Get Ready To Date Again!

Diane Mapes, author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World, has tips that’ll show you how.

By Virginia Sole-Smith

ondering how to dive back into the dating world again — or perhaps just dip a toe in the waters — after being out of circulation for a while? Listen to this smart, opinionated advice from Diane Mapes, author of the book How To Date In A Post-Dating World.

Why did you decide to write How to Date?

Although I was married for eight years in my twenties, I’m now
Send the message that you care about yourself.
47 and single. Most of my friends are also single, and we had all realized that Seattle [where I’m based] just sucks for dating! Nobody ever asks you out on an official date anymore. I’d been writing for The Seattle Times for a couple of years and this seemed like a good story. So I wrote a piece asking what do you have to do to get a date around here? The piece ran on a Tuesday and by that Thursday morning, I had received over 200 emails and was on the local news—I knew I had hit a nerve. I started writing about Internet dating, and dating in your 40s and 50s, and it just went from there.

So what’s the deal? Why is dating so hard?

Dating these days is a lot more complex than it used to be. You’ve got the influx of technology, whether it’s online dating sites or cell phones that are programmed to scope out matches for you, and you’ve got reality shows—we’ve become this instant gratification society where everyone is looking to upgrade, and a lot of people don’t even want to commit to the word “date.” They want to call it hooking up or hanging out, which can make a relationship tough to navigate.

If you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship, how do you get ready to date again?

If you were married for 20 years — even five years! — you may need to take a good look at yourself and ask, am I ready to get back out there? It’s not that people in relationships let themselves go completely, but you stop thinking about how to show yourself off to your best advantage. And it’s healthy to say, maybe I need new glasses or a wardrobe update, or maybe I’ll join a gym. You’re not trying to turn yourself into a plastic action figure, just sending the message that you care about yourself enough to look nice.

How do you know if you’re even ready to date new people?

Don’t just fly back out there. You need to take some time to get to know your single self again, work on that appearance stuff, spend time with friends, and
Be direct about who you are and what you want.
figure out who you are now and what you like. All of this will help you heal from that breakup. If you can get through an evening without talking about your ex, or watch a sappy movie without weeping about your divorce, those are good signs that you’re ready. And start slow—I call it the Whitman Sampler approach: Take a bite of this or that, see who you like, or realize, you know, I never did like coconut, before you start looking to settle down again.

Where are the best places to meet people?

I’ve looked at some scientific studies, and I also sat down and read a whole month’s worth of New York Times wedding announcements to find out how people met, so here are the top three: Number one is at work—this doesn’t necessarily mean the woman in the next cubicle, it could mean vendors you work with, people you meet at conferences, heck, even the bike messenger! Number two is through friends and family, so yes, go on that blind date your best friend wants to set up, go to parties, hang out with your buddies at the local pub and talk to people who come in. And number three is Internet dating. I really like the three-prong approach, so don’t rule out anything.

OK, you’re over your ex, you’ve gone shopping, and you’re getting out there—how can you tell if you’re clicking with a person?

When you’re feeling a little shaky, it can be hard to tell if someone new is just different or totally wrong for you. So I say give it two dates and ask yourself if you’re feeling that intellectual spark as well as the physical spark—you need them to go hand in hand. If it’s only physical attraction or you think your date’s hilarious but just can’t imagine kissing him or her, then the relationship will never really take off.

How can you tell if your date feels the same way?

The best thing you can do is be direct about who you are and what you want, and your date will respond the same way. I hate all those rules that say you have to play waiting games and try to be a mind reader. Obviously, don’t wear your bathrobe on your first date and talk about your Irritable Bowel Syndrome or how you’re dying to get married again. Just be yourself and pay attention to what the other person does. If you’re getting a lot of phone calls, that person’s interested. If your date’s not calling, or not treating you well, this isn’t the right person for you.

So how does writing a book about dating affect your own dating life?

It’s ironic, but dating is not a huge priority for me right now. I’m happily single and I think that’s an okay message to put out there. It’s so hammered into us from TV, movies, everywhere, that we have to find that soul mate, but the biggest mistake I see is when people succumb to the fear of being alone—they get involved too fast with the wrong person, and stay in the relationship because they think it’s better to be with anyone than to be alone. Be by yourself! Though I will admit, I went on a date last month and found myself pulling out the book to figure out what went wrong—I thought we were doing drinks, he started talking about dinner reservations, and I thought whoa, what a disconnect. And it was because I had forgotten to follow my own advice and clarify the plans beforehand. Lesson learned!

Virginia Sole-Smith is a freelance journalist who has written for Family Circle, Fitness, and Glamour.
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