“Hello” written in bright blue cursive lights with black background.

Recently I went on a queer bender. I had gone to Philly for a week with my sweetie, was entrenched in queer community there, and ended off the week at a OUTRAGEOUSLY amazing drag show in Brooklyn. By the time we got to the drag show, we had been more social in that past week than in the past year combined. It was a lot…and it was perfect.

At the Brooklyn drag show there were SO many queer folks I was down to meet. Folks who seemed interesting and who had an amazing energy about them. But I was tired, and I was happy focusing just on my lover. (We aren’t exclusive but when we’re out together our flirtatious attention is on each other.)

But even with my attention happily on them, I think about my clients initiating. I think about initiating for friendship, and I think about how I would initiate with someone if I were available for connections in that moment. I look around and see who I would want to talk to. I test myself. I think, “What might I say if I were feeling up to it?”

At the end of the night, my honey and I get ready to leave with no new friends. We vow that next time we’ll make more of an effort to connect. We’ll introduce ourselves to performers. We’ll meet people. I believe us, and yet I still leave the experience with a dash of self judgement: a reoccurring story that to be a good dating coach, I need to be initiating in every moment. I can’t ever feel intimidated. I need to always know what to say.

But the truth is, sometimes I don’t. And in those moments I have to question, am I really content with not connecting? Or am I feeling afraid of an imperfect initiation?

In moments where I choose not to initiate, whether it’s out of fear or being content, I’ll often go home and think about what I might do next time, or what I could’ve done differently.

This commitment to reflection is inspired by my years as an actor going from audition to audition and, after each one, thinking, assessing, and having a conversation with myself about how it went. I would critically look at the moments and situations where I felt most comfortable and brainstorm on how to invite more of those opportunities in. This could be something in my control like, “I didn’t feel like my most authentic self in what I was wearing today,” or perhaps something out of my control like, “That music was a bit too challenging for that accompanist.” I would look at what I learned and figure out how I wanted to move forward with the new information I gathered.

After many years of doing this in a really dedicated way, I’m now conditioned to reflect. To pause after an experience and make a new and improved plan.

I’ve distilled this experience into a lesson I’ll recall the next time I’m feeling tongue tied over an initiation. My personal lessons are always born from the intersection of what I value and what I want. Here it is: stick to what is true.

While at the event, I noticed someone I was drawn to. They were a cute femme type person, with short curly brown hair, light eyes and a big smile (I know, I know…cue the Broad City episode where Ilana Glazer dates Alia Shawkat.) They were with two other folks and from observing the vibe, they all seemed like friends.

So what might an initiation look like if I had approached that person that night? What is the truest thing I could’ve said to them? Maybe something like, “Hey I’m feeling drawn to your energy and also a little awkward trying to figure out how to say anything but that! Can I chat with y’all for a bit?” Then I’d probably ask about their experience at the show so far and if they live around the venue, and so on.

Or, if I go to the event again next month and see them again I might say, “Hey I saw you at the show last month and wanted to chat with ya but was feeling tired and shy that night so I wanted to introduce myself now.”

So that’s the lesson I’m working with: “Don’t worry about doing it the best, just do it truer.”

And this is where dating becomes part an integral part of our personal growth journeys. It encourages introspection. It allows us to tweak how we’re putting ourselves out there. It allows us to practice discerning the difference between a fear of connecting with new people, and understanding when we are deeply satisfied just focusing on the folks we came to the event with.

Dating as personal growth allows us to honor going slow. It encourages us to be gentle with ourselves when starting to be social in person again. It helps us validate our baby steps. It teaches us that just showing up to an event is good enough for now, that we don’t need to initiate with anyone this time. It reminds us to sense how the experience is feeling, notice our edge of discomfort, and do it truer in the future.

Ariella is a Queer Dating Coach who helps kind, queer folks navigate the dating pool, so they have the courage to go after what they want in dating and in life.

Ariella is a Queer Dating Coach who helps kind, queer folks navigate the dating pool, so they have the courage to go after what they want in dating and in life.