Dating Games: Couple-watching

I was able to learn a lot about the kind of relationship I wanted to be a part of by taking note of how others interact.

Couple watching 521 (photo credit: Pepe Fainberg )
Couple watching 521
(photo credit: Pepe Fainberg )
If people-watching is a hobby, couple-watching is a sport.
At the beach, at restaurants, at clubs. At weddings, at shivas, at brit milas. At the gym, at the movies, at the coffee shop. Basically anywhere and everywhere, I love checking out the crowd. And usually it’s easy enough not only to spot the couples but also to categorize them by how long they have been dating. I was able to learn a lot about the kind of couple I wanted to be a part of by couple-watching and taking note of how other couples interact.
When I see first-date couples, they’re usually the ones sitting across from each other, not quite touching and not totally comfortable, but with visible chemistry (well, hopefully. First dates that are not going well are another category altogether – see below). But when it is going well, the two people will be leaning toward each other, maintaining eye-contact and completely engaged in conversation. The first-date couple is talking nonstop, smiling and laughing, asking each other questions and sharing stories, looking for commonalities.
The first-date couple is dressed to the nines, hair gelled, makeup done. The easiest way to spot a first date couple is when the bill is delivered.
The woman will reach for her purse and the man will signal to her to stop, that it’s on him.
First-date disaster couples sit across from each other and use guarded body language. Their arms are crossed, their eyes are wandering, their faces are blank and their expressions are grim. There is no chemistry, physical or otherwise.
Their mouths are only moving because they are shoveling food into them so that they won’t have to talk. Yet they have lost their appetites. They are discussing the weather and the economy.
The members of this, dare I say, “couple” are holding their respective breaths until the date ends. When the bill comes, the woman will reach for her purse and the man won’t stop her.
She’ll offer to split it and he’ll accept. If he doesn’t stop her then she’ll insist on going dutch because she doesn’t want to in any way be indebted to him.
New couples sit next to each other and can’t keep their hands or mouths off each other. When they’re not engaging in a make-out session, they’re either feeding each other, drinking or whispering into each other’s ears. Their legs are crossed toward each other and their fingers are intertwined. They’re dressed nicely, probably a bit provocatively, with hair and makeup in place as they are still trying to impress each other.
This couple is enjoying being “in like” and is happy to be past the first few stages of dating. He bought her a rose and during dessert he delicately wipes the little bit of chocolate from the corner of her mouth as they make googly-eyes at each other. When the check comes the man will quickly pay the bill without hesitation in the effort of avoiding any awkwardness.
The veteran couple sits across from each other in comfortable silence. She may look a bit disheveled as she is a full-time mom and/or career woman and lacks the energy to spend the time to get all ferputzed. She figures the man sitting across from her won’t mind and has already seen her at her worst. The man is also exhausted, the top button of his shirt undone and tie loosened.
There are creases in his brow as he smiles gently and reaches across the table to cover his wife’s hand with his own. This couple is appreciating the opportunity to be out together alone and doesn’t want to ruin the night with talking about their day-to-day stresses – they would rather simply sit in peace and quiet. Their legs are probably touching underneath the table and they can communicate by just looking into each other’s eyes. The man gave his credit card to the waiter on the way in; one less thing for them to worry about.
I suppose it may come from a place of jealousy but, even so, singles can use couple-watching to learn how things could be, should be and how they want them to be. Do you want to keep that first-date type of nonstop conversation going? Do you hope to continue that three-month can’t-keep-my- hands-off-you chemistry alive? Or do you look forward to sitting together in silence? All three aspects are important. I wanted all three of those phases to be a part of my coupledom.
But you have to work at it: once you are a veteran couple you have to make a point of getting dressed up and flirting.
Not because you don’t love each other, but because reality has set in and you’ve realized that every day can’t be a groping, slobbering kind of date. Going on a date with someone you love and who makes you feel loved is all you really need.