“Never talk about your ex” and “Don’t complain” are two common rules of a first date. But what about letting go? How much should you reveal about yourself when you first meet someone? Do you put it all out on the table or lure them in before you hit them with a whammy?
The Facebook Dating Project has recently led me to explore these questions. First, I was on a date with a writer named “Claudio.” In conversation about our families I mentioned that my mother had recently moved to LA. He said he thought that was fantastic. But Claudio took it two steps further telling me that if he could live with his mother, he would. He loved her. “I love my mom!” he shouted in the crowded bar. He even stood up. Then he added, “When she’s ill I rub lotion into her feet.” I’m not kidding.
Next, I was on a date with a photographer named “David.” We had a lot of fun and he asked me for a second date. Before we could get there, we ended up working together for a few days. At the end of one of the days, I was standing about 10 feet from him talking to my boss as he and two other guys were packing up. I heard an earth shattering noise. A fart so loud I swear the sidewalk shook. And I knew where it came from. Tears of laughter rolled down my face as I tried not to react. One of the guys said to David, “Dude, was that you?” “Yeah man,” he answered.
When I was in my 20s I had “The List.” I wanted to date a guy who looked like he walked out of a J. Crew catalog: preppy, six feet tall, brown hair. I had that boyfriend in college and he set my tone. I’m in my mid 30s now and my list has gone out the window. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know myself, getting comfortable with myself, and honing in on what I’m looking for in someone else.
In the first case — I didn’t need the image of Claudio rubbing his mom’s feet burned into my head on the first meeting. I am definitely looking for someone who is close to his family and who thinks family is important. I think Claudio’s relationship with his mom, however, should have been revealed more slowly. Maybe after I had met Mom weeks down the line. We didn’t go out again, and mostly because of busy schedules. But after a man shouts “I love my Mom” on a date it’s a hard to recover. But I appreciate his honesty. He was 38 and divorced. If Mom is a big factor in his life he shouldn’t hide it. There is a woman out there who will find this charming and wonderful.
So what about Captain Flatulence? This could have been the turn-off of the century. And when I was 25 I probably would have walked away because farting wasn’t on my list. I had to, at that moment, weigh all the other things I knew about him. I had spent several days watching him work. He was talented, passionate and funny. When we were out on our first date he was forward, upfront about his relationships and clear about what he was looking for. Should his churn of the stomach have been a deal breaker? Farting is mortifying. Maybe his "Yeah dude" was a cover-up? Whatever it was I decided to press onward. At my age I couldn’t say to the friend who set us up, “He farted, so I didn’t want to see him again.”
We went out again. I even said something to him about "it." He said it only happened occasionally — and in the morning. We both laughed. We had a great time. We laughed more, talked and at the end of the night — kissed. I hope I see him again.
On the quest for “the one,” singles often lose track of what makes a solid and lasting relationship. You dismiss people for all sorts of reasons: there wasn’t enough"spark," he doesn’t dress nicely, he’s too much of a "guy," she has a few extra pounds, he farted. But these things aren’t the foundation of a relationship. They’re often just excuses for not getting involved because you’re too scared to let your guard down or get involved.
So how much is too much when you first start out? Do you put the real you on the table right off the bat? In moderation I think. The first date should be brief and give you just enough so that you’re intrigued to go out a second time and begin to really get to know each other. A first date is more like a meeting. So save the big revelations (I rub Mom’s feet, I hate LA and can’t wait to move, I was a heroin addict for eight years, I can’t spend the night because my mom will kill me, I’m broke and can’t pick up the check) until you’re more settled in. But don’t hide who you are either, especially in your 30s and beyond. You are you and you need to be with someone who can accept that.
And sometimes, we all just need to let go — literally.
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