Dating these days is a lot like finding a job, and vice-versa. Both are all about making good first impressions. And about knowing the right people, all too often. They each entail a selection process: a review stage, a trial basis, ideally culminating in a formal acceptance.
It’s a cute analogy. Imagine if we lived in a world where instead of throwing out a pickup line or a compliment or a joke, we would initiate our romances by presenting resumes of our past emotional and sexual partners. On second thought, don’t imagine that, that’s awful. But then again, there are aspects of dating and job-finding that are already kind of awful, and in weirdly similar ways to boot.
Both often involve some casual dishonesty at the early stages. A tinder bio which purports its owner “loves to read” is a lot like a resume which attests to one’s being “skilled at Photoshop.” In either case, it’s quite possible and all too typical for the person in question to have only really “loved” reading that one short story they came across on Reddit last week (having not picked up a real book in months), or for their last really “skillful” graphic design experience to have been a prank edit of their friend’s profile picture, rather than an extensive multi-layered image project. In both the romantic and professional realms, we tend to inflate ourselves, often to the point where the person on the CV or on the online profile bears little to no resemblance to the complex and flawed individual being represented. The natural outcome of this is to make the first face-to-face meeting incredibly nerve-wracking. I think a lot of folks are bothered by job interviews because they involve transforming from flesh and blood to matching that paper person in the application file. First dates are quite similar. Both get easier once it becomes clear that the person you’re talking to – a potential lover or employer – is themselves merely human, prone to error, and perfectly accepting of others having erred before.
I think we would do better in both spheres of life if we cut the bull a little bit. So often when we’re striking up a conversation or initiating a message thread with somebody we have a crush on we feel like we have to be something better than we are. We feel like we have to be stronger, wittier, sexier, more clever, better with money. I think to some extent that’s part of the problem with modern discourse about sexuality and relationships; so often the impetus is on putting your best foot forward, even when you don’t really know where your feet are standing to begin with. We can get into who we are at this moment instead of some imagined version of who we want to be tomorrow. We can begin relationships by talking about our weaknesses. We can talk about all those times when we didn’t listen enough, when our family got in our heads, when we pulled away. When things got awkward. When the sex wasn’t that fun. Being able to be fully honest with both your partner and yourself is a powerful thing, and often signals that there’s a connection being made.
Now, don’t go sit down at a restaurant on your first date and lay out all your baggage in detail; we can still dress ourselves up a little bit, of course. Really what I mean to say is that we can do better in romance and in working life if we can figure out how to talk in an appropriately honest about ourselves. Recall that professional interviews typically involve questions about past challenges and failures; we can emulate the attitude of self-acceptance that is necessary for answering those questions when we’re getting personal with our prospective partners. Letting things go to the heavy place is okay, even very early on, and knowing how to talk about the darker sides of your life in a healthy fashion can be an attractive quality in itself. And if things don’t go well, that’s okay too. Not everybody works with everybody, professionally or otherwise. In my experience it’s usually worth it to put yourself out there and give things a shot. Take that first date (or that first interview) as a learning experience, good or bad, because at the end of the day you’ll wind up learning more about yourself and how you communicate either way. And who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself accepted by that special place to work, or by that special somebody.
Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? Need help finding a date? Got more dates than you can handle? Or have a response to this week’s column? E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.