Pro Tip #2: Profile Pics

Seriously, do yourself a favor when you create an online dating profile and really understand the difference between a good set of profile pictures and a bad set.

Women: men are visually motivated, I know this is tough to hear but before he reads ANYTHING on your profile (even a single word) he is going to scroll through all your pictures first.

Men: you are at a disadvantage because women tend to take more and better pictures, it is less socially acceptable (just my observation) at events or activities for a man to ask people to take photos of them. I’ve seen men do this and often they seem embarrassed to ask while women openly ask any friendly face to take a picture.

Here is the advice I have after reading a ton of websites and books on the matter. You’ll find this advice replicated lots of other places; I’m not claiming this as original… I have just collected it in one place for your enjoyment.

Men and Women:

  • Don’t have pictures with you and a lot of booze and never have more than one
  • Don’t have every single photo of you a selfie
  • Don’t have sunglasses on in every photo
  • Don’t use pictures from so far away no one can recognize you. Some thing with using filters or photo editing.
  • You MUST include at least one full length shot.
  • Do have 5 pictures; 1 face shot, 1 full body shot, 2 of you doing something you love (1 of which with a group of people), 1 flirty one. This is the best number. NO MORE. Definitely no less.
  • Photos must be RECENT. I’m taking 6 months and less.
  • No pictures of you in any bathroom. This includes those mirror selfies.
  • No flipping off the camera. I don’t care how funny or irreverent you’re being.
  • Ideally, have someone else take them for you. Friends are ideal, because they know your best features… but if you’re too embarrassed, just go on Thumbtack or Craigslist and tell them you need pictures for a portfolio and you just need someone with a good eye to help out.

Men:

  • For the love of gawd, no bathroom mirror abs/arms flexing. NO. Find a reason to “go swimming” at the beach and have someone take a picture of you there. Bathroom mirror shots are terrible and frankly cliche. You want to STAND OUT, not just have another picture like every other dude. I know you think you look really good in that shot, but take the beach picture and the bathroom photo to a female friend you trust and ask her which you should use. You’re welcome.
  • If you wear a hat in every picture, you’re not fooling anyone we know you are bald.
  • Do not take a selfie from the chin up. EVER. No matter how good looking you are, no one wants an ‘up nostril’ shot. Take your phone in your hand, put your arm out at full distance away from you where you can still see the screen level with your eyes. Ok now go up about 6 inches, slightly bring the shoulder holding the phone to the side of your body so you are “opening up” your arm a little. Stick your chin out slightly, and snap. PRACTICE.
  • Don’t take a selfie lying in bed. I know it seems dreamy, but it is not flattering to your face 90% of the time.
  • Don’t post pictures of just rolls of money. Classless and we ain’t buying it, we know that is a 20 around a bunch of 1s
  • Don’t post that one picture you had from the time you had a beard/mustache if you don’t look that way RIGHT NOW.
  • Women generally want to see you doing things they would want to do with you; boating, biking, dancing, somewhere you are dressed up nice. You maybe REALLY into football, dirt bikes and horses but realize that if all your pictures are like that you will attract someone into doing those things.  This maybe exactly what you want, but if all your pictures of are male dominated past times you may be narrowing the scope of potential women who would contact you. Use this wisely as a filter mechanism (if you really need a cowgirl, by all means all your pictures should be of you dress as a cowboy), or change up the types of pictures you share to increase your scope.

