By Caitlin Smith, Bud Class of 2016

I binged Netflix’s You over winter break and, like any rational woman, was instantly confronted with my worst nightmare: dating a seemingly perfect guy with the kind of double-life true crime fanatics fawn over. I saw myself in Beck, a writer completing an MFA in New York City. She was living the dream! She even met Joe in a bookstore—the one fantasy my mind always returned to in Barnes & Noble. Their relationship from her point of view was incredible. Supportive, thoughtful, and just plain fun. Anything that seemed questionable was brushed off as Beck overreacting.

That’s a trap women fall into all the time.

I’ve been on my fair share of bad dates. Ask any of my friends—for a while, it seemed like I was straight-up cursed. Thankfully they haven’t been as deceptive as Joe, but I’ve still had moments of second-guessing myself and trying to rationalize disconcerting behavior.

Take my Bumble date with a brain-damaged guy: We’d matched and exchanged very polite messages, and I had no idea he’d been hit by a drunk driver two years prior when I got in his car. Immediately, I was on guard. He looked different than his pictures (not totally out of the ordinary) and spoke as if English wasn’t his first language (not a problem, just not what I expected). Then he started talking about the different euphemisms for “penis” and I thought he might just be passionate about the male anatomy.

It wasn’t until he told me point-blank that he was recovering from a traumatic brain injury that I let myself be well and truly alarmed. After all, he drove us downtown! But even then, I wanted to be polite. So what if he kept talking about prostitutes? I wanted an open mind. Open enough to learn that victims of these kinds of head injuries often act out sexually as part of the recovery process. Fine. Until he asked me if I was a virgin at dinner. In a crowded restaurant. Next to people who were definitely listening.

That’s not to say that anyone with a brain injury is automatically off the table for dating. It’s just an unfortunately universal experience amongst women. Granted, the specifics are probably different, but I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been made uncomfortable by a man but tried to play it off as an overactive imagination. Maybe you do have a bit of a runaway imagination, but it’s likely your fears are valid on some level.

Beck’s case is extreme in its outcome (spoilers ahead!), so you probably won’t die if you go out with one weirdo. But even not wanting to spend an evening in uncomfortable silence is reason enough to listen to your gut. When the guy or girl is right, you won’t have to convince yourself of anything.