My dad must have said this a thousand times throughout my childhood, and even now he still pulls it out when I’m describing some new adventure I’m going on. They’re good words to pass on to your kids – simple and to the point. I try to apply them to my life, including my dating life, and mostly I think I’m safe. My email doesn’t have my real name associated to it, I meet dates on location, I tell others where I’ll be and when possible I make friends with the bartender/bouncer/etc. in case things get way out of hand.
It’s a fine line, though. Dating requires you to share things about yourself, personal things, basically while interacting online, on the phone and in person with a complete and total stranger. You have to be careful without being paranoid. You have to maintain a safe distance without pushing your new interest away.
Take my first date with The Gentleman. We planned to meet for a drink but the details were decided on the fly, on the phone, while he was driving.
“Where do you want to meet?” he asks.
“Depends on where you are.” I respond.
“I’m just getting off at 123 Street.”
“Oh! That’s basically three blocks from my place,” I say, thinking Crap! I’ve still got jammy pants on.
“I could swing by and pick you up.”
“Uh, sure” I say, as alarm bells start sounding in my head. “Or I could just meet you…” I trail off. We haven’t decided where we’re going but we also don’t get into cars with men we don’t know.
I agree to be picked up, giving directions to my place (which I normally withhold until date #2, excluding make out dates, obviously) while hastily slapping on lip gloss and better pants. I figure if he or the car looks shady I can find a way to decline.
He isn’t; shady that is, and neither is his very expensive and European vehicle. Not only that, he gets out into the Chicago winter to greet me and put me into my seat. I feel like a kidnapping is very unlikely so I allow him to drive me literally 2 blocks to a corner cantina (which he chose, not me). The date itself is good; we have just one drink as planned as he has somewhere to be later, and the conversation flows. He’s very attractive, engaging, and seems to find me similarly so. I bump him to 2nd date status.
We head back to my place and while idling in front of my building he asks if he can use my restroom. He’s about 20 minutes from where he’s heading and hates to ask, but the bathroom at the bar left something to be desired. He would know, he had used it approx 1 hour earlier (he WAS gone awhile). I said sure, hesitating first to think of the state my bathroom was in. He confirms it’s okay with me. Yes, I say, as long as he promises to ignore the state of things in my place. Then as we’re walking down my hallway I suddenly start thinking DANGER! My condo is a long rectangle with only one exit. What if all this politeness was an act and once he gets into my place… my thoughts trail off and I decide to stay near the door in case he tries anything. And then once he’s in the bathroom I text a friend to call me in five minutes. Not sure how this will help, but I figure it can’t hurt. As it happens, she calls as I’m walking The Gentleman to the door, after he’s asked to see me again and is kissing my cheek.
I was safe this time, The Gentleman is deserving of his nickname, but I didn’t put my safety first. Not having something bad happen after making a potentially bad decision is just lucky. I think of all the times I’ve been even less safe – plan out irresponsible – and I’m thankful that my good will, or naiveté, hasn’t been taken advantage of. I should trust the men I’m dating, but only to the extent that they’ve validate they are trustworthy. And for their part, these men should respect my boundaries, whatever they are, until we are both comfortable.
Sometimes in my rush to respond, in my desire to be liked, I forget to give myself time to think. I blow by the warning flags I see popping up. Not anymore, though. I won’t tempt the fates and push my luck. I’ll go out with The Gentleman again, but I don’t think he’ll be visiting my bathroom anytime soon.
Safety First. Love Second.