Now that my crazy year is over and life is feeling back to whatever normal is for me, the "Summer of Endless Flirtation" is transitioning into "The Winter of Our Discontent Because Real Dating is Totally the Worst".
I often feel like I am just as bad at dating as I was when I was 15 and spent so much time trying to stay aloof around the boy I had a giant crush on that as adults he told me he was convinced I wasn't interested. But realistically, although it hasn't gotten any more fun to get your heart broken, or to put yourself out there when you'd like to be home watching Cougartown in your fleece pants, I actually HAVE progressed in the way I approach this aspect of my life. More importantly, I have assembled a very excellent team of coaches and mentors I like to call my "Dating Board of Directors". This might sound really silly and like the chapter heading in some self-help book but I'm telling you, this team may not help me avoid getting my heart broken, but they sure do make post break up blues go away faster, get me back in the game with less baggage, and help me to actually learn something from each relationship.
Just like at work, I can't be expected to be an expert at every part of my big projects, so I present to you the core members of a solid Dating Board of Directors. Names withheld so you don't steal my board members!
This is the person you call RIGHT after things go south. She's the person who is going to do all the things "He's Just Not Into You" will tell you NOT to do. She'll tell you he doesn't deserve you and that you are too good for him and that he will regret it and blah blah blah. This friend should never say anything about needing to see both sides or asking you what you learned or any of that bull you don't want to hear when the wound is fresh. This person is usually a girl but can also be a male friend you have never been involved with. She's important because she will probably also help you justify buying something nice for yourself, getting a massage, or eating a bunch of ice cream. All of which is totally fine for about 48 hours after a heart gets broken. This role can be filled by a boy but I am more comfortable with girls because we can say "boys are dumb!" which we don't really mean but feels a little bit nice after one has in fact been dumb.
The Gay BFF
A close gay friend is a really useful position on the board. Gay men tend to be 50% more effusive with praise and love than any straight person of either gender. So they will say wonderfully nice things about you that will make your ego feel good, but they are still guys, so they can offer perspective that your girlfriends just can't. And it will come cushioned with the assurance that "if I was straight-daaaamn girl, I would be ALL over YOU." Which is something no girl ever has grown tired of hearing.
The Reformed Player
This is a guy you need around from pretty much the second you start crushing on someone. A guy who has been a player in his past can give you insights that a life long gentleman either can't or won't. You say "why would he do that??" and Reformed Player will say, "oh I'll tell you exactly why...". It's like having a cheat sheet to sketchy male behavior. This is a tricky position though-you have to make sure he is truly reformed. I got myself into a situation where I got some terrific advice from what I thought was an RP, then I accidently started dating him and was pretty upset when I got-duh-played. My current RP coached me through a miserable situation earlier this year complete with encouraging texts about just how bad the fella in question was probably feeling as I followed his tips. I can't overstate the value of this guy. Also, players tend to be pretty handsome and charming so it doesn't hurt your feelings to have one who adores you around.
The Play-by-Play Expert
This one can be a boy or a girl although you will likely get more reliable insight if it's a guy. This is the person willing to listen to a long, boring dating story and then tear apart all the details and try to figure out where you went wrong and what it all means. I must emphasize that this needs to be ONE DESIGNATED PERSON. Your whole social network does not want to hear your story in exruciating detail. And you don't want to be the girl who spills the long version to anyone who sits still for five minutes. The key to this position is that this person actually enjoys the process of talking your situation to death. It is incredibly helpful if you can fill the same role for this person so you can return the favor when he/she is memorizing Taylor Swift songs. Mine has spent 45 minutes on the phone with me analyzing a text exchange so, you know, lucky me.
The Old Married Lady
I love this one. I have dozens of these. You call them to tell a dating story and it doesn't matter if it's funny or sad-they love to live vicariously through you. They will often give terrible advice because they have been out of the game so long, or they are hoping they won't lose their endless supply of stories about getting hit on by 24 year olds. You always know that these friends love their kids and love their husbands but it makes all your experiences just a baby bit sweeter when someone else thinks they sound pretty glamorous.
The Straight Talker
A skilled friend can be both The Sympathizer and the Straight Talker but she or he needs to be really good at sensing which one you need. The Straight Talker kicks in riiiight about the time no one wants to hear you speak this boy's name ever again. As a good friend once said, "even when my mother DIED my friends were tired of comforting me after a month so breakups get 30 days and not one second longer." The Straight Talker is the one that will remind you that you have flaws too, it takes two to kill a relationship and that maybe just maybe this is a pattern or you held on too long or you have been talking about this too much and everyone is tired of it. That friend. I love/hate that friend but she's the key to moving on. She's often the one that will push you over the edge to finally break up or stop pining or get back out there or whatever. She's kind with her honestly because she loves you, but she doesn't want to have to hear this again because really, it's time to put on your big girl pants and move. on.
The Old Flame
This is another tricky position but it's one I have found to be profoundly useful after someone really hurts you. Especially when you feel like it's just never going to work out for you. This is someone you used to be crazy about but are COMPLETELY OVER and someone who was nuts about you but has DEFINITELY moved on. If you been able to be genuinely friendly with this guy, he will become invaluable. He knows you very well, he knows the things that are great about you but he also knows the things that are tough. He knows that you are dramatic and bossy and strong-willed. But if you are lucky, he still thinks you are pretty great and is convinced that you are going to end up with someone great. Because when you are dating in the grownup world, most of the people in your past are not crazy or jerks or whatever, they are just good people that weren't quite right. My Old Flame pep talker gives the most fantastic "You are awesome and we both know this so snap out of it will ya" talks ever. I use him sparingly, he often gets exasperated by the situations I find myself in, but he's one of my favorite post-heartbreak conversations. I can't stress enough that this cannot be someone on your backburner or someone who still harbors a secret crush on you. This needs to be a "his girlfriend knows there is no threat, he's practically a brother" type person or this will actually cause more harm than good.
I have several of these but one of my current favorites is a friend who has heard way too many stories of guys I'm crushing on that end in me saying, "but I have no idea how to tell him I like him." So recently he took to signing all his emails "MTFM" or "Make The First Move." He will give me juuuust enough of an ego stroke like "he'll be hard pressed to resist that laugh of yours" that it has actually inspired me to put myself out there in ways that completely terrify me. The Encourager can get you in trouble and make you vulnerable but apparently that's how you meet people so, I keep a few around.
So there they are, the team that keeps me from turning into a mean old spinster. I would put them all on salary if I could and will probably send THEM wedding presents if that time ever comes.
And if you think I am kidding about any of these, I'm not. This is a 100% serious list and I'm 100% seriously thankful that anytime I start to freak out, this panel is here to turn me back into a human. I also have an all female Being An Awesome Woman Board of Directors that I will have to tell you about. Tapping into the experts people, that's what it's all about.