Women:

  • For the love of gawd do a background check. Is your dirty messy room in the background? Did you take a picture wearing two different socks? Are there children running around half naked in the background? This is the biggest mistake I see women make.
  • Flirt directly toward the camera. Take lots and lots of pictures and discard losers.
  • Be aware of the ratio of skin/face you are showing. If your pictures are all leg or boob shots, it isn’t working in your favor like you may think it is
  • Pictures with your pets / kids are not profile material. You should keep those for the “getting to know you” picture exchanges after you have had a few chats.
  • Picture of you in the car, you know what I mean- those selfies while driving? Cliche and are not flattering- the exception is if you own some really specific car that is part of your personality. Mustang convertible, Jeep, etc.
  • I know I said this before, but this goes double for women- you MUST have a full length body shot. Men are visual creatures. I know so many men I’ve heard talk about this – if there is not a body picture they will not bother to talk to a girl or return her messages. Harsh, but I’m glad I learned this. Do you have a friend who always takes great Facebook pictures? Or someone with a teenage girl in their family? Flatter them, tell them they have a great eye for posture and poses and that you would like to have them help you take a good picture.
  • You want some ideas of good pictures or poses? Just make sure you follow the rule of 5 above and take pictures of you doing stuff you love. Ideas:
    • In a yoga pose
    • Hiking outdoors or by a waterfall; overcast rainy days actually make more flattering pictures for your skin and hair so PDX has perfect the perfect combinations of these
    • Painting or crafting (if that is your thing)
    • Standing next to your bike
    • Cooking (only if you’re really into cooking or being a foodie)
    • Climbing or repelling
    • Kayaking
    • At an art show or museum

 

Examples of BAD profile pictures:

This just made me laugh. No other profile photos. What you’re saying here is you believe women only care about money. So imagine the kind of women you will attract if that is what you’re sending out there on your profile.

cashandmerc

Ok. We get it. You’re a Cowboy… but I can’t see a dang thing about your face with that hat on.

cowboy

 

There is so much happening in this picture that is awful. A mirror selfie, a bad hat, the sax, the bad shorts and the tag line “Can I be loyal to you?” This is a case of someone trying to put everything about themselves in a picture- trying to hard.

saxman

We can see you’re at the Cheesecake Factory. Come on, seriously?

cheesecakefactory

And the ladies…

I swear these are real; I grabbed these in about 5 minutes from OkCupid

Flipping off, disturbing chicken head so we can’t see your face, more body skin than face. You’re going to get pretty much one kind of guy with this photo.

chickenhead

 

In a dressing room, the tag attached, selfie angle down the shirt. Ugh. Terrible. I am 100% sure there are better pictures of you.

inthedressingroom

This was literally the only profile picture. Can’t see your face, your eyes, no idea anything about you as a person from this.

cantseemenow

10 Ways to Get Over a Breakup – Getting Closure Part II

Alright, I talked a little bit in my last post about the 10 Truths about Breakups that are going to be critical for you to know as you try to get closure for yourself. Today’s post is about the 10 absolutely essential actions you need to take to move forward. You may notice how many of the Truths you learned in Part I play a huge part in these steps.

As with all things, I love to research and I’ve shared some additional resources and inspirations on these thoughts in the links before.

