Dating: The Lost Art

Dating -- an institution that is relatively "new" in the grand scheme of things and yet already starting to diminish in our “I want it now” society.

When you are knocking on thirty's door, it seems that everyone has an idea about who you should be with. While the sentiment is endearing, more often than not the execution is very much lacking. A person has to know you fairly intimately in order to choose a companion to spend great lengths of time with.

When I was newly single, almost everyone I knew wanted to set me up with someone they thought I would hit it off with. But in all honesty, the idea of dating repulsed me. In fact, it still does but the reason has evolved. In the beginning, I simply wasn't ready. Break ups come with a readjustment in lifestyle, reflection, and a whirlwind of emotions. I couldn't bear the thought of even speaking to the opposite sex in that manner for months.

Then the fear of dating set in. When you've spent the greater part of your life in a relationship, there is a certain level of comfort that comes along with it. You don't always worry about shaving your legs, brushing your hair or wearing the sexy underwear. Your partner knows your mannerisms and your quirks (and, in my case, that I consider anything doused in cheese sauce to qualify as a five star meal). You can belch, toot, have food in your teeth or garlic breath without embarrassment. They know your moods and how to appropriately respond to the dark and grumpy or sleep-deprived and silly. A new partner changes everything.

But the biggest problem I have with dating is that very few men actually take you on a date. (Please note that I did not include every man in this category. Some men actually follow through, but in my experience they are few and far between.) My generation is all about instant gratification. We like to maximize our time with what we deem beneficial. Basically, we are selfish. We believe our time and money are too valuable to be wasted on anything that doesn't prove to yield equal or greater rewards. We also view emotion of any kind as weakness. This approach may be conducive in the business world, but in the dating world it's detrimental.

There have been so many times that I have met a nice, funny, attractive man who says he would "love to take me out sometime." We will talk on the phone or text over the next week or so with the casual mention of seeing one another again. This is how it starts. Soon the “take you out sometime” turns into “when can we hang out.” At this point, you can kiss going on a date goodbye. Hanging out means that he would rather not invest the effort or expense required for taking you on a date. You've been hit with the Netflix and Chill. If you're looking to start something serious, go in the opposite direction. This man is not serious about you.

Call me a romantic, an idealist or simply old fashioned, but I believe that dates are meant to show the other person a part of who you are in order to determine if they would be a good partner. Most women love a reason to dress up and feel pretty. But the best dates aren't the dinners at the most expensive restaurant in town and they don't have to be filled with candy, roses or gifts. A truly memorable date would be one that gives me a glimpse of who you are as a person or even a new, exciting experience for both of us. If the effort is put forth, I am not opposed to reciprocating and planning a date to offer a peek into my soul as well.

As of late, I haven't been too focused on finding - I hate this term - the one. Which means that I have

been okay with casually meeting at the bar for drinks with a guy and some friends or lounging around watching a movie. There is nothing wrong with a little companionship from time to time. It's nice to feel as though someone desires you. The kicker is when you do want to attain a lasting connection. I am starting to realize that while yes, presenting the best version of yourself is generally how one would approach a first date, you don't have to over-think it. At this point, I am who I am. Take it or leave it. No longer will I order a salad because I want a man to think I'm dainty nor will I hold back the snort in my laugh when I find something is hilarious. I have never been one to cake my face full of makeup and, during the summer months, it's a special occasion if I put on more than a little mascara. This is my face – love it or hate it.

I am not afraid to open myself to people genuinely interested in my views on life. I will not, however, pursue anyone that belittles me, insults my intelligence or approaches the situation with lazy, selfish intent. To put it simply, I won't take you seriously and please keep it moving. I have never been the type of woman that dates for the free meal or experience. I am not looking to waste anyone's time. Dating has the ability to be fun, disastrous, hilarious, heartbreaking, and awkward. It all depends on who you decide to give the opportunity. For me, honest conversation, sincere interest and thoughtfulness are huge factors when it comes to finding a partner. Putting yourself out there is rewarding on so many different levels. We've all been hurt, we've all had bad experiences and we've all endured heartbreak. That doesn't mean we should shut ourselves off from trying again. Chances are you won't hit it off with everyone you date. But that's a part of the process. In order to find what you are looking for, sometimes you must eliminate all that you aren't.

Of course, this is all subjective. Some of you may have men lined up to take you on dates. Some of you might feel the way that I do. Some of you may be long out of the dating scene and have no idea what I'm talking about. Either way, my stance on dating remains the same. Show me a part of your soul and I'll show you mine. If they don't mesh, it was nice to meet you, thank you for your time, and no hard feelings. I'll keep trying until one sticks.

Mackenzie Smith is the Assistant Director and Pre K teacher in western Shawnee. Born and raised in Mission, Ks she is a true Kansas City girl. If she is not at home curled up with a book you can find out and about amongst friends sharing appetizers, cocktails and stories! She would love to devote more time to writing and more creative projects in the future.