Modern-day dating is stressful enough without the pressure we all put on ourselves and our potential partners to be "perfect." Isn't it enough that we actually followed through with a real life date after we matched on Bumble?! Neither of us bailed, we both showed up (somewhat) sober and dressed...what more could anyone ask for?
Well, as anyone who's dating can tell you, there's plenty more to it than just showing up. Society and social media make that pretty clear.
The microcosms of dating go deep, from what you choose to wear to how you say goodbye to one another. And the expectation that drives me the craziest? What you order for dinner.
In 2018, you'd expect that the old trope of "women ordering salads and men ordering burgers" would be long outdated. Sadly, you would be wrong. I feel the pressure to order something "ladylike" every time we mull over the menu options - and I can't even tell you how many Caeser salads have been chosen over a nice, juicy sandwich.
Many of you may very well be saying, "It's just a dinner order, get over it," and you might be right to think it's a bit silly. But I could not shake how much this small expectation weighed on me.
Dating strangers already feels like one big facade; an attempt to put your best foot forward for this one night so you can both trick yourselves into thinking this could be something. The truth is you don't actually laugh like that, you don't wear copious amounts of mascara on a daily basis, and you LIKE ordering burgers.
So, I decided to put a new rule for myself into place: no matter who I was getting dinner with, I would always order what I was in the mood for, not what I thought would look best.
If that was a salad, then I would order a damn salad! If that was a bowl of gooey lobster mac n' cheese, then that's what I'd get.
It's a small rule, something thousands of people probably already do without even thinking about, but it was important to me. And truthfully? It transformed my dating experience.
The first time I put it into practice was with this kind of artsy guy; tall, blonde, and covered in tattoos. I already had this really open vibe from him, as if he were anxious to get real with me, so I was completely comfortable ordering a bacon cheeseburger and fries - with ranch on the side.
For the briefest moment, I felt him almost nod approvingly at my order, and I felt incredible on my end of the table. This small choice had set me free from an archaic notion I had been following blindly for years.
We would go on to have one of the most wonderful dates I had ever had up to that point. I would like to believe it was because I felt fearlessly confident, yes, all because of a burger.
Artsy guy and I didn't last too long in the real world, but that's beyond the point. The point is that we actually got an opportunity to get to know one another - the real one another - because we established early on in the date that we wouldn't be putting on fake airs. It was freeing to make a connection with someone, knowing that I was actually showing him pieces of who I am.
Now, this did not end up always being the case. Some dates I would go ahead and order that personal pizza...but the chemistry just wasn't there.
The decision to order freely doesn't mean you're going to hit it off with every person you go out with. In fact, some of the guys had the audacity to get a little mouthy with me over my choice of dinner.
But that's not what matters. What matters is that you're taking a small stand in the dating world. You're telling the person across the table from you, "Other people might expect me to act like this, but that's not actually me - this is me."
That's a power move, as small as it may seem. And, trust me, it will help weed out the people who are not worth your time!