Tamara, when did you first come up with the idea of 31 Dates in 31 Days?
Last summer, I had just gone through my second break up in a year. I wasn’t distraught over the guy—I didn’t think I would marry him anyway; it was one of those that I should have bailed on a long time before it ended. But I realized that I had some similar patterns in my dating relationships, and I didn’t understand how I kept repeating myself with guys who were so different. I would consistently get into relationships and find myself trying so much harder to make it work than the guy ever did.
At first I decided to retire from relationships. I was very vocal about this. I wasn't going to give up dating, just spending time and energy in relationships. I decided to give a guy 2 dates and that was it—because I was tired of investing in relationships. I said that a guy was going to have to figure out in 2 dates if he wanted to marry me because that was all I was willing to invest.
I really went through this identity crisis. I felt successful in so many areas in my life, but I kept repeating my mistakes in relationship after relationship. I really wanted to figure that out, and I put a lot of time and energy into myself, trying to figure out me. Why did I keep putting so much effort into relationships that were clearly uneven or dying?
Plus, my birthday was coming up, and I knew I was approaching Old Maid status (Tamara giggles) and getting kicked out of my singles ward. My friend Amy and I had talked about setting up a friend on 32 dates for her 32nd birthday, and Amy suggested I do something like that for myself.
I wanted a creative outlet for writing and wanted to get over men and dating. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking going into it. I am a hopeless romantic who had really lost a lot of hope. I tried to go into this being as open minded as possible, and I was trying to regain some hope. I hoped I would learn something about myself and maybe about dating. I knew it would be something totally different. I wanted to get hope back, not just in love, but in myself, and hope in general.
I thought it was a really dumb idea, my dumbest ever, and I’ve come up with some dumb ones. I was dating-ish another dead-end guy and almost used this as an excuse to not do this. My friends tried to talk me into it doing it, but I also deep down, liked the idea and pushed myself to do it, even though it was way risky.
Did you realize before you started how logistically trying this might be?
Did you ever consider scrapping the project?
Are you kidding? Every day. When I started out, I had 3 dates set up. It was ridiculous. People would ask me if I thought that I could really get 30 guys to do it? And I’d say, Yes I do. Then they'd act like I was so full of myself, but that wasn't it. It wasn’t overconfidence, I needed to believe that it would work out. I really believe in miracles—in all areas of my life; miracles are just very easy for me to believe in. So any time I thought that it wasn’t going to work out, I just decided to let the miracle happen and not stress about it.
I had a total breakdown halfway through. I called my mom one night and told her I wanted to cry. I felt like the whole thing was stupid; I didn’t know if anyone liked it--the guys, the readers--and it was really wiping me out. My mom pointed out that no one was making me do this, but that later I would regret bailing out. Her suggestion? “Why don’t you just go to bed?” So I went to bed. I woke up still stressed, but I felt a bit better after sleeping. I still thought about dumping it. Even with 4 dates to go, I was tempted to quit. I was just so vulnerable and tired of putting myself out there, wondering if anyone really cared or was getting anything out of it.
It was fun, though. It really was exciting. I was just so tired. I got at most 5 hours of sleep at night, some nights as little as three.
Setting aside the guys themselves, which date activity was the most fun?
I really liked going rock wall climbing because it was outside my comfort zone. Those dates were the best—the things that I wouldn’t normally do. One date was at FAO Shwartz and we played in the store all day and rode on the carousel at Central Park—that was really fun. It was great because it was something that I wouldn’t have done without this project. I also liked going to the zoo and the petting zoo for the same reasons.
How organized were you ahead of time? Were you constantly running behind, or did you feel on top of things?
Sometimes I felt on top of things. The last week was scary because on Sunday night of the very last week, I didn’t have a date for Monday, Wednesday, or Friday set up. I made my friends take me to a fireside on Sunday night and pimp me out—get me some dates. So my friends set me up, just grabbing guys. “Hey, do you watch Good Morning America? Want to go out with the girl who was just on about this little project. . ." And it worked out.
One of the things I loved was learning that “it’s just a first date.” So I learned to relax and have that attitude. It wasn’t a marriage commitment, it was just about getting to know someone and letting them get to know me. I think people stress too much about first dates and first impressions. And yet, if what you really want to do is get to know someone and let them get to know you, you need to relax. It’s hard not to get jittery and weird, but going on so many first dates in a row helped me to have that perspective.
Did you expect that you would get media coverage? Did you send out a press release or anything like that?
I knew what kind of stories I had done in the past, so I assumed that someone would at some point be interested in covering my story. I told the people at GMA ahead of time and they weren’t interested in covering it. The scariest moment was emailing Diane Sawyer about it because she intimidates me. She's so serious and good at what she does. I needed to cover my bases and give them a chance to cover it in case another news org wanted it, which would have gotten me in trouble if I hadn’t given first shot to my own show. Diane did really like the idea and convinced GMA to cover it.
Did you think about a book/movie deal before the project started?
Um, no. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t really think it would be about this. I thought it would be about something way more intelligent and high brow. But once I started doing this and seeing the many layers, the reactions, and the way it changed me, then I knew there was something there. It was after Date 5, when I was trying to fit in a marathon date into a succinct story that I had a moment where I really started feeling like a writer working on a good story. I’m not saying that I felt like a good writer, but I felt like a real writer with a good story to tell.
Coming tomorrow, Tamara dishes about the guys, the 2nd date with Evan, and good night kisses. (See how well her pre-commercial teasing is rubbing off on me?)