Dear Geekend readers, I am an introvert with social anxiety. Dating, for me, equals stress in epic proportions. The more open I've been online about my issues with shyness, the more I've found that many, many fellow geeks have the same insecurities. When you're not too good with strangers, it can be especially difficult to find that special someone. So I thought I'd offer some advice for reducing stress (as much as possible) in romantic date scenarios. Read on, dear friends....
I can't tell you how many dates have taken me to restaurants. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a date is so nerve-wracking already that being on one in a crowded, loud restaurant makes it so much worse. It's hard to concentrate on the person in front of me when there is so much stimuli around me. Even if it's quiet, it's usually at least busy, and all the activity leaves my nerves jangled.
Oddly enough, the thing that makes me the most nervous about dates is awkward silence. I don't know what it is, but any time I am going to hang out with someone I don't know well, I'm terrified of running out of things to say and just sitting there awkwardly while the silence magnifies, and my horror paralyzes my brain.
I can hear what you're thinking: "Silly woman! Go to a movie!" Well, that's fine for a date with someone you already know well, but if you're trying to get to know someone, sitting in a theatre not talking is the worst way to do it. Not to mention the fact that it's super awkward with the raising and lowering arm rests and the "do we hold hands?" and the "I have to go to the restroom, but I don't want to crawl over him so I'll just jiggle my foot to distract myself" and the "I just cackled really loud at a super inappropriate joke and he wasn't laughing. Is he judging me?!" and all the rest of it.
I'm here to break the cycle! I'm sure there are people who love going out to loud and busy places, but my introvert friends and I prefer to keep it quiet and simple. Below I've listed ideas for places to take that introverted guy or girl you've been crushing on.
Rose garden or park
This is the best place to take a date; rose gardens especially are beautiful, quiet and romantic. You can stroll among the different colored rose bushes, smell the scents, and chat quietly. Often they have ponds or statues or other cool stuff to see. A lot of cities don't have rose gardens, so a park will do in a pinch. Walking around and looking at birds and whatnot is a really nice way to get to know someone. Plus, if you run out of conversation topics in a park, it feels a lot more like companionable silence than an awkward moment.
Zoos can definitely be loud and busy depending on the time of year, but they are usually big enough that you can find some space that's quite. There are also tons of nice conversation topics to choose from when you're at the zoo. If your introverted date gets nervous or overwhelmed, there's opportunity for them to wander off ahead of you or linger behind for a moment to gather themselves.
Museum or art gallery
In poor weather, a museum is an excellent choice. Similar to the zoo, you can wander back and forth to various exhibits, and there is a ton of information to help stimulate conversation. I also love browsing in museum gift shops.
Art galleries are nice places to go as well, especially if neither of you is particularly arty and you can bond over the fact that the big, black dot is just a big, black dot and in no way a commentary on the state of Capitalism in the Millennial Age or whatever. Conversely, if you're both arty, then you can bond over how the big, black dot is an incredibly interesting commentary on the state of Capitalism in the Millennial Age.
Did I steal this idea from Good Will Hunting? Yes. Did I also have the best time ever racing big wheels until we got in trouble? YES. Just because an introvert prefers quiet and solitude to loud, noisy places doesn't mean they aren't adventurous or have a healthy sense of fun. Arcades are cool, but they tend to be really loud and crowded. Toy stores can offer some of the childish fun of the arcade without all the jingle, jangle, clang, clang, bleep, bloop noise of an arcade. The best thing you can do on a date is be silly. It loosens things up and has a tendency to push past a lot of the pretense that everyone tends to adopt on the first few dates.
Flea market, garage sale, or junk store
One of my favorites is the "Let's just wander around and look at stuff" date. Both times this happened, it was an accident. We decided to stop in a store because something looked interesting. We ended up wandering around looking at junky stuff and reminiscing over old boxes of cassette tapes and VHS. Another time we wandered into some kind of import store that sold weird, crazy bits and bobs from all over the place. Bonding over "OOH! Come here, look at this!" is really fun, and it's a great way to get to know someone. You can get a lot of insight from what people discover and get excited about.
There are always fun and interesting things to do on a date that can facilitate conversation without overwhelming the participants with crowds and noise. In the end, as long as you're doing something you both enjoy, it'll be a good date.
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