I read an article on CNN.com today that was cross-posted from Oprah.com. It was written by Martha Beck, Oprah's current resident life coach and author of a number of books, on the topic of "How (not) to get a man". Having done all the wrong things myself for over 30 years of my dating lifespan, I was curious about what Beck's take on this would be.
Beck holds the "Rules" (yes, I'm linking to it but I wouldn't recommend it) and similar other manipulative dating strategies up to severe scrutiny, and I'm rather glad she did. Because they definitely do NOT work. Forget what your momma told you: "Play hard to get, keep him dangling"; "Don't act smarter than he is"; "Don't eat a lot at dinner, he'll think you're going to get fat"; "Don't sleep with him on the first few dates" (although in fairness, that one often makes good sense).
Also, forget "perfect", if "perfect" means "without flaws of any kind". If you are looking for a guy who is a GQ model, making $250K a year, driving a silver Mercedes convertible, who never belches, farts or forgets to put the seat down, you're going to be alone. And let's face it, you're not so perfect either, right?
I liked Beck's approach, one that is also touted by "He's Just Not That Into You", which is, in a nutshell: Go and live your life. Do things that interest YOU. Be your own best, most fabulous and fascinating self, but don't worry about fascinating OTHER people (i.e. men), figure out what makes you fascinating and interesting to YOU. Work on being sincere, straightforward, someone who doesn't need to hide who you are or play games to get some guy to fall in love with the "fake, public version" of you (where you will then spend the rest of your life terrified he might discover the "real" you, and THEN where will you be?)
When I met Georges, I think I literally broke every dating rule in that book, plus all the others that weren't in that book, AND a few more of my own that were a product of my own past. [Warning: this is about to amount to a bit of a confession so if you are easily offended -- or my mother -- you may want to skip the next few paragraphs.] I did everything you are not supposed to do according to conventional dating wisdom handed down to women for generations. We kissed on our first date, within the first FIVE MINUTES, and not just a nice polite kiss. One kiss led to some serious making out on park benches, before and after lunch. And after our lunch, I called him ON THE SAME DAY and asked him to meet me for dinner THAT VERY NIGHT. I ate in front of him, without worrying "am I eating too much?"
Dinner turned into... breakfast, at my apartment, which was a complete mess (proving that I had no intention of inviting anyone here). I hadn't shaved my legs. I even brushed my teeth in front of him. The first date lasted the better part of 25 hours. This was definitely NOT in the "dating rule book", and by all rights, most people would predict total disaster, yes?
But you know what? I wasn't worried. That is the bottom line: Other than being a little concerned that my apartment was embarrassingly messy, I could tell that this man didn't care about any of that. He was totally into ME, just as I was, right then. He didn't care that my body was imperfect; he saw only the good stuff and accepted the rest. He didn't care that my apartment had dirty dishes in the sink and laundry hanging up to dry; he cared that we were there, just being together, and that he felt comfortable with me from the beginning. And I got him a new toothbrush for himself.
He saw me as an equal right from the start. He has said from the beginning that not only did he think, "Wow, she's gorgeous" when I stepped off the bus that first day, but he was attracted to my brain as well. He says, every day, "Don't change a thing". I could not have lied, cajoled or manipulated my way into getting a man like this to notice me. He noticed me because I was willing to just be myself and because I cared more about being myself than I did about his good opinion. Yes, NOW I care about his opinion, but I also didn't have to turn myself inside out to get it. THAT is the difference.
I'm not saying all this so you'll write in and say "Oh, you're so lucky; Georges is so wonderful; blah blah blah". I'm saying it because I finally GET IT, what I was doing wrong all that time. I was so busy caring about what some guy I didn't even know THOUGHT of me, that I forgot to be happy just being ME whether some guy liked it or not. Once I switched my attitude and my perspective, it was amazing how quickly Georges showed up in my life. (And sorry, ladies... he is well and truly off the market now.)
