Cut back on those take-out dinners

20 Apr

You’ve probably heard about the idea of “dating yourself”. You know–dressing up, putting on cologne, driving yourself to a nice restaurant to have a decent dinner–the kind of things people usually do when in the company of a beautiful partner. Except it’s by yourself.

I know, it sounds pathetic.

Except, it’s actually not pathetic. I think everyone should do it.Most single men I know need to treat themselves better. By “most single men”, I’m talking about these guys:

  • Men who skip movies they want to see because there’s no one to watch it with. (Reason: Movies are meant to be watched with friends)
  • Men who eat cheap when alone. At food courts or, if on the move, sandwiches. I’m not talking about men who eat cheap once in a while, or even those who do so most of the time. I’m talking about men who’s never seen the insides of an Indochine, let alone Magma. (Reason: It’s no fun eating alone in restaurants. Might as well save the money)
  • Men who don’t go on vacations because/if there’s no friends to travel with. (Reason: It gets lonely when travelling alone)
  • Men who postpone getting fit and signing on that gym membership. (Reason: He has no girlfriend to show off muscles to)

You get the idea.

I won’t fool anyone just by saying, “Who says we can’t have fun alone?” That many things are indeed more fun in the company of friends or women are obvious enough.

The real question is, will you enjoy your life even when there’s no one else to do it with? Do you abandon your “minor” goals, like watching a movie or eating at a new restaurant, or postpone them indefinitely until you find the right company? Or have you told yourself that no company is good company?

The problem here is not saving money. For many men, it’s not an issue about allocating resources between spending now, and saving for later (house, car, etc). You won’t afford that HDB flat at 35 years of age just by nickel-and-diming. The problem here is about being a cheapskate. If there’s anything worse–or merely as bad as–being cheap with friends, or cheap with dates, it’s being cheap with yourself.

You can’t afford to be cheap with your time, or cheap with your energy. Time cannot be stopped, and energy cannot be indefinitely conserved. If you’re always conserving energy for some ill-defined convergence of ideal conditions, you’ll never get to the point when you can say, “Yes, now I can enjoy myself!”.

Society here tells us young people should get their grades and career out of the way so that they can have a good foundation in adult life. That is true–to some extent, and for some people. But if you’re one of those who haven’t dated much even in your adult life, you’ll know something else to be true: you’ve never quite gotten working life “out of the way”. Worse, you’ve now formed a habit for procrastinating all pleasurable activities in the name of prioritising the so-called important matters of life.

Many attempt to fix their lack of social life by getting into a frenzy of activity: joining singles events, reading self-help books, or even by hiring a dating coach. These things help, but the big picture is often missed: it’s essentially the same problem-solving approach they’ve been taking all their life: a load of useful activities.

It is here that many men hit a wall: they don’t know how or where to start. There’s just so many things to do: dress better, talk better, visit the trendy places where the sociable women are, i.e. clubs and pubs. For men who’s never done any of this on their own accord, it doesn’t take long before the discomfort of unfamiliar activities (e.g. chatting with strange women) and the string of unfamiliar places turns their long-time suspicions to a full-blown realisation: They’re just not interesting as a person. They’ve no hope in hell of showing someone a good time, because they don’t know what having a good time feels like.

If you’re in a situation where you’re “progressing” on many fronts but getting nowhere, there’s one more thing you might want to try: go out on a “date” by yourself, for yourself, with one simple goal: to find out what having a good time feels like.

I won’t go into prescribing what you should do and where you should go. You’ll need to figure that out for yourself. It can be anything: a café, the library, a concert, a weekend road trip, a long-distance run.

But before attempting these ‘dates with yourself’, here’s a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Disconnect yourself from the phone and the Web. Switch off your mobile phone and Blackberry. Shut down your notebook computer. Electronic communications take your mind elsewhere, away from your immediate environment. Yes, you guessed right: I don’t consider “surfing the web” a valid hobby, any more than “sleeping” is a valid hobby.
  • Stay solo. It’s important that you travel about on your own. Don’t walk about with friends–you’ll be spending time negotiating mutual preferences when you should be trying new experiences. Of course, you can talk to strangers, and make new friends. But the main aim on the self-date is to get acquainted with yourself, and no one else. Oh and by the way: Going out with the aim of meeting women is not a self-date by any measure.
  • Go up-market. Don’t be a cheapskate. For your meals and coffee, go to nice cafes and restaurants. Don’t tell yourself that nice meals are only reserved for when you have company.
    I remember a group date (I know, I did say those were bad ideas. But now I know better) where we retreated after activities to a Subway restaurant for dinner. Half the group (comprising both men and women) appeared uncomfortable with the menu. Turned out that they haven’t been to Subway before, and they didn’t know how to place orders. That was 2008, if I remember correctly. I don’t mean to sound like a snob–there’s nothing wrong with asking friends or your date for help with a strange menu. But at some point of time, say, the first time you take a gorgeous woman to dinner, you don’t look like a deer in the headlights. If you don’t know what it’s like to have dinner in a formal sit-down restaurant, time alone is as good as a time as any to make a reservation.

Last food for thought before I sign off: Remember those Hollywood romantic fantasies of unexpectedly meeting the beautiful stranger? They may be clichéd, but here’s something people often forget: it’s only part fantasy. Beautiful encounters do happen. But it only happens to people who go out. It doesn’t happen to people who buy take-out.


EDIT: Looking at the comments below, I think I need to clarify the subject a little. The topic of this post isn’t about what and where you have dinner. It’s really about “treating yourself well”.

I won’t go into the cliché of how not treating yourself well will result in diminished self-esteem. I think there are consequences more real than that.

One result of the habit of not treating yourself well is that you won’t know your own preferences. Ignoring your needs is not selflessness. It’s a lack of self-awareness, a great handicap when it comes to knowing how to handle others’ preferences.

Without knowing your own preferences, and how important they are (or not) to you, you cannot know what it really means to accommodate. You’re only capable of being agreeable, how to accede to others. You won’t be able to make your own recommendations, how to handle objections or counter-recommendations, etc. The girl can’t see what you are like as a person. What’s worse, there’s no way you can lead a woman on a date, or a relationship. And we all know how women hate men who cannot lead.

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2 Responses to “Cut back on those take-out dinners”

  1. Ms Observer April 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I suspect doing things alone might not be as easy to some.

    Recently, I turned down a date to go watch a band. He asked for the date after i initiated sms. I thought he meant to go no matter if i go or not. Afterward, I checked with him to see if the band was any good. He said he would be bored if he goes alone. So, he didn’t go in the end.

    He did share of a dream to live overseas one day but doesn’t travel alone…hmmm…not sure how likely that would happen.

    There would be no problem if homely takeout guy likes a homely takeout girl (provided they have chance to meet). However, the problem comes when homely takeout guy wants to impress Glam Diva, miss tin tin, etc…

    • Wyck April 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

      I’m probably talking about a different situation–the subject is really about “treating yourself well”.

      Many guys don’t treat themselves well. As a result, they don’t know their own preferences. This handicaps them from knowing how to handle others’ preferences–when to accommodate, how to make their own recommendations, how to handle objections/counter-recommendations, etc.

      My personal belief is that men who can’t handle minor issues, like where to eat dinner, will face difficulties with more serious types of decision-making.

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