While many people start online dating to meet people, I joined OKCupid because I knew far too many already. This may sound cold, but I wanted to meet guys outside of my social circle who were more … expendable. If a date or few went badly, I didn’t want to bump awkwardly into these guys at a party. At that time, I didn’t take dating especially seriously. I was bored and I thought of it as an amusing diversion. Maybe I would have been more cautious if I had been more invested, but I wasn’t.
Online, most daters try to present the best possible versions of themselves in their profile. Supposedly, this is the only way to get dates. Instead, I tried to present a more accurate picture. I had a few photos of me all dressed up, but being a makeup artist, that felt a bit unfair, so I included some regular candid shots with my usual BB cream and lip balm. I didn’t want my dates to be disappointed when I didn’t put that much effort in to meet them for coffee. On the older version of OKC, you got to describe yourself in three words and I always made sure one of them was “neurotic.”
Traditional dating wisdom suggests that you let the man make the first move. Not being especially gifted with patience, I did most of the asking out. I saw a profile I liked and I asked the guy to get a cup of coffee. I know it’s natural to agonize over the possibility of being rejected, but it didn’t cross my mind really. I didn’t know these people and didn’t take it terribly personally if they didn’t want to meet me for a cappuccino. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I asked. I actually very rarely got shot down, at least for first dates. I think a lot of guys were too busy being stunned that the girl made the first move to say no.
First dates are supposed to be a light, fun opener to see if there is match potential, right? Well, I’m not really a fan of light and fun. Why can’t things be meaningful and fun? On these first dates, I decided to break all the “rules” and hold nothing back. I took dates to coffee shops I actually spent time in, not some fancy, forced scenario at a restaurant I couldn’t afford. I even took two first dates to Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” just to see if they could handle a film with a graphic castration scene. When one of the guys covered his eyes, I knew it was not meant to be.
After being in a two-year relationship with someone who I discovered I was not sexually compatible with too late, I announced my kinky preferences right away. I just didn’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s. It seemed like a better idea to just say, “I like being choked, is that a problem for you?” than to get emotionally invested in someone before realizing we wanted different things. I had no problem talking about my life or past relationships, even in a “my baggage does not fit in the overhead compartment” way. And my baggage is heavy.
I openly discussed my anxiety and history with depression, my strained relationships with my parents, and how I had lived with drug addicts in the past. I figured if these weren’t things they could hang with on the first date, they wouldn’t be OK with them later either. There’s never a good time when it comes to disclosing these things. I did try to present my baggage with some flippancy and humor as opposed to sounding like Elizabeth Wurtzel, so that might have helped. I also made it clear that I only had sex when in a monogamous relationship. This managed to take some of the pressure off, instead of leaving the guys wondering after three or so good dates why I wasn’t going home with them. When I’m getting to know someone in, well, any context really, I prefer to skip the small talk. I want someone to date or befriend me because they like me, not because they like some fake projection of me.
Although tons of dating advice warns you to tread with caution, lest you scare your date off, this method worked pretty well for me. I think a lot of people found it refreshing that I let them see behind the curtain right away, and it even encouraged them to be vulnerable in kind. I think people don’t really want to play the “wait three days before you call” game as much as they feel like they have to. Many people don’t want to be the first to deviate from social norms, but when the opportunity is presented to them, they are often more than happy to take it.
Despite me doing everything “wrong,” after a few messages back and forth, I met the love of my life at 4 a.m. in the office of his overnight job. I brought some Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins and we had jousts on spinning office chairs with rulers. We talked for hours, without holding anything back. Without agonizing about rules, we could just enjoy each other’s company and see what felt natural. A few weeks later, we made things official, and we’ve been happy ever since. We still maintain the same openness and honesty that we had in our first couple of dates. My boyfriend has said this is the first relationship where he felt he could totally be himself. I’m completely comfortable in my relationship because I’ve never hesitated to put myself out there. We know exactly who the other is, and it just makes us love each other more. It might be scary to bare your soul from the beginning, but it’s worth it knowing you’ve found the right person, and they know the real you.
Kristine Rose is a neurotic writer, esthetician, and make-up artist in NYC. Check out her blog.
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