  1. No Contact is best – and I mean ALL no contact. You block his phone, no texts, block his Facebook, block his emails and avoid hanging out with friends you know spend time with him. (With FEW exceptions, mutual friends can just become this “potential way of information flow” either you hope they will tell you about them, or they will mention how AMAZING you look/are doing, or even WORSE that someday this mutual friend will tell you how much they regret the breakup and want you back). Learn how to block his instragram at your network level so you can’t even search for his account that you’re totally not following. As much as you can, you need to amputate. You can’t move on if you always feel like there is a door he can walk through or a window you can watch him from. No contact also means removing triggers that remind you of the past (delete or store photos of him where you can’t easily see them… that means OFF your phone and social media. Mementos should be tossed or stored in a box in the back of a corner of the attic you never go in…hopefully guarded by spiders or something) I PROMISE you this is the best way to start to get closure. NOT by contacting him. Remember truth #1? You’re not going to get closure from HIM you will get it from YOU.
  2. Do NOT use the relationship as an Ugly Broken Mirror (Why You Can’t Get Over Him – Amy Young)
  3. Fake it Before you Make it – right now the LAST thing you want to do is party, go dancing, join a club, volunteer or generally be around anyone or anything that is remotely happy. You feel like you’d be “bad company” or you just “not in the mood” but right now is when you need to do those things the MOST. View it as taking medication; yes it tastes disgusting at first and you HATE that cough syrup breath but it WILL make you feel better in the long run.
  4. Make Your Own Closure. This means so many things I’ve mentioned above and will mention below. Making your own closure means cutting off contact, making yourself reframe your thoughts when they wander to your ex or your relationship, and creating a new life for yourself in which you are busy. See truth #2 above; you can make yourself feel better, not him/her. You have control over your emotional state and YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF CLOSURE regardless of the other person’s actions. This starts with self care; eat right (don’t binge eat or drink), take care of hygiene and chores, take therapy, engage in hobbies and activities you like even if you don’t feel like it at the time.
  5. Identify when you’re trying to get control by thinking about the whys and whatifs and label it as not helpful and think about something else (How to Let Go When He Doesn’t Like or Love You Back – Amy Young)
  6. A breakup is like withdrawing from a drug you’re addicted to. Take your recovery plan from recommendations for addicts. Lookup “how to get over a breakup” and “how to stay sober” and you will be shocked at the similarities. Exercise, eat right, avoid triggers, avoid friends that may trigger you, practice forgiveness, don’t substitute one addiction for another (avoid drinking, drugs), do new things even if you don’t feel like it (see #3).
  7. Remember all the ways he was not so great. Particularly when you start thinking about the past (like in #5 of the commandments) label it and think about at least one thing that you didn’t like about him. Make a list, write it down and ADD to it. You’ll be surprised how long that list gets. It DOES help
  8. Talk it over and over until you are bored. Talk to an empty chair, text your friends, go online to chat rooms, write letters you will never send. Eventually you’ll have said there is all to say. You’ll feel a little emotionally hallowed out, but that feeling is making room for good things.
  9. Practice gratitude. Once a day write down or post about something you are grateful for. It can be anything, and it may not feel sincere at first but it does help. Use the “only me” feature on Facebook and post one every day.
  10. What did you learn? This sounds strange but you will feel better and be able to move if you can answer this. This is NOT to say you did anything wrong. You may need to say “what I learned is that I can love someone very much but that doesn’t mean they feel that way about me”. You could have learned that it is possible to have a complete lack of control or input into the situation that hurts so badly. Or, owning your part maybe simply “I gave too many fucks too soon.” Once you can say “this is what I learned from that” you will be that much closer to moving on.

WARNING – BEWARE OF THE QUICK FIX. READ MY PART I POST

 

Other resources:

Closer to Closure 10 Steps for Moving on After Getting Dumped

How to Get Over Being Dumped

 

 

10 Truths about Breakups – Getting Closure Part I

I know this blog is mostly about dating, but with dating inevitably comes heartache. The dumping, the ghosting, the breakups- it is all painful and difficult to work through. At the time it can feel impossible to move forward, and you maybe physically experiencing symptoms of shock. You question everything about the relationship, about yourself, you want closure and most of all you want THIS FEELING to stop so you can move on.

This is a two part series, so watch for Getting Closure Part II in just a few days which will give you actual advice on what to do every day to get on with your life and over a breakup.

Now, with all things, I’m research oriented. I want to share some videos and articles that might help you process this, I know they helped me.

Here are 10 really tough truths you need to know:

