After many months of insisting I wouldn't, I joined an online dating site. It's not like I necessarily have oodles of time to be dating, but, I dunno, it seemed like the right time to get my flirt on with a bunch of dudes on the Internet.
This weekend, I went on my first date from that site. This is what I tweeted afterward:
I've talked before about leaving dates, so you can gather why I did that in this situation, but what I was most pleased by was this response...
...which led me to this website and this article. I just had to comment on the article, because girl?! 103 dates in nine months? You must have the stamina of a gazelle. The patience of a nun. The...the...you...hm. Wow, you must be able to put up with a lot of shit. Good for you, because I certainly do not have that kind of stamina or patience. (I'm an asthmatic, for starters.)
But I totally understood what she was saying about the men who kind of geek out about the woman who has a website. I mean, c'mon, I get letters from strangers inviting me to "make sex with u pls?" because of my site, and then you get someone in person who doesn't really know me, and they find out I run a little something with "naked" in the title?
Well, I have found that I get a mixed bag of reactions. If they really don't know me, some can get a little overwhelmed (especially if we happen to be someplace where I know everyone, or if they see my mug in the paper, or if they find out they know people who know who I am), or get a little paranoid (will she talk about me? HAS she talked about me?) and some get all googly-eyed-super-fanboy.
Now, I'm not saying all of this to be like, "My shit is so incredible! And men love my shit!" But what I am saying is that I've learned an important lesson about "openness" in the beginning stages of dating. And that is,
You really don't have to be all that open.*
Wow, totally opposite of what you thought I'd say, right, what with all my talk about honesty and authenticity?! I'm such a hypocrite, I KNOW. So, when Jen approached me on Twitter to ask how I get around not telling guys about my website without lying**, I wanted to wax eloquent, because I think there's been this "thing" on the Internet where we've been led to believe that true honesty means you share EVERYTHING all the time always.
Wrong. False. Lies.
I think there are some people who are truly able to share everything down to the last detail on the Interweb and do it well. Jen is actually one of those people, but she was finding that allowing that transparency to seep into her dating life was more of a turn-off for guys than a turn-on.
That's not her fault. The problem is that Digital Life and Real Life are two different beasts. Jen has established trust and a relationship already with her community of readers. They expect her to be completely and totally honest, with details, because that is what she does and how she interacts with them. Their community is built around her and her brand, and it works for her (quite well, from what I gather).
But in Real Life, she doesn't have that built-in trust or relationship with a new guy who may not "get" why Jen might post details about their date later on her site. This is where she has an opportunity to be honest about who she is and what she does while still maintaining boundaries as she waits to build a relationship with a new dude. (Because honestly? A little mystery is awesome in the starting stages of a date or relationship.)
And here's where I lay it out...you can't be totally transparent with a Real Life person until you've done what Jen has already done in Digital Life (and what I hope I've done with you here). You must establish:
- Do I trust this individual with the information I will give him/her?
- Does he/she trust me to know that this information is consistent in spirit with other information I've shared?
- Do both parties know how to be safe-keepers of this information?
- Is this information being dispensed at the right time for this person to hear it?
- Do I have this person's best interest in mind?
- Is it clear to the other party that I have his/her best interest in mind?
- Has mutual respect been established between parties?
- Is the truth I am about to share with this person in keeping with that respect?
- Will the information ultimately enrich both parties' lives?
And this is kind of why I geek out about the beginning stages of "The Game" of dating...because I'm finding more and more that when there is a person you connect with that the dance of getting to know one another is actually quite a beautiful thing. It's a dance that involves a crazy combination of timing, chemistry, personality, and a whole lot of trusting your gut and using your noggin. Sometimes that dance is slow and lovely, sometimes it is fiery and passionate.
Either way, aside from information that could potentially be harmful to another person (e.g. "BTW, I'm totes an axe-murderer. Just FYI!") trust your gut to know when it's the right time to share something. Remember, a little curiosity and mystery is good, especially at the beginning.
Oh, and PS...ya'll trust me enough to know I'm not saying that the opposite of honesty/openness is deceit, right? That's what I thought. Cuz you kids are smart. :)
*At least, at first.
**I actually say, in a light-hearted tone, "Yes, I have a website. No, you can't know what it is." :)