Is Dating A Battlefield?

Pat Benatar sang about how love is a battlefield, but dating shouldn’t be too, right?

Have you ever been on a date that feels like a competition? I’m not talking about friendly ribbing over a game of pool or seeing who can better jam Rock Band on the Wii.

I’m talking about competition where every experience and detail about your life that you share for the purpose of revealing more about yourself instead feels more like a rap battle scene with Eminem straight out of 8 Mile.  The person with the wittiest, most dynamic tale comes out the victor. Well, that’s how my date on Friday night felt.

Christian Rocker knew I had lived in a few different places in my life. I had told him what it was like living in Las Vegas (yes, folks—there is much more to living in that city than The Strip.) But the place for which I had most fondness and enthusiasm was California.

On the night of our date, after I vaguely told him I went to college in the Bay Area of California, he told me that instead of going to college, he decided to pursue his big dream instead—taking odd jobs here, making sacrifices there before he finally made it with his music some seven years later. I think he wanted to be admired for taking the braver, nobler path. While I agreed it took courage to doggedly follow a big dream, living at home until the age of 25 also made things a heck of a lot easier, didn’t it?

I wanted to tell him that I went to college also as a path to pursue one of my dreams. Immediately after college, I found myself working in a dream job in some fashion, though it wasn’t exactly how I imagined it. I shortly left that job and went through a couple more slightly related jobs, while struggling with health. Eventually, I changed career paths while soul searching and pretending I no longer had that particular dream because I couldn’t get a foothold back into it again for more than 10 years. After living a completely different life for so long, my dream dropped right into my lap last year.

If he hadn’t been too busy setting up his next line of questions and stories, I would’ve shared that story with him. I’d had a number of setbacks and sacrifices as well.

Then he told me about his travels, his amazing trip to Iceland and the ancient architecture of Amsterdam. He asked me about my own trips to Europe, but I felt like he was waiting for his next time to talk. I could’ve told him about the ice cave I visited in Chamonix, France, with furniture carved of ice and the cave lit up in pretty colors. I could have told him about the enchanting fairy tale village of Oberammergau, Germany, with scenes of Little Red Riding Hood decorating one home and other frescoes.

I began to tell him about my trip to Nepal. Most people have a million questions about what it’s like and what I saw there. I started to tell him about the Dashain festival where animals are sacrificed in the village square and about a young girl who is chosen as the “living goddess.”

I started to speak of the young children hungry to learn about us, but he was already telling me about his week and half mission trip to Haiti, where he taught music to children in an orphanage. He told me how wealthy-looking white men were apprehended, stripped of their wallets and, in some cases, hog-tied. It was a fascinating tale, but I couldn’t help feeling like he was trying to one-up me, so I stopped talking.

I had the same feeling when we talked about favorite music concerts, the best music gig we’d performed and just about every topic that came up. I didn’t feel at ease with a back-and-flow conversation. I didn’t feel like I was on an enjoyable date with a interesting guy with fascinating stories. I felt like I was taking a test, and failing.

Dating shouldn’t be this hard. And I’ve done enough of it to know it usually isn’t.

But I wasn’t overly disappointed. Toward the end of the night, he told me about his desire to get a sleeve of tattoos down one arm. While he has several already, the other day, he was on the fence about getting another tattoo or getting a new musical instrument. Sounded like a no-brainer to me, but…

Not that there is anything wrong with tattoos; I’ve dated plenty of men with them. Yet I wonder what Christian Rocker is going to look and feel like when he’s 60, and he’s staring down at his wrinkly arm of tattoos while playing with his grandkids. Will he still find them as cool when he’s 80?

At least it’s not as bad as a friend of a friend who is my age and just got a tattoo on his face. Um, yeah. His best friends didn’t even know what to say about that one.

Before our date, Christian Rocker told me he’s ready to start settling down, find a life partner and have some kids. But I have a feeling he still has a few years of growing up to do first. That’s one cradle I won’t be rocking.

I don’t need to be impressed by stories. Woo me with the man behind the stories.

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4 thoughts on “Is Dating A Battlefield?

  1. It’s interesting. I often find myself sharing stories like that on initial dates. Partly it’s a mirroring thing – and making an effort to connect with like experiences.

    And even though I’m fairly good at listening, I sometimes find it challenging to reign myself in when I am enthusiastic about something.

    But there’s a line between enthusiastic sharing and trying to one-up someone. Sometimes, I feel like that line gets confusing, especially when you don’t know someone else.

    It does sound like he clearly crossed the line into one-upping, and I agree that he seems like a guy that isn’t quite finished with his “youth days” yet.

    But perhaps some of his story sharing was a genuine effort to connect with you, and/or an attempt to demonstrate similarities.

    This, to me, is one of the big challenges of first dates. Being able to let similarities and points connection appear on their own, instead of trying to force them to happen.

    • Don’t get me wrong – sharing stories is a big part of getting to know one another, especially in the beginning. And you’re right, it’s easy to get caught up in your own enthusiasm sharing your memories.

      But it’s one thing to find a point of connection and another thing to try to trump the experience of someone else. This felt more like the latter.

      The thing is, he wasn’t doing the one-up thing before this date. Perhaps it was partly nerves? Unfortunately, I just got the impression he just rather liked hearing the sound of his own voice. *shrugs*

  2. It might have been partly nerves. I’ve been that person.

    But I do know that there are a percentage of guys who feel the need to impress and be more impressive.

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