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.