Hooking Up Sober

By Shannon Fieldler

If you’ve ever read a Shakespearean comedy, you know that a sure fire way to get the girl is to pretend you’re someone else. In fact, if it’s Shakespeare, you’re probably pretending to be someone else who’s pretending to be someone else, and one of these alter egos is almost certainly a gender bender. But that’s the premise: if someone isn’t going to like you for who you are, just disguise yourself and when you unveil your true identity they’ll already be yours.

Conventional wisdom tells us that Shakespeare is timeless. Further proof of it is that this pretending plot of his is a tactic people still use in courtship today. Whether it’s hiding things, smudging things or just plain making up things, it’s not uncommon for someone to be something they’re not … especially on a first date.

Now, unlike Shakespeare’s heroes and ingénues, rarely do we present ourselves under a full-on alias. Our transformations are much more subtle. We want to show our suitors our best selves, so we to polish up our own identities. We’ve taken our appearance and our personality and airbrushed them both.

But at what point does making a good impression turn into false advertising?

Take the simplest example, The Push-Up Bra. I know Victoria, and here’s her secret: those things aren’t real! In fact, a few years back the lingerie store introduced the Bombshell Bra, which adds two cup sizes. Talk about padding the truth! In As You Like It, Orlando falls in love with Rosalind on sight, but I imagine he would have been disappointed to discover that Rosie had stuffed her bra.

How about the way we act? I am not the only girl who has ever ordered a salad on the first date when she is seriously craving a burger. Or there are guys who pay on the first date when they firmly believe that, in the 21st century, splitting the check is best. If you’re misrepresenting such basics as appetite and cash flow, how do you expect your date to get to know you or fall head over heels for you?

And when does slight exaggeration or a little white lie become not so slight or little?  In trying to highlight our greatest attributes, I think we sometimes make ourselves nicer, richer, funnier, smarter or just plain cooler than we are. The illusions can start out small: you’re on a date with a guy who’s big into alternative music, and because one time your friend played you the song “Two Weeks,” you spout out “Oh me too! Do you listen to Grizzly Bear?” But what if that one comment implying that you’re just obsessed with Grizzly Bear convinces this adamant indie enthusiast that you two are soul mates when the truth is your iTunes is filled with Top 40 hits. Sounds more like a tragedy than a comedy to me.

These examples are minor, even silly; they do not belie your true self in any real way. But the point is, this seems a slippery slope. The standard we’ve set follows one of the Bard’s most famous quotes: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” If dating protocol allows and anticipates misinformation or even deception, then when do we finally know we’ve met the real person and not merely a character?

But here’s what I wonder. Are we doing this solely to impress our date, or is part of this tendency to mask the truth a way for us to fulfill our ideal selves? Maybe it’s less because we admire these personas, but because we are afraid of revealing our selves and not making the cut. While “To thy own self be true” is great advice, it’s not exactly easy. Few things are scarier or more vulnerable feeling than putting yourself out there. And a first date is the ultimate judgement.

So when you’re on a date, remember “all that glitters is not gold.” Proceed with caution – don’t forget that some of the qualities in this potential love interest might be part of a persona, not the person. But also remember, all that’s gold, glitters. Let what’s really gold about you do the glittering and have faith that if they like you, they’ll like you for you. And then, you don’t have to pull a Kate and change who you are when your husband tries to tame you. That’s miserable for both the tamer and the shrew.

But hey, if you really like the person you’re pretending to be on dates and it’s working for you, go for it. All’s well that ends well, right?


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