  1. You will not get closure from him/her. You may have had no explanation from the breakup. You may have done the breaking up. You may have had days or months of discussions so you know in frustrating detail why it ended. In any case, you may still say “But I don’t have closure.” or “I still need closure.” as a reason you still contact the ex. Here is the tough reality; you will never get closure from your ex. Ever. That is a movie plot point because it is convenient for Hollywood but sweetie let me tell you, it doesn’t work. Nothing the other person will ever say will make you feel whole again, or make it feel like what pain you went through was justified. I guarantee you if you contact them hoping it will make you feel better you will feel 100% worse after you talk to them. You’ll get nonsense answers like “It is me and not you” or “You were perfect, it was just the wrong timing” at BEST and just make you feel even more confused and unable to heal. At WORST they will be really nasty and hurt your self esteem, or manipulate you to use your vulnerability.
  2. You are responsible for how you feel. (5 Ways to Get Closure After a Breakup – Mark Rosenfield) don’t let the thought that if the other person only said something or did something that you could get closure, feel better, understand better, etc. This is closely related to #1.
  3. It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life (Star Trek – Captain Picard)
  4. If he/she left you, then they were not right for you anyway. The right person for you will be crazy about you. I know you don’t believe that now, but keep saying it to yourself and you will.
  5. It is ok to not be “there yet” – friends will give you advice and opinions all the time about what you should do, how they feel about it, how you feel about it etc. It is a 100% ok to say “you know I’m not there yet”. You can say “I know one day I will not want him/her back because of this, but I’m not there yet.” You can say “You know one day I might be angry at him/her, but I’m not there yet. I’m just sad.” Recognizing where you are and not trying to force it maybe the best way to heal.
  6. Time Machine Trap -A lot of how we make ourselves miserable after a breakup is either thinking about a past that will never be again, or thinking about a future that will probably never be. Spend time in the present. Think of activities that require you to be wholly present in the moment (this is part of why exercise works well and is so often recommended) if that is dancing, playing a really mind consuming game, taking up a new book or engrossing TV series, learning a new hobby or taking up an old one, learning something new. All of these things will keep you present.
  7. Time deal heal, but only if you’re putting the effort into your time to get over it. Don’t just distract or numb yourself. Don’t try to bury this so deeply because you want to avoid emotions that they just come up and bite you again later. Be busy but stay with the thoughts and emotions until you work through them (Does Time Really Heal All? – Amy Young)
  8. You don’t have to understand what happened to move on. We all have a thousand questions we think we need answered before we can process it or move on. We get stuck on those questions, sometimes we even have imaginary conversations with our ex or worse try to reach out to them “for closure” to get answers. You should work with the fact you will probably never make sense of this, it will never be understandable or put those questions to rest. Live with not knowing the answers instead of tormenting yourself with the thought that you would just FEEL BETTER if you got answers. (see commandment 4 below)
  9. If they don’t want you, you really don’t want them (He ended things but you’re still not over it – Amy Young)
  10. You cannot railroad yourself through the stages of grief or the stages of a breakup. You’ll jump around these stages at random times, and that is ok. Don’t make making progress harder by trying to criticize yourself for where you are “in the process”.

Here are the 10 commandments to follow to help you move on:

