I dated only two boys during all of high school, bouncing between them ad nauseam (not unlike Rory). Once I moved and started my college career at the somewhat small University of North Florida, I ditched this pattern. It’s all because of a simple passing nugget of wisdom a co-worker gave me: “Why not try a lot and see what you like?” Yeah! Why not?
At the tender age of 18, I had already carved a permanent paint-by-numbers of who my ideal soulmate would be. A smart musician — preferably a guitarist, a year or so older than me — who couldn’t help but fawn over me, but could make a mean quesadilla. But here’s when another old sagacious phrase applies — it’s the definition of insanity — “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I kept dating the same dudes and the same kind of dudes. Each time ended in a screeching halt of failure. But each time also started the same, holding the same components. Why did I think any spin on the same old coupling be different?
Let me be clear that while I advocate the practice of dating around, I do not recommend sleeping around. Not only does that often ignite a whirlwind of emotional trauma, it just ain’t the safest move. Again, “seeing” people in the context of this post doesn’t not insinuate that that should include sex. Moving along…
It felt good to break free from the “type” I’d resigned myself to before. I dated guys very different from me and dissimilar from those I’d been with in the past. I went out with a hip-hop DJ in his late ’20s for a few months and learned that with age does not necessarily come maturity (I did, however, learn a great deal about scratching vinyl and graphic novels). I also hung around a pro skater from Delaware for a spell and found that my once-enchantment with that culture died along with my adoration of Sum 41. There was a Scottish guy with a massive record collection, a thoughtful, quiet drummer girl, a published chemist who doubled as a bike snob, an artist from St. Augustine with his head forever in the clouds, the sweetest guitarist who continues to be one of my closest friends… it’s a long list. But from each relationship, I better learned what it is I need and don’t need from a romantic partner.
A lot of friends teased me about being a serial dater then, as a bulk of my relationships/flings didn’t last longer than a few months. But the reason for that is just because I was a fan of dating around does not mean I was ever a fan of lying — to myself or others. If I or my partner wasn’t feeling the relationship, there was no reason to force it along. Instead, we’d probably split after a short while usually and leave on good terms. It was a casual thing. And I always made completely certain that we were on the same pages about our feelings — meaning, I definitely didn’t toss around the L-word or lead anyone on (or get led). It’s a practice I think can be done tactfully.
Besides the educational side of seeing many different people during college, simply put, I had a lot of fun getting to know all of them. I wasn’t in a big hurry to find a serious, for-keeps relationship (apparently that was destined for a bit later). I was 18, 19, 20, 21 or 22 when all this happened. Just a baby! I was always under the impression that that time in one’s life is particularly reserved for educating yourself — about the world and yourself.
I wouldn’t recommend this practice for everyone and certainly not forever, but for me, it really opened my eyes. There’s a lot of awesome people out there. Even if not a whole bunch of them are not for you, as a romantic, long-term partner, that doesn’t mean you two can’t mean something else to each other for a while.
Are you especially selective with who you date? Do you have a “type”? Am I a big moron for embracing this lifestyle in college?