Thursday, May 25, 2017

Better Than Fiction

It's been a long time since my last blog post, and that is because things are finally happening in my life, and while this is a very welcome thing, it is also something that I've had to take some time to get used to. For the past few months, I've been working as a high school French substitute teacher in a town that is a couple of hours' train ride north from my hometown, and it has been a life-changing experience. Being wanted and appreciated and welcomed with open arms in this new place has made me see how one-sided my relationship with my hometown has been: me desperately wanting to be a part of it, seeking some kind of connection with it, and it rejecting me every time. I feel more of a connection with this new town than I have felt with my hometown in the recent years, and if I can find a job here - this substitute teaching gig ends as the summer holiday begins - I will move here permanently instead of just staying here temporarily for the duration of the substitute teaching gig. I have also fallen in love with the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man I've ever met. There's a very strong connection between us even though we've basically only just met - so far we've only had one date, but it lasted for three days and two nights, during which time we hardly slept at all, so we did get to know each other somewhat during it - and I think he might be my soulmate. I didn't even think I had one, but there's a good chance that he will prove me wrong. And this will neatly lead me to the subject I feel like writing about tonight: the first date.

I like to read romance stories and watch romantic comedies, and today, as I started listening to My Single Friend, the way the book started got me thinking. A woman went on (yet another) first date. She was dressed fetchingly - in a way that, it was told, she never normally dressed - and spoke and acted in a manner that was calculated to keep her date interested in her. Unfortunately, she wasn't very good at playing the dating game, and the date did not go well. She told her male friend about it. He listened sympathetically and then told her she should just be herself on dates to start having better luck with them, reminding her of several great literary love stories in which the man had fallen in love with the woman in spite of all her flaws. She answered him: "Those women weren't real, they were fictional characters. Trust me on this, these days women are expected to outsmart Carol Vorderman, outcook Nigella and outpout Penelope Cruz, all at the same time."

Sure, this is from a work of fiction, but it could just as easily have been from real life. There are unwritten rules for first dates and for the beginning of a romantic relationship that we've come to accept as the norm - what to do and what not to do, how to play things right to get ahead in the game. But by following these rules and striving for perfection, hiding our flaws under layers of make-up, a push-up bra, carefully rehearsed lines and underwear that makes our tummies look flat, aren't we actually creating a fictional version of ourselves for our date to be attracted to? This is perfectly fine if all we're looking for is some fun for the night, but if we want something more long-term, wouldn't the better strategy be to just ignore the rules and the game and just be ourselves, imperfect but real? For if we bagged our date by being our perfect, game-playing, fictional self, isn't he going to lose all interest in us as soon as we drop the act?

What I want from a romantic relationship is a real connection with the other person. I can be attracted by good looks and witty lines, but without anything deeper than that, I lose interest quite quickly. I want a partner I can be close to in every way: physically, mentally and emotionally. I want someone who is attracted to the real me, not to some perfect illusion. And I can only get that by ignoring the rules of the dating game and being the real me, even on a first date. And when it's that time of the month and I'm lying in bed next to my date feeling disgusting and bloated and utterly unattractive and he says to me "You're lovely" and looks like he actually means it, I know that my strategy has been a good one.

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