Dating in the Wild applies to situations where you meet someone with dating potential in a natural, non-dating focused setting. Like work, an art class, waiting in line at the grocery store.
I'm sure some of you are thinking, "I'm always on the lookout for a potential date no matter where I am." But this Dating in the Wild classification makes more sense when I compare it to its polar opposite - Dating in a Corral.
Corral Dating is a situation clearly designed for meeting others who are also looking to date (or hook up, or marry or whatever). It can range from the most obvious (like on-line dating sites or blind dates) to the more disguised variety (like a crowded bar on a Saturday night). Basically both parties are entering a defined social (somewhat animalistic) setting, or Corral, with the same mindset - "I'm looking for someone to date."
So here I am with my tennis group - people I've hung out with every week for the past two months. I know some people are likely in the league to meet potential dates. But for me it really is just an outlet to play, act like a goof on the courts, and grab a few drinks with everyone afterwards. I enjoy the innocence of it - no drama, no scandal, no gossip. Just a ball, a racket, and some wisecracks. If anything, it has become a welcome escape from the dating battlefield.
Then one day while waiting in line for one of our pointless volley drills, I turn to the guy next to me and feel myself completely clam up. I can't think of anything interesting to say. I get nervous when he makes eye contact (and he's damn good at that with those puppy dog eyes). I over analyze everything I do manage to blurt out. I giggle more annoyingly than usual. What the hell is wrong with me?
It could only be one thing - I like him.
Great. Now my safety zone has turned into a battlefield and I am completely unarmed.
I don't know about you, but I have been dating almost exclusively in a Corral for most of my adult dating life. Bars, set-ups, e-harmony, Match.com. For better or for worse, I'm almost always in a controlled setting with established dating protocols.
On-Line: If you are interested, you email. If it's mutual, they respond and you meet. If it's still mutual, you keep meeting until you are a couple or you aren't. Plus you get the added bonus of knowing in advance their age, career, if they want kids, their religion and all that other b.s. you can put out there. Of course, they could be lying but let's assume for the sake of argument they aren't.
Bars: If you are interested, you smile in their direction, talk to them, let them buy you a drink. If you aren't interested, you avoid them, ditch them to "go to the bathroom" or give them a fake phone number.
Blind Dates: If you are interested you smile a lot, maybe touch their arm during conversation, give a hug at the end of the night. If you are not interested you don't call them again.
Most of us pretty much understand these rules and, although they can be painful and awkward, they are relatively clear and easy to follow.
But In The Wild, it's another story entirely. You are flying blind and have no idea if they are feeling the same attraction you are. Did that guy in the produce section linger a little longer than necessary around the Granny Smiths because he wanted to talk to me? Should I talk to him first?
Or if you already know them, like with my Tennis Crush, you see and talk to them regularly whether you like each other romantically or not. So how do you all of a sudden indicate your interest without changing the dynamic that already seems to be working?
In my case, I took a two-pronged approach. I paid him extra attention with more smiles than usual, and established an inside joke. But I have no idea if those were picked up on so I also added the middle school move of mentioning my crush to a few other people in the group. (I'm embarrased to admit that I am not "evolved" enough to ask a guy out first. It just isn't even on my radar - yet.)
One of the reasons I have this crush in the first place is that he is so genuine and friendly with everyone in the group. So of course I can't tell if he's paying me any special attention in return, or if he's even noticed at all.
The league ended last week and I supposed I have to wait and see what - if anything- happens. He's got my phone number and my email so the tennis ball is in his court (I couldn't resist the pun -sorry). But to be perfectly honest, I kind of hope nothing happens at all. Having a harmless crush is actually kind of fun and innocent all on its own. And it would be nice to maintain at least one peaceful, war-free zone.
Oh, for the update on the other war fronts:
International Business Man of Mystery remains a mystery. We had plans to meet last week and he never replied to my email confirming the time and place. When I went to his Match.com profile, I got this message: "This profile is no longer available." Considering that I didn't even want to meet him anyway (he kind of freaked me out on the phone - way too much energy, but I was curious to meet him at least for blog material), I was relieved. But the Invisible Man lives on.
I have a blind date scheduled for next week with a Jewish Doctor a friend insists I will like. I'm sure he's shorter than me, but my mother would kill me if I didn't at least meet him.