...I haven't celebrated Christmas in the traditional American gift-giving sense... in, oh... for quite a few years now. And for no particular reason either. Just got tired of the hustle and bustle of it all. But tis the season! This holiday I've gone out and done a little shopping, pulling out from beneath Santa's hat a gift that's sure to cheer up anyone who's looking to enjoy a "satisfying, fulfilling, successful relationship."
Alasha Bennett-Thomas, the dating mechanic, on Dating 101 has agreed to a Q&A relationship interview with me, and I am thrilled to pieces about it. I thought this would be a nice tie-in for the romance novels I write. I'm also going to go on and admit, if I were out there trying to date in this day, I would be lost, lost, lost! So I am quite pleased about this opportunity, promising everyone stopping by, what you are about to experience will be a priceless gift. This is the type of gift that appreciates in a paying it forward type of way. So please sit back and get ready to be enlightened, entertained, and uplifted by an encouraging dynamic dating mechanic chat.
Interviewed by RYCJ/OEBooks December 2011
OEB: Alasha, again thanks for being adventurous enough to blog-chat with me on this subject. When I first wrote to you, sharing my thoughts on dating and talking about wanting to ask tough questions, after our exchange I am most positive I didn't know who I was going to be working with. So, before you show me a thing or two, please share what specifically was the catalyst that inspired you to launch your dating coaching business?
DM: Having gone through a divorce after only 5 years of marriage, I found myself living the single life once again, this time with two young children in tow. Dealing with a separation involves more than the couple. It affects family members, friends, and the children. My children where a part of such a life altering event and I had to be the one to explain what was happening; not only to get myself through it, but to help my girls get through it as well. My experiences with all of this propelled me to do two things, help other divorcees get through the transition period successfully as I have done, and take it a step farther by guiding singles to avoid where I have been.
OEB: This actually happened to me, somewhat. You see a person in a public place that you do not know, but instantly feel attracted to. Other than approaching the person with a 'direct' show of interest, give us another interesting *fun* way to approach a 'candidate' of interest.
DM: I get this question all the time. Singles ask, "How do I approach a person of interest without seeming desperate or too aggressive?" A non-threatening, yet fun way is to get some cards made up with your picture, name, email address, a simple description of you and some hobbies or things you like to do. You can be as creative as you like.
For instance, have your card resemble your favorite athletic team or hobby. You never know, you may share the same activities. What if you have rival teams? What a smack talking conversation that would turn out to be and a way to eliminate some of the awkwardness that comes with meeting someone new.
OEB: How about this one. Let's call her Ms. Hands Off, who actually loves to snuggle and cuddle in movie theatres when she goes out on a date, BUT doesn't want the guy to think she's interested in anything more, BECAUSE she is not. How does she tell a man *in a fun way* she is not interested in anything more.
DM: Ms. Hands off is walking a very thin line. The interpretation of gestures especially of a seemingly intimate nature can be perceived as her being "hands on" and willing. This situation is very similar to women who wear revealing clothing, or men who wear their pants to their ankles becoming upset when others comment or treat them in a certain way. By no means should anyone be treated with disrespect, but ones perception of can be strengthened or changed by the way you act, react, or interact with them. Affectionate movements so early on in the "are you even safe to be around, please don't go crazy on me" stage can be interpreted as a lead to something more. You can most certainly have an open conversation about it, but it is best not to introduce any physical gestures that can be looked at in a way that is not intended.
OEB: Okay, so no touching. I'll be sure to make a note of this one. Well, how about sharing a creative way to help someone who is afraid to have fun come out of this 'comfort' zone?
DM: Definitely stay active and involved in things that interest them because more often than not that's where they will find their perfect mate. Finding groups to socialize in have become easier with websites such as meetup.com. Any activity you are interested in biking, hiking, art, even book discussions, has a group associated with it. If you can't find one, you can make one. My group Single N Satisfied on meetup.com gives an opportunity for singles to get together as a community. They learn how to live the single life successfully while finding the love of their life. It's all about being connected with people who share your same interest.
OEB: Off the cuff, name at least five creative ways to entertain a date. By entertain I mean like going to the movies, which of course isn't very creative. But can you come up with a few? And keep the cost free to under $100 for the night!
DM: Good question! It leads me to remind singles of something very important. Neither party should take on an attitude that the other is there to show them a good time. Both parties are responsible for adding value to the relationship and it starts right here in the beginning stages of dating. When two people are sharing time together they should be present in that moment and engage fully in the free exchange of information. After all, the reason why they are spending time together is to get to know one another. You can challenge your creativity by setting a $20 limit on first dates. This may sound cheap to some but it causes you to focus more on the intimacy of getting to know someone than the activity itself. There are many free activities in all areas depending on the time of year. Check the local paper, there are a multitude of activities. There are also specialty free publications such as parenting magazines for those with children but here are a few…
1. A slice of Pizza after a walk on the beach or the boardwalk at sunset
2. Local dance studios often offer 1 hour classes for as low as $5 a person
3. A local wine tasting event
4. Museums-check for free exhibit and event days
5. The Botanical Gardens
OEB: Where are the best places to go for first dates?
