Periscope Depth

she says that I’m a mess, but it’s all right

(Part three of my series on dating. Part two: on why you have to be yourself)

Last week’s post was about why you need to have good self-esteem if you want romantic success. If you don’t love yourself, nobody else will. However, since I delivered it as an anecdote about a guy asking for dating advice, the conversation (in the mirrored LJ post) drifted toward evaluation of that advice.

Which I hadn’t planned to touch on before this week, but hey, that’s how blogs work.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on dating. Since the time I started seriously dating girls, I’ve been through several awkward affairs, many online dates, a few one-night stands, the occasional drunken makeout, some friendships with benefits and a small number of serious relationships. I’ve dabbled in everything and excelled at nothing. So if you’re looking for the winning formula, I don’t have it.

But I can tell you what works for me. And if you were at one point a guy like me – sitting on the sidelines, frustrated at the apparent romantic success of every straight male other than you – this might help.

The most important piece of advice I have to offer: lead an interesting life. Fill your waking hours with a variety of engaging activities. Pack your schedule. Do things that almost nobody else does. Stay busy.

For example: in addition to my day job in online marketing (SEO/SEM), I write fiction; I edit a pop culture blog; I teach jiu-jitsu; I perform with and support a comedy theater in Cambridge; I’m a regular at karaoke; I show up to every Yelp event I can make; I do yoga at least once a week; etc. If someone wants to see me, they need to get on my calendar early.

How does leading an interesting life help your dating life? A few ways.

First, it gives you plenty to talk about. If your evening routine six nights a week is to crash on the couch, beer in hand, you might find a few ladies who want to talk to you. Maybe. There’s certainly lots to say about the shared experience of pop culture. But if you were that good at making small talk, you wouldn’t need my advice.

Nothing gives you that conversational edge like when a woman’s eyes light up. “Really? You do that? That sounds fascinating.”

(Note: this doesn’t mean you should turn every conversation into a lecture on how fascinating you are. You should spend as much time asking about her life as she spends asking about you, if not more. But you’ve got to bring something to the table. If she asks, “what do you do?” and you say “oh, this and that,” she might think you’re edgy and mysterious. Or she might think you’re unemployed and unambitious.)

Second, it gives you breadth. Trying a bunch of different things broadens your skill set. It exposes you to a bunch of different attitudes as well – the competitiveness of your softball team is different from the wild rush of skydiving, which is different from the precision of gourmet cooking, etc. Growing additional dimensions makes you more of a catch.

Third, it gives you confidence. I talked last week about finding the one activity in your life that puts you “in the zone.” You have a greater chance of finding this activity if you experiment with a bunch of different things. I didn’t think that I’d take to jiu-jitsu when I started it. I never expected to still be doing it a decade later.

Fourth, it expands your social scene. Finding someone who’s an ideal match for you requires a lot of different variables to fall into place. The more people you meet, the better the odds. Maybe you’ll find the woman of your dreams at a cooking class. Or maybe you’ll make friends with someone who’ll invite you to a housewarming party, where you’ll meet the woman of your dreams. Or maybe you’ll make a friend at that housewarming party who invites you to hear their band next week, where you’ll meet, etc. Being social pays off exponentially.

Fifth – either most or least important, depending on your perspective – it keeps you from brooding. What makes me most miserable when I’m single and struggling is having lots of free time. I curl up on the couch, staring at the walls. Or, even worse, I check Facebook incessantly. If you’re too busy to mope, however, you’ll be in a better mental state. Getting out every night and doing something exciting keeps you from recoiling inward.

I wouldn’t think leading an active life needed that strong a case to be made for it, considering the inherent mortality of our race. But, if you’re still unconvinced, here’s five good reasons.

(Part four: on online dating)

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