Being the practice date

by Dating Goddess on September 26, 2009

I almost canceled. Why? Was he odious and self-absorbed on the phone? Sex obsessed? Foul mouthed?

No. If he were, I wouldn’t have agreed to coffee.

His emails showed he was smart; his call was interesting, incorporating current events. He could converse about different topics without being obnoxiously opinionated or emphatic.

So why wasn’t I excited about meeting him? I didn’t find anything I was curious to know more about him. He’d been retired for 8 years, although he was still in his 50′s.

I met him anyway, although I was thinking of ways to put him off up until an hour before we met. The bottom line was I just didn’t feel we had enough in common to see him again. I know it is terrible to make this kind of judgment before even meeting him. I encourage others to meet a guy for coffee if there are no glaring red flags in the pre-meeting vetting. Yet here I was violating my own advice.

The conversation meandered through many topics. He stayed focused, didn’t complain about his ex, didn’t ramble about his kids, or friends of friends, or his resume. He tracked with the conversation and made relevant comments.

I vacillated between thinking, “I would have coffee with him again,” to “How do I tell him I don’t feel a spark?” It turned out to be a moot battle in my head, as he didn’t ask to see me again. I learned I was the first woman he’d gone out with after his divorce last year. He’d only been on the dating site a month, and I was “an experiment.”

I was his practice date!

I’ve learned I was the practice date — the first post-divorce encounter — for two other men. One was so needy he determined I was “The One” within 10 minutes. The other was more grounded and he became one of my treasures.

I’d done it many times myself when I was first dating. I’d accept coffee invitations from nearly any man whose profile and conversation were interesting. Those practice dates helped build my confidence and comfort around men who were deciding if they were interested in me or not.

Have you known you were a man’s practice date soon after his divorce/widowhood? If so, did you treat him differently than other men who seemed more experienced?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen September 27, 2009 at 5:39 am

Oooo, that would be lousy. “Practice date”? Yuck.

Personally, I don’t think at all that the first person dated after divorce/separation necessarily has to be “practice”. Sparks and emotions can/should still fly.

If a divorced person feels they need “practice”, I think they should just probably not “date”—they should just get out socially and do a lot of things with their friends as a single person, so they can get comfortable with that persona.

Dating Goddess September 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Karen:

Actually, it wasn’t a “yuck” experience. It was fine. No matter how many social outings one does with friends, going one-to-one with a stranger can be daunting. I consider being an occasional (although usually unbeknownst) practice date is my paying forward for all the men who were patient with me during my learning curve.

Anna September 28, 2009 at 11:30 am

I always try to find out how long the guy has been divorced or widowed before I meet and if he has dated much. But it is still hard to judge as some men are ready to move on quicker than others and each situation is so different. I did go on a painful dinner date once with a widower who was no where near ready to date. Three hours of listening to the awful story of how his wife died. He retold every last detail, from diagnosis to death. I did sympathize with him because I had lost my husband but I learned my lesson as I suppose I was a practice date, the first woman he dated after her death. I felt more like a therapist or support group buddy as I advised, commiserated etc. Like you DG I did not feel yucky but did feel that I had wasted an evening and felt a bit worn out after his sad, depressing story. Not the mood I was going for on a Saturday night!!

beth September 30, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I don’t think “practice dates” need to turn out “yuck.” We all have to start somewhere, right? I’d rather be a “practice date” than one in a string of many for someone really polished, who is just looking to get laid. I dated a widower once and gave him the benefit of the doubt for being “rusty” in the dating game. Trouble was, he never really got past that and things sort of fizzled after I quit cutting him so much slack. It was still nice getting to know him and I had some fun times.

Karen October 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Well, maybe not “yuck” exactly.

But I object to the underlying implication of some here that women should be ready and willing to patiently social skills to men who don’t have them.

The comments above from Beth and Anna and DG herself above indicate that their evenings with their “Mr Needs Practice” men were only enjoyable for them in the sense that they enjoyed “helping” or “teaching” someone in need. The evenings didn’t seem enjoyable for the women in any other way. Which is sad.

Why shouldn’t we women aim to have fun we when go out? When I put effort into getting myself dolled up on one of my own rare free nights, I really don’t want to be forced into the role of therapist!

Also—in the past I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to “fix” men who are screwed up in some way–but that doesn’t work at all in a romantic relationship. Another good reason I want to avoid these guys who “need practice”.

Mark October 10, 2009 at 10:24 am

Doesn’t it really come down to liking or not really liking the person? A lot of us will be a mix of proper and poor manners. I am not going to get a woman’s chair for her — that’s a bit much in 2009. I’ll get doors if I can get to them before the woman herself opens them — most women seem to feel stupid standing in front of a door as if their arms are broken while they wait for the man to catch up. I’ll help a woman on with her coat if she hasn’t already put it on.

It’s really about liking the person. You like someone and you may want to nudge that person in a better direction, manner-wise, if there’s some behavior you’d like to see improved. A different person with the same kind of manners you may not like and so there’s no reason to try to improve that person’s manners.

Dating Goddess October 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Karen:

«The comments above from … DG herself above indicate that their evenings with their “Mr Needs Practice” men were only enjoyable for them in the sense that they enjoyed “helping” or “teaching” someone in need.|

I’m afraid you misunderstood my comments. I did enjoy my coffee with the gentleman, and didn’t feel I was helping or teaching him. I just didn’t feel enough pull to see him again.

Richard October 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

I think there is a difference between “not ready to date” and “practice date”. I think there are people who are not ready to date, and should be avoided regardless of how practiced they are.

For someone ready, but not “practiced”, I think it can be an enjoyable time. It is not like you are going out on the ballroom floor, and the other person only knows the basic step to a waltz. As long as the other person is open and ready to date, it may be easier to get to know the real person over a cup of coffee when they don’t have all the “practice” in covering up their idiosyncrasies.

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