Dating Step 1: Getting Out Of The House

Because I’m the “Sexpert” people often assume that I have the bestest most awesomest sex life ever in the history of the world!!!1! The truth is that I am struggling out here just like everyone else. I haven’t been on a successful date… ever. I find bars and other social situations overwhelming. Online dating sites for gay men are like meat markets. I constantly put obstacles in my way. I know all this to be true and yet I continue to ignore it with work. All of this makes me feel like I’ve lost the spark of life that I once had. It’s strange to be 23 and feel like you’re past your prime. Lately I have been thinking about how to get that spark back in my life. I want to rediscover my sexuality and break out of the shell that I’ve built for myself.

There was a time where I always felt sexy, and desirable. I had sense that even though I was a big guy, I had a lot to offer and people wanted me. That sense buoyed by all the great sex that I was having, deflated when I stopped. Without my confident attitude, my stunning personality was little match for my extreme shyness and introversion. I stopped going out, stopped meeting new people, and dropped off the social map. For a while that social isolation was fine, I was never really much of a people person, but now that my priorities and desires are evolving it’s time to get my groove back.

Well as much groove as I had. As I said before, I’ve never been on a successful date so I’m essentially starting at step one. Any self-help guru worth a damn will tell you that the first step to getting into the dating scene is to get social. Since last night was St. Patrick’s Day, I decided that it was as good a time as any to get out of the house. Accompanied by our condom reviewer and my close friend Victoria, I set out for a chill night at a local bar that another friend of ours recommended.

A few hours before we were to set out, I could already feel that nagging anxiety starting to swell up in the back of my mind. When I say nagging, what I really mean is maddening, hardened, well trained, and resilient anxiety. Here are a few of the thoughts:

“Oh, there’s going to be so many people”

“The music is going to suck”

“We’re going to have to park and walk, my back is going to hurt”

“I’m not going to know anyone there”

“There won’t be any gay people there and if there are they won’t like me”

“None of these clothes fit right, they’re going to think I’m all fat and sloppy”

“If I dance I’m going to start to sweat and people are going to think I’m gross”

“I don’t want to dance people are going to stare at me”

These thoughts are common and not exclusive to bars/night clubs. I oft find myself succumbing to this type of anxious thought when presented with any other social activity. I moped through dinner wallowing in the thoughts. About five minutes before we were going to leave, I decided that I would shake off at least a few of those worries by doing some quick prep. Instead of going out in the same junky clothes I’d been wearing all day, I decided to swap clothes, brush my teeth, and throw on some lotion and cute shoes. Those few changes alleviated much of my appearance anxiety and made it easier for me to get out of my way and out the door. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered this before, whenever I am going to do something where appearance is important or a personal concern, the process of primping makes me feel more confident and attractive. With that confidence boost, we left for the bar.

When it came time to park and walk over to the bar I felt the anxiety raise again. This time it was the worry that I would seem out of shape if my back started to spasm and I had to pause during the three-block walk. Since there was nothing I could do about it and I was already out, I just took the chance. Luckily, I made it without too much discomfort. Though it made me realize that if I was to make going out a more regular thing I would have to take the pills my doctor prescribed instead of relying on my truck and close parking spaces.

As I suspected there weren’t many people that I knew, and those that I did were closer friends with Victoria. This made me feel awkward and led to me taking my normal stance against the wall playing Fruit Ninja. Eventually I remembered that the purpose of all this anxiety was to mingle, so I put my phone away and tried to make myself a part of the crowd. This didn’t work very well and I often felt like an unwanted follower instead of being a part of the crowd. That feeling was internal only as I’m sure that no one regarded my presence negatively. Even though I know that now, it didn’t help in the moment and I soon found myself back against the wall.

Eventually there was dancing, I felt like that was at least one group activity I could that didn’t involve me awkwardly injecting little tidbits in the hopes that someone would acknowledge me. Even when dancing it took a while to get out of my head and have fun. It was one of the few times during the night where I felt comfortable. The rest of the night was more of the same. Eventually I got a call from another friend who had something going on at her apartment, so I chose that as my time head out.

For this being my first time back on the nightlife scene in close to a year, I think I did pretty well. I had a hard time getting out of my head, but I think I powered through well enough. I didn’t meet anyone new, but I didn’t expect to. In the end, I would classify my night as being fun. I’m sure I’ll do it again. Now that I know what made the night go easier for me, I can do those things the first time and you can too. Here are some lessons I learned:

Go out with people you know. Even if it’s just one person, having that point of reference will make you feel more comfortable.

Dress to make yourself feel comfortable. Often we are caught up in how awkward we feel, forgetting that a few simple wardrobe changes can make a change in your attitude.

Add yourself to the conversation. When you’re in a group, it’s your responsibility to make an impression. If you separate out people will just think you’re awkward, bored, or mopey and no one wants to be around that.

Dance. Even if you’re awkward and have two left feet, dancing will allow you to be a part of the group without having to talk.

Leave the house. You can’t meet people if you’re in the house on a Friday night when everyone else is out drinking at the local pub.

Get out of your head. Our thoughts can be a major barrier, try pushing past them and doing the things that you know make you feel comfortable.

Leave your phone in the car. Too often, we use technology as a crutch to keep us separate. If you leave your phone in the car, it’ll be near enough in case you need it, but far enough away that Angry Birds won’t distract from your real goal.

Go with the flow. I know it may seem odd but when out partying, people move around. Stay with your group, and stay in the loop.

Don’t be afraid to venture out on your own. Counterintuitive to the tip above, but you don’t want to stay with your group so much that you miss out on meeting new people. If a song comes on you like, head to the dance floor. Not only will you get more comfortable being out by yourself, but also people may see you as being more of social butterfly if you take initiative.

For now, this is all learning on the job, trial and error. However, things look promising. If you’re sitting at home on a Friday night for the fifth week in a row wondering why no one is knocking on your door for a date, then maybe you should try to resuscitate your social life. Take the first step get out the house. We can do it together, one awkward social experience at the time.

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