Beck is right: if you raise your standards and stop settling for less than you deserve, if you just go out and do what you want and be who YOU want... will it decrease the number of available partners you might encounter? Yes, absolutely. But so what? Who says the "numbers game" works anyway? It doesn't, and that's the whole point. It's not about how many men you can get to ask you out; it's about being who you are, and who you want to be, and getting out there doing what you love doing, so that the "perfect" (as in Perfect for YOU) guy will cross your path one day when you least expect it.
And he will notice how complete you already are, as your own woman. He won't care that you don't need him to "complete" you (apologies to Jerry Macguire fans). He will be attracted to the fact that you are already a "total package", because HE is a "total package" himself, already complete, doing exactly what you're doing: living his life, making it the best life he can for himself, and being his own man.
When you're already your own, fabulous, fully complete woman, one with a mind and an opinion, one with people and interests in her life she enjoys, someone who gets out there and lives life to the fullest -- this is the sexiest, best aphrodisiac going. Sure, there will be a large pool of men who will not want a woman like this; they're the ones you've BEEN dating all this time, the ones who don't want you to speak your mind, who don't call you back, who aren't interested in what interests you, who won't love you even though you've got cellulite on your ass and your breasts are heading south as you get older. They're the guys who can't handle a strong, confident woman.
But the guys who CAN? The guys who will be attracted to you, just the way you are right now? Who will look at you when you are in a room full of younger, thinner, and possibly even prettier (according to Vogue) women, and still tell you that YOU are the most beautiful woman in the room -- and MEAN EVERY WORD? The ones who will LOVE it that you've got a brain, an opinion, and you're not afraid to use it? The ones who will encourage your success, your goals, your dreams?
THOSE are the men worth waiting for. They're the ones you want. Don't settle for anything else. They're out there. And it only takes ONE.
And while you're waiting to bump into him in the dry cleaners or while waiting in line for your mocha latté, or even on an on-line dating site, you will be busy doing your own thing, creating and enjoying the life YOU want, RIGHT NOW -- instead of sitting back and waiting for your life to start once you finally snag some guy who maybe looks good on paper, according to some quiz in Cosmo, but who will make you miserable and insecure about yourself every day of your life, and who will eventually dump you for someone younger and thinner with bigger boobs.
He's out there. Trust me. Just go live your life, enjoy it, and let HIM find YOU. And once he does, he'll make you happier than you ever thought you could be. He'll be someone on your level, and you'll be on his. You will be able to blend your lives together almost seamlessly because you will already be two totally complete people, in your own right, who automatically make a perfect fit for one another. You won't be able to get enough of each other. And you won't worry for a single second about whether your hair is perfect, or if you forgot to shave your legs this morning, or whether you accidentally farted in your sleep, or do you have spinach stuck in your teeth. Because he won't care that you are a whole human being with imperfections, just like you won't care about whatever imperfections he happens to have. Neither of you may be "perfect" in the classical sense, based on what the media tells us we "should" be looking for. And it won't matter one little bit.
He'll think you're wonderful no matter what you do, and you'll think the same about him -- even in those moments when perhaps one of you is annoying the other one, or when things go wrong in life as they sometimes do. At the end of the day, you will still wake up and look at each other and think how damned lucky you are to be together, and you will think: "Now what can I do today to make him just a little bit happier?" Not because you need to bend over backwards to keep him, but because it will make you even happier to give something to this person you love so dearly. It will stop being all about what the other person can do for YOU, and become about what you can do to show your love, your respect, your caring.
And THAT -- believe me, from the bottom of my heart -- is worth staying single for, until you finally do meet him.
Stop holding your breath, waiting for love to come along, waiting for some guy, ANY guy, to "make" you happy. Stop trying to manipulate your way into love. Instead, make yourself happy. Love yourself. Be good to YOU. Enroll in that class you wanted to take for years. Take that vacation to the most romantic place you can think of and get yourself a gondola for one. Buy that house, all by yourself, and decorate it to your own tastes. Move to the city or country of your dreams, if that's what you really want to do. Set your life up the way YOU prefer it. Exhale, already.
And trust that when he does arrive, it will be "perfect". You won't need to change a thing.