On our second date we met for a quick drink later in the evening than I would have liked for a Friday. He had the option of meeting me for a proper date Wednesday or even Thursday that week—but I figured he didn’t want to invest in springing for more than one drink, and this way I had already been out to dinner with friends and was almost certain to be a cheap date. Not only was I exhausted from a grueling day at work, I was also entirely over-dressed for the venue—here I was in a tight pencil skirt, sleeveless blouse, and four-inch heels at Denver’s most notorious dive bar. My date and I were pretty much the only souls there not in a hoodie.
The thing about Jeffrey is that he’s entirely too handsome. Tall, lean, great hair, winning smile—what’s there not to like when looking at this man? So, why aren’t we going on a third date? Silence.
There’s dead silence, awkward silence, and that silence you feel in the pit of your stomach after staring at your cell phone for three hours straight because he hasn’t called when he said he would. When I was a little girl I called that silence “lump.” On days when I had lump my Mom let me stay home from school for what we called mental health days. Those were the times when I knew I’d have to sit alone at the lunch table because my friends all hated me and I simply couldn’t bear it. Little did we know lump would be alive and well now that I’m in my forties.
I didn’t feel lump on my second date with Jeffrey. In fact, I had a pretty good time. Sure, conversation didn’t flow as easily as it had on our first date—and I was hearing some of the same stories he had already shared with me the week before—but our short bouts of silence didn’t worry me too much.
Why should they? It’s perfectly natural to have breaks in conversation. Friends do it all the time and we don’t think twice about it. Communication experts tell us that when we talk shifts in conversation occur every seven minutes or so. C’mon, people can’t we even take a breath? Apparently not when in the early stages of dating.
There appears to be a double standard when it comes to conversation among friends and conversation with a new potential love interest. When we have a quiet date we fret over how we can make it more engaging. When we have what we consider to be a great first date we say things like, “And we had the best time! There were no awkward pauses . . . . We talked and talked for hours! It was so easy—it just flowed.” When that doesn’t happen—which is most of the time—we* worry that we just don’t have chemistry OR there’s something terribly wrong OR our dating is boring OR we don’t have anything in common. I haven’t once worried about being more entertaining with my friends.
When I’m out with friends and I’m tired/cranky/hungry/all of the above I just tell them I’m not feeling myself and they accept the situation for what it is—a night when I’m not going to be particularly lively. Big fucking deal. If I’m out with a date and I’m not “on” I try to rise to the occasion by having a few conversation starters up my sleeve, chugging a Red Bull, or running to the bathroom to take off my panties (try it!). I want my personality to be winning and charming. I want to dazzle the poor soul with my charisma. The whole situation gets me tied up in knots.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just slow down and stop worrying about how fucking delightful we are and just be? I wish my dates flourished despite a little silence here and there. Unfortunately, when we are met with some silence on a date that other silence creeps in and takes hold—you know the kind. It’s that silence when you realize he hasn’t called for more than a few days and you just know why. You’re not going to see the poor bastard again. He’s moved on. You’re toast. All you have now is a big, fat lump.
* I don’t think women are the only culprits in this situation, by the way. I think this is true for both men and women.