Love Lessons From Spring Break

More than just a beach romp for college kids, it’s a source of dating wisdom for everyone. Here’s what you can learn from this week of sun and fun.

By Amy Spencer

h, yes, the sweet season of spring. It’s a time of crisp mornings, the scent of daffodils, buds on dogwood trees… and hordes of college kids cramming into cheap motel rooms and gulping cups of who-knows-what in bathing suits with wild abandon. But spring break is not just a giant party for the collegiate crew; it’s also an experience that can provide dating lessons for years to come.

Harking back to a time in your life when you were focused on fun and taking
There was a time when a date was just a date.
carpe diem to heart can actually help your state of mind as you search for love. So get ready to stop and smell the surf, and consider some dating lessons that the season’s favorite vacation can teach us all.

Lesson #1: It’s OK to date more than one person.
There was a time when a date was just a date. One night it was Mona, the next night it was Claire, and things weren’t considered serious until someone suggested “going steady.” Now, we’re in the era of the one-cocktail commitment, where dating more than one person is looked down upon. Except on spring break, that is, when you kiss two people in one night while texting a third to meet you at the tiki bar.

But the truth is, those college kids are on to something: If your dating goal is a lifetime relationship or marriage, then you’ll have plenty of time for monogamous commitment. Maybe even decades of time. So use your single days like the spring-breakers do—to get to know a few people at the same time, while you figure out which person you like best. As long as you’re truly honest about your actions and intentions with everyone you date, you’ll avoid the one break you don’t want: the one involving your heart.

Lesson #2: Don’t drink more than your date.
Yes, alcohol can sometimes feel like a nice social lubricant. But before you dose yourself on your next date, take this spring-break lesson with you: It’s all fun and games until you make a fool of yourself giving a stranger a lap dance on a public stage and then losing your cookies on someone’s bare feet. If you and your date want to tie one on for kicks, go right ahead. Just be sure to do it together, perhaps even in private, lest you get so drunk you end up in an embarrassing anecdote in a story about bad dates… which is exactly what happened to a guy who went on a date with my friend Jamie. “We went for Japanese food, and he suggested we order some sake,” said Jamie. “I said I was good for a glass, but he wanted to get the whole large bottle. When I told him I wouldn’t be able to drink that much, he said, ‘That’s OK, I will.’ And he did.” Jamie said his drunken behavior was less than attractive, and she couldn’t wait to get home.

Lesson #3: Head to where there are more singles.
What’s one reason all the young things on spring break always seem to find
Above all else, aim to have a great time with your friends.
someone? Because there are just so many someones to go around! Give yourself a similar leg up. Instead of hitting the same old local bar full of the same old faces, try traveling a bit out of your comfort zone (and maybe your town), and hit spots where you might meet some new people.

It’s basic math: The more people there are — tall, short, funny, round, skinny, intellectual, goofy — the more likely you’ll be to meet a potential match. So this weekend, search for your match in a few new places. Try a big karaoke bar, a darts tournament at a new pub, a demonstration at the Apple store. Or, of course, search online for love, which is just swimming with singles who want exactly the same thing you do: a great date.

Lesson #4: Order the special on the menu.
One of the best things about short-term, pleasure-seeking trips is that you live every minute like it’s your last. If you’re on spring break, you see it as a fleeting moment of youth that must be lived to the fullest: You order the special drinks with umbrellas in them, you dance on the beach in your bikini—and you probably take advantage of plenty of other opportunities you might regret the next day. Still, you feel like you’re really living. But the fact is, whether you’re 20 or 45, you still only live once. So why not make every date special and memorable? On your next date, think spring, and try something daring. Hit the rock-climbing wall at the gym, or order the rosemary cocktail and the sliced beef cooked on the rock. It might be terrible, but it will be memorable. And that’s what living is all about.

Lesson #5: Make out with someone you’ll never see again.
There’s one thing partying kids have mastered — the no-strings-attached hookup — that might also be good for you. Why? Because sometimes it’s healthy to hook up without thinking about tomorrow for just a minute. That doesn’t mean you have to actually have sex with someone—just consider some sexy kissing in a restaurant parking lot. You may learn a few things about yourself in the process, says Ava Cadell, love coach and author of 12 Steps to Everlasting Love. “Sometimes it’s easier to be less inhibited with a stranger than with someone you know,” says Cadell.

It can also give your self-confidence a good boost by reminding you that you are one good-looking person whom plenty of people would be lucky to date. It also provides your brain a nice break from plotting your future together in the first five minutes of meeting. That’s true refreshment.

Lesson #6: Go out for guys’ or girls’ nights out just to have fun together—not to hook up with the opposite sex.
For some reason, those big girls’ and guys’ nights out often turn into “lonely group sitting in a bar scanning room for potential hookups instead of having fun together.” Spring break, on the other hand, is first and foremost, about feeling free and having a blast together—and if that involves licking whipped cream off a stranger’s shoulder for laughs, so be it! Mature adults should consider this same approach (well, to a point). So instead of going out with the goal of meeting The One or someone, above all else, aim to have a great time with your friends. What happens from there may surprise you.

Lesson #7: Sunny weather and bathing suits definitely put people in the mood.
If you’re looking to amp up the closeness with someone you’re seeing (or if the dating you’re doing is more like a “date night” with a long-term partner), take a page from kids on spring break: Consider a weekend away in a place that feels like paradise. (Just don’t schedule it for the same time the college kids are hitting the same paradise.) “The sun releases more feel-good hormones that flood the brain,” says Cadell. And the better you feel, the more fun you’ll have and the better your date will go.

Lesson #8: Look on the bright side of your date.
On a spring break trip, the goal is to have fun with the people you meet, plain and simple. But in the adult world, dating becomes more like a grocery trip: You pull out your list, push your wonky cart up and down every aisle, and scan the goods. “Do you like spicy food? Good. Been married before? Oh. Have goals for the future? Glad to hear it. Like to travel? Oh, that’s a shame… ” Instead of taking your next date so seriously, toss away your stuffy list, and look for the best things about your date. Find out what you do have in common and what you do like about him or her. And as you part ways on the doorstep, don’t analyze how you feel about your date too soon. Instead, maybe you want to do what the spring-breakers would do: Go on and kiss ’em! Sometimes that makes all the difference.

Amy Spencer is a freelance writer who has written for Glamour, Real Simple, New York and Maxim, among other publications.
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