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31 days of dating

Melissa Kordsmeier gains insight during her 'Open Dating Month.'

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For many single people, first dates are like root canal work. Even when everything goes well, they're still pretty terrible. Sure, dating is hard, but first dates are exponentially harder: letting a new person into your life, figuring out how much to share, sniffing around for those whiffs of all-important chemistry, trying to decide whether the person across from you is a nutcase on his or her best behavior, and finally the aftermath — those hours spent second-guessing everything you said or did on a date. Given all those plates in the air, it's kind of a miracle that anybody gets together in the first place. At some point, it just becomes easier to put on your sweats, buy a pizza, and get a rom-com from the Redbox.

One woman who has mastered those first-date jitters, however, is Melissa Kordsmeier, 27, of Little Rock. Over the past two years, Kordsmeier has managed to become something of a first-date guru through sheer experience. Since 2012, she's had what she calls "Open Dating October," during which she agrees to have at least one date with every person — male or female — who asks her out, no exceptions. During the rest of the year, she's no slouch. She's been on around 40 first dates in the past six months. (Sorry fellas, one of her ground rules is to never kiss on the first date.)

It wasn't always this way for her. Kordsmeier didn't go on a real, one-on-one date until she was 18, and that date turned into a five-year relationship. When the relationship ended, she said, she found herself in a rut. "I had no friends, I had no clue who I was, I was very insecure," she said. "It took me a few years to discover who I was and to find out what I wanted out of life."

While in the process of finding herself, Kordsmeier didn't put much energy into finding romance. She admits she could be really awkward when meeting new people, which led to her reluctance to jump back in the pool. In the fall of 2012, she realized that she hadn't been on a date in quite a while, and decided to do something about it.

"The next month was going to be October," she said, "so I decided that the next month, I was going to have an open dating month. I was going to force myself to say yes to anyone who asked me out. ... It wasn't to find that special someone. It was just to get comfortable with dating again."

Though Kordsmeier didn't exactly go around shouting "I'll say yes!" a strange thing started to happen. Once she decided to say yes to anybody, guys started asking her out. She went on nine first dates that month. "It was so weird," she said. "I said I was going to do this, and all of a sudden people started asking, and so let's do it, you know?" The trend has continued. In October 2013, Kordsmeier went on 17 first dates. She's more selective the other 11 months, but she still dates a lot during the rest of the year. We had to schedule around lunch dates just to sit down for a chat with her.

As you might imagine, being up for a date with anybody has led to some interesting nights on the town. One date took her to a Buddhist meditation class. Another time, after learning they shared a love for gambling, her date took her on a road trip to a Mississippi casino, where they stayed up all night playing craps and roulette. As for the creepiest:

"We had gone out to a lovely dinner. We had a lot to talk about and we laughed. It was a really nice date. ... He walked me to my car, hugged me, and then told me he loved me. I had made myself clear prior to the date that I didn't want to be in a serious relationship, but he took that to mean that I was available. He started crying when I told him I didn't feel the same, because he thought I was his soul mate. I didn't know what to do to make him stop crying so I just stood there." After skedaddling out of there at warp speed, Kordsmeier woke the next morning to find an email from the guy in which he talked about, among other things, raising their child together.

Train wrecks aside, Kordsmeier said that "Open Dating October" has helped her be more confident in who she is, and has helped her realize what she wants out of a long-term relationship. She said a good date is one in which the other person exudes self-confidence, stability and independence. "I like guys who make me laugh by being clever, witty or punny," she said. "I want somebody who likes adventure and traveling so that someday I'm not doing everything alone. Somebody who is independent is a must. I love taking care of people, but I need to know the guy will be stable without me. I think I'm easy to please. I know what I want out of life, and I always figure out ways to achieve my goals."

Don't get the wrong impression. All this first dating isn't a game for Kordsmeier, or just a place to get goofy dating stories to share with her friends. She's still looking for a relationship. She recently went on a second date, which she said is rare for her. As important, however, is what forcing herself to say yes has done in areas of her life other than the romantic.

"It's helped me become open to situations that I may have rejected in the past," she said. "I say yes to all kinds of adventures, and I'm in love with every second of my life." 

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