Ready, set, DATE!
It’s Valentine’s Day, the unofficial opening day of Dating Season.
Don’t know about Dating Season? Here’s a primer.
In my years of dating experience, I started to notice a pattern in the timing of dates. Almost every season is OK for dating, but winter is especially slow. And painful. I reviewed the ups and downs of my dating cycles and noticed that there was a significant uptick right after Valentine’s Day and a downturn after Halloween.
- After Halloween, you’ve got Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas, New Year’s, and then Valentine’s Day. In that period between Halloween and New Year’s, you’ve got a potential relationship landmine about every three weeks. If you start dating someone between Halloween and Thanksgiving, it can get awkward while making your Thanksgiving plans. This doesn’t apply so much in college when it’s a given that most people will go to their parents’ house to celebrate. When you’re out of school, especially if you live far away from your hometown and you’re not planning on going back for the holiday, it brings up questions about possibly going to your new interest’s place or celebrating with them, and it’s a lot to think about only two or three weeks into a relationship (can you even call it a relationship at that point? Most of the time, probably not). You don’t want to force someone to meet the parents, but on the other hand, you don’t want to be rude. Best to avoid the situation altogether.
- Same thing with the period before Christmas, but with the added complication of gifts. Do you get something for someone you’ve been dating for a couple weeks? Do you agree not to do gifts? Do you acknowledge the day together at all? Or do you go home to celebrate and put a new flirtation on hold for a week or two? I’ve known a lot of people who met someone right before Christmas, went home to their families to celebrate, and came back afterward to find the object of their affection coupled up with someone else or not answering their calls. Yikes.
- Then there’s New Year’s, with the pressure of having someone to kiss at midnight. You probably want to spend New Year’s Eve with your friends, so ready or not, you get to introduce your new interest to everyone. And whose friends are you going to spend it with anyway? Again, it’s too much to hash out way too early on.
- Finally, Valentine’s Day. It’s a great day to celebrate with a beau if you’ve been together long enough to know where you stand. But it can really force the issue of Defining the Relationship (DTR) if you’ve just started dating. It’s a make or break situation. Some people can handle this gracefully, but it’s really tough, and most of the time, the question hangs in the back of your head: “Where do we stand? What’s appropriate to do? We just started dating! AAAAARGH!”
So once Valentine’s Day has come and gone, you’re pretty much in the clear. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a big deal, and neither is Easter, and then it gets to be spring and summer and everyone is out of hibernation, so it’s ideal for meeting new people. Hence, Dating Season. You’ve got till Halloween to find someone, but if you start up something new more than a few days after that, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of awkward decisions. They better be worth it, because if you end things with someone during that time, then you’re That Douche Who Dumped Someone During the Holidays. There’s pressure to stick it out. It’s just not a good situation for a burgeoning relationship.
There’s a small lull right after New Year’s where you could get cozy with someone and get to know them well enough in time for Valentine’s, but you have to act quickly. I’d say that you have to get that started before the Epiphany on January 6.
If you miss that window, better to wait until February 14th, which, paradoxically, is a fantastic day for first dates. I’ve had several first dates on Valentine’s and it’s a fun day for it. There’s so much pressure for those in relationships that it translates to almost zero pressure for those on their first date together. You can take advantage of all the cheesy romance and dinner specials, but you both know that you’re not making any grand declarations of love. You can enjoy it but not take it too seriously. It also shows that both parties involved have a sense of humor. It’s in your best interest to avoid anyone who is on the Anti-Valentine’s Day bitterness bandwagon. They likely have bigger problems.
The last reason why Dating Season opens today is kind of a downer. Now that all the landmine holidays are done and over with, all the people who were staying together because they didn’t want to be That Douche Who Dumped Someone During the Holidays will be breaking up. Nobody wants to be the person who ended it right before Valentine’s. Afterwards, however, game on. In the next few weeks, the dating pool will be flooded with newly single people who are looking to rebound. They might not be the best option for starting a serious relationship with, but they’ll let you get warmed up for the thick of Dating Season. Spring training, if you will.
So there you have it. Dating Season is open–go forth and date. May the Force be with you.