Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

March 14, 2007

Dating in the Wild

It wasn't until I developed a small crush on a guy in my weekly tennis league that I realized I had no clue how to date "In The Wild." When I share this sentiment with my friends they have no clue what I'm talking about - just like you are probably feeling right now. So let me clarify.

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, 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 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.



Jacqueline said...

I think that you are lucky to meet someone you like and connect with through a non-dating avenue. I've been a part of huge running clubfor almost 4 years now and my friends and family are appalled that I have yet to find someone dateable. Perhaps I am too much in my "training zone" during track practice and long runs that the last thing on my mind is to scout for candidates. I don't know. I think it's rare nowadays to meet people through non-dating avenues.

Good luck and Have fun. I am in the same boat, where I have a secret crush on a friend's friend. I am lost!

Alex said...

Very good observations here....

In my experience, dating in the wild has yielded better results than corral dating. my best and most fulfilling relationships have been through women I've met in the wild. As a guy, corral dating can be somewhat canned and formulatic. Set ups and tend to connect people with similar interests (a good thing in general) but removes the "mystery" and intrigue of finding out about someone as you go along. Granted, the benefit of reading a person's profile on is that you get to filter out people based on a pre-determined set of requirements. But I've found that the fun of dating is "flying by the seat of your pants" for a while and being suprised (or disappointed) by things as you go along. Dating in the wild also adds the element of spontanaity (sp?) to the interpersonal dynamic, and that feeling that "fate brought us together". Sure it means you have to go out with the person a couple of times before you learn things about them before you kick them to the curb, but as I live in a world that has everything planned out for you (work schedules, social schedules, evern scheduling when I go to the gym) I find it refreshing to approach the dating scene with an element of adventure and dealing with the unexpected.


Juice Mag said...

Wow, I simply love the concept of dating in the wild. How'd you even come up with that?! Anyway, I must say, I agree with you I usually date in the corral myself until recently I think I might just found someone in the wild!

It's an amazing feeling, I can't really explain but it's the connection that's there. "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" Don't we just love the mystery :P

william said...

Guys will try to meet chicks at the weirdest places. I have a friend who used to hang out at Ikea for love. He didn't get much love that way. He also hung around Home Depot and places like that, thinking that if he had the right pick-up line at the right time with the right girl, he'd be able to get some good, good lovin', but it just never worked out. He was thinking that he'd just knock her off her feet with all his charm and get to kiss the girl right away.

Carrie J. said...

Hey he sounds like a nice guy. I think it's great when you can get to know someone a little bit before dating them. I know what you mean by being embarrassed to make the first move. I'm old fashioned that way myself and like the guy to show he's interested. Wish you the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Dating online is a no-no for me. There's a lot of pretenders and fake people who are always ready to take advantage of you.

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