We’ve all heard them before: the loved and loathed “Dating Rules.” Wait three days before calling after a first date, wait five hours before responding to a text, keep your initial conversations light and superficial, etc. Most of the rules are an attempt to keep their interest, appear like you have a life, and don’t come on too strong. I’ve had friends drive themselves crazy for HOURS, dying to reply to a text message, but forbidding themselves, instead staring at their phone, counting down the seconds on their timer.
Don’t get me wrong, in some cases these rules work. Sometimes, if you respond within a millisecond to texts and calls and are always available no matter the time and day, the guy/girl will be put off. At the same time, these rules can become excessive, restraining your personality and natural conversation flow and on some occasions, chases the guy away because you don’t seem interested.
For awhile, I thought these rules only applied to traditional dating. When online dating increased in popularity, I thought the binding rules of the real world would decrease. No such luck. In fact, they might have increased. Since online dating happens on the internet, not in person, we’ve already diminished the human factor. Instead of conversation on the phone or in person, where the banter is back and forth, we can read an email, think, muse, and ruminate over it before formulating a response. This can be great, but it’s also not real. You may think, wow, this guy is really quick-witted and smart, then on your first date he can barely string two words together.
I love Will Ferrell movies. Granted, there have been a few that might not grace my DVD shelf, but for the most part, I have every line of every movie memorized. In one email I sent to a guy named Clark, I added a quote from Talladega Nights (because from other movies he listed on his profile, we seemed to have the same taste). Five hours later, I received an email from Clark with another Talladega Nights reference. Assuming we both enjoyed the movie, this went on for the next few emails or so.
For our first date, we went go-cart racing. Teasing, I told him, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
He stared at me blankly, not registering one of the most well-known quotes from the movie.
I shrugged it off, but afterwards, when he congratulated me for winning our race, I said, “That’s why they call me El Diablo.”
Again, blank stare. This time he coughed, averted his gaze and shuffled his feet. I couldn’t let it go.
“Not that it’s a big deal or anything,” I said lightly. “But have you seen Talladega Nights?”
His face turned a weird shade of pink before replying, “Actually, no, I haven’t.”
“But all those quotes in our emails…” I started, confused.
The color in his cheeks deepened. “Yeah, I didn’t know what you were talking about so I Googled it.”
I sighed, thinking, if we’d been talking in person he would’ve had to admit he’d never seen the movie. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was disconcerting. What else had he Googled?
In the end, it doesn’t hurt anyone to follow a few rules, here and there, but at some point it becomes excessive, and quite honestly, exhausting. Also, if you’re waiting five hours to respond so it appears like you have a life, but in actuality are really just pacing your apartment, what do you think will happen if you wind up actually dating that person? Isn’t he/she suddenly going to wonder why you have so much free time?
Overall, the best rule to follow is simple: be yourself. Be the best version of yourself, but still be yourself. Because they’re not going to be dating Google or your timer, they’ll be dating you.