When my last relationship ended, it marked the first time in a long, long time in which I was truly single. Somehow, without realizing how, I found myself in committed relationships for almost all of my late teens and early twenties. I wouldn’t say this was a bad thing, or particularly a good thing either, it just was the way it was.
So when I arrived in Spain three months ago I was 26, more single than ever, and had the freedom to create my own work schedule. There was no better time for me to “crack the code” on dating. You know, to figure it out. See how it works. It was my own little social experiment if you must.
And while I didn’t want to find myself in another relationship, I still wanted to be successful at this little game. I wanted to make connections with people from around the world. I wanted to have romantic evenings in exotic destinations. I wanted to feel that excitement of, “will we have enough to talk about?” or, “will they text me back?” and, “will this person sweep me off my feet and fly me to Tanzania for a spur of the moment safari getaway?” You know, normal questions like that.
At the same time I also wanted to be able to go home to my little room in the Madrileño neighborhood of Conde Duque at the end of the night and catch up on Homeland. Alone. With a huge bowl of popcorn which I didn’t have to share. The best of both worlds.
And while I find myself somewhat personable and interesting, a guess some dates didn’t. Then the ones who actually fancied yours truly were oh-so wrong. This vision of far flung flings and exotic dates just didn’t quite happen. Instead, through a plethora of dating fails I figured out how NOT to date in Europe.
1. With Married Men
A few of you might remember the reference I made to “Tinder and the married man” a month or so ago. Well, that sure is a situation I don’t plan on recreating. At least it taught me a lesson—at 26 while on a date the first thing you should do is look for a wedding ring (or a ring tan line). While marriage seems as far off now for me than it did when I was 16, I can’t forget that this isn’t true for everyone.
We got along swimmingly. I acted as his personal tour guide while he was new in town. I took him to my favorite wine spots and recited history lessons in the Plaza Mayor.
Upon a gut feeling that something was fishy I began an in depth Instagram search (see, social media addictions can be useful!). I then found a photo from his wedding on one of his friend’s public Instagram accounts (it was tough to find a public account to snoop on, trust me!).
That was a sad moment. For one, because I just wasted a lot of time with someone who had a family (and a child, surprise!) and two, because I realized this could be a common trend for me in the years to come. Dating in your mid and late twenties, bring on the baggage!
Lesson Learned: After the age of 25, your first question on a date should be, “Are you married?” and your second, “Are you sure?”
2. On the Way to the Airport
When a date kept blowing me off and re-arranging plans, I figured it was because he was from South America and just extra flaky (bad stereotype, I know). When I told him I was off to Greece for 10 days, he pleaded that I make time for a coffee with him on the way to the airport.
Being that my flight wasn’t until noon anyway, I figured I could do it. Over a latte (the most boring atmosphere for a first date ever) we chatted about getting together more often to practice each other’s languages, for him to teach me about the political situation in Venezuela (I was actually pretty excited about that) and to explore Madrid.
Well, the “send me photos from Greece and see you when you get back!” turned into silence over the airwaves. I reached out a couple times, but a girl can take a hint.
Was it me or was it the latte? I’ll never know. It was at this point I realized this dating game might be trickier than I originally thought.
Lesson Learned: Always assume it was the latte.
3. By falling off ancient monuments
By this point in Europe, I had my fair share of epic weekends, and awkward situations, but it was an experience after the TBEX pre-party which possibly takes the cake (or the baklava if we must).
Word of the wise— if someone from the conference asks to walk you home for safety purposes, don’t believe them, and especially stay far, far away from the slopes of the Acropolis.
While I had a smartphone full of data in my hand just ready and waiting to load up Google Maps (or call the police) I did what any considerate but better-knowing female would do—swallow my pride and let the man try and lead the way.
While I took in all the beautiful views of illuminated ancient Athens at night (“OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M ROAMING AROUND ATHENS!”) we were soon lost. Luckily, we were lost at quite the epic location.
I looked up and there it was, the Parthenon, shining in all its glory. Behind me was a slope and a sleepy neighborhood down below. As I loaded up Google Maps to chart the correct route to Athens Backpackers, I was approached, for what I believe was a smooch, by my new conference friend.
“Hey, there! Don’t you go pushing me off the Acrop—-“ I jested.
Not taking the hint, he went in for another try. Then, with both of us losing balance, the next thing I knew I had backwards rolled off a ledge into a spiny bush.
In hysterics at the ridiculous situation, I soon realized my laugh was the only one I heard. My new conference friend stood up, reached down toward his right calf and what came up was a hand full of blood.
From then on the rest of my night would be spent picking cactus thorns from his skin and disinfecting what was a deep open gash from barbed wire with vodka from his mini bar. The next day he had a pleasant six stitches to continuously remind him of the experience.
In return for my boy scout skills cleaning his wounds, he sent me classy bottle of La Rioja in the mail. Can’t complain there.
Lesson Learned: Forget diamonds, the “tuck and roll” is a girl’s best friend.
4. By showing up late and tipsy
When I planned to meet up with someone at 3pm on a Sunday, I figured it wouldn’t be a difficult arrangement to keep. That was before I didn’t meet up with friends until midnight, then didn’t get to a club until 3am (as you do in Spain) and then didn’t get home until around 7am. When you are too cheap for a gym membership, you must treat the club as one!
I went to bed exhausted from hours of busting moves on the dance floor with a battery-less phone and forgot to set an alarm. Who wakes up at 3pm anyway?
Well, supposedly I do. I do when I have a date waiting who doesn’t have a data plan at the moment allowing me to message him to let him know I’d be 30 minutes late.
Now while I think I made up for my extreme tardiness by, yet again, being a fabulous tour guide around Madrid that afternoon, I don’t think anything could ever make up for the hair-of-the-dog chattiness I suffered from on the date and the possible eau-de-toilette of last night’s adult beverages.
We saw each other one or two more times for drinks but I don’t think he ever saw me as the (mostly) responsible, sophisticated, independent woman I am after that first impression I made.
Lesson Learned: First impressions matter. But if you can’t make a good one, at least have a good body spray.
It’s not 100% dating fails though
To my surprise, it wasn’t a complete three months of awkward fails and rejection. I just may have made up for all this absurdity during my very last few days on the European continent. Yup, I finally got all those Madrid tour guiding favors returned to me ten-fold…but that’s another story!