CHAPTER I: THE FOUNDATION OF ALL RELATIONSHIPS IS LIES
("You Only Think I'm Kidding" is a random collection of hopefully-comedic rants about our social lives and norms. It stems from a series of jokes I made with friends in college. Most got the joke and laughed, or at least pretended to think it was funny to get me to shut up. Either way, someone suggested I should write a book on relationships because several ended up being relationship-themed. Credit to Hether Scheel for the title; it's a perfect fit even though the series really is a joke. Maybe.)
Am I allowed to say that I hate first dates? If I ever want to get married I oughtn't, but I will anyway.
First dates are the worst invention since the Iron Maiden. I actually prefer the Iron Maiden because I learned in college that it was never really used as a form of execution. Sadly, the first date is all too real and future generations will no doubt watch laser-holograms of our 21st-century courtship rituals and balk that we were ever so backward. Put aside all the stupid drug-store novels and over-idealized nonsense and remember first dates for what they really are.
"That's just the bad ones," some may say, but hear me out. You spend most of your time wondering if there's anything there or if there could ever be anything there. There's a great deal of introspection going on. Any misplaced word or gesture may signal true love or immanent disaster. Every twitch of body language could be the deeper implication of a potential problem or the makings of a timeless romance. And who will draw first blood? When is the right time to step up--to make that ever-so-risky declaration of, "This was fun. I want to see you again" or "I sure do wish we would spend more time together"?
When we recognize this worrying, we gloss over it by saying, "Calm down! Just be yourself. Relax and be confident in who you are." But let's get real... Who is ever really himself on the first date? And I mean really, really himself? Let me throw this assertion out there: Everyone is a bit crazy in some form or fashion. For myself, I'm a recovering nerd trying to drown out the inner Trekkie with college football and attempts at witty social commentary. Yet no matter how much I learn to have friends and skip on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer marathons, I will never stop being a huge geek. So let me be myself--and really myself--on this example first date:
Pretty Lady: "So, tell me about yourself." *bats eyelashes*
Me: "I can identify every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation based solely on the cold open (that is, the first five minutes before the credits roll). I can give you the season, a rough plot synopsis, and usually the name of the episode."
Pretty Lady: "I'm walking home."
This example is flawed I confess; a woman would never ask a man about himself on the first date. But do you see my larger point?
We cover up our crazy because, let's face it, any normal person would run away screaming if they knew what our malfunction was. We never go into "full-crazy" mode right out the gate. That happens over the course of several weeks as we let on more and more of our flaws, insecurities, or cripplingly-nerdy hobbies. We gloss and smooth over all our rough edges like Accutane on a pimply teenager. Our very best may be on display on that first awkward afternoon at the Starbucks, but our worst comes out later. We are the plastic, Barbie-and-Ken versions of ourselves on the first date. We're on our best behavior, all the while hoping to behave well enough to make it Date #2, relax, and let some blemishes show. Isn't that really the goal of Date #1; to get to Date #2? Sure is. Hence, Date #1 is usually a performance.
Now, I have no solution to the problem of the first date. It simply has to happen. Much like day-timers, laundry, and weight-loss programs, they are an established fact of living in a world polluted by sin. God never intended any of these things to be. He loves us and would never make us go through this grueling process in His perfect world just in order to be married. Yet just like day-timers, laundry, and weight-loss, there are people out there who actually delight in first dates. We call them "Satanists".