“You Americans and your rules of dating!” He said teasingly, before kissing me.
Our conversation of cultural comparisons had revealed that the French don’t date and they don’t play games. They go from zero to first kiss to bonafide couple in 60 seconds flat. Perhaps this is not surprising for a nation home to La Mans and “la langue de l’amour.”
“As far as rules go when it comes to love, I only have one…” I replied.
I’ll come back to that later.
A few days earlier, I dropped into my favorite department store to cash-in on (or drop cash on?) its annual spring make-up event. Double points. Free gift tote with samples. What do you mean I don’t need another red lipstick? Of course I do! Natasha, the facial-care brand representative who had introduced me to the benefits of toner and weekly exfoliation, was more keen to catch-up on life than sell me eye cream. I was happy for the free make-up application and girl chat.
Under the influence of pink ginger ale, I divulged that I had stumbled out of a relationship and immediately into a new fling with a foreign suitor. Her eyes opened wide and she put down her lipstick pencil.
“Just remember, you have a lot of things going for you. Above all you have the advantage of youth — after you turn 30, men will lose interest.”
Context: Natasha is hot and exotic. She has a boyfriend who treats her like a queen. She refuses to get married. She is in her 50s and looks 25. Seriously. She is the best advertisement for $500 face cream in the world.
“There are lots of rules out there to playing the game, but there are only a few that matter. Here they are:
1. Make him wait a month before you sleep with him. That’s just long enough to become friends so the sex is better. Any longer and he’ll go looking for it elsewhere.
2. Never let a man walk all over you. Be confident in who you are. A man should enhance your life. Not make it.
and 3. Don’t settle for anyone that doesn’t spoil you rotten. You’re wonderful. You’re a princess and deserve to be treated that way. A man that doesn’t pay at dinner will cheat you in other ways. And watch out for French men. They’re fantastic in bed, but they usually have a mistress. I work for the French. I’ve seen it all.”
Natasha’s words of wisdom blew my mind. And not because she had basically told me my prime only lasted two years. No, mostly because other than #1, her rules sounded less like rules and rather mottoes to date by.
We all acknowledge that dating is a game — this is an unfortunate reality that bothers the hell out of me. The only games I like are Monopoly and Scrabble (which I’m terrible at, but play with competitive enthusiasm/optimism). But I think we misuse the word ‘rules’ when we talk about dating. I prefer to think of these things — things like deciding when a couple takes certain steps — as guidelines, suggestions, a roadmap in finding what will make us happiest in the long run. It’s easy to find someone to go to bed with. Less easy to find someone that will make our whole lives better.
My one rule in dating is simple: Follow my instincts. Not just when it feels right, but also when it feels wrong.
Before I sign off, Natasha gave me one more morsel of wisdom and it’s the insight I might just love the most:
“A good relationship is like a good pair of shoes. A good pair of shoes don’t need breaking in. They fit you right and feel comfortable from the first step. That’s what you’re looking for. You don’t need life blisters.”