I received yet another e-mail from the Washington Post Date Lab editor yesterday. This time I was asked to sign a publicity/liability release. Because of the nature of my job, I spend a great deal of time reading, researching, and writing about liability concerns and waivers (trust me, it's a lot more fun than it sounds). Naturally, whenever I'm asked to sign a release of some kind, I'm sure to read it over carefully--more out of a sense of curiosity and habit, than any kind of responsibility.
The release the Post sent over was a pretty standard one. It struck me, as I worked my way through the various clauses, that anytime we decide to go on a date, we are essentially assuming a series of risks. There may not be an affidavit to sign or a lawyer present (although in my case, there usually is), but any seasoned dater knows the risks, losses, expenses, and potential harm--both physical and emotional--that may come from the experience. Dating, for all intents and purposes, is risky behavior. Whether it's an acceptable, reasonable risk is for each of us to determine, but what greater risk is there than taking one's self--essentially one's most valuable asset--and placing it on the line to silently ask two of the most important questions we'll ever ask: Am I who you want? Are you who I want?
My initial anxiety about this date has eased considerably in the past day or so. I suspect that it's because as of late I've become a bit of a forensic naval-gazer. I've taken to breaking down and analyzing all my actions with the same fervor that I once reserved for the literary works of James Joyce. I'm obsessed with finding connections, patterns, motifs, and underlying themes. I've noticed that up until now, my approach to dating centered on that first question (am I who you want), but neglected the second (are you who I want). Before going out I'd primp, worry, and wonder if I was pretty enough, thin enough, clever enough--but then I'd get to the restaurant, bar, theater, wherever, and find that it didn't matter if I was all of the above because it turned out that he wasn't who I wanted.
The thing is, that for all my confusion about where I want to live and work, the one thing that I am sure of is the kind of man that I want a relationship with. It isn't as if I approach dates with a strict rubric of attributes, skills, and interests that I need met--it's more of a feeling, the recognition of a combination of qualities, which I've learned--through trial and error--are important to me. And while I feel lucky that I know this already, I also understand that it takes dating to a different level. It seems as if I can no longer just date for the sake of dating. I'm officially looking for something--for someone. I'm not naive enough to expect fireworks and love at first sight, but I do know what I don't want and what I'm no longer willing to waste my time on.
And is this knowledge a liability when it comes to dating? Absolutely. Whereas a couple years ago I had no trouble seeing several guys at the same time and dating all over the map, now the thrill in that is gone. I've become blase about the whole thing. I'll go on one or two dates and then pull a disappearing act. It's not as if the guys I've been seeing lately aren't great, because they all are in their own way--they're just not for me. At least not right now... And that can lead to loneliness, because the only thing more difficult than not knowing what you want, is knowing what you want, but not being able to find it--or finding it and not being able to have it.
But I'm confident that I will meet this person someday, and until then all that I can do is try to be as honest as I can be with myself and with my date companions (as the Post calls them). And I will go on this date and I will assume all risks associated with it (even that of "potential public ridicule") and I will faithfully report back to you all. I must admit that I am incredibly curious to see who they picked out for me based on my completely ridiculous answers to those completely ridiculous questions.
For those of you just tuning in...
And a link to the latest Date Lab article...