ever be considered a Fun Girl.  I’m also too much of a control freak to be carefree.

I have a theory about people who are dating primarily as a means to sex.  They fall into two categories: those who are open and straightforward about wanting sex as soon as possible, and those who hide beneath a cover of romance.  The former group is self-explanatory: they will tell you that they are interested in having sex with you right away.  I’m not sure if I’d take them up on their offer, but I do appreciate their honesty.  It’s refreshing to hear someone put their desires on the table up front.  I like that.  The latter group is more difficult because they are actually deceiving themselves and you.  For this group, their romantic feelings toward you are a way of soothing cognitive dissonance: they view sex without warm-fuzzy feelings as wrong, so they conjure up some fake warm-fuzzy feelings for you while trying to usher you into bed as soon as possible.  They may lack patience to get to know you outside of bed, they may lack the ability to ask you out on a real date (I love real dates), they may not even see you as a person.  You are an object, and the person they are really romancing is themselves.

Okay, to be fair, I came up with this archetype based on my experience with one person and a conversation with a wise friend.  I could be wrong.  Most people probably fall somewhere in between these two extremes.  My point is that I’m weary of people who lack some patience and self-restraint when it comes to dating.  A relationship must move at the pace that’s right for both people, and that pace is the slower of the two.

Now that I know I’m a prude, I’m trying to embrace it, to go with the flow rather than fighting my need for courtliness.  If it means I don’t go out on very many dates, that’s okay with me.  The truth is that I don’t have a lot of time for dating right now.  Between my work, my cooking, and my running, much of my time is already spoken for, and I’m not willing to sacrifice anything right now for romance.  Then there’s the concern about whether or not I’m ready to date.  Is it too soon after the end of my last romance?  Maybe.  I still love Matt and will likely harbor romantic feelings toward him for a long, long time.  Our friendship is deep and complex, built over the course of years and many conversations.  A new person can’t possibly compete with that, so I’m trying to put dating into a category separate from Matt.  I’m trying to be open to dating while acknowledging my limitations.

I think that’s all I can do.


Raquelita said...

Just out of curiosity, what do you consider a real date?

Rosiecat said...

Generally, I think of going out as a real date. But whether or not something is considered a "real date" is probably best defined by the people involved! I'm pretty sure my definition of this is skewed by having been in a long-distance relationship for so long, but what I'm trying to say here is that I'm inclined to say YES to dinner when I'm still figuring out how I feel about the other person. At the same time, I'm inclined to say NO to sex if it feels too rushed.

Rosiecat said...

I think I'm trying to distinguish between going out (spending time in public spaces) versus going to someone's home. Home is a much more intimate setting, and when someone asks you to come back to their place, the implications are pretty obvious, no?

Shannon said...

i'd say so (about "coming back to my place"), but I also wouldn't hesitate to say that you should go on dates, even if you're not ready, as I think that will help. i did not take this approach, and worked myself into a little whole, but would've benefited greatly had i just gotten out there. they won't all be winners, but it was helpful to start and figure out things that worked/didn't work

Kate said...

Yeah, this is tough. I have had some of the best relationships with people I had already gotten to know through friendships. I never really dated anyone I'd been CLOSE friends with already, but certainly people I knew in the context of a circle of friends. I'm most comfortable when I have a sense of who someone is.

Dating new people is a whole different ballgame, and I feel like my last relationship went bad partially because, had I known him better before we got intimate/serious, I might've had a better chance at seeing through some of his behavior.

But how do you start up with someone new, whom you don't really know in any other context, and take it slow enough to build trust and understanding? I don't know that I've ever succeeded at that.

The man I'm currently with has been a good friend for years (and we've casually dated in the past, just for a short while, but the timing wasn't right then -- it is now) -- we already know and trust each other very well.

Good luck to you, and don't be afraid to back off the gas if you think things might get going faster than you want. A really good catch will understand that.

Raquelita said...

I think spending time in public places is one potential way to distinguish things, but, as someone who enjoys cooking, one of my favorite dates with M. was the first time I made dinner for him and another was the first time we made dinner together.

Rosiecat said...

Oh my gosh, Raquelita, me too! To be honest, your question challenged me because I love cooking dates with friends and romantic partners. My first "date" with Matt was three days long (a weekend visit), and the first dinner we made together still makes my heart go pitter-patter. But I was already kinda in love with him by then...*he* made my heart go pitter-patter, and dinner sealed the deal.

You and M. were friends before you dated, right? I seem to recall that you were.

Rosiecat said...

Sorry for the delay in my responses, folks! Yesterday was very busy.

Shannon, you bring up a really good point. I think the question about being "ready to date" depends on what you want. In my case, I had a long dry spell before dating Matt, and I think I needed it. I needed the clarity to distinguish between actual versus potential awesomeness in a man and actual versus potential compatibility between me and the man in question. K (whom I dated before Matt) is a wonderful person, but he is not an awesome match for me. I saw potential in him, but I was bitterly disappointed when he failed to live up to what I saw as his potential. Matt, on the other hand, is a great match for me. We get along well, and even after our recent break-up, there is still a lot of love between us. So while I'm sad about our situation, I'm not bitter because it was so good while we were together.

It sounds like you've climbed out of your hole and are back in the game :-) I hope it's going well!

Kate, EXACTLY! You are so much more eloquent than I am. I do think there is something to be said about knowing a bit about someone's flaws before you start dating him. There are some things about Matt that would be deal-breakers for other women, such as his devotion to his work and his need for a lot of space (A LOT OF SPACE!), but I was so fond of him that I was willing to accept those limitations as part of the package. I am scared to navigate that territory with new partners! And that's assuming there is basic trust, respect, and some affection between us.

I'm so happy that you are enjoying a new romance. Have fun and good luck!

Rosiecat said...

Thanks for all the fun comments, friends! I wasn't sure how this post would be received, but now I'm really glad I shared it. It's not every day that you confess that you are a prude :-)

Raquelita said...

To answer your question, yes, M. and I were friends for a few years before we started dating. He joined my grad program during my second year and we were in the same TA office.