I know, I know. It’s hard to imagine this 29 year old, with a bum hip and verbal diarrhoea could possibly be single. Though you can now add ‘diarrhoea’ to my search history so that’s unlikely to stand me in good stead. God damn you spell check. But somehow, somehow…it is true. I am yet to find my person, which often takes me down the ever entertaining trail of going on ‘dates’. Even writing that makes me eye roll and I’m not really sure why.
I just wrote this sentence “Dating is never something I have been very good at” and then stared at it for a fair while wondering if that is actually true. The problem with the ‘fuzzy round the edges’ years of merlot (and the rest) is that they are hard to reflect on in any real way. I’ve had what I thought were great dates in the past, ‘thought’ very much being the operative word here. It’s easy to feign a great connection when you’re both so drunk you can laugh at a leaf stuck to someone’s shoe for 20 minutes.
It’s also hard to label what exactly quantifies a ‘good date’, I’m much better at saying what I DON’T want rather than what I DO want. So I can only speak for myself, but one thing I can say for certainty is that what I do want has changed a lot since binning the booze. Dating has also been one of the hurdles I have really struggled with in sobriety, it doesn’t mean it’s worse in sobriety, it’s just VERY different. Change is hard and it’s exhausting that absolutely everything changed when I stopped drinking. Which leads me to childlike tantrums at times, my brain being like “No, for fucks sake can I just have this one thing”. No, Suzy, you can’t, and on reflection it’s probably for the best.
Taking the red wine and tequila haze out of the picture when I think back to drinking on dates, there are definitely things (*cough* people) I would never have done if I hadn’t been drinking. It’s easy to focus on the negatives but there are some brilliant things about meeting people with a clear head. So I did done did a list, I like lists.
The best things about Sober Dating, in my very much not-so expert opinion:
- Holy red flags batman – When drinking it was so much easier to ignore red flags. I know now that there are people who don’t get past three messages that I likely would have met before. Toxicity can be hard to spot in these weird times, and even weirder apps, but it’s a hell of a lot easier with a clear head.
Example: – “You’re just not like other girls”. Translation: – “I actually really hate women but you seem alright”. – Other girls are excellent and I don’t like it when people insult them to compliment me.
- You’re cute but not “ruin my life” cute – I’m genuinely happy single. I’ve mentioned before that I always used to say this, but now I mean it. Sobriety has given me a self love and value for myself that is great to carry into dating. Which in itself makes it easier to set my own boundaries on what I need from a person. Which for me is about not making a person a priority, who doesn’t feel the same (this is a difficult one if they have a particularly nice beard though I must say).
Example: – “Life’s just really busy for them right now”. Translation: – “If they can’t find two hours to go for a coffee, they don’t want to enough, or they shouldn’t be dating anyone” – Harsh but fair.
- Listening and (actually) hearing – No they are not the same thing. I thought they were but they fucking aren’t. This one for me is about being clear headed enough to also listen and respect other people’s boundaries too. Not thinking I can change someone, or that I can be the person to make them want things they don’t (or can’t), and, more importantly, walking away if what I want and what they want don’t match. This is hard to do anyway, but being sober and listening better go hand in hand for me.
Example – “I’m not looking for anything serious right now”. Translation – “They are really, truly, 100%, NOT looking for anything serious right now” – Which can be fine, if I’m feeling the same.
- “Let me read you a poem about my vegan bicycle” – When you get hammered with someone on a date, you instantly have something in common. You’re both hammered. It creates a kind of false chemistry and I found it was easy to get along with someone that outside of the blurry haze I’d have zero to say to. Alcohol is a synthetic conversation starter and a fake social lubricant. It’s harder for me now to make a connection but not if I’m with a person I get along with, meaning I’m pickier than ever but it’s worth the extra effort for something real. I’ve also let go of a lot of the self consciousness and become more comfortable with who I am. Which means I have stopped pretending to like things I don’t like to create a semblance of a connection. It never works and it’s irritating for everyone involved.
Example: – “I like kale, Morris Dancing and think Trump had some interesting points” Translation: “Run!” – Hey that might be someone’s perfect person, but it’s a no from me…I dunno actually, surely the Morris Dancing is non-negotiable.
- When it comes to the real stuff, opposites really don’t attract – This one’s controversial. I get that. But I’m not talking about Marvel vs DC here. More the fundamentals. I mean…Marvel vs DC is pretty fundamental in my world. But. Morals and values are just head and shoulders above the rest if I’m looking for mutual respect. I could not and would not date someone who does not agree that my Trans friends should be able to pee in whatever toilet they’re comfortable with. I couldn’t date a “not all men” or an “all lives matter” person. For me it’s a fundamental and impressive ability to miss the point and not listen, so I would never get past that. The fact I may have accidentally shagged a Tory at some point during my drinking days still haunts me…so go, please, save yourselves from this torment.
Example: – “You just can’t say anything these days/it’s political correctness gone mad!”, Translation: “Just throw the whole man away and start again” – Not harsh enough, and definitely fair.
- The ‘Skin Suit’ Paradox – My skin has never looked better since I quit drinking. Incidentally my likelihood of getting murdered and turned into a skin suit is drastically reduced. It’s ironic really. I hate that being drunk as a woman makes me more vulnerable or some how invalidates my right to be safe in this twisted society. This needs to change. Any person should be able to walk down their high street stark bollock naked and drunk as a skunk and still not be touched by anyone, unless they are helping them to safety. That said when I think back to some of the risks I have taken in the past when half cut it honestly makes me shudder. Safety when dating is a real and tangible concern for most of us. Being sober on dates means I am not so likely to put myself in dangerous situations or miss signs that someone is a risk. This is hands down my favourite thing about dating sober, and has probably had the biggest positive impact. Needless to say it’s easier to relax and enjoy someone’s company if you don’t feel like they’re sizing you up for their basement cage.
Example:– “Would you like to come back to mine and see my collection of china dolls”, Translation: – “You have walked into a low budget horror film, partner up, find the exits, don’t run UP the stairs.” – I love horror films and true crime so it’s possible I’m a little too into this one. But in all seriousness if you don’t feel safe fuck being polite, you can apologise later, you can not get un-murdered!
Just writing that out and reading it back alone has helped me think differently about sober dating as an experience. If I’m being really honest there was a (sizeable) part of me that missed the reckless abandon that came with being drunk and the synthetic chemistry it creates with another person. But the bad stuff about it really IS bad. I like the confidence, the fun and the safety that comes with sober dating far more than the blur and uncertainty I was sat in before, it just takes a little more practice to get comfortable. I’ll just have to go on lots of dates with lots of lovely non-toxic people. Gutted.
Plus I’m less likely to end up with a woman hating, unavailable, racist, Morris Dancing, Tory, murderer…
…so if that’s not motivation I’m really not sure what is.