  1. No Contact is best – and I mean ALL no contact. You block his phone, no texts, block his Facebook, block his emails and avoid hanging out with friends you know spend time with him. (With FEW exceptions, mutual friends can just become this “potential way of information flow” either you hope they will tell you about them, or they will mention how AMAZING you look/are doing, or even WORSE that someday this mutual friend will tell you how much they regret the breakup and want you back). Learn how to block his instragram at your network level so you can’t even search for his account that you’re totally not following. As much as you can, you need to amputate. You can’t move on if you always feel like there is a door he can walk through or a window you can watch him from. No contact also means removing triggers that remind you of the past (delete or store photos of him where you can’t easily see them… that means OFF your phone and social media. Mementos should be tossed or stored in a box in the back of a corner of the attic you never go in…hopefully guarded by spiders or something) I PROMISE you this is the best way to start to get closure. NOT by contacting him. Remember truth #1? You’re not going to get closure from HIM you will get it from YOU.
  2. Do NOT use the relationship as an Ugly Broken Mirror (Why You Can’t Get Over Him – Amy Young)
  3. Fake it Before you Make it – right now the LAST thing you want to do is party, go dancing, join a club, volunteer or generally be around anyone or anything that is remotely happy. You feel like you’d be “bad company” or you just “not in the mood” but right now is when you need to do those things the MOST. View it as taking medication; yes it tastes disgusting at first and you HATE that cough syrup breath but it WILL make you feel better in the long run.
  4. Make Your Own Closure. This means so many things I’ve mentioned above and will mention in Part II. Making your own closure means cutting off contact, making yourself reframe your thoughts when they wander to your ex or your relationship, and creating a new life for yourself in which you are busy. See truth #2 above; you can make yourself feel better, not him/her. You have control over your emotional state and YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF CLOSURE regardless of the other person’s actions. This starts with self care; eat right (don’t binge eat or drink), take care of hygiene and chores, take therapy, engage in hobbies and activities you like even if you don’t feel like it at the time.
  5. Identify when you’re trying to get control by thinking about the whys and whatifs and label it as not helpful and think about something else (How to Let Go When He Doesn’t Like or Love You Back – Amy Young)
  6. A breakup is like withdrawing from a drug you’re addicted to. Take your recovery plan from recommendations for addicts. Lookup “how to get over a breakup” and “how to stay sober” and you will be shocked at the similarities. Exercise, eat right, avoid triggers, avoid friends that may trigger you, practice forgiveness, don’t substitute one addiction for another (avoid drinking, drugs), do new things even if you don’t feel like it (see #3).
  7. Remember all the ways he was not so great. Particularly when you start thinking about the past (like in #5 of the commandments) label it and think about at least one thing that you didn’t like about him. Make a list, write it down and ADD to it. You’ll be surprised how long that list gets. It DOES help
  8. Talk it over and over until you are bored. Talk to an empty chair, text your friends, go online to chat rooms, write letters you will never send. Eventually you’ll have said there is all to say. You’ll feel a little emotionally hallowed out, but that feeling is making room for good things.
  9. Practice gratitude. Once a day write down or post about something you are grateful for. It can be anything, and it may not feel sincere at first but it does help. Use the “only me” feature on Facebook and post one every day.
  10. What did you learn? This sounds strange but you will feel better and be able to move if you can answer this. This is NOT to say you did anything wrong. You may need to say “what I learned is that I can love someone very much but that doesn’t mean they feel that way about me”. You could have learned that it is possible to have a complete lack of control or input into the situation that hurts so badly. Or, owning your part maybe simply “I gave too many fucks too soon.” Once you can say “this is what I learned from that” you will be that much closer to moving on.

WARNING – BEWARE OF THE QUICK FIX

It is going to be really tempting to do something DRASTIC so you can get closure immediately. Let’s face it, feeling this way sucks and we all want it over with as soon as we can. But drastically changing your style/look/hair, moving, or jumping right into another relationship is all a BAD IDEA right now.

First, you’re going to look crazy to your friends. You must remember when your friend did something similar after a breakup…right? Remember what you thought when Tim got a mohawk after Lisa dumped him? Or when Jerry got that piercing?

Secondly, it will only distract you for a little while and then all the repressed shit will come back up. Like a toilet backing up, all that shit will come back at you and in a unexpected anyway that involves shit spilling out all over your shoes. It is bad, trust me. You’re just trying to find a shortcut to truth #7 – but you have to put the TIME IN to getting closure from yourself.

Other resources:

So You’ve Been Dumped – 12 Stages of Breakup

So You’ve Been Dumped – a website full of resources

Pro Tip #1 Ghosting

The term “ghosting” is when you disappear or cut off communication in order to break it off with someone. Most people do it to avoid confrontation. I am sad to say that Portland being a little infamous for passive aggression is a hotbed of ghosting. Men do it, women do it.

But you shouldn’t.

Ghosting can leave you feeling unsure if the other person is not interested or is just busy…  Even if the other person and you had exchanged dozens of texts in a day, and the silence should be telling. 

Now it clearly sucks to be the one being ghosted, but what about the ghost? It sucks to be the ghost too. They are getting periodic texts (“hey haven’t heard from you in a while I hope things are ok”) from someone they’d rather ignore, and maybe even a phone call. 

The ghost might think they are getting a clean getaway but Portland is oddly small for a big city. You never know when you might be dating someone special and when they start to praise you to thier friends one of them knows your ghosting technique. Suddenly YOU are ghosted and you thought it was going so well!

