New York is a shopper’s Mecca. Everything imaginable is on hand and on display. Always. There is no shortage of things to covet. This breeds in us New Yorkers a particular form of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), a thirst to acquire the next best thing. For much the same reasons, New York is also a dater’s hell.
The idea struck me one Sunday afternoon, post-brunch, shopping with my friend Venus in SoHo. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a decisive shopper; I know what I want when I see it. Most of the time I’m so decisive I don’t even try things on. When I know, I know. That said, anyone who knows me also knows that I am cursed with an acute case of FOMO; I used to go into school sick because I was afraid of missing out on whatever happened with my friends. These factors result in a unique shopping style, wherein I need to see everything before coming to my final decisions. This means blitzing through all necessary stores down Broadway and making my purchases afterward. Shopping with me can be, well, mildly exhausting.
“Why do we always have to do this?” Venus asked, smack in the middle of a conversation about boys.
“Why? It’s because I’m overwhelmed by the choices. I don’t want to make a purchase at Zara only to regret it by the time I get to Bloomingdales.”
That’s when I realized there was a lesson to be had here. At 27, I am now very happily in a relationship with the man of my dreams, but only after never having a real one until last year. My odyssey of boyfriendlessness resulted in no few years of self-loathing, not realizing that the reason things had never worked out with a guy in the past was because, in all honesty, I didn’t really want them to. I’ve always known what I was looking for. I should have been dating the way I shop! The anguish came with trying things on that I knew weren’t the right fit.
The discerning shopper never invests in fads or sartorial whims. They only purchase items that fit their entire life, their entire wardrobe, their mise-en-scène. I’ve noticed that my most pronounced romantic blunders had the same genesis as my more regrettable fashion choices–namely, the misguided decisions made in the face of FOMO. We have this desire to keep pace with our peers and, often, our social media network. I suspect that it’s from this place that most of our twenty-something dating-is-warfare pain stems from.
Dating is like shopping for anything else. You need to be smart and go into it knowing what you want, and what you can afford. Some boys are beautiful, but, in all honesty, you know you won’t wear them more than a few times (“Where the hell am I going in this?”). Others are downright unfortunate looking, and even though you really like them, you won’t wear them further than the bodega. Some are trendy (ever start a relationship knowing it has the shelf-life of a donut?). Some are even drunken purchases. If you’re to be honest with yourself, you already know these things before trying them on. Why not cut out the BS and shop for what you really want?
If you’re waiting for Prince Charming, wait for him. Date guys who fit the criteria. If you’re not feeling it immediately, chances are you’re not going to suddenly one day realize he’s the one. If you’ve got a voracious sexual appetite and the charms to satisfy it, then go for it! Just don’t trick yourself into thinking a partner chosen for sex is going to suddenly fulfill your intellectual and emotional needs.
Dating who and how you actually want to date will ultimately lead to a lot less heartache for you and all of your partners. Whether you enjoy investing in just a few pieces, or you’re more the type who likes a full closet to keep your options open, stay authentic. We need to stop creating conflict in ourselves by idealizing the dating lives of others. Be honest with yourself. Don’t let Instagram trick you into thinking you want to be single if you’re happy in your relationship. If you’re waiting for Mr. Right, don’t let the relationship status changes on your Newsfeed make you think you need to stumble from boyfriend to boyfriend to find him. Let your path be your path. FOMO be damned.