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I recently had my first date without alcohol. Yep, without a drop!

The old me would have liked the idea in theory – it’s romantic right? But put it into practice? No way! What if we had nothing to talk about? Where would I hide? What if they didn’t like me? If I wasn’t fun? What excuse would I have for making a fool out of myself?

It was lovely of course. A little bit awkward I guess, mostly because I was super self-conscious and I wasn’t entirely sure it was a date, but definitely lovely. We giggled a little bit. I got caught looking into her eyes and lost track of what I was saying. Several times. She pretended she was more interested in the passers-by than what I was saying because she was too overwhelmed by our connection. We both tried to play it cool. You know, the usual. Only this time it was at 10am over a cup of peppermint tea, not 10pm over a jug (or 3) of craft beer.

While neither of us can claim we were completely ourselves without any protection or hiding going on, it was a far cry from previous dates I have had. This time there was true connection without the distraction, the fogginess of alcohol, and the game of charades that follows. This time there was a level of truth and love from the beginning.

The whole experience definitely got me thinking. Why do we choose to hide who we are from a person we meet and (often) hope to have a future with?

How does that make any sense at all? Are we so terrified of being rejected, being told we’re not good enough, that we need to cover ourselves up? A costume to wear until we are sure they like us? A costume often saturated in alcohol, drugs, caffeine, junk food, whatever we can find to ensure we are definitely not ourselves. To make absolutely sure our true selves can’t be rejected.

And the other person? Well, they’re usually playing the same game. So it ends up being a date (or several) between two costumes. After which we go home and either regret what we have done and/or think about that other person’s costume obsessively and whether or not they liked our costume! I mean, it’s insane when you think about it! Yet I, and many others, have done this for years.

The thing I have realised is that it’s all a big setup. While we’re thinking about the other person’s costume, we’re filling in the blanks with pictures of what the person will be like as a communicator, a support person, a life-partner, a parent.

We wonder what our parents and friends will think of them, hope they will want to have 2 or 3 or 7 kids – just like us, and maybe picture our wedding day (because of course they will want to marry us). And when they don’t fulfil these pictures (and turn out not to be their costume), we get mad and blame them for not being the pictures we made them to be. Meanwhile, they are usually getting mad with us for not living up to their pictures and the costume we were wearing when we met. It all seems very confusing, complicated and unnecessary!

What if there was another way? What if we could simply connect with ourselves and each other without the pictures, without the expectation, without the costumes? Maybe even without the alcohol?

What if we connected to who the person was underneath all of that and stayed open to their truth, not their costume? What if we approached dating – and life in general – without a costume, fully open and showing the world just how amazing we truly are?

As for me and my peppermint tea date? Well, I can’t recommend it highly enough. That woman is now my fiancée.


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    By Madeleine Power

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    Photography: Emilia Pettinato