Start Dating. Immediately.

I am a recently single 20-something female.  The dating world, as my coupled-up girlfriends like to remind me, is my oyster.

Picture this:  a naturally beautiful type glides into a bar, tosses her sweetly auburn hair and smiles–disarming every man in the joint long enough for her to bat her eyelashes and ask for a drink.  She’s offered more than she can count, and so she spends the evening giggling and discussing post-Modern literature; nursing her cocktail and delicately swiveling on her bar stool.  She’s powerful, and so she has her pick.

I am definitely not that girl.

Instead, picture this: a girl with chronic b*tch face stands with her arms crossed, refusing to let loose and ride the mechanical bull with her girlfriends (because, of course, overtly sexual behavior gives her anxiety).  A man approaches her and says, “hey there, sweetheart, can I buy you a–”  Before he has time to finish, she spins to face him, batting his hand off her shoulder and snaps, “don’t call me sweetheart, homie.  You don’t even know me.”  He walks away and warns his friends.  The girl pays for all her beers.  Of which she can afford only two.

When you’re newly single, you’re charged with the task of digging through the layers of commitment-gone-astray to find where you buried your once sparkly single gal charm.  Now it’s covered in cobwebs and the last of your early 20-something insecurities.

This particular obstacle came as a bit of a shock to me at first–mostly because I’m the epitome of a flirt.  I’m fairly certain my spirit animal is a sloppy, hyperactive golden retriever puppy that can tap dance.  It would turn out, however, that the comfort of a relationship kept the stakes low when interacting with other people. When you’re newly single, the stakes are suddenly high again.  That’s a lot of pressure for you and your rusty single gal charm.

And that’s why you’ve got to rip the band-aid off and start dating again. Immediately.  Easier said than done, you say?  I can see how you might think that.  But really, it’s as simple as re-defining what dating means.

Kirsten’s 3-Step Program to Rock at Dating in the Millennial Era:

Step 1: Date Your Friends.

When you’re newly single, the way you communicate with your closest female friends changes.  They listen intently as you work through your crap; make you laugh when you need to; and they’re hard on you when someone has to be.  Without ever having to discuss it, they’ll delicately and deliberately piece you back together.  They’ll bring you strength.  These are the women that make you truly whole again. Spend as much time with them as you can.

Step 2: Date Yourself.

In a previous post, I explored the challenge of being alone as a young woman.  This is an imperative step.  I like to take myself on hikes, have intense dance parties to Bey in my kitchen, and grant myself hours to record every detail of my stupid adventures in a journal while I binge drink coffee.  I repeat: this is an imperative step.  This is where you re-discover yourself, on your own terms, with no one’s opinion standing between you and your intuition.  You should commit to seeing yourself at least 3 times a week.

Step 3: Date [Wo]Men Romantically…but Casually.

If I may be so bold, young women do themselves a great disservice when they exit one serious relationship only to enter that RomCom-style search for “The [next] One.”  If you’ve been in said serious relationship for the past however long, do you even know what you like anymore?  What you’re attracted to, truly?  You’ve grown as a woman, you’ve changed; and therefore logically, so has your ideal mate.

To rock at dating, you’ve got to lower your standards a smidge and give Mister/Miss Right Now a chance.  Stop looking for the father of your children.  Stop looking for a solid life partner with good credit.  Date casually.  If someone piques your interest slightly, take the reigns and ask them out.  If your only reason to say no is they’re so not your type, than do the crazy thing and say yes.  Date casually.  Spend an evening here and there, connecting (or maybe not connecting) with another human being and explore what you like (or don’t like) about them.  Lower the stakes and use causal dating to re-discover what you’re even searching for in “The [inevitable] One.”

Of course, it won’t all be smooth sailing.  The first time I asked a dude out, he rejected me.  For a while, if drinking on a date, I ran a serious risk of inappropriately crying about all my oh-so-confusing feelings.  I’ve also recently learned that I have a flirting style akin to that of a 10-year old boy: I become a slightly aggressive playground bully.  Coming from a 26-year old woman, you can understand how this might be sending the wrong message.  But with a healthy combination of my aforementioned 3-step program, this behavior does in fact work itself out, and you slowly dust off that single gal charm.

And then you might ride the mechanical bull.  You’ll be powerful.

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