Dating for Late Bloomers

As Old Stalwarts of Dames Nation will know, from time to time, we like to take a question from one of our beloved readers and do some real concentrated bossing. If you’ve ever wished you could phone the Dames for advice, submit your question right here! Now, for this week’s question:

As someone who has never held hands or kissed a person I have found attractive, how can I start dating at the tender age of 28? Please advise, Darling Dames.

Dearest Gentle Reader,

We salute you for asking this question! It sounds like you feel behind the curve socially, and for good reason: our culture — in song, film, tv, and thinkpiece — is highly effective at creating the illusion that absolutely everyone 14 and up is romantically and/or sexually involved, and that we’re all terribly sophisticated about the whole thing. Dame Margaret remarked, when we chose this question for this week’s Ask Two Bossy Dames, that our current set of oppressive social expectations are the inverse of those dominant in the 1950s. Then, plenty of people were having sex and having to pretend they weren’t (often with terrible consequences) and now, plenty of people aren’t having sex, and feel obligated to pretend they are.

The good news is that at the tender age of 28, you are free from a lot of the dating “rules” that would have dominated your teens and early 20s. Your life is not a John Hughes movie. Holding hands and kissing and so forth in your teens and early 20s is fun and delicious, but also REALLY INTENSE. What if your crush object finds out that they’re your crush object before you’re able to elaborately construct the perfect way to inform them (via a mutual friend? with a big smack on the lips at the dance? with a grand gesture? We did not do prom-posals in Dame Sophie’s day, but she understands they are A Thing now with some of the youths?). Now, that’s not to say you won’t have any opportunities for cringing mortification ahead of you — you certainly will! — but as you cruise towards 30, you’re probably way better equipped for two key things:

  1. Turning those encounters into excellent stories that you can dine out on with your friends.
  2. Understanding what didn’t work so you can have a more fun and/or meaningful experience on your next date or crush.

Your question doesn’t indicate how enthusiastic you are about this whole dating enterprise, so let us assure you that however you feel about dating, romance, and sex is fine. You may come to realize that you’re not really interested in having a dating life at all. Perhaps you’d just rather invest your time in hobbies, friendships and your career: GREAT. Maybe you’re asexual: GOOD FOR YOU. Of course, maybe you want to have allll the sex with allll the partners, in which case, we say: GO GET IT.

Here are some things that may be useful to remember as you embark on this adventure:

  • Excellent flirting is its own reward. There needn’t be any larger endgame. It’s great to sass it up with an interested flirtation partner, and anything you can use as a wit whetstone is a thing we strongly endorse.
  • Making out is awesome. Sex is great, but please remember that what they used to call “heavy petting” back in ye olden times is so fun, and not something you want — or need!! — to skip over!
  • Your business is your business. You aren’t obligated to disclose your dating history to anyone before you feel ready to.
  • And as we’ve said before, “no” is a complete sentence.

To put a finer point on those last two — as someone who lost her virginity post-college, Dame Margaret angsted a LOT in her pre-sex dating life about when to tell dates about her level of experience. She just assumed that, if she went to a private location with a date, she either owed him sex or owed him an explanation about why there would NOT be sex. None of the dates ever said anything like that (if they had, Dame M. would likely have socked them) — it was the Patriarchal Panopticon in Dame M.’s brain shouting “YOU’RE ABNORMAL. YOU MUST WARN THEM. YOU’RE IN BREACH OF AN UNSPOKEN CONTRACT.”

Weirdly, as soon as Dame M. actually had sex, this stopped being a problem for her — a light bulb switched on and she realized “Ohhhhhhh my lack of interest in sex with certain men was not a symptom of my Virginal Ignorance, but like… my normal human interest in having sex. And I don’t have to make excuses about that to anyone, especially not anyone I like well enough to go to a private location with.” Since then, Dame M. has dealt with some Entitled Dummies — there’s no way to entirely avoid them — but their entitlement just seemed funny and sad, rather than like something she needed to heed in any way. So just walk in knowing: ALL PRIVATE ROOM MENUS ARE A LA CARTE. You haven’t agreed to a four-course prix fixe dinner just by entering the establishment and anyone who thinks you have is deserving of scorn, not explanations.

And Dame S. would like to chime in with a notion that’s fairly new to her: the entire concept of virginity is a dumb lie. Like, ok, it matters for The House of Windsor, and we have religious friends for whom it is a sincere spiritual issue, but if you are a person who thinks sex outside of marriage is a dandy pursuit, we’d like to encourage you to ignore the construct altogether. The day after you have penetrative sex for the first time may well be a day like any other (IT WAS FOR DAME M.!), while the day you have your first knee-weakening kiss may be a day you remember forever. It’s a made-up goalpost, is what we’re saying, and that being the case, we think you should make your own goalposts that matter to you. Set them, reset them, do what you want. It’s your body, your experiences, your giggles, your tears, your pleasure.

So, basically: Just start. Hop on an online dating site! Try giving your number to a cute person you spot on public transit! The World Is Your Oyster! And, of course, if you ever need first date outfit advice, PLEASE feel free to tweet us. We are all about that shit.