At a job try-out last week I found myself having a conversation about – what else – dating with one of my potential new coworkers. Once the 50/50 cat came out of the bag (I have a hard time not mentioning it when asked directly about what I’m up to in life at the moment), dating theory became the topic du jour, interlaced marginally with potential job-training.*
Olivia, my counterpart showing me the ropes, was about my age, engaged, and had dated on both the east coast and the west coast. While an advocate for online dating for other people, she admitted she felt weird about the whole thing in terms of herself. I listened to the usual arguments, about how chemistry is not defined on paper, how it can feel like a waste of time, how it’s too easy to decide the person you’re out with isn’t for you and you should keep looking for that “perfect” person (the Dan Slater making-people-disposable argument). It’s not in my nature to fight these thoughts: they are valid, and while I have issues with them all which really leads me back to how the mental paradigm of dating needs to shift in order for more people to be successful and happy, it’s a longer conversation than our between-napkin folding and getting people water discourse would really allow.
She did however, state one topic I don’t hear quite as often: history. “People you meet with zero connection to your real life have no history with you or your circle of friends. And history is what ties you to one another. Without history, it’s easy to leave someone behind.” Suddenly, Olivia’s dating philosophy reminded me of my friends who often say they just want to meet someone out in public, to interact with them before winding up on a defined date, the way you do in high school and college and probably even graduate school.
I find this line of thinking a bit peculiar. “It should be like this,” people say, which makes me feel a bit as though they’re being picky. “It works better like that.” They may as well be saying, “He should be abele to cook vegetarian food and he should have green eyes and like Mozart. Oh, he doesn’t grow olive trees? Nix him.” I know the interact-first contingent would argue it’s easier to overlook flaws of a potential date if you know them personally, but I guess I’d have to wonder why you can’t go into meeting a stranger with that same mindset: they’re not going to be perfect, and you might just like them anyway.
As for the history aspect, maybe this is my bias talking, but I think history has to be created no matter how you met someone: online, as coworkers, as soccer team members. You start with no history, you gradually build a timeline together. Maybe sometimes it’s actually better not to have history – you get a clean slate to be exactly the person you are now, not held to being the person you were before.
There’s no right way, really. Do what works best for you.
*The soup du jour, in case you were wondering, was cauliflower cream.