The New York Times Book Review (like so many book reviews) made a very gendered “mistake.” As Jezebel so succinctly put it: “The New York Times Book Review’s How-To Issue lists eight pieces on its cover, two of which are written by women. And guess what they’re about? Raising children and cooking.” Molly Templeton, creator of the Tumblr, points out that of course “There is nothing wrong with cooking and raising children; there are lots of things right and wonderful with these pursuits. They are also, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, traditionally female tasks.” She thus asks women to write their own how-to pieces and submit them. Before I dive into my piece, consider this a formal call for you to do the same, should you feel so inclined. You can submit them to us first (email@example.com) and send the link to her, or send it right to her if you’d rather. Either way, I’d love to read it. I can’t think of a woman I know who doesn’t know how to do something amazing amazingly well.
So here it is:
How to Date Yourself.
1. Before you even try asking yourself out, it helps if you like yourself. You and yourself will have to spend a lot of time together, so if you don’t like yourself, try to fix that ASAP. Do you find yourself boring? Always thinking about the same old thing? Nothing to do in your free time? Consider yourself a dull work drone with nothing more satisfying waiting for you at the end of the day than a glass of wine? Don’t be discouraged. Mostly, you just need to be not-so-hard on yourself and maybe give yourself a little makeover—no, silly, not the women’s magazine sort. This makeover involves asking yourself what you like to do, what makes you happy, what you might like to try, and then giving yourself more of it. Do you like to paint? Do you like to go rock climbing? Do enjoy researching thermodynamics? Next try to think about the other things you already like about yourself. Once you start looking at yourself in terms of positives rather than negatives, you’ll start to realize all the reasons you want to go out with yourself. Time to start dating.
2. Take yourself to a movie. Guess what. Unless a movie is 100% sold out, there are always single, available seats in the best part of the theater (the best part of the theater is in the middle of the row, toward the front, preferably at the guard rail so that you can put your feet up). You don’t have to show up early when going to a movie with yourself. Get yourself popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. You love those.
3. Take yourself to dinner. Ever go out to dinner with someone else and feel like you’re just grasping for things to say? Or that you have to avoid certain topics (religion, politics, money, your crazy family)? Or that he’d be really interesting if he just didn’t talk so much, for so long, about his dog/job/mom? Great news: you rarely talk about things you hate talking about.
Other pieces of dinner advice:
a. When you approach the maître d’, try asking for a table for “one” rather than “just one.” No one else will notice, but this is a small victory—like getting to second base with yourself—and you’ll totally appreciate it.
b. Bring a good book. Characters in books are more interesting than that borderline-Oedipal Australian Shepherd breeder you were seeing. Often times, everything fictitious characters say has been carefully chosen by someone much smarter/cleverer than him. So read or listen to the conversations around you and take heart in the fact that you don’t have to participate in them.
c. If you want to spice things up with yourself, buy a trashy romance novel to take out with yourself. No one will know what you’re reading over dinner. This can be thrilling, and you enjoy a little excitement.
4. Go on more dates. You can do more exciting things than just dinner and a movie, like aforementioned rock climbing, going to the zoo, a museum, the water park, horseback riding, or antiquing. Maybe you’d like to take cooking, woodcarving, knitting, golf, ballet, ceramics, or judo classes. And the more of these dates you go on with yourself, the more you’ll appreciate and enjoy yourself—because look at all the interesting things you do! When you are at the museum, you can skip through all the dull stuff and linger as long as you very well please in front of the pieces you like. Hell, just settle on a bench and stare the shit out of that sculpture that moves you in all kinds of lovely ways. There’s no one to rush you. And if you want to take in the place at a speed-walk, well then by all means. You don’t have to wait for anyone. When you’re done, get a latte and a scone at the cafe on the patio, let your feet take a nap, watch all the intellectuals stroll by, and listen to the women at the next table discuss their crazy aunts and bad bosses. Get a second latte. Could you, perhaps, be falling for yourself?
5. Buy a vibrator.
6. Every relationship can feel claustrophobic at times. You and yourself may want time apart now and again. That’s totally natural. That’s why you have friends/family/coworkers. Some of them may feel threatened by your new relationship. Give them time. Talk about all the interesting things you’ve been doing with yourself and eventually they will get over the fact that you’ve been doing these things “alone.” They may even want to partake in some of your adventures. It’s up to you whether or not you want to sometimes/ever share your special times with someone besides yourself. Never feel like you have to say yes when someone asks if they can join you on your solo dinner/movie/trip to the zoo.
7. Take it easy with yourself sometimes. Go on a picnic, paint your nails, take a nap, watch a football game, look at every Facebook picture of your old roommate, watch YouTube clips of interviews with Maya Angelou, read the Wikipedia page for every cast member of Law & Order: SVU. Then—this is important—don’t feel guilty about it. You’re spending quality time with yourself. You’re a complex, interesting person, and not every minute of your relationship can be like that Scotch-tasting you went to last week.
8. If things are getting pretty serious, and you are getting along really well with yourself, consider taking a little trip. Maybe just a weekend at the beach, maybe a bed and breakfast a few hours outside of town, maybe a camping trip in the mountains. If you feel comfortable with yourself, you’re likely to have an amazing time. Take pictures, write in a journal, listen to music, go out to eat or cook the fish your caught in the lake. Read, doze off in the sun, go for hikes, draw, talk to the people you meet, try a pint of local microbrew, play with the bed and breakfast owner’s dog, go for a swim, write a letter to a friend, and just all around enjoy the company of your fantastic self.
9. Do not look at dating yourself as a temporary solution to a larger problem. This is essential. You are not waiting for someone better than yourself to come along. Can you imagine what would happen if you were dating someone else and told him that? He would be offended and, no doubt, there would be an immediate pall hanging over the relationship. “Then what are we doing?” he might ask. What, indeed. It’s always possible that someone else will come along who you really like. Not more than yourself, but enough that you’re willing to share some of that self-time with him. That’s fine. No doubt this other person will benefit immensely from how cool you’ve become, what with all your hobbies and all the books you’ve read and how self-reliant you are and how you know and value yourself so much. But there may not be anyone else. Or maybe not for years. Or maybe there will be someone else for a bit, but he won’t be as good as yourself, and he may not value you or whatever else. You will still be there. And clearly, you’re awesome. So the best thing you can do is not look at your relationship with yourself as some “just for now” bullshit. You deserve better than that.