We’re always told love comes when you’re not looking for it. You'll just happen to stumble upon the love of your life when your head is in the clouds.
I don’t doubt this is true in some cases. I’m sure countless people have been scrolling through books in the library when a gorgeous person reaches for the same book, they brush hands, lock eyes, and that’s them, together forever. However, it is not the case for everyone, and like many other women, I’m guilty of being a passenger in my own dating life, just waiting to be picked.
As women, we are taught to pursue everything in our lives. We are taught to work hard for things, graft, and put in our 10,000 hours to build a life we love. However, when it comes to seeking romantic relationships, there is still a shame that comes with admitting that you are actively trying to find romance, whatever the reason. Sure, the stigma attached to meeting on dating apps is slowly melting away, but for a long time, couples felt choked by the secret, making up elaborate, hard-to-remember stories about how they first met.
According to outdated, but weirdly still popular, advice, one of the key tenants of dating as cis straight woman is that you must never look too 'desperate', and you most certainly do not chase. Unfortunately, adhering to prescribed and rigid gender roles has truly duped the dating game for many women, myself included. Pre-pandemic, I viewed romantic relationships as something bestowed upon me, a gift that I had the pleasure of receiving. Relationships certainly weren't a choice that I was actively making. I had internalized the idea that as a Black woman, I was inherently undesirable, which meant that I shouldn’t approach people out of fear of rejection.
During the lockdown, I loaded up the dating apps like everybody else. Still, I followed those same archaic practices believing that by taking control and making the first move, I was being too assertive. But I am assertive, and that’s what makes me an exciting and vibrant person to be around. I found the conversations I limited myself to were boring and uneventful, nothing more than the usual: “how are you?” with literally nothing more to add because we were in the middle of a pandemic and not allowed to go anywhere. Every single day was the same!
Spending so much time alone during the lockdown, I grew in confidence; and as a result, I became hotter. Something switched in me and I no longer felt like I wanted to be tied down, I wanted to be seen. I didn’t want dull, endless, bland chats with men who lazily swiped me; I wanted to swoon, I wanted whirlwinds, great dates, crazy nights, and I wanted it constantly with new people. And so, in what felt like revolutionary move, I started to take control. I went from waiting to be chosen to doing the choosing. I began calling the shots and honed in on apps like Bumble so I could make the first move. I scouted out guys that seemed cute and pushed for meetings as soon as possible. I didn’t want to give them enough opportunity to let their personalities ruin the excitement.
Before I knew it, I was going on more dates than ever before and having the most fun I’d ever had. I once went straight from a date that started at 5pm on Saturday and ended at 10am Sunday, to brunch with friends, drunk and half dead — but still gorgeous — to tell the story of chaos and fun. Not all dates were exciting but I sometimes even went for a second date with those guys. Why? Well, I didn’t want to write people off entirely for one, and I also loved learning to be sure about what it was I didn’t like about people and applying that to the next set of potential relationships.
In June, with restrictions lifting, I spent a month in Lisbon just to work, live and see what it was like being away from London for an extended period. Something about the sun and fruit quality truly made me feel like the prize. There was an openness in the air, and I felt the meanness of London slip away as I embodied my role as the main character of Portugal. I made friends that I will keep up with forever and explored romantic connections that I wouldn’t think twice about in London. To list but a few: I went on an impromptu date with a half-Nigerian, half-German guy who was even cute when he hesitantly ate the snails on the colossal seafood platter he ordered us. I met up with the Senegalese football player who had god-awful time keeping, but a height that made up for the bad manners. I had brief encounters with many French Caribbean men, one of whom had messy dreads, wouldn’t stop whinging about his dog but was an excellent kisser. My time in Lisbon opened up my eyes to the possibilities that exist when I’m not wedded to a specific type or place. It showed me that when I’m proactive, I can have limitless experiences.
Be it good dates, bad dates, regrettable encounters or forgettable encounters, being assertive in my dating life has been one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made. I would happily never see any of these dates again because knowing that I am actively taking control of my own romantic life is fulfilling enough. Going forward, I will stay in the driving seat of my romantic life and keep seeking out fun at every opportunity! If I meet Mr. Right along the way, great! If not, at least I’m having fun and calling the shots.