Dating Don’ts: Quit Trying So Hard (As Demonstrated By Two Contestants On Last Night’s Episode Of “Bachelor Pad”)

While watching last night’s episode of “Bachelor Pad,” I had two distinct thoughts: 1) Michael Stagliano is the only normal person on this show and 2) the worst thing you can do on a date is try too hard. I have been so, so guilty of this. I’m sure all of us have. But this was like my dating self’s tragic flaw. As a former actress, the instinct to impress was ingrained in me, and this extended to my love life. I thought I had to give ‘em a little extra flair to make them cast me as the part of “girlfriend.” Wrong.

I didn’t do this physically. I brought gifts. This is as embarrassing for me to talk about as it is for you to read. There were cookies baked, mixed CDs made, a copy of  The Unbearable Lightness of Being with a hand-written inscription presented. All before the third date. As you can probably guess, these guys ran for the hills. They were probably frightened. Just as frightened as Jamie was when Ryan over-celebrated her birthday — spelling her name out in licorice on her bed, giving her flowers and balloons, and getting her sushi. Or as uncomfortable as Michael was when Donna presented him with a sketch of his face during their date one-on-one time. Cringe.

It was way too much, too soon. You could see the reactions of Jamie and Michael respectively, as they tried to process these over-the-top romantic gestures.

Jamie: (long, exasperated sigh)  Ryan.

Michael: (to camera)  Donna is being pretty open and honest about having a crush on me for a few years, since Jillian’s season. So I wanted to give her a little something in return. You know, fulfill a little bit of a fantasy for her.

Donna’s drawing earned her a sympathy make out session. But Rachel, who wasn’t trying at all, was the one who got the rose. And Ryan? Ryan doesn’t even exist in Jamie’s world. She only has eyes (and teeth — she brushed and flossed for him!) for Chris and the babies they will make together. Jamie’s behavior is worthy of another Dating Don’t altogether.

But back to this one. I saw my former dating self in Ryan and Donna. For me, this trying too hard business stemmed from building a fantasy of a guy in my mind and feeling like, in some way, I was not worthy of him. Kind of in the way Donna confessed to having dreamed about being on a date with Michael Stagliano “the perfect man” for the past three years. I mean, he seems really cool. But I’m sure there’s something about him that’s annoying. I don’t know what it is — he seems to be good at everything, even gymnastics — but I’m sure there’s something. Point being: Every human being is flawed. So building someone up as “perfect” only sets them up to let you down and sets you up to sell yourself short.

Here’s what I learned after years of trying too hard: In order to develop a true connection with someone, you have to be yourself and not care too much about the outcome. What revolutionized my dating life was the conscious effort to stick with my own feelings when dating someone, and keep my attention focused on whether or not he was impressing me, not the other way around. That meant no more bringing gifts. But really, dating became  so much more fulfilling when I started showing up empty handed, just as myself.