Recently I went on a first date. No, it wasn't the first date of my life but the first time I was going out with Mr X who I had been recently introduced to. It was a date after... umm... ahem... well, even I don't remember. Let's just say, it was a date after eons. And it was carefully orchestrated by helpful friends - those kind souls who don't judge you, who lend you their shoulders and ears when you want to rant, and who still love you enough to play match-makers. Thus a man, venue, date and intent was fixed. All I had to do was to play the cards right, for a change. (Disclaimer: Mr Potential had NO clue of what was going on behind the scenes. The idea was to simply set the foundation - a meeting between me and him - and then let my charm, his response and fate do the rest).
No big deal, I thought; I was a veteran of first dates. Each time I went out, there was a request for an encore. I could laugh, flirt lightly, smile and impress with my one-liners and witty conversation. So what if this was arguably my 20th first date? How different could this one be?
As D-moment neared, I tried hard to "feel" something. Excitement, anticipation, nervousness, colourful butterflies in the pit of the stomach... just anything! After all, that's what first dates are all about and who better to know this than we, the eternal singletons! The basis of our checkered love lives, replete with missteps, misadventures and mistakes, is the first-date-gone-wrong or first-date-gone-nowhere sequence so we know every emotion, dialogue and script that preceeds and succeeds such outings.
I geared up for the big evening.
Except, I felt nothing. No emotion. No excitement. And certainly no butterflies or fireflies in my tummy. A tiny voice in my head rationlised that it wasn't a formal date so the indifference was natural. Another voice reassured, things would all go well once it started. Conversation would flow, we would find common interests, time would fly and before we knew it, another date would be fixed. And a third, cynical voice argued that I was being downright silly. That, by putting extra efforts to what should be a natural process (at least in the ideal world), I was defeating the very purpose of the exercise.
I decided to go ahead the with the flow anyway. Unfortunately, the flow wasn't smooth. To cut a long story short, something felt amiss. You know something is awry when you look at the sky while your date looks at the watch or the phone. You sense it is going nowhere when you make polite conversation and force laughter. It just doesn't seem organic. It wasn't long before Mr Potential joined the list of Mr Could-Have-Beens.
In the privacy of my home much later, the questions loomed - what had gone wrong? Why was the magic missing? Had I been a bore (shudder!) Did age have something to do with it (shudder, shudder!)? Had I lost the edge (disaster!)?
In the relationship game, they say calculated moves are a must, especially during the first date. Along with your LBD, you also wear your coolest attitude and best behaviour. That's because consciously or sub-consciously, you want to impress. And much as you'd like to deny it, fact is, you both are also sizing each other up. Much as you would like to treat it as just another evening out with a new man/woman, somewhere the stress of sounding 'right' and doing 'right' plays at the back of your mind and that's when the organic becomes the inorganic. Pretence sets in.
As the years go by, the game a bit too jaded to play over and over again. While in your 20s and early 30s, the aforementioned moves seem all too natural and fun, the older you grow, the more predictable it gets. Pretence becomes harder. And your relationship-weary wariness takes over, despite the desire to be desired and desirable.
It is nobody's fault. The bottomline is that chemistry - the much-overused stream of science that is so integral to the arty romance of relationships - has to come from within. You can't fake it. Cricket matches can be fixed, not attraction. So if a conversation isn't organic, it's best to keep silent.
On to the next first date then.