Dating Takes Work. Here's How To Make It Worth It.
A (cheeky, somewhat satirical) take on our modern approach to finding love, which begs the question: How do you ensure it's all worth it?
People in happy relationships will tell you that love happens when you least expect it. But I’m a small-town girl who didn’t achieve her big-city dreams by waiting around. I got everything with pavement-pounding grit, ruthless determination, and an unstoppable work ethic. So why should I expect a relationship to be any different? Readers, if you want a real relationship, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do The Work.
The Work, of course, starts by becoming the most date-able version of yourself. Everyone deserves love, but that doesn’t mean everyone is ready for a relationship. When someone comes along who loves you, you don’t want to lose them because you weren’t yet an ideal partner. There are a number of skills you can acquire and traits you can learn to possess in order to maximize your date-ability and increase your odds of securing a long term relationship.
You can learn to cook (I roll my own sushi), you can keep a clean and well-decorated apartment (I finally got a print framed), and you can keep your pubic hair trimmed into fun and charming shapes (I prefer a triangle). Once you master these simple skills, it’s time to take on more responsibility. Promote yourself and move onto more important tasks like healing your attachment wounds in therapy, developing hobbies that help you process your emotions in a healthy way, and nurturing your relationships with your friends to prevent yourself from ever becoming codependent on a partner again.
Once you’re confident that you’re an ideal candidate for partnership with any prospective client, it’s time to look for open positions. Build a profile on your favorite dating app and enter the portal of potential suitors. Don’t get overwhelmed by the options, focus on yourself first. You’ll want to choose photos that show your range: one sexy, one cute, one wholesome, one with friends, one in nature, and one that’s a little bit weird. Then for any written prompts you’ll want to display the broad strokes of your most date-able aspects, essentially creating a form letter for users to select and interact with their preferred parts of your personality. For example, if the emotion-processing hobby you chose was purchasing a record player, you could use a prompt to solicit music recommendations from your matches to evaluate compatibility. Now close the app, leave your profile up for a few days, and let the likes roll in. You’ve now created a pool of people who already like you to choose from.
At this point, you’ll want to be open-minded. If you have a substance you like to use whether it’s weed or wine, now would be a good time to use that. Inhibitions will not be helpful to you here. As you swipe left or right, start to picture your life with each and every person who responded to your profile and imagine if you could make it work based on the information you can gather about them. Remember you’re not looking for someone exactly like you– different is good, but not so different that you have nothing in common.
If you hate camping and they have three photos in a tent, swipe left. If you struggle with social anxiety and they have photos holding a microphone at open mic comedy, swipe right. For efficiency’s sake, send out at least a dozen attempts at carefully crafted witty banter. Once you’ve started to hear back, narrow down your options to your top four. A good rule of thumb: one hot, one rich, one short, one hitched (consider your open marriage date as more of a palate cleanser, or a practice round, or a vanity interview for validation sake– that’s all they see you as, too).
Under the guise of flirty banter you will now commence the process of schedule syncing and location management. You’ll want to quickly find out their upcoming availability and neighborhood of residence. You will pick a date, time, and a place, but rarely will you actually meet up at that time. Inevitably, you will face miscommunications, cancellations, and seemingly endless circling back. Accept this as part of the process, not something to take personally. Plus, you’ve put too much time into your search to give up now. Remember, finding a full time job is a full time job– why should you expect finding a relationship to be any different?
For each date, factor in at least two hours for hair and makeup. It takes a long time to look low-effort and chill, which is what you should strive for when making a first impression on a potential partner. Choose your costume accordingly. Memorize your lines— a few anecdotes about your job, your friends, and your hobbies — so that you never face a lull in conversation on your part. And practice your nodding in the mirror. If things get awkward, whoever you’re dating will always assume it’s your fault so do your best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Have a few interesting questions in your back pocket.
