We all do it – even the most easy-going and accepting among us. For some it’s less deliberate than others – less pre-meditated and overanalyzed. It just slips in to the natural goings-on like a James Frey lie or the nonchalant reference to a gift we’d really love to get. For others: written, rehearsed, and delivered like butter.
I can’t quite settle on a term for the act. Every iteration makes it sound like some sort of evil trick: Mate Testing? Relationship Threshold Examination? Compatibility Assessment? – not phrases one associates with a loving and open process of getting to know each other. Still – it’s happening, in endless versions and formats, in every kind of relationship. Time to acknowledge and assess:
Sleep-soundly-at-night Version: We gauge the level of compatibility in a relationship by creating realistic scenarios in which the party in question’s reaction or behavior helps further determine our desire to continue seeing them.
Truth: We engineer mini tests based on our laundry list of dealbreakers so we can determine -- and quickly -- if someone is worth our while.
A series of examples:
- It’s wildly important to you that the girl you’re dating can at least hang if not fully enjoy an athletic event. Test: you make your third date a NBA play-off game watch involving 80% of your college roommates and a loud sports bar. In a scene like that she’ll either sinks or swim. She sinks, you bail.
- Sometimes you like to dress a little counter-culture. You’re not looking to date a carbon copy of your tastes, but eye-rolls at your more “experimental” pieces will not do. Test: You pick a particularly fashion forward ensemble for a simple night out to test the waters on your preppy guy’s reaction. He cringes and/or laughs, you move on.
Far more advanced than your “do you think I look fat in these jeans?” move but essentially the same old shit. Certain things are important to us. They’re not particularly easy to bring up in 1st or 2nd or 3rd date conversation, but they’re the kind of deal-hinderer you want to get out before the meet the parents moment. Rather than be direct (read: vulnerable) we create scenarios (read: tests) to evaluate the party in question (read: decide if they’re worth another meal/sleeping with). The idea is innocent. The approach, not so much.
“But what’s the alternative?” we say to ourselves and the four girls we’re standing in line for Sex and the City: The Movie!! with.
Investing time in getting to know someone and being open about the things that are important to you.
- First date (can most naturally occur following the “so where did you go to school?” question): “I’ve got to be honest – I’m a big sports guy. Are you into that?”
- Third date (slips in nicely after question about things your friends make fun of you about): “My sense of fashion, for sure. But you know, I love being eclectic and it hurts my feelings when people are rude about it.”
I know, I know… “Are you INTO that?!” “Hurts my FEELINGS?!” Those are Growing Pains lines! We are the Gossip Girl generation!
Consider the alternative:
See. "Hurts my feelings" isn't looking so bad...