Recently, I met a guy that I liked at a party. When we were saying our goodbyes, he suggested we continue our conversation. I assumed he meant that we would do this by Facebook or email or text or Gchat — you know, the usual ways I communicate with potential love interests. When he wrote down his phone number and suggested that I call him, my response was, “On the phone?” He laughed. “Yes, on the phone.” My heart began to jackhammer at the mere thought of dialing his number. I couldn’t? Could I? Maybe I could? I felt, well, I felt like I used to feel back in my high school and college days. Back when there was no Facebook or text or email or Gchat and you had to talk to the people you were dating.
Believe it or not, when this now phone phobic girl liked a guy, I used to dial his number. Without hesitation. If he didn’t answer, I would leave an embarrassing voicemail message a la “Singles” and pray for the best. Dating technologies are deceptive. While they appear to make things easier, they have, in reality, only served to increase my potential dating phobias and make me feel more disconnected. Sure, there is less risk involved in sending a text message, but there is also less reward. Have you ever swooned over a text message? Electronic communication allows you to remain aloof and mysterious and unflawed. You don’t bond with another human being over Gchat. Not really. And Facebook will never let you into another’s hopes and desires, only their friend pools and music tastes.
Four days later, with very sweaty palms, I did as instructed and dialed this guy’s number. When he didn’t answer, I left a voicemail. And then I waited out the five hours and 37 minutes it took him to call me back. Surprisingly, waiting for a return phone call was less anxiety provoking than waiting for a return text message. You can’t ignore a voicemail, it’s more significant somehow. We ended up talking on the phone for two hours and 49 minutes (he timed it). When our almost three hours of questions, answers and jokes were up, I felt more like my old dating self again. More like the kind of person who was indeed capable of connecting to another person romantically. Maybe I just hadn’t been giving myself a chance to by conducting my love life in such a virtual fashion. I decided, right then that I was going to make a concerted effort back to dating basics. Here’s my plan for reinstating some romantic nostalgia …
1. Phone calls. Now that I’ve gotten over my phone phobia, I think I’m going to try to use it more often. Instead of sending a “just wanted to say hi” text or email, I think I will pick up the phone and do it. Even if I don’t have two hours and 49 minutes to shoot the shit, It’s nice just to hear the voice of the person you like. Oh, and I think I’ll stop declaring myself “not a phone person.” I’m sure I’ve discouraged many a phone call from a suitor without even knowing it. Hello dating world, I AM NOW A PHONE PERSON. Call me!
2. Planning fun dates. I am a fan of dinner and drinks. That’s really never going to change. But I’d love to shake it up a little with some fun activities. A jazz brunch. A bike ride. A trip to a French cafe … with berets. FUN things. That have a certain innocence. That allow you to try new things in the presence of a new person. How did I manage to forget about that?
3. Waiting. I’m not just talking about “doing sex,” as Deena from “Jersey Shore” would say. I’m talking about general patience when it comes to getting to know someone new. When I was younger, there was never any rush. I would waste weeks listening to records or playing Ouija board, kissing and holding hands with a guy, before I even considered whether or not I would want him to be my boyfriend. I think just because I am older and have a clearer idea of what I’m looking for, I rush. But there’s really no need. I’ve waited this long. What difference will a month make? I’m going to give myself permission to linger in the “let’s have fun” stage without a single thought of the future.
4. Keeping electronic communication to a minimum. It’s not realistic not to use Facebook or text or email or Gchat to communicate nowadays, but I am going to make a concerted effort to make sure that “getting to know you” conversations are not happening virtually, but rather, in person or on the phone.
5. Seeing vulnerability as a strength. This is a big one for me. I am going to remind myself that I can be open and vulnerable without letting my guard down totally. Personal translation: checking my relationship baggage at the door and making a genuine effort to get to know someone without deciding that I’m investing in him. No matter how many times I’ve had my heart stomped on, being able to remain hopeful and open, I believe, is the key to me being able to open up the way I did when I was younger.