I will say that this article might be the hardest to write. If you put this into context, my whole life’s work has been dedicated to love. Not the best kind to be honest—more often than not it was mostly unrequited amour and the pain that comes with it. I have had my fair share of feelings—enough for a thousand lifetimes. But summer is starting its hazy stretch—with people letting go of winter blankets to step out into the sunny, buzzy world—and I thought a note about love and dating and dealing with the enormity of those feelings while coping with anxieties would be appreciated.
Dating is horrible, love is horrible. I don’t know why we do it, but we do! In a study, it was said that falling in love has the same awful effects as cocaine: it’s addictive. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you have erratic mood swings, and you feel things so much more than you normally would. I remember the first few times I fell in love and it was no fun. At my sixth grade prom I cried and tried to get away from the dance floor because I had just been rejected by my crush for a slow dance. One of the teachers forced that boy to dance with me anyway but I just wanted to disappear as S Club 7’s “Never Had A Dream Come True” unironically blasted in the cafeteria-turned-elementary school disco.
My first real love though, was this guy named Vincent. I was 15 and he was 17. I thought he was magnificent—interesting and brooding—although I didn’t really know him that well to be honest. He was into all these bands that I hated like Tool and Primus (I forced myself to listen to that stuff though—for him), smoked cigarettes in the school’s parking lot, and wore those plaid flannel shirts around his waist. He was so cool. I’d walk with him after class, even if it took me off path to my house by like 30 minutes, and I’d just listen to him talk about how much he hated his dad. This relationship didn’t end great either. He kept telling me it wouldn’t work because he was a senior and that crushed me forever.
I dated my fair share of weirdos after that. In my head, I thought that since I had been rejected all this time, I should probably take what was handed to me, which isn’t something anyone should think. I dated a bunch of scene kids; one dude who lived under a drug dealer’s apartment and wouldn’t pay his electricity bill; and some dudes from Ottawa, even though that was two hours away from my home in Montreal.
Eventually, I had some steadier boyfriends, and I just started hopping for one long-term relationship to another. I know some people would argue that when you’re single you “learn to know yourself” and you have “time to think and work out your inner problems” but truth be told— in my case—that’s bullshit. I know for a fact that whenever I was single, I was one hot mess. When you’re in your early twenties, especially for me, you go out places, such as bars, to meet people. You may end up drinking to build the courage to make out with strangers. When I was single, I kept trying to find myself through other people. I wanted to belong to someone so I wouldn’t have to face the rest of humanity on my own, since that was terrifying to me. I only loved human contact and sex when I was shit faced, so shit faced I was. This was not the way to go, obviously, but it is still the path I took.
When you’re afraid of social gatherings, settings, places with a lot of noise, it is particularly hard to meet new people. I’ve found myself in many awkward situations that either resulted in accidental foursomes or being lured into shady Toronto after-hours spots (one with drag queens and an ex-Canadian Idol winner, which was awesome but still) because I couldn’t opt out or read warning signs while being on dates—all because of my crippling anxiety and the desire to fit in.
That being said, here are some tips that helped me cope with all of my anxieties that I wish I would’ve had before dating the first person that would come my way:
1. Get a dog. Or a cat, or any kind of animal. If you feel like you need to work on yourself and see what kind of attention another living being demands, getting an animal is great. I have a dog and, honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t get one before. He sleeps with me, hangs out with me when I go to the bathroom, we have conversations (well, we don’t but I talk to him) and he follows me everywhere so I feel extremely important. A good practice if you want to learn how to be a more confident conversationalist is to talk to your pet, who absolutely won’t answer you back. It helps.
2. Don’t go out to bars to meet people. Bars are noisy, and it’s going to be hard to know who is a psycho and or a narcissist if the music is loud and the lights are low.
3. If you’ve been keeping tabs on a crush online, reply to their Instagram story with something cute at least once and see if they reply. It’s a fairly low-risk reach at connection. If they don’t respond, don’t bother pursuing. You’ve put in your effort!
4. Always shower. Showers are great, I mean, it has nothing to do with dating, but it’s just a nice thing to do for yourself and the people around you.
5. Be yourself, be honest about what you’re going through. Don’t be shy to tell someone you don’t feel comfortable in A or B situation, and if you are scared of other people, like me, just ask a lot of questions. People just love telling you about their lives, and, honestly, it calmed me down when I just pretended to care because, eventually, I did!
I love to tell people that I’m an expert when it comes to this. I’ve successfully dated many human beings while being terrified of most things this life has to offer. But I’ve had my share of horror stories as well, and honestly I’m terrible at applying advice to my own life. That is sort of how it works: you have to live it and go through it on your own to understand what to do and not do. Truth be told, the first time I had sober sex in five years was not too long ago, and I’m not proud of that. But you live and you learn, and I’ve learned to face my fears, and so can you.
With that said, it’s summer, so I hope you find true love and absolutely no dick pics.
Béatrice Martin is a singer and songwriter from Montreal. Follow her on Twitter.
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