So ghosting is bad for everyone. So how do you avoid bad karma and awkwardness? 

Here is the phrasing I like best.

“Ghosting isn’t cool- I hate when people do it to me. Straight up; I had fun [talking, texting, or on our date] but I don’t think we’re compatible so I am not interested in anything romantic. Thank you for the nice conversation\time.”

Got that? Ok copy it into your phone’s notes and keep it handy, if you need to text it. You will feel better too, and the other person gets to move on and clearly understand what is happening. Note: even if the date or conversation was AWFUL and you feel like the other person should know why you are breaking it off, I would still say the above. This isn’t about taking out your  disappointment in the other person out on them, it is about behaving in a way that YOU are happy with YOURSELF when you walk away. 

What if they want an explanation?

 If it was a first date, or you only talked or texted on a phone you don’t owe any response to questions or further communication. Obviously if yoy’ve been living together for a year or some serious stuff, you need to at least respond to practical things like exchanging stuff or who gets to keep the concert tickets for next month. 

Generally speaking, if you are early on and have dated less than 5 times, the above is all you need to say. They may ask you questions but if you don’t respond, it is fine. You told them how you feel- which is more than a lot of people.

If you really feel an urge to respond, you could say:

  • I just don’t feel the kind of connection I am looking for
  • I am just not interested romantically, and I don’t want to lead you on

Note that both of the above are gentle because you are not saying there is something wrong with the other person, or that you didn’t have some kind of connection- just that you don’t have the romantic feelings for them.

When am I obligated to tell him/her it is over? Is ghosting ever acceptable?

If you are on a dating website with message ability, if you decided you are not interested and you have exchange more than 5 messages… let the other person know.

If you have made ANY plans… let the other person know

If you have met in person, even if it was before your actual first date… let the other person know

If you have been on ANY dates or shared a kiss… let the other person know

Can I just text them?

It is up to you. 

Honestly, if the choice is between being ghosted and a text I will take the text any day. 

I feel obligated to call or do it in person if I have been exclusively with them at all. If we stopped seeing other people to focus on each other, I feel personally obligated to talk it out. 

However- if the idea of doing it in person or by phone is so horrible that it is why you are thinking of ghosting…? By all means just drop a text.

Look for my next pro tip on selfies and profile pictures. 

Speed dating

I do not recommend speed dating as the first thing you do when trying to get back into the dating scene. That is like jumping in the deep end when you are not sure if you remember to swim. Out of survival, all your skills will be summoned at once – but you are probably going to swallow some water. Pee water. 

I recommend meetups and online dating first. That is a post for another time.

If you do want to try speed dating, it makes for the BEST stories and can be fun if you have low expectations and find people watching fun.

Just googling “speed dating Portland” will reveal Event Brite tickets (tickets usually cover the cost of a complimentary drink and seem to be mostly a trick into getting people to show up. You are less likely to flake on a speed dating event if you paid $8) and companies dedicated to the events.

They almost all have the same basic formula. You get a card with the names of the people you are going to meet. Girls sit in designated seats and the men approach them and you talk for a designated time period- usually 5 minutes- until a bell rings and the next person rotates.

At the end everyone marks their cards with who they would like to see again. If you both picked each other, the coordinators email you contact information.

Pros:

Rapidly figure out if you have conversation chemistry, even with someone who you might not meet otherwise (maybe he is not going to those board game enthusiasts meetups you signed up for). 

Everyone is clearly nervous- you are in good company.

Face to face interaction but no pressure to accept or reject someone face to face

Cons: Almost everything. 

People you talk to are totally random except MAYBE for an age range

It feels like having 10-20 rapid pace job interviews. You quickly come up with an elevator speech for yourself and have a stock of questions ready. LINK

Trying to make notes on your card is awkward. You hope he doesn’t seem them, or the guy you are talking to NOW doesn’t see what you wrote about the guy before him

You don’t get the chemistry of being asked out. Even when you match there is the lull as you wonder if you should email him, or wait for him to email you? The heat of the moment is gone and often this fizzles out

My first speed dating experience was harrowing.

