Even the healthiest dater can fall prey to love sickness.
I’m not a fool. At least not in this very moment. However, if you could rewind to a date I went on not so long ago, I’m not so foolish to pretend that wasn’t exactly what I was.
It started off well enough, the make-up Gods- who seem to randomly decide whether you’ll get your head looking right or wrong on any particular occasion (irrespective of the fact that you’re applying your eyeliner with seemingly the exact same technique)-were smiling on me, and having achieved the perfect smoky-eyed look I sat in my apartment waiting for the text message signifying my date was downstairs. Drunk on a cocktail of sexual anticipation and terror at the thought that the only guy in ages that had literally taken my breath away was moments away. I say drunk, because that is the only explanation for the events that followed and because I had poured myself a generous glass of white wine to help take off the edge.
Sliding into his car, I noticed he looked handsome in the kind of way that makes your brain switch off almost immediately. His face, his smell, acting like a kill-switch to my cerebral circuitry. The rest of the evening was an out of body experience akin to watching a really bad movie, starring you. I cringed, watching myself desperately trying to fill any potential awkward silences with jokes that lacked a detectable punch line and turned into rambling nonsensical tales of events that never occurred and confessions about my deepest feelings about such subjects as blue cheese and developing breasts on my first trip to Israel. These tales were either so self-deprecating that at one point he genuinely looked sorry for me, or were so embarrassingly pretentious, including name dropping and declarations of my extensive wine knowledge, “I only drink Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region” (in part because it’s the only region I know that makes them) that he started feeling genuinely sorry for himself. I could see this guy, who had clearly liked me on our previous two dates, watch in disbelief thinking to himself, “How could I have got this so wrong?”
Sitting across from him at dinner, I felt like a character out of ‘Girl Interrupted’. I longed to push a pause button and slowly lean across the table and say “I get it, this person is clearly disturbed. Hey, I’m as disapproving of her as you are. But, please, super hot guy, don’t judge her, because I can vouch for the fact that she’s normally pretty darn cool. It’s just that she’s really into you, which doesn’t happen as often as you think, and the blood flow that normally goes to her brain has been redirected. That’s why she’s not making any sense and why she just told you about when she wet her pants in Grade 3, which by the way did occur but was only because her teacher wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom. But stick with her, this madness can not last. Oh, and I’d move her glass of red, looks like her flapping arms are about to spill that all over you both.” But I couldn’t. Nor could I get the red wine stains out of my white pants or his white shirt. The stain was permanent.
It was after this most humbling date, that I had a revelation. While I was clearly going home alone, perhaps I wasn’t as alone as I felt. I remembered all those absurd pick-up lines I’d heard over the years, the boasting, the beating of the chest and the beer sculling competitions supposedly performed in my honor, the guy that came up to me last weekend and said “I’m really into you, what are you going to do about it?”. Sure these off-putting mating calls looked ludicrous but perhaps this behavior wasn’t evidence of a guy being a complete loser as I had always deduced, but rather evidence of another innocent victim falling prey to the ‘Lust Lobotomy’. That toxic mix of sexual attraction, and in some cases long-term potential, that stops you thinking straight and starts you thinking horizontally. Suddenly I had sympathy for all the guys who had asked for my number while staring zombie-like at my breasts, empathy for the guy who had asked if I’d fallen from the sky because I must be an angel or uttered the line “do you came here often ” while sitting in the doctors surgery waiting room while waiting for my pap smear. I could even relate to all the girls asking ‘where is this going?” on their third date, if the date had gone on an hour longer I might have been one of them. How could I not have seen this was a widespread social disease, this ancient medical injustice that was turning perfectly eligible people into bumbling un-dateable desperados?
To ice my wounded ego, I checked in with friends who I knew not to be fools. Turns out, even those with fully functioning cerebral cortexes, gazelle like legs, black Amexs and God given wit had be afflicted with the humiliation of turning into someone much less than themselves in the presence of someone they rated highly. Confirming my suspicion; that, it’s easier to be yourself around people you don’t care about.
So, is nature to blame? Turns out it’s completely out of our control. Scientists have discovered that falling for someone is not so much an emotional decision as it is a chemical addiction. In fact, just seeing the face of someone you’re “crazy about” triggers the brain to secrete dopamine (a powerful pleasure inducing hormone), the very same hormone secreted by someone who is addicted to narcotics. No wonder we find it hard playing it cool, we’ve literally been reduced to love junkies. What’s more, during the initial “falling in love” stage our brains have such low levels of serotonin, the hormone that calms you down, that we’re on par with sufferers of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
So is there an antibody for this? Next time you feel like someone’s slipped you a mouth laxative, put down the vino you’re drinking (you’ve had enough chemical cocktails for one night) and pick up a piece of bread. The carbohydrates will help your body release that much needed calming serotonin and the chewing might keep your mouth shut long enough to actually listen to what your date is saying. Ask him questions about himself and really listen to the answers. Remember, you’re not there to entertain him or even seduce him. You’re there to be yourself. Trust me, if he’s the right guy he’ll have the emotional generosity to sense your discomfort and put you at ease and see past the blabber-mouthed, name-dropping, bread-binging antics and take a chance on asking the lunatic sitting across from him out again. But next time, he’ll wear a dark shirt.