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On the Blog: First Date by Aisha Adkins

A few weeks ago, I made my regular trek to Starbucks to enjoy a tall specialty drink and work on some of my writings. When I entered, I had no idea that my life was about to change forever. It was on that day that I would become a woman. Sort of.

I was minding my own business, settling into the worn leather armchair and fighting with my many cords. My typical chaotic state was abruptly interrupted by a guy telling me I had great style. I was a tad dressed up but still confused about why this rather average-looking, average-attired dude was commenting on my style. I was still trying to balance my laptop and my coffee when he asked me to take a look at a shoe website on his phone. As I looked over his shoulder it hit me—this man was hitting on me!

Oh my gosh! It was happening! Just like in my dreams! A mystery man was approaching me in my local coffee shop. He was asking for my number! A couple days later he called, we chatted, and he asked me out for an evening of dinner and dancing. Nothing too unusual, right?

Wrong. You see, at thirty-two years of age, this was going to be my very first date. Ever. That’s right: In about fifteen years of romantic eligibility, I had never gone on one single date. Not even the ones that are so bad you wish they’d never happened. Nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had crushes over the years and decent friendships with guys but, until now, I guess no one had really seen me as a viable option. Until about a year ago, I was seventy pounds heavier. I was bullied relentlessly in grade school. College was better socially, but still romantically stagnant.

With all the anxieties of a thirteen-year-old, I frantically texted my girlfriends, asking them questions about how all of this was supposed to go down. I wondered what I should wear, if I should let him kiss me, if I should kiss on the first date. Initially, I was fearful that I would be viewed as immature for my age, suffering from millennial arrested development.

Then, about two days before our date, it clicked.

It is not my job to impress this man.

Mind blown, right? Especially since every fairy tale we’re read as children and every rom-com we see in theaters suggests that women need to impress men with a lethal combination of good looks and infinite knowledge of sports. We are told we need to be damsels in distress who also have it all together. We’re told to hide our flaws until we’ve captured the heart of the dim-witted and unsuspecting male. But where in the real world does putting up this front actually work?

So I decided to go into the date with the following principles:

  • No, I would not wear a dress just because it’s viewed as more feminine. It was thirty degrees outside. I wouldn’t wear a sleeveless dress with an asymmetrical hemline if I were out with my girlfriends in that weather, so I wasn't doing it for him.
  • No, I wasn't going to tell him that it was my first date. It was totally irrelevant to the whole point of that date, which was to get to know one another on a surface level. If things went well and we continued dating I might share that in the future. But whether he knew this information or not our date was bound to be awkward. First dates always are, according to those I’ve witnessed during my countless hours writing in coffee shops across Atlanta.
  • Yes, I would use the experiences of my friends and family as cautionary tales. I didn't know this guy, so it was okay to 1) not drink and to 2) use an abundance of caution. If he was uncomfortable, oh well! I am comfortable being myself and do not need liquid courage. I rarely consume alcohol, so why would I pretend to be a beer guzzler just because he might be?
  • Yes, I would demand respect. So often women don’t want to come off as harsh or “icy” by denying a man’s advances. But if you’re not interested, it is totally okay to say no! And if he doesn’t like it, then he is an immature jerk who doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as you.

For the record, the date went okay. Sparks didn’t fly and, quite frankly, I was over it within the first five minutes. But I didn’t let on. I continued to smile and engage, making the most out of a Saturday night. He had a couple of beers, I had ginger ale (which I had the waiter exchange when I left it unattended during a bathroom break) and explained that I don’t drink around people I don’t know. He tried to kiss me and I dodged it, telling him I don’t kiss on first dates. My Lyft arrived, I thanked him for a lovely evening, and headed home.

I haven’t heard back from him, but I’m okay with that. He may have been turned off by some of my choices, and that’s okay, too. Everyone is not made for everybody. I may not be his cup of tea and he certainly is not mine. We have different goals and aspirations, and whatever attraction was there was one-way.

Some people may see this date as an epic fail, but I don’t. In fact, I was brimming with pride when I got home because I realized just how strong I am. In the same scenario just a few years ago, I would have tried so hard to be the girl of his dreams that I could have ended up sacrificing some of my dignity. Maybe I'd lie and say that I love hiking and running 5ks when I don’t like heights and I never run anywhere. Whatever the case, I would not have been my authentic self. But the other night I was able to stick to my convictions without allowing the pressure to seem “super caj~ and chill” cloud my better judgment. I was able to do me and make my intentions clear without being mean or rude. I kept myself safe and learned more about my romantic likes and dislikes.

I grew as a person.

It wasn't a failure.

Anytime you have an opportunity to grow as a person, I call that a major success.

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