There was the accountant who blurted out “you must make a lot of money” when I answered his question about what I do. (What do you respond to that?)

Then the guy who literally put his hand in my face after my second sentence and said “nope” and walked off, much to the shock of everyone there. The guy was balding, with a ponytail, a huge beer belly and showed up in a Deadpool and jeans that looked like they hadn’t been washed in a month. WTF, I am getting rejected by THIS?

So at this point I am somewhat nervous, and it is getting later. The bar was split level, with speed dating taking place on the second floor. I realized as I was talking to bachelor #8 that I had been placed directly ABOVE the downstairs bathroom… and someone JUST FUCKING DESTROYED A TOLIET.

So #8 and I are talking and I am trying not to gag or hold my nose. His expression changed and I could tell he was smelling it too. It was almost to the point that not mentioning the smell was going to be awkward when the bell rang and he started walking toward the next girl, and #9 is approaching me. I overhear #8 say to his buddy, “Dude, I think that girl just nervous farted!”

I am frozen, I can’t exactly run up to #8 and explain it wasn’t me, because the next guy is approaching me. Oh my gawd, the smell is still there! Is every guy going to think I smell like the worst part of a men’s restroom in a bar?! I feel panic, then decide #8 is a lost cause…

So, super smooth, I turn to the next guy as he is sitting down and the FIRST thing I blurt out is, “I DIDN’T FART!” 

>.<

So I made it out of the event with NO info exchanged, NO mutual likes and NO dates. However, the experience made me feel like if I can survive THAT then I can survive any bad date. 

Exposure Therapy

Alright, so remember I’m fresh from reading a bunch of books, watching online videos and totally spinning from all the advice on how to find, attract and size up the “right guy”.

So I start with the advice of a book about dating when socially anxious and try exposure therapy.

I go into stores, purposely talk to sales people and then don’t buy anything. I drop things loudly on the bus and make people stare at me a second. I try small talk on the bus with the LAST person I would ever choose to talk to. I worked up to walking into a store BACKWARD just to get a stare. I eat alone in family restaurants. I start complimenting a different person I don’t know every day.

Basically I try to do all the things that I’m sure are going to be awkward as fuck. I want to teach myself that being temporarily embarrassed and feeling socially inept won’t kill me. With the help of an amazing therapist, I went forth.

I had some really uncomfortable conversations, but also some unexpectedly good ones. I was surprised how quickly people went from staring at you to going back to whatever they were absorbed in. I became to actually like shopping, which was strange since I typically purchased everything online to avoid talking to people and *shudder* the horrors of the mall. 

Every day for two weeks, I do a little exposure therapy. It sounds crazy… but you know what? I feel pretty confident actually. I’m doing these things now not because I dread them as therapy, but because I’m enjoying the interaction.

They make for great stories. Example:

There was a girl on a bus I took home that was probably in her teens. I normally avoid talking to teenagers like the plague. However, I noticed her shouting over my music, and I turned down my headphones to hear her cursing loudly. I turned my music off and listened to her. While people were shooting her sideways glances, I immediately recognized she had tourettes. However, she was happily talking to her friend as they were riding along about typical girl things. Boys, makeup, clothes, television. Her friend got off and she was sitting alone, still randomly shouting obscenities. I decided to turn around and compliment her on her purse. Normally, the social awkwardness of talking to someone so young would have killed me. The desire to shrink away from the bubble of awkwardness surrounding her was palpable. Instead I had the nicest conversation I had all day with an incredibly bright woman. We talked about purses and online shopping, she cracked jokes easily and did not let her tic pause her for a minute. We did not wax philosophical, talk politics or science, but she was generous with her compliments and I was equally genuine with mine. We talked about shopping and swapped tips about our favorite stores. Her smile was warm, and we chatted until she got off at her stop.

