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Kelley Whitis Headshot

Masks Are For Halloween Only

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Halloween is a time where we play dress-up, wear elaborate make-up, role-play and put on masks. But in the world of dating, so many of us do that the other 364 days of the year.

We play the role of girl-next-door, vixen, friend, supporter, homie, fixer and hard-to-get. We wear clothes and makeup to make us appear a certain way. We get our hair styled in a manner that makes us seem sexy, cute, intelligent, serious, flirty or fun. And some of us even get botox or plastic surgery to alter our appearances.

What if instead of acting and appearing they way we thought we should, we simply showed up as who we really are. Now I'm not saying this as a get out of jail free pass to wear slouchy clothes and no make-up everyday. What I am saying is get in touch with your inner being, your authentic self. If you hate dressing up and wearing heels, dating an investment banker or high-profiled Hollywood agent is probably not for you. If you don't have a nurturing bone in your body then perhaps dating someone who needs a lot of support or attention should not be your first choice. And if you are a morning person, dating a musician may not be the best option for you.

So many times we are attracted to a person for one particular thing or another only to realize later we resent them for something else when all along we knew subconsciously that we weren't compatible from the beginning.

Let me give you an example. Once upon a time, my friend Trina went on a first date -- or attempted to go on a first date -- with a feature film editor, Mark. They had met randomly at a restaurant and exchanged phone numbers. He worked in the ever-changing-schedules, long days and late nights of feature film post production. And she was a by-the-books, routine 9-to-5'er. They set a night to meet up for dinner. The night before the big date, Mark called Trina and told her his schedule was pretty heavy and didn't think he'd be able to make dinner tomorrow night but would love to reschedule.

Of course, things happen, Trina understood and they rescheduled their date for next week. The same thing happened that next week. Mark called and was under the gun to meet an important deadline and needed to reschedule. Trina was a little upset and resentful, but politely accepted his offer to reschedule.

Four weeks after their initial first date was set to be scheduled they were finally going to dinner. Trina put on one of her favorite dresses, slipped on her heels, a bit of perfume and was out the door. In the car, on the way to the restaurant they agreed to meet at, she got the phone call. The same phone call she had gotten twice before. Mark needed to work late and wasn't able to make their dinner. Trina blew up, let him have a mouthful and ended up hanging up on him.

Now, if we dissect this we can clearly see that Trina likes routine. She doesn't like off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-minute or seat-of-your-pants spontaneity. Mark's life, on the other hand, was ruled by this. His job depended on his ability to go with the flow.

If they had each really been in touch with who they were and what is acceptable and unacceptable in their lives, it would have never progressed to a point where Trina got so angry that she hung up on him. And Mark would have been able to realize that at that particular time in his career or on that film, maybe dating was not the best fit for his life.

Another friend, Jill, was dating Dominic. Their first few dates consisted of dinner and a movie. Dominic, being a gentleman, told Jill she should choose the movie. She chose a romantic comedy but knowing those weren't always a man's favorite, she asked if that was okay. He responded by saying how much he loved romantic comedies. And that became the norm until one night when Dominic got so angry at her suggestion of yet another rom-com. "Why can't we ever see something I want to see?" he shouted out.

These are just a couple of the many stories I've heard about people hiding behind masks, not speaking their truths, and pretending to be something they are not. We all know this is counter-productive, yet somehow we continue to think it's easier to pretend to be something other than who we really are. Because if we show who we really are, we make ourselves vulnerable. And if we are vulnerable we are susceptible to getting hurt. And no one likes to be hurt.

Trina and Mark never spoke again and she continues to hold on to the idea that he really didn't like her to begin with instead of knowing that he just wasn't at a place in his life where he was ready for a relationship.

Jill responded to Dominic's outburst with the simple fact that he had stated early in their relationship that he loved romantic comedies. Dominic was able to honestly tell her that he said that just to please her. They are still dating and have learned to speak their truths and find compromise in their movie-going habits.

Wearing masks and pretending to be something we are not only prohibits us from being our authentic selves. We waste our time and we waste others' time as well. Which is why it is crucial to know who you really are, what you aspire to obtain in dating and finding a partner, and what you will and won't accept in their behavior. Take off your mask. Speak your truth. Be vulnerable. You may risk being hurt, but you'll also risk being loved.