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!).