I never would have normally talked to another girl about shopping. NEVER would think about talking to a teenage girl about it, but doing both ended up the highlight of my day. All 15 minutes of it.

One of many, many examples.

I have always heard in my favorite super hero movies that courage is not being afraid, but doing the right thing anyway.

Working on my social anxiety took courage. A lot of it. Notice I didn’t say “getting over”. Because I’m not. I’m still terrified many times, sometimes to the point of bordering on a panic attack- but I force myself to go through with it anyway. Not every interaction is positive, but the net sum of them are. And the ones that are not? I learned I can survive them.

I know it is not that easy for many people. I don’t mean to diminish the paralyzing effects of social anxiety. This is what worked for me, at this time, at this point in my life.

So I dive right into the deep end and sign up for speed dating.

Starting to Date… at 30

So I decided when I turned 30 that I needed to be serious about dating. I had a few serious relationships, but I decided it was time I stopped focusing on my career and start focusing on all the other things in life. I’d lived in Portland 12 years (the longest of anywhere I had been) and consider it my home, so why not start looking in the fair city I love? Did I miss the boat? Was I supposed to be focusing on getting married in my twenties and I blew it my focusing on education and career first? Damn.

I am successful, financially stable, and gosh darn it people like me. So with a heartfelt vow to become serious about dating I decided to dedicate myself to finding love.

I’m a nerd, total and complete geek. So whenever I am going to try something new, I research the hell out of it. I decided I needed a new approach to finding love. I can’t just wait for someone to fall into my lap! My college days were over, and thus were the chances of anyone falling into my lap. My career isn’t the kind you date coworkers. So I needed to figure out, at 30, how the hell you do this thing called dating.

This over-researching thing is a hallmark of my personality. It helps and sometimes… damn. Anyone who has spent too much time on WebMD may have an idea of the kinda trouble a person can get into.

I started reading all sorts of – ahem- I’ll loosely call this “literature”; The Game, Modern Romance, The Rules, Me Before We, Cinderella Complex, Ho Tactics

I watched hours and hours of YouTube dating coaches. Matthew Hussey, Amy Young (who I actually really like), TED talks on how to “hack” dating…

I stalked Facebook. Oh yes. “For research”. How did my married friends do it? What about people struggling to find dates? What was the secret?

I spent time reading books on how to talk to people, dating for the shy, and how to fake confidence… I am a bit socially anxious, but it comes out as seeming outgoing (I laugh a lot and smile nervously). However, I was terrified of actually dating. I had 3 serious relationships at this point, my high school boyfriend, a college boyfriend and a coworker. Serial monogamy and not much chance to actually DATE.

Everyone I talked to about my research said practically the same thing, “I can’t imagine dating in my 30s. I wouldn’t even know what to do!”

Yeah, I wasn’t finding much in the way of answers either.The research I did was confusing but could be boiled down to the basic advice of “be attractively aloof [insert gender here] likes a little mystery”. Seriously, dating and pickup books for men AND women basically say the same thing. Try to get the other person talking, don’t talk more than them. Don’t be overly responsive or available because it seems desperate. Don’t be clingy. Each of them had a million silly rules or pieces of overly-prescriptive advice that were all intended to give that impression. The Game and The Rules might as well have been written by the same people. There. I just saved you MONTHS of your time.

It wasn’t all the same old stuff though, people like Amy Young really emphasized personal growth and learning to be happy as a person without needing to be completed in a relationship. About getting over difficult feelings and understanding your reactions. I think they may have had the most impact on my willingness to actually date.

So… armed with “research” I decided to go full force with my plan to find an avocado. I would go to Meetups for Singles, date online, and I even booked a ticket for speed dating. When I decide to do something, I go all in.

Everyone knows that a plan never survives first encounter. What in contained in this blog are the collected stories of trying to find love in the City of Roses. Detailed embarrassment, rejection, nervous successes and mostly hilarious.

Do YOU have a story? Please send it to me at datinginpdx@yahoo.com and I’ll post your story anonymously (or with credit, if you want!).