When I was younger, I took piano lessons. Did I practice? Nope. Can I play the piano today? Not really. I still have to think about “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” and “Good Boys Do Fine Always,” or “Great Big Dogs Fight Animals,” as my teacher taught me. (For those not so musically inclined or who just have no idea what I’m talking about, those are the notes on the treble and bass clef, respectively.)
Later in life, when I decided that I wanted to sing, which is something I really love, I wished I had actually listened to my teacher and parents (don’t tell them I said that). While I certainly never had any desire to be a concert pianist or anything, practicing would have helped me later when I discovered which form of music I wanted to pursue.
You’re probably thinking, “I thought I was reading a dating column. What does practicing the piano have to do with dating?” In life, practicing makes you better for when that thing comes along that you really want to pursue. And in this case, that thing is a future date.
A friend once wrote to me, “So… I just took down my JDate profile because I started dating someone a few weeks ago and we DTRed last night. I didn’t meet him on JDate but I do think that I was a lot more comfortable going on dates with him because I’d been getting a lot of practice on JDate, figuring out how to be slightly less awkward at ending dates, and really identifying what was important to me and which behaviors to look for that signaled that the person had the characteristics that I was looking for. Everyone knows the old adage that ‘practice makes perfect,’ but I don’t know if a lot of people really think about how much that can be applied to date-like interactions, which can be really complex. I really do think it helped build up my confidence and comfort level with guys.”
I couldn’t agree more. Now, I’m not saying to go out with just anyone to get some practice, but it’s important to remember that going on dates can only help define what you’re looking for in a partner. It can also, as my friend pointed out, help you hone your conversational skills. While every date may not lead to a trip down the aisle, each will fill your toolbox with useful skills to apply next time.
I see many people peek into speed-dating events or quickly scan a page of JDate for 30 seconds only to decide on the spot that no one there interests them. If you’ve likely already committed the time (and often money), it’s worth joining and meeting new people (even if only to become friends), while practicing the art of flirting, engaging in witty banter, and making conversation with a broad range of people. And when you come face-to-face with the guy or girl who you’ve had your eye on for a while, you’ll know that you’re fully equipped to make a great impression.
So take it one date at a time. Practice will never make it perfect. (We’re still talking about dating here, so there’s always going to be an element of awkwardness!) But practice will make it better, for sure.
Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating. Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.
This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.