Is It Possible To Be “Good” At Dating?

“I might play ball. But I will never sign that.” - Randall “Pink” Floyd,  Dazed and Confused, 1993

There’s a strong possibility that I’m just terrible at dating. It’s a notion I’ve had to at least consider, right? Eleven years of being single, with not one relationship to speak of after countless attempts and efforts. Maybe I’m single because I’m just not good at dating culture. I have poor swipe skills, bad banter, an off-putting physical presence, and overall I’m just repellant, as far as humans go. If I don’t get good at this game, single is what I’ll always be. Then I think about what this idea is reiterating to me, what it’s really suggesting about me as a person, and I come around to the truth pretty fast: Nah, no fucking way. 
Advertisement
Being single doesn’t need a reason, let me rip that store brand band-aid off right now. The reason why it doesn’t need a reason is that being single isn’t a flaw. It isn’t something that’s wrong, or something I can be faulted for, it is simply the way that things are right now. Dare I say it’s the way things should actually be? Maybe right now single is precisely what I’m supposed to be, even something I — dramatic gasp — enjoy being? Just a thought. 
Back to my talents and aptitudes. Dating. Am I good at it? What qualifies as good at it? For me, dating was always about the effort. I put effort into my dates under the (gargantuanly misguided) notion that effort nets result. I do my hair and makeup, pull a lewk, and put on my optimism and positivity panties before walking out the door. I ask thoughtful questions and come prepared with morsels of information gleaned from their profiles so as to ensure my dates never feels void of conversation topic or connection. I put my best effort forward, because I believe — sorry, believed — dating is an activity worth the effort. So the notion that I’m bad at dating leaves only the conclusion that I suck as a person. Say that to my mother’s face, I dare you. 

Being single doesn’t need a reason, let me rip that store brand band-aid off right now.

Of course I don’t suck as a person, there are plenty of people in this world who enjoy my company in addition to but also including my cat. I always try to operate from a place of kindness, empathy, and love for others, peppered with a wit I sharpen every night before bed. People, I try. And as far as the whole dating thing goes, until I get to sit at a bar next to a man who has: (1) washed his clothes, (2) arrived on time, and (3) committed my actual name to memory instead of just mentally referring to me as “the one with the bangs,” I think my dating “skills” are about as solid as they ever need to be. 
Advertisement
I don’t think dating even is a skill set. That’s what I’m really getting at here. I think dating is two strangers trying to not be strangers anymore… if they’re both even trying at all. Dating isn’t a talent, I’m not trying to become proficient in the art of embroidery, what I’m doing is trying to get to know someone through the information being fed to me, while also trying to feed information across the table that is genuine and even desirable. This isn’t a talent, this is human interaction. I can communicate well, you know that as evidenced by the fact that you’re still reading this right now, and what else does dating really require but two people meeting and communicating verbal and nonverbal cues? Good at dating? The fuck does that mean?!

I don’t want to be “good” at dating, I want to be myself, sitting across from someone who is himself, with dating skills complementary to my own.

Alright, I’ll entertain the idea. If dating is a skillset, what does that look like? When you boil dating down, it hinges (ha!) on what I look like, what I sound like, and what my body language says. These are all things that I like to keep pretty natural. If I was to falsify the natural presentation of who I am in order to be “better” at dating, does that not suggest I’d have to keep up a charade until death do us part? I don’t want to be “good” at dating, I want to be myself, sitting across from someone who is himself, with dating skills complementary to my own. If I change my dating skills, change who I present to others, in order to be “better” at dating, isn’t that just like... lying?
Advertisement
Reason would tell us that being good at dating would only be achieved in order to date as little as possible. If I was really good at dating, wouldn’t that suggest that I met my partner instantly? But that’s never what happens, is it? (Apart from your coworker’s sister’s roommate, yes we know. We’re all very happy for Stacy.) I don’t know the point of being “good” at dating, I really don’t. Dating isn’t an activity with levels and achievements and intramural leagues. There’s one goal in dating, just one: You don’t have to date anymore. 
Until I deleted the dating apps and removed myself from a painful process, I was never able to stop dating — it never, ever ended. No matter the changes and improvements and “tips” I followed, dating never got more enjoyable, or more productive. It was the same old painfully boring, awkward, disappointing shit it ever was. I know in my soul dating is not how I’m going to meet my partner, not because I’m not good at dating, but because I don’t enjoy it. Good at dating? Let me know what that looks like to you, because from my perspective, anyone who’s ever re-applied her Clinique Black Honey before getting off the subway can tell you it matters not one damn bit how “good” you are at dating, he’s probably doesn’t have a bed frame anyway. 
Maybe who I am isn’t translating well through modern dating culture. I think that’s fine with me. Because modern dating culture has been letting me down, too. I don’t want to be good at dating, I want dating to be good to me. And until it improves, until dating feels less like an actual job that’s so horrific I have to take “breaks” from it, until dating culture stops being punishing, and society stops shaming me for being a single woman, shoving me back into the dating cesspool, I’m changing the things I’d like to be good at. 
I’d like to be good at drowning out societal noise. I’d like to be good at savoring every single second of my time for the freedom and options it affords me. I’d like to love my life exactly as it is, so that in order to enter it, someone will truly have to be worthy. Removing myself from the bullshit and realizing how amazing life is when I put myself, not ending my singleness, first — that’s what really requires skill. And I’m amazing at it. 

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series