There’s a certain nervous excitement that comes over you on a first date. The anticipation is something most only have to experience once in a while, but imagine doing it 60 times… in four months.
Well that’s exactly what Birdlove* did.
At the start of this year, Birdlove had just ended another disastrous relationship. Like many of us who become newly single, she began to doubt herself and her instincts when it came to choosing the right man. She started to stay clear of them.
A therapist then suggested she should start dating to simply learn how to date again. The therapist’s theory was that by dating again, she would learn to no longer need the validation of others. Birdlove would also meet new people, and be able to tap back into and start trusting her gut instincts and recognise when the shark was coming – you know, the famous Jaws “duh-nuh” soundtrack that rolls when danger, or in this case a heartbreaker, is approaching.
She began her dating escapade by joining Tinder, the app that connects people based on matches. The app gives you a chance to chat online with your matches and based on their flirty banter, Birdlove would decide whether or not go on a date with these guys.
While the first date didn’t go anywhere, there were 59 subsequent dates with different guys. She found them not only on Tinder but also in bars, and in one instance, an airport. She described many as being awesome.
One of the higher ranked dates involved being taken to a private beach overlooking the bridge with wine, plastic cups, cheese, gluten-free crackers (he was a listener too!). This was followed by a fairy-lit dinner. While the date (and subsequent date) didn’t eventuate, it was “a reminder… that just by saying yes, you can create the most incredible memories.”
Not only has she made some pretty awesome memories, but she has gained insight into the male psyche and the mysterious world of dating – information that she would otherwise have never known.
Birdlove learnt that while men are likely to pay for the first date, this “does not a gentleman make.” In fact, many men are under the assumption that paying for the first date guarantees you a fast track from the restaurant to the bedroom. These males, according to Birdlove, are “jerks… you can’t help jerks. You just learn to identify the signs earlier”.
But women are just as guilty of jerky behaviour. “Guys have told me about times they’ve been ‘tyre kicked’. It basically describes women who go on dates purely to feed their ego and get a free feed.” One reason for tyre kickers could be society’s expectation that men are providers, which subconsciously puts pressure on men to pay. Birdlove’s theory is that if he insists on paying, he is interested in seeing you again. “It’s a sign of romance,” she says. Even though at the end of the date she would always offer to pay, she thinks that if a guy accepts a girl’s contribution it either means he’s after a one-night-only date, or he wants to establish a friendship first, which “isn’t always a bad thing”.
For most of us, meeting guys from a dating app would sound safety-alarm bells but more often than not, Birdlove found that there is nothing to fear. She did, however, use common sense and avoided dangerous situations by always driving to every date and never getting drunk. “I always had an exit plan,” she says. “It was part of my original objective to learn and trust my instinct and I would leave if I felt uncomfortable in any way. Sometimes I didn’t listen to that instinct of mine and found myself in hairy situations, but I was never hurt or harmed in any way.”
Perhaps most importantly, this experiment has taught her about herself. For starters, she’s now much clearer on what she wants from a man and has recognised the deal-breakers. These include men who use the word “gaaaay”, which for her indicates a lack of intelligence. Another is when a guy, only on their first meeting, put his arm around her and kissed her head. “He instantly ‘owned’ me… it was a massive indicator to me of [being] needy, obsessive and clingy.”
Through her insightful and witty blog posts we are able to recognise a profoundness in her experiences that comes from trusting your instinct. While she wouldn’t recommend going on 60 dates in four months to anybody (“God no!”), she would encourage others to go out there to experiment and meet new people. “We just spend so much time in our own heads that we don’t see the story and the experience for what it is as a whole.”
In the end, her experiment wasn’t just dating for the sake of dating, but a much deeper, emotional journey in which she learnt how to trust herself. “I learned many things about myself but the most life changing of them would be that I am enough, just as I am. I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me, but that doesn’t make me any less valuable, in fact it makes me more valuable.” – Benedicte Earl
Top photo of couple at a lookout in Bratislava from Miroslav Petrasko’s Flickr photostream.
* Name has been changed