Date Prep: How interesting is your story?

by Lucretia Ackfield, author of The Men I’ve Almost Dated.

Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?

It’s a cold winter’s night in Brisvegas and I’m at a loose end. I’m a single woman living in the time of Corona – when dating is challenging and socialising hasn’t quite returned to normal.

I’ve done my daily scroll through the dating apps and still feel uninspired. Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?

Clearly my true love is not online this evening.

Front Cover Finding Love Again by Carolyn Martinez

I decide to do a little romantic personal development and pull out my friend Carolyn’s book, Finding Love Again. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but I skipped over most of the exercises in the back.

The first part of the book contains personal stories of men and women who have lost and then found love again. With a strong emphasis on common values as the glue that makes relationships work, people share their experiences of divorce, being single, grief, children and much more. It also explores what each of them learned on their journey to finding love again.

But it’s the end of the book with its self-reflection exercises that I turn to tonight, specifically Exercise 6 – Your Story which centres on the problem of how to talk about yourself when you first meet a new potential date.

I’ve joined some online speed-dating events recently and been faced with the challenge of describing myself in an interesting way to a complete stranger in two minutes via Zoom. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Carolyn has a suggestion about how to approach telling your story, so I decide to give it a go. It seems I need to go back and map out the most interesting and significant events in my life so far, from birth.

Perhaps this is going to be a rather short story…

No. I’m doing this – you never know what gold I may discover to fill those awkward silences on my next date.

Carolyn suggests you create a table and for each year, jot down things like where you were living, what you were doing, an achievement, a people thing, a funny thing, little known fact. You don’t need to fill every box for each year, just put in anything noteworthy that springs to mind.

Obviously being born was significant for me but I’m not sure if that’s something I need to highlight on a date. Fast forward to late primary school though and I won a prize for one of my oil paintings and got my picture in the paper – that was pretty cool. I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere – all skinny legs and gaunt-faced cheekbones. I was one of those kids who ate and ate and never put on any weight. Pity that didn’t last post-21…

Back to the task at hand.

Two memorable moments from my under-graduate degree – watching a disturbing German film where the female protagonist had all her teeth pulled out and sitting behind some Goths and their pet rat in a lecture.

Got married, traveled overseas for the first time and my love affair with Italy truly began. Repelled down five stories of the children’s hospital with the police special emergency response team – as you do.

Went overseas for a second time – yes, Italy again and I still loved it. Left marriage and traveled solo overseas, felt fearless and free. Watched the moon rise above camel trains in the Sahara.

Bought a house, worked with judges, zip-lined with gibbons through the jungle, published a book…

I could keep going but I don’t want to reveal everything before we’ve met in person, dear reader. But I’m sure you get the picture.

I know this is meant as a dating preparation activity, but I think it has value far beyond that. Revisiting your history and recognising your achievements and the events that have shaped you is a great thing to do at any time. When we get stuck in the daily grind and pressures of life, we often forget just how far we’ve come – this exercise is a great way to remind ourselves.

As I read back over my story, I have a laugh to myself and realise Carolyn’s words on page 238 ring very true – “this exercise demonstrates how uninteresting your previous break-up is in the totality of your life story”.

Your copy of Finding Love Again by Carolyn Martinez is waiting for you at Hawkeye Books.

Carolyn Martinez

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