DM: I always suggest for the first date meeting for 20-30 minutes just for a drink. This may seem like a short time but by asking key questions during the conversation you can get quick and accurate information about the possibility of further interaction with someone. It’s much easier to meet for 20-30 minutes for one drink than to have to sit through dinner with someone you're not interested in. Future dates are going to depend on the interest of both people. Keep in mind the activity you choose should keep you both fully engaged with one another such as hiking, miniature golf, indoor rock climbing or a cooking class. Places like movie theaters where silence is golden or concerts, even clubs are too involved and noisy diverting from the purpose of your date, which is to engage in meaningful conversation to get to know one another.
OEB: This happened to me too. Okay, so you're on a date, where your date pays your fare in coupons! How would you feel? How would you handle this?
DM: This question gets raised eyebrows from both parties. More men seem to take the comical approach and say they would commend her and ask her how he can get some of them. I think a lot of men are appreciative of the willingness of the woman to pay. Women on the other hand rely heavily on appearances and claim they would be embarrassed. This raises so many questions but I'll just focus on one.
Where does your vision of the person you want to spend the rest of your life with lie? What do I mean by that? What’s more important to you? A man who is frugal and saves his money for a rainy day, or one who is a big spender and lives outside of his means constantly?
Okay now let's be real. If someone takes the time to plan a date to add value to the experience of getting to know you and ensures a way that both of you have an enjoyable evening, does it matter what form of payment they use to do it? Appearances are not everything. Who knows, he may be saving for a house or a new car. Maybe he has had a problem in the past staying within his monthly budget and is trying very hard to condition himself to stay within it so he may one day have something to show for himself rather than piles of receipts from dates that were not a love match. My point here is to not assume that someone is outright cheap! Have a conversation and see where someone is coming from and where they are trying to go. You can tell when someone is being genuine about his or her situation.
OEB: Which, by the way... what is the dating protocol nowadays? Typically the guy paid for the date, unless a payment plan (i.e., cruise, international vacation, etc.) was discussed prior.
DM: These days women are noticing their incomes are exceeding that of their dates many times over. Today's dating world is much different from that of our parents. Women are making more strides outside the home and the results are paychecks that are as much or more than men. This is because there is a greater amount of educated women that have entered the workforce and there are certainly more women entrepreneurs now. I find that the tables have been turned as women put their independence high on their list. Men are expecting that women pay their own way, and why not. Ladies we are always talking about taking care of our own and being able to pay our way but we shudder to think that a man would not pick up the tab. Stop playing both sides of the fence. Keep the Dutch state of mind unless he offers to pick up the tab and don't count him out if he doesn't. It is perfectly acceptable to have a conversation with a potential date about paying arrangements. Express to the other party that you want to be clear about their feelings on this subject. This should take place of course before the date so no surprises from either party ensue.
OEB: Oh, here's one. What do you consider are acceptable times/ways, (and because we are women, let's use the female gender) when it is okay for another female to compliment another female. I'll use an example: One female tells another female you're very pretty. And so you know, yes, I'll say this in a sec if the person, male or female, I find attractive. However, one female did stop me to say this was an unusual compliment. Can you help clarify?
DM: Honestly when is it NOT acceptable to comment on someone's great looking coat, shoes or the accessories they are wearing? Compliments are nice to hear and they support the ego whether they are from a potential suitor or not. I compliment people all the time no matter their gender or gender preference.
OEB: Now I'm going to throw out another case scenario: Let's talk about Girlfriend. Girlfriend has been seeing two guys. And yes, she’s young, unmarried, and let's say about to graduate from college. One of the guys she met late one night hanging around a 7-Eleven. The other guy she met during her sophomore year. The first is actually her type of exciting fun, even if he doesn't have a steady job, hasn't finished school, and even has a young daughter and an ex-wife. The other guy has completed his undergrad studies and is working on his masters. But honestly, he is boring and always talking about the future, albeit, seldom with a clear-cut picture of her and him in it together.
Based on the above, which would you advise Girlfriend to date if there were only two choices; one or the other?
DM: Girlfriend must first have a clear defined purpose for why she is seeking a partner. She must assess where she currently is in life and where she wants to be. She can start by asking herself these essential questions:
• What are my intentions in dating... Why am I dating at this point in my life?
• Do I have clear direction... What are my plans beyond dating?
• Do I have the skills to stay engaged in a relationship successfully?
After answering these questions she will have a much better outlook to make a more informed decision.
OEB: Last, certainly not least, is there anything else that comes to mind?
DM: Well thank you for having me. I certainly enjoyed our time together and am looking forward to being a guest again. If I could leave your audience with something it would be this... If you are divorced, never been married, or in one relationship after the other and finding yourself unfulfilled and you're looking for solutions to living the single life successfully while finding your perfect mate, you really should invest in yourself and get a coach. I know what you're thinking, "I don't need a therapist." Actually coaches empower others to have what they desire by being crystal clear about what they want while putting together an action plan to get it! Visit my website and take the Readiness Quiz. It will help you access your readiness for a relationship and what areas you may need to take a closer look at before you participate in a long-term relationship.
OEB: Alasha, once more, thank you. I really enjoyed our chat. So lively and spirited, the perfect gift for the season. I wish you the very best this holiday, and always. I agree. We must chat again.
Everyone, Alasha Bennett is the Dating Mechanic helping to 'empower others with tools to live emotionally, healthy, and unbroken.' She can be found on her website, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And of course if you are serious about learning how to live the greatest single life while working to meet your love, you may want to take that Quiz!