Years after my father passed away, my stepmom decided to attend a singles group outing. While I encouraged her to go, suggesting a swarthy Latin photojournalist with long, flowing hair and scads of exciting stories could be awaiting her, I worried. She's a lovely Swedish woman who, after 15 years of marriage and widowhood, had decided to dip her toe into the dating pool, and my first reaction was to tell her the dating pool is filled with hot lava. If, at the very least, you've considered going on a date, I'm guessing you probably know what I'm talking about.
When I think about how horrible dating can be, what springs to mind is crippling self-doubt, unrequited crushes and bouts of loud, anxiety-induced gas at crucial, hatefully silent moments. There's the What to Wear meltdowns, the Am I Talking Too Much/Too Little niggling anxieties, and the I Want to Jump This Person But What Horrible Emotional Tectonic Shift Will That Set Off concerns. I have a friend who swears if he has to eat at another sushi restaurant on a first date, he'll scream. And that's sad, because he used to really like sushi.
But those're standard dating concerns that existed in the Good Old Pre-Internet Days. Now our List of Shit to Freak Out About must also include catfishing, secret video tapes, and unwanted dick pics — something I didn't believe was happening often until 100 percent of the single women I asked said they'd received several. One went out with the only guy that week who didn't send a dick pic, and was only mildly shocked when, at the end of what was an otherwise nice evening, he announced he'd really like her to see his wang — live. Women aren't any better — the sheer rudeness Mr. Sushi's endured with narcissistic she-beasts is cringeworthy.
What happened? Were we always this idiotic and horrible to each other? Was dating always this difficult? Did we make a deal with the devil, and in exchange for access to a wider variety of people and more anonymous methods of weeding out the ones we don't want via dating sites, we must now consider a person sneaking out of the restaurant mid-meal while we're in the bathroom as acceptable behavior? How many nigiri pieces does it take to find true love?
I don't have any damn idea.
What I can say is the men willing to order their seventh bowl of miso soup in a week's time, the women who move past the dick pics and keep searching, the people who, acting against future fears, historical fails and present misgivings get off the couch, find an outfit they're comfortable in and wander down to the dating pool to dip their toes in — those are the folks that will find what they're looking for simply because they're bothering to look.
Jeanine Fritz writes for the Colorado Daily on Mondays. Contact her at J9@coloradodaily.com.