I firmly believe that a mom’s advice is the best advice. They’ve lived through everything: all the emotional breakdowns, pizza binge-eating and quarter life crises that we're experiencing today. However, they just did it 30 years ago when Led Zeppelin was more than a name on a "rock and roll" T-shirt and when analog phones were the most modern technology. Plus, moms are capable of real life magic — they're able to cure anything with a hug and a comforting anecdote. This all being said, I am absolutely not afraid to run to my mother as soon as I decide to take that scary step into the mysterious beyond that is the dating world.
Now I am not inexperienced in love. I’ve had it. I know the joys and sorrows of relationships — which is where my issue lies — that I know quite a bit about relationships, and nothing about casual dating or how I’m supposed to approach an attractive man and not be a stuttering potato. My mom is the complete opposite. She’s tall, blonde, hilarious and in her heyday was a top-notch flirt. She ended up meeting a great guy (Hi Dad!), settling down and spawning me. Yet, I stand here fearful of my inevitable cat lady-ness, and at a loss on how to approach reentering a dating world.
This is where I decide to try a fun little experiment. What would happen if I decided to take my mom’s dating advice for a week?
Really, my standards are just a person with a pulse and an appetite.
This is great because I spend 30 percent of my week grocery shopping.
I feel as though my mom’s advice is something practical that anyone can follow if they’re interested in upping their flirtation game a bit. I prepare for this by laying out a series of my favorite feel-good outfits for the week that I feel really confident in. I also mentally prepare myself to try smiling more than normal, and tell my fragile psyche that pushing myself socially will be a good thing.
I start this morning with a trip to Trader Joes. It’s my Barbie dream house, filled with cute guys and an extensive cookie aisle. I peruse the building for someone I might be able to strike up a conversation with, and find a nice looking man my age near the bagged salad. I quell my inner social anxiety with promises of oatmeal cookies as soon as I leave, and burst out some nonsense question asking about salad recommendations. This lovely man gives a great kale recommendation and talks with me for a few minutes until he leaves to continue his shopping. Now that I’ve pushed myself once, I feel as though it will be easier the next time.
Unfortunately I’m unable to initiate another conversation and head off to class. As an English major, the supply of men is sadly few and far between, yet I make an extra effort to talk with the ones around me more than normal. I manage to feign confidence and dig deeper into conversation past the superficial talk that usually circulates before lecture starts. Here’s the thing everyone: nothing happens but it’s surprisingly fun. I may not be able to steer conversation in a flirtatious direction, but end up having incredible conversation with people I never would have considered in a friendly context. One point for Team Mom.
This day I prepare myself for a full day of class, meetings and study groups, mentally picking out the guys I will be making more of an effort to get to know. This goes about as well as the previous day with some lovely conversations and deepening friendships, but no romantic developments.
I wake up feeling down. I am a potato. Mom, where are you?
At this point I begin to think my mom is too old to understand that “getting myself out there” is harder than it sounds. However, I’m determined to follow her advice since she’s pretty much a goddess and knows best.
She always knows what to say. I feel rejuvenated in my efforts and plan to go out the following night with my ladies.
This is the big night. I go full Kim Kardashian with my makeup and head downtown with my friends. We Uber to a local favorite and order some bar food and drinks. It’s a Saturday so the place is packed with eligible bachelors (or victims). A club scene is one of the more difficult environments for me because I’m naturally more inclined to be in a horizontal position watching Chopped than dancing around in a dark room with too many smells. I reflect back to my mom’s advice to just “show my personality” and take comfort in the fact that she loves me so someone else might too. My friends and I make fleeting and quick conversations with the people around us, but nothing too serious. The night wares on and I trudge hopelessly to the bathroom.
Much to my benefit, the restroom line is humongous and I end up across from a sweet looking guy who looks like he doesn’t want to be here about as much as I do. My inner potato rears her ugly head as words fly from my mouth, until sooner or later it’s been a few minutes and we’re laughing about an SNL comedy sketch and discussing which restaurant has the best onion rings.
To my surprise, I actually find myself very interested in him. For the past few days I have been inciting new flirtations and friendships, but have not been genuinely interested in pursuing anything. The alarms go off in my brain, and just as I’m about to go into a full-fledged meltdown about how to get his phone number, he asks for my phone number! My inner potato prances about in barely contained glee.
We eventually go our separate ways — err to separate bathrooms — and I rejoin my friends feeling more confident than ever.
A boy likes me? Mom, what do I do?!
My mom doesn’t actually know what Netflix and Chill means, she’s just trying to be cheeky.
Nerves overcome me, and I don’t text the boy from last night, because I want to see if just maybe he will send the first message. I go out for a more extensive grocery shopping trip, and two stores in, guess what! Another phone number scored from a guy who helped me carry pumpkins at Home Depot! This is clearly the luckiest twenty four hours of my young life.
While I’m not necessarily as interested in bachelor number two, the overall interaction was a huge confidence boost and reassured me that my mom’s advice to have genuine interactions with people and really showcase myself is always the best way to go.
This concludes the experiment week. I cave and text the boy from the bar, successfully setting up a coffee date for the following weekend, and then I excitedly dance around my room to some Taylor Swift.
So thanks to my mom, here’s what I learned:
I am a young, beautiful woman and I need to own that way more without first having my ego stroked with my mother’s words. Reentering the dating world isn’t some dramatic and terrifying thing like I thought it would be. It takes some pushing of boundaries and a little bit more mascara, but mostly it takes the determination to truly present the honest and lovely version of yourself. Guys are attracted to authenticity. Authenticity is sexy. Pursuing conversation and being your dynamite self is a sure fire way to make friends or even meet a potential husband. There’s somebody for everybody, and if you ever get worried about that impending cat lady-ness, just text your mom and ask for some advice. They’re awesome, and as people always say: “Mother knows best.”