storybook

Your love of a good story is getting in your way.

In his recent post on The Date Report, Ryan Dodge pokes fun at the tendency every couple feels to schtick-up their how-we-met story. He admits that his first date with his current girlfriend was forgettable at best. He asked her out again because she was hot, and why not. But he certainly didn’t stumble out of that date bleary-eyed with love. But he admits to feeling pressure to make it sound more interesting now, and so do you—even in the relationship you don’t have yet.

The pressure to have the best, funniest, quirkiest, most magical “story of origin” is not only given far too much weight, but it’s getting in the way of your meeting someone special—especially if you have an “idea” for how it “should” happen. When you jump ahead to some imaginary future dinner party and worry about how you’ll tell the story, you’ve made the mistake of believing that the opening scene is what matters most. You believe it so much that you will restrict how and where you meet people. And it’s a big fucking problem.

Look, we all love a good story. How DO people meet and fall in love? And for those of us who are doing the asking, we may be on a fact-finding mission to see if we ourselves have left any situational stones unturned. Who doesn’t love the tale of the soundtrack-ready romance in which an annoying fender bender on I-95 turned into true love? We love that shit! That’s why we go to movies!

But the expectation that every initial meeting must be a Meg-Ryan-esque moment where initial awkwardness melts into pure, unadulterated passion over a latte is silly, to say the least. Do not make the mistake of confusing your own real life here in the matrix with some dream Nora Ephron once had. (Writers, you are at particular risk here.)

When I sold a set of shelves to a tall drink of water last summer, I thought “ooh good story. This is how we can say we met,” except we didn’t last past two dates because he decided I wasn’t what he was looking for. I mourned the loss of the story more than him! So trust me, I get it.

Yet I’ve met more than a few single people (mainly women), who are so obsessed with the story of origin—of a relationship they don’t even have yet!–that they actually WON’T do certain things or go places to meet people because of how the story will read. Think I’m kidding? Nope. Or–OR–they will full-on lie about their story because they don’t like “how it sounds” that they met in a bar, or–gasp!–online.

Such as….online dating. Earlier in online dating’s brief, storied history, to meet someone online was dubious to say the least. And even now, with so many people hooking up online, still people feel weird about it. I don’t know why. I’ve met so many people online and in person that sometimes I forget exactly where I met them. I love that. The goal is to meet people, and to meet so many that you have to think really hard about whether you were introduced by someone or met online.

And yet, I’ve met plenty of people who literally refuse to post an online profile because what IF they meet an amazing person there and have to tell all their friends where they met? This is insane. Note, these are the same people who will whine that there’s “no one out there for them.” Really?

Online dating is not another planet where questionable human-like beings are beamed in from another galaxy. They’re the same people you would meet within a 10-mile radius of your home if you happened to be at the same watering hole. Instead, you were both online. I think this is wonderful. But you’ve determined it’s not a good enough story. Sorry. Do you want a story, or do you want a partner? 

How you meet doesn’t matter—that you met does. You go to lots of restaurants and bars and parties, and you’ve done your laundry a thousand times in the same room, and you will meet more people than you can remember. But when someone happens to catch your eye and you feel a stirring connection, ask yourself–does it really fucking matter where I found this person? No. 

It’s time you redefined your notion of story. In the interest of time and waning attention spans, no one at a dinner party is going to ask you to explain the entire arc of your relationship. They’ll never ask, they don’t care, and it’s none of their business, quite frankly. Stop thinking of your life in terms of its entertainment value to others, and more about what you really want—so you can stop limiting the ways in which you find it. 

Originally published on howaboutwe.com’s The Date Report.

3 replies
  1. Jill Spaeth
    Jill Spaeth says:

    You know, I don’t actually know how my parents met. Every single time I ask (or I listen to someone else ask them) they change the subject or tell an incredibly outlandish lie. The best story my dad once told me was that he saw someone steal my mom’s purse while she was walking down the sidewalk and he ran after them and got her purse back! Everyone loves a story!

    I wondered for a long time why they would never tell me. I was sad and hurt that they didn’t ever tell me (what’s the big deal, right?!) Then, about a year ago, I came to the conclusion that I’m glad they didn’t. It’s their moment to marvel at and cherish together, not mine. I dropped it and it was refreshing!

    Reply
  2. d.k.
    d.k. says:

    My last boyfriend and I met on eHarmony. He was embarrassed to tell anyone, and when I left him alone for five minutes with my friends, he lied about how we met. Except they’re my friends and I told them the true story. So then it just looked weird for us to tell two different stories. He wanted us to hash out a “story” to tell people, and I didn’t want to lie. This was refreshing to read and I completely agree.

    Reply

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