The last “normal” moment I remember in my perspective of dating was somewhere around 8 or 9 years old. my older sisters owned a board game “Sweet Valley High:The Game”- you put little cardboard dream dates into little plastic pegs and they stood up and walked around the board. Ooh which boy should I choose? The tall dark and handsome football player, the slightly awkward but super endearing intellectual?  Ok. Maybe it wasn’t a normal moment, but it was full of hope and possibility, the way dating should be.

Now I find myself at 29.  Single. This was never supposed to happen, by the way. My unofficial life timeline clearly stated that i’d meet Mr. Right at 23, marry at 25, and have babies at 27. Someone messed up. I have my reasons for not having done my fair share of dating- too much for this blog. So I’ll spare you. (you’re welcome). But here I am, in a life where I don’t meet people my own age- I work in an office where it’s just myself and an older married man. I moonlight as a performer where I meet lots of very pretty gay boys. and I live alone. Oh, and I’m an activist leading a campaign to end sexual violence- that’s not intimidating to prospective suitors at all…

So I’ve dipped my feet in and out of the online dating world a few times. I mean, what other choice do i have? And I’ve made several observations. At one point I almost wrote a book about it. I told my family “I’m going to write a book about online dating, and call it E-Whore”- they hated the idea. My dad in particular. But before I could argue that using a swear word in a title would not besmirch the family name, he explained that he didn’t think it was a good idea to write a book with a Disney character in the title…

Yeah, that happened. So the book is on hold. and lately, so has been my online dating account, after a handful of mixed and confusing experiences. But then I look around and think…Well, shit, 30 is no longer an elusive “someday,” It’s October on the 2012 cat calendar I’m gonna have to buy if i don’t start making a better plan. So I reinstated my account. I’m only human.

Thus, I find myself again thinking about how people possibly make this new wave form of courting work. There is so much that I take issue to. Although part of it is just dating in general. But here is a big thing that gets to me. maybe it’s just because I feel old and I don’t like to waste my time. Or maybe it’s cause i have really great, open relationships with most of the people in my life.

So, according to the masses, this is what is supposed to go down.

You meet someone- either in person (or, if that is too much to ask, online). you chat it up, you see if there is an attraction (whether from seeing each other or seeing pictures). you either approve or move on. Ok. Step two- there is usually some chatting. you see if the other people can form syllables or can only grunt. just like our caveman forefathers. Check. So far so good. You may, at this point, decide to meet up- to go someplace where you can try to impress one another and see if there is a connection. It should be quiet enough to allow conversation, but not too private because you haven’t done the whole reference check yet. Here is where it gets tricky.

According to every dating book, and most active daters and people between 16-92:

1. It’s time to put on your best face. you should *probably* buy a new outfit- forget the fact that if you go on a second date, you’ll either have to reveal your sparse wardrobe or keep buying new outfits until you have enough to let go of the visual identity you had before you met this perfect match.

2. You must subscribe to several rules- most of which, don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly support. From don’t order onions to don’t interrupt when the other person is speaking. to don’t be late for your date, These are valid and should be heeded. But what about the people who break these rules every other time? Why fill my heart with first date goodness just to crush me later when I find out that you are, in fact, an onion chewing, interrupting, late-arriver, huh?

3. Finally, the biggest point. the rules of what to say. There are a few that we have etched in pretty clearly for the masses to understand and follow. Politics is pretty obviously a bad idea. Much better to reveal later that all of our values contradict each other. Ooh, and religion. God forbid we talk about that. Then there are kids- don’t wanna know if you have em, want em or work with em. La la la la I can’t hear you! Oh wait, also not appropriate to behave like one. Stricken from the record.

Then we have to move into- well when do we get to talk about these things? Is it the third date? Is it three dates after you’ve stopped putting on that honeymoon period act? Is it after three drinks so if it goes poorly you can say “Just kidding, I don’t know what got into me?”

It is clearly just me in this line of thinking, but personally, I start to feel cramped with myself, the date I’m trying to figure out, and the elephant in the room.

Most of us have something. It might be: everyone I’ve ever loved has cheated on me. I’ve been divorced, twice. I have full custody of my kid. I have a kid who I don’t have custody of. I’m a Yankees Fan! I can’t be in the same room as alcohol. I go batshit every March 5 cause that’s the date I witnessed a violent death. I’m really a vampire and we’ll always be on the run. I’m in the army and can be deployed at any time. I don’t believe in marriage.

That was a fun list to make! Fortunately, none of those things apply to me. I have my own list, and no one really seems to agree with me on when it should be shared. Kudos to those who have figured this out. Now accepting your dating tips or recommendations of hypoallergenic cats.