A confusing mess. That's what I think of when I think of the today's idea of dating. There are so many rules that someone, somewhere decided would be the ultimate guide for how to date. And, okay, yes, there are some cases where these rules do work and are helpful but sometimes (most times actually) it's complete bull. How is it possible to remember let alone follow the countless rules that dictate what is "okay" and the countless more than say what "isn't okay?" And, if you're one of the many unfortunate souls like myself who have trouble following the dating rules because you want to listen to your heart instead, how are you expected to win at this game when you don't even know how to play or, more importantly, agree with how the game should be played?

I'll be honest, dating is something I suck at and simply don't understand. It isn't because I don't know how to talk to a guy. And it isn't that I'm too shy to talk to him either. It's far from that. I grew up as a tomboy surrounded by young men working on the farm. I quickly learned that I got along far better with the boys than I ever did with the girls and still do to this day because I'd rather be out riding four-wheelers or watching truck and tractor pulls than getting my hair and nails done. But, more than that, though, I think the primary reason why it is so hard for me to understand dating is because of the many guy friends that I have in comparison to the few girlfriends. Having guys that are friends is wonderful, it's like having an older brother who isn't afraid to tell it to you straight and is low-maintenance. However, it's tricky when people always think you are together when really you're just good friends. Being surrounded by guy friends my entire life, I have always felt like I was "one of the guys." As "one of the guys" I never could distinguish the difference between a guy being friendly and a guy being flirtatious. You'd have thought I'd have figured it out from watching my guy friends flirt with other girls around me, but sadly, I'm still oblivious and think of flirting as a foreign language.

When I say that flirting is like a foreign language I mean that there are some things that I know and others where I just shake my head and have a deer in the headlights expression. I hate being clueless to such extremes that I think that when someone is seriously flirting, it needs to be very obvious. Obvious almost to the point of putting a huge, blinking neon sign over the guy's head that says, "I like you" in order for me to get the hint that they don't see me as "one of the guys." And, maybe, when a guy is interested in me, I want him to throw those stupid dating rules to the side and follow what his heart tells him to do rather than not respond for three days simply so that he doesn't risk seeming too eager to talk me again.

I think dating shouldn't be about rules and timelines that say how the relationship should run and progress. I think dating should be a matter of the heart. For example, if you like me, tell me. Don't beat around the bush and play completely hard to get, don't flirt me one day and be cold the next day, and, most importantly, don't tell me something that you don't mean or lead me on. I want someone to be honest and upfront about their feelings. I mean don't tell me a few days after I met you that you like me but make it obvious that you don't see me as merely a friend. Let me know that you enjoyed spending time with me and would like to again. Neither person should have to wonder what will come next or if there will be a next time.

Dating shouldn't be a guessing game of "He likes me, he likes me not." It isn't fair to either person to play games nor is it easy on the person's heart, especially if someone is anything like me and wears their heart on their sleeves. Just be honest with me about how you are feeling so that I can gauge whether or not it is safe to put my heart on the line and in return you can do the same.

I think dating has become a far too complicated game that needs simplified. So, if you like me then you tell me. If you want to go out on a date then you ask to me go out. If you want to see me or talk to me then you do. If you want to be something more than a friend to me then you tell me. I want this kind of honesty in a relationship and in return I will be that brutally honest. If I want to talk to you I'm going to talk to you regardless of how long it has been simply because friendships start first and friends can talk whenever. If I want to hang out with you, I'm going to ask because what's the harm in asking. I hate the idea that girls can't have a say in relationships and have to sit back, waiting like a damsel in distress for the guy to make all of the moves. If I see something with you then I want you to know or vice versa. I would rather know the truth upfront than worry, obsess, over-think, wonder, and, perhaps, never know what could have been or what the other person was thinking.

Maybe it's the 21st-century girl in me that wants what I want at the drop of a hat, but I think I deserve honesty and not to let my heart go before my head. Dating in today's world is challenging and it makes love difficult -- far more difficult than it should be. It makes such a wonderful experience of getting to know someone for who they really are practically impossible because of the countless rules that dictate what is and isn't acceptable. People are so afraid to make the wrong move that they aren't true to the person that they are. Maybe it's just me but I thought the whole point of dating someone was to learn about who they truly are as a person and if you fall in love with them then you fall in love with who that person really is rather than the persona that they have created.

Dating is risky business, there's no denying it. People change and emotions change, even when you thought that they never would. It is scary to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable, and to follow your heart. Love is a gamble. It will never be simple but it will be worth it someday when you find the right person. Finding that right person might have already have happened, happen tomorrow, happen next year, or happen years from now. Whenever you find that person that you think is worth putting your heart on the line for and dating, a date with your heart not with an unwritten set of rules, I think you'll be happier that you did.