Let me just tell y’all how I have been on a whirlwind of thoughts and dreams and life and creativity. Family is family, I’m still experiencing a downshift in funds and lifestyle and I am often worried about money and bills and staying afloat. None of that’s changed. I’m still creatively strong, writing whatever suits me, gearing up for this website launch, applying to a super dope retreat, and entering contests. None of that’s changed either. The only other aspect to my life right now is dating. And that… that’s why we’re here today.
Dating is nice. It’s cool for what it is, but I’m about to switch things up. And the changes I want to make in my dating life led me to some thoughts about how people treat dating, how they view it, and how we project onto those who may view it differently. I know, the title is a heavy one, and some of you feel insulted already, when I haven’t even said anything. But give me a chance on this one. Trust me. Oh you’re still hesitant? Take my hand…
So. I’ve written before about my romantic life, my dating life. How my lack of confidence put a shadow over it, how my romantic nature has been unfulfilled most of my life by a lack of true, real love. How I’ve never been loved in return. How like and lust have been my calling cards, the only thing I’ve given that was reciprocated. I did. I wrote all of that. You can go back and read it if you want… later. Let’s not rehash it. My point is, as much as a dumpster fire as my love life has largely been, dating advice hasn’t made it any better. And the people who’ve given it to me, although well-meaning, haven’t had the impact that either they or I have hoped they’d have. And it has a lot to do with how they see me, and how their experience with dating has shaped them.
What do I mean by that? It’s the Dating Superiority Complex. I know what you’re thinking. “Shameka, that’s not a thing. What is this shit you’ve made up?” I know that’s what you’re thinking. But it IS a thing, I promise. Let me explain further. When you’ve had success in some/ all aspects of dating, there is a tendency to look down (for lack of a better phrase) on those who haven’t, to subscribe it to them, to assume that THEIR the problem all the time, every time. There’s an air of condescension and pity that comes with your advice, even when you don’t hear it. There’s a sense that there’s some action not being taken; it’s an assumption of laziness and lack of drive; it’s an act of blame.
I am surrounded by people who don’t have any of the underlying physical and emotional issues that I have/had, so their advice seems to always be tinged with a hint of blame, like ultimately this all comes down to something I’ve failed to do or say. It’s always folks who have never had a problem getting the person they want that act like this is so easy. Folks that can get a date just pumping gas or waiting in line at the ATM. People who hardly ever get rejected on physical appearance. The people who never have to take dating seriously because when they’re ready to be with someone, there’s always someone there. Or, the people who didn’t have to date extensively because they met the right one early. It’s always you guys. Let me give you a couple of examples:
“Shameka, you’re too hard on them– you’ve got to give them a chance” – Okay, let me tell you what’s wrong with that. Everyone has preferences. EVERYONE. So why when it comes to ME is it okay to ask me to ignore those preferences? I’m too hard on people? Spend five minutes with me and you’ll know that’s not true. But if there is a glaring something that they have that I don’t want, how does moving on become not giving them “a chance?” And why am I required to, anyway? Asking for what I want is being “too hard” on people? What kind of advice is this? It has the implication that my standard is something arbitrary that should be lowered every time someone claims they like me. And that’s really, really awful. The idea that I should be open to whoever deigns to approach me, whether I’m attracted or not reeks of disrespect and I thought you had a better opinion of me than that. But that’s what your suggesting, so obviously not. Your dating advice sucks.
“You’ve got to put yourself out there more”/ “Wait. The right man will come along.” – Now I’ve put these two together because 1) people tend to use them in tandem although they are in DIRECT CONTRADICTION to one another, and 2) they’re both equally stupid and wrong. Let me tell you something. “Put yourself out there” is neither specific nor well-meaning. Should I stand on the corner with a sandwich board, asking for a relationship? Should I venture to places where I have to pretend to be comfortable, on the off chance I might see someone who wants to talk to me? What does this mean? Put myself out where??? No one’s been able to tell me. Then there’s the “wait for the right guy” brigade. Does waiting mean I don’t do anything? Does it mean I pray? Do I stand somewhere? I’m not trying to be a smart ass. I’m asking. What do you mean when you say that? Or do you not even know? It sounds like they’re handing out men somewhere and you’re trying to direct me to the line. Yeah, your dating advice sucks.
“Shameka, you’d find someone if you’d only________/ if you were more ______” – Oh, these are my favorites. So, the key to finding a life partner is changing. If only I did something I’m not comfortable with, or adopted a personality trait that’s not me–then all my problems would be solved!!! Oh joy! You found the solution! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? Like, what? Do you know me at all? Who are you, even? Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. I know it’s all just a way to get me to try something new, maybe have a new experience. But it’s all framed to make me feel like there’s something lacking, in me. There’s that air of blame again. Your dating advice sucks.
“Shameka, you have all the power. You just need to believe it/ use it/ control it/ etc.” – Okay, this last one is an affirmation so I feel a little shitty saying it’s bad. But… it is. Look, I believe in manifesting the things you want with your thoughts. I do. I promise. I just don’t think a man and his baby batter is one of those things. And I especially love (read: can’t stand) you folks that talk about belief as though my singleness is all a product of my lack of faith in whatever God you believe in. Or the ones that think I’m harboring some secret magic I haven’t tapped into, and that’s why my love life is a dumpster fire. I’m grateful for the compliments/ affirmations, but this all gets to be too much. And once again, it’s not specific. Is the magic in my pussy? My armpit? Is it in my mind? Where? Hiding behind the insecurity??? YOUR. DATING. ADVICE. SUCKS.
Anyway, I’ve long since stopped treating singleness like a disease I’m trying to cure. I do want companionship, but the kind that’s going to be comfortable and safe–for ME. I’m not looking to have what anyone else has. That’s not what this is about. This is about venturing into opening up your heart and hearing a chorus of “You’re doing it wrong!” from people who are supposed to love you. I know you guys think you’re helping. You’re not. I wish you were. This would be easier. Because the truth of all this is that there is no magic formula. There isn’t for me, and there wasn’t for any of you. But some of you are just so reluctant to admit that you just got lucky, that you just won a lottery, that you just showed up in the right place at the right time with the right assets–that you pretend there is a magic formula. But we both know better. Just like we both know your dating advice sucks.
But I still love you. And I hope you still love me.