Remember that other people love to talk about themselves. And remember that you’re getting to know them, just as much as they are getting to know you. Pay attention to your emotions while you listen to their stories, are you emotionally invested or is your mind elsewhere? Remember to continue nodding either way. If at any point you find yourself disinterested in your date, you should stick it out and continue to offer them the validation and entertainment you’ve come prepared with. After all, good connections last a lifetime and building your network is never a bad thing.
But of course, you will really want to understand the concept of ‘emotional labor’, which despite popular belief is not the act of listening to your situationship cry for free. Emotional labor is being performed any time a person regulates their own emotions in return for a wage., i.e., when a server laughs at a joke she’s heard a million times even though doesn’t think it’s funny. If you’re not paying for the date, as the date-ee and not the date-er, you should understand exactly how much emotional labor you are willing to put in for the price of six small plates and two martinis.
Will you laugh when the joke isn’t funny? Will you listen when every story is about their ex? At what point will you discontinue your disinterested nodding and go home? Consider how many billable hours you’ve already spent preparing yourself for this date, from your first match to finally sitting across from each other. Could your time have been better spent elsewhere? Consider your bedroom and your cat. Would you be happier at home right now? Consider your hobby and your work. What could you have accomplished instead? And, now if you and your date end up sleeping together after a night of continuous effort on your part and they turn out to be a selfish lover, ask yourself an age old question… Should you be getting paid for this?
Open up TikTok or Youtube and search Shera Seven. Watch every video you can from the author of the dating/financial advice book I Bring Nothing to The Table. Join the digital cult that teaches you to tap into your “dark feminine” energy, and reassures you that “If you are actively sleeping with a man, you should NEVER be broke!”. Spend hours internalizing the idea that you don’t need love, you just need money. Start to honestly interrogate your fantasy of a healthy relationship.
What does that really look like to you? Cooking them the meals you learned to make for yourself? Including them in the hobbies you’ve mastered alone? Splitting the bills 50/50 for your impeccably designed apartment? Listen to Shera describe your fantasy back to you in a language you didn’t know you could speak, one that comes as naturally as 2+2=4, “All the candles are lit in the house, you got some soft music playing, you just cooked him a five course meal, the Pick Me-isha special! He had a long day at work. You’re looking all cute, you did your hair… and then all of a sudden he says, ‘You got the other half of the rent? You pay the light bill yet?’…And ‘you got a man’? No. You got a roommate and a tenant who you cook for. That’s all you got."
When none of your four dates work out, and they’re not even offering to pay your rent the way Shera has conditioned you to expect, feel free to become completely disillusioned with dating. Allow yourself to be depressed. Allow yourself to feel jealous of your friends who seem so lucky in love. Allow yourself to wonder why God is punishing you like this. Remember that you don’t believe in God anymore, you’re not in a small-town. You got yourself to the big city all by yourself, and you can handle something as trivial as the pursuit of love. You have pavement-pounding grit, ruthless determination, and an unstoppable work ethic. So cheer yourself up, and make another attempt at scheduling with another hopeful dating app user. Begrudgingly, accept that dating is simply a full time job that you’re not being compensated for.
But then, when the day rolls around for that date with who-the-hell-ever, do something you never get to do at your real job: cancel. Leave no room for rescheduling, or circling back. Take yourself out alone instead. Buy a single ticket to see Passages at IFC. Ideally, on a rainy day. Wear a white dress and forget your umbrella. While you watch the French protagonist of the film, Tomas, step out on his loving husband Martin, and fall unexpectedly in love with the beautiful schoolteacher Agathe, learn this lesson: falling in love is easy, it’s relationships that are hard. This is especially true if you’re French. Walk to Bar Pisellino and let the rain wash away your worries. Order a $16 Negroni Terra that you can’t afford. Tip well and don’t think about that part. Eavesdrop on the cute French guy behind you, listening for mention of a girlfriend. Wait for him to look at you. When he doesn’t, just smile. Fall in love with your solitude and romance your loneliness. Take out your journal and consider the concept of ‘emotional availability’-- have you been looking for love, when you should have been letting it find you?
If you think you might love me after I’ve said this, find me online.