A guy friend recently asked me if I’d ever written anything on dating. When I told him that I hadn’t, he suggested that I should. Specifically, he was interested in hearing my opinion on how two people are supposed to go from having a few dates with each other to seeing each other exclusively. My initial response was to decline that invitation for comment, as I am merely a woman with opinions and am certainly no relationship expert. But shortly after, two things happened that made me want to reconsider his proposal in favor of giving my unqualified opinion to the masses (translation: keep reading this at your own risk).
First, I took an adults-only trip to Six Flags. And to fully grasp the significance of this event, you must understand that, as a parent, most of my time spent at amusement parks is with children. This means that I’m usually limited to rides on the Mine Train, Monster Plantation, bumper cars, and spinning car-and-boat carousels. So to make a long story short, I got a little too excited to be able to delight in the pleasures of grown-up rides (there were no lines in the park that evening!) and started competing with my younger self (she’s about twenty-two years old and still lives in my heart, constantly setting shit on fire and creating trouble) by gobbling up funnel cakes and jumping on roller coasters without giving any of it a second thought. Instead of making way for prudent judgment and taking a few minutes to digest that fried sugar, I hopped my happy tail onto the Superman and Mind Bender! Whoo-hoo! I was chasing a feeling, that euphoric high that we all get when we’re indulging in unbridled pleasures, and it felt good. That is, until I encountered the Batman roller coaster.
I think I would have been okay if they weren’t running the ride in reverse. And you don’t need to know the details of that experience to understand where I’m going with this, but let’s just say that the shrubs in Gotham City got fertilized with something extra special that evening (don’t judge me). I was walking sideways but I still managed to make a bee line straight for the park exit.
I was on my way home when I was hit with a simple but startling realization: People can’t always do everything the way they used to. Along with the acquisition of wisdom and maturity should come improvements in processes. I remember meditating on this thought as I swallowed a Dramamine to stop the room from spinning and before the sand man came to put me to sleep.
Fast forward a few weeks, I was browsing my Facebook news feed when I came across the funniest meme ever. I won’t describe the picture of the fully grown woman, her tongue, or her lollipop, but I will tell you that the caption read: If I lick it, it’s mine.
After spending a little time thinking about my Six Flags experience coupled with the lollipop pic, I realized that the insight that my friend wanted me to share is very simple. The way we date changes as we mature and learn more about what we enjoy and what we simply cannot handle. There are no rules—just the prerequisites of instinct, common sense and communication. I think the thing most people forget about dating is that it’s an activity, not a relationship status. It’s trying on clothes—sometimes several at a time—before finding a good fit and deciding which one you want to take home and commit to wearing.
Generally speaking, I think two people with enough favorable chemistry will find themselves desiring one another’s’ company more and more, eventually reducing the amount of time and interest they have in seeing other people to lesser and lesser amounts. It’s simply a process of natural selection. At some point, they just look up and realize that they’ve already developed a relationship and accept the fact that they’ve both been struck by cupid.
Except it doesn’t always go that smoothly.
I’ve learned, when it comes to both dating and riding roller coasters in adolescence and early adulthood, you’re most likely able to do both all day without being extremely selective or getting tired and feeling overwhelmed. As you mature you still enjoy the experience, but you learn to choose your rides and clothes more carefully and to apply some reasonable limits. By the time you’ve really gotten to know yourself (and it takes most of us a while to get there), you’re able to narrow down the one or two rides (or let’s say, clothes, lollipops, whatever) that you think you’ll enjoy and focus your time and energy on making the most of those experiences.
Here’s my final thought on the subject. The older we get, the more we become acutely aware of the passage of time. We begin to realize that we won’t have forever in that clothing store or amusement park and that the lights will come on at some point and that funnel cakes and roller coasters do not pair well together. Nobody wants to be left standing naked in a dressing room or tossing cookies in a bush next to Batman (note to self). And if you’re licking it, my advice is that you make good and damn sure the lollipop is yours (special shout out to the lollipop meme lady for standing in her own truth).
So have I lost you yet, friend? I hope that I answered your question okay. And as for me and Six Flags—just know that I’ll do better next time.
You win, Batman ride. You.Got.Damn.Win.