Stop twisting and just be
Updated: May 3
I was pretty nervous on my first date with James. We met on a Saturday in a coffeeshop “meet cute” style, and at the time, it was pretty clear that there was a spark between us. Which was why I was nervous. I was used to meeting guys through church, and most of the time, you can’t really figure out if they are interested or not.
There is some casual flirting that you aren’t really sure is flirting. Are they just being nice, you wonder? Are they just being “Christian”? They complement you and spend more time around you than others… but they are also nice to everyone else. So, how do you know if there is intention behind it or not?
Then, they suggest getting a cup of coffee and you go – but you’re not really sure if it’s a date. And you talk about life and God and you both probably end up sharing your testimony at some point. The coffee ends with a hug, you go your separate ways and you have no idea what you just did.
So, the fact that I knew this was a date was pretty darn exciting.
James asked me out via text and made it clear that he would be picking me up and there would be coffee AND lunch involved. He was a breath of fresh air. I had a date. And I KNEW it. It was new and exciting and incredibly nerve wracking.
Almost every day leading up to our date, I thought about what I was going to wear… literally. I somehow thought that if I cracked the code on my wardrobe that it would impress James. That the secret to his heart was looking cute… but not like I tried too hard... just cute enough.
You know what I’m talking about.
The morning of our date, I finally landed on what to wear: a cute shirt and shorts. He picked me up in his red Kia in jeans and a button up shirt and we headed to the beach.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself in those early days of dating to stop, breath and enjoy every moment of getting to know James. I would tell myself that all that worrying wasn’t worth it. I can’t control how someone else feels about me. All I can do is be me.
I got so nervous on those first few dates that I sat down and wrote myself pep talks before them. That’s right… I actually had to pep talk myself... Kid President style.
James took me to Philz Coffee at Pacific City on our first date. We got two Mint Mojitos – large, sweet and creamy. It's now our favorite coffee drink. We sat on the wooden steps that face the ocean and we talked. The thing about mint mojitos is that they are topped with a fresh, cold foam. On this particular day, that foam stained the corners of my mouth light brown and James didn’t have the heart to tell me.
Let me stop there for a moment.
On a first date with a guy I really liked, I had brown coffee stains on the corners of my mouth the whole time. That is a worst-case scenario for anyone in everyday life, let alone a date, and it didn’t matter. James liked me anyway. Coffee stains and all.
When I asked James what it was that stood out to him on that first date, it wasn’t the carefully crafted story, well-timed pun joke (I make a lot of those) or my outfit. The two moments that made him want to know more about the girl with the coffee stains on the corners of her mouth were these:
The first happened when we were headed for lunch. We were right next to a place called Lemonade, but decided to keep looking around to see if there was anywhere else we wanted to eat. We walked down to the end of Pacific City where there was a number of restaurant options, but none of them looked good to me.
So, I said, “Why don’t we go back to Lemonade?” And, we did. It would have been so easy just to pick one of the places where we were at, but I wanted Lemonade more. Apparently, James liked that I knew what I wanted. Little did he know that if there’s anyone who knows exactly what she wants to eat… it’s me.
The second moment was in his car on the way home. James handed me his phone to DJ our ride back, which is my least favorite thing to do in high stakes getting to know each other situations. My mind literally goes blank and I can’t remember what music I like anymore. I end up choosing random songs like Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” and anything by Beyoncé.
Thankfully, James saved me from my misery and offered to play me his new favorite song by The Talking Heads. We sat in silence while “This must be the place” played in his car. It was funky pop, which is not my jam. After about a minute, he asked: “So, what do you think?”
I said: “I don’t like it.”
And that was the moment he knew he wanted to know more about me. The moment I told him that I didn’t like his new favorite song. He says that it took him totally off guard. I said what I was thinking – no holds barred. And he liked it.
Here’s the thing about those two moments. I did them without thinking. They just happened. They were me at my purist. They are not really the pieces of myself that I am proudest of or that I planned on sharing with a man that made my insides feel like a Ferris wheel. But, they were real.
And it made me realize how much time I’d spent in my life with guys that I liked or even with friends trying to twist into the shape that fit what I thought they needed me to be. When the very things that they probably liked about me are the things I did without thinking. The things that were unapologetically me.
I wasted so much time, especially with guys who I really liked, trying to figure out who they were instead of who I was and what I wanted. It usually led down a path where I was not being true to myself.
I fell pretty hard for one of them. I remember getting ready every time I was going to see him, thinking that something I said or did could make a difference. It never did. He didn’t want me. And to be honest, I had bent myself so many different ways that I would have been miserable with him.
James was different. From the beginning, he created space for me to be me. By the end of our first date, he set up dinner for our second. By the end of our second, he told me we were probably going to be spending a lot of time together. Every step of the way, he affirmed me and let me know what would happen next.
When James told me that those two moments are what stood out to him the most on that first date, it shifted something within me. It made me realize how little I get to control how others feel about me. And how much it isn't worth it. That hiding who I was meant that I wasn't being seen by those who would love me for it.
It turns out the things we consider our greatest liabilities can also be our greatest strengths. They are the pieces of ourselves that aren’t necessarily the prettiest, but they are the things that stick to the hearts of those who love us.
Those are the things that we do without thinking – and whether you believe it or not, those are often what make us the most loveable.
So, if I could tell myself one more thing in those early days with James, it’s this: stop wasting time trying to twist into a pretzel to be who you think others need you to be.
Stop twisting and just be.