Used Heart Shopping

Last month, I was hunting for a good used car at a reasonable price. This was not an easy task. I mean, it’s a good thing I had my dad with me going from dealership to dealership, because if it had been up to me I would’ve bought the first car we looked at. I just wanted the whole process to be quick and easy. Eventually I did find a good Honda, though, which I am extremely thankful for.

But…where am I going with this?…Oh, that’s right.

Despite the fact that car shopping is not half as enjoyable, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between it and dating. Yep, I’m going there.

Firstly, you and the person, like you and the car, have to find each other. Maybe you’ve known each other for a while (say, the guy, like your neighbor’s Camry, is an old friend of the family) or maybe you run into a guy on the street holding a figurative ‘For Sale’ sign. Or maybe, you meet online–eHarmony is to dating what Craigslist is to cars.

Then, like you did with any car that catches your eye, you collect the basic details. Age, appearance, personality, interests. And after this preliminary screening, maybe you decide the person (or the car) isn’t for you. Or, you two like each other enough to dare a first real date–a test drive.

The test drive is where things can get hairy. Just like a car salesman knows you’re more serious about a car when you test drive it, the stakes are raised between you and the person when you attempt a real date.

You go on the date and as the car starts up and comes to an initial hum, everything about the both of you is being scrutinized. You listen to his words like you’d listen to the gears shift. You watch his eyes when he looks at you like you’d test headlights. You touch his shoulder and his hand like you’d touch the dash, the steering wheel. You quiz him on his music tastes like you’d test out the radio.

And as the car rolls forward and set outs on the side streets, things feel uneasy. You’re self-conscious about your driving because this is not your car yet. If you crash, it could get really messy. So you proceed slowly and eventually, things begin to feel a bit more natural.

Next, like any wise shopper, you decide to take the car on the highway. You tell your date something personal about yourself. You make a racy joke. You talk about one of your obscure interests. All of this is a test that he can keep up with you at 60 MPH.

As the night dwindles to a close, you exit the freeway and pay the bill. You drive the car back on to the dealership lot and take the key out of the ignition. Your mind is busy weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a relationship with him as he walks you to your door. Maybe you’re thinking it needs new tires, but it’s a good car, or you’re thinking, this is a freaking hot rod, but it doesn’t really suit you, or you’re thinking, SOLD! Then you snap back to reality and dig for your house key in your purse.

You say goodbye, perhaps exchange a hug. Of course, the test drive was fun. Dating, like driving, is fun. But, after you shut the door behind you, the salesman (in this metaphor– your brain) freaks you out. Is this car something you want to invest in? Do you want to see it again? It pressures you and confuses you and tries to get the sale. Your brain wants your heart to make a decision—yay or nay–because then you’ll know how to proceed.

But if there’s one thing I learned from car shopping, it’s that you don’t rush into things. You must shop thoroughly, cross-check prices online, and negotiate with the salesman.  So, similarly–you can’t rush love. You must date intelligently and never give up on those high standards. Because in the end, the key to someone’s heart (not that new SUV), is the most important key you’ll ever hold.

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