Rejoice, my friends. I, your humble columnist, have found love. Despite this coming off the back of four years in the romantic wilderness with only the occasional tumbleweed of fleeting flirtation gently bouncing past me, I have decided that this makes me something of an expert when it comes to dating. A British, less fashionable, slightly less good-looking and infinitely more accident-prone version of Hitch, if you will. I have struck extremely lucky with this young lady in that my style of dating, which can kindly be described as haphazard at best, seems to have only endeared me to her further, rather than making her run for the hills to seek out a life of celibacy or homosexuality. It has, however, made me re-evaluate the dating game as I had tried to play it in the months (lol years) before I met her and the conclusion I have drawn is thus:
Dating in London is utter shite.
Allow me to elaborate.
- Apps Suck
“Mate/sweetie, have you heard of this new thing called Tinder? It’s this new app that’s just wall-to-wall hotties and you can find out which ones like you before you even bother talking to them!” By word of mouth, so began the Tinder phenomenon in 2014. According to my “research” (Wikipedia), when Tinder was first launched the average user spent an hour and a half on the app every day. An hour and a half. That is absolutely bonkers when you think about it. Think about all of the profiles you’d see in that time, all of the yesses and no’s that you’d determine in the mere flick of a finger (wheeyo), all of the potential partners dismissed without a second thought. Don’t get me wrong, Tinder served a purpose – casual hook-ups were made infinitely easier and, indeed, did bring some people together for more than just 90-degree nuddy hugging with added hip gyration. However, along with its rivals Bumble, Happn, and Badoo to name but a few, the influence of the dating app seems to be waning.
There was a time, many moons ago, where I went on a few Tinder dates to mixed (read: no) success, including one time a girl told me I must meet her family before we’d even been on one date (block, change number, leave country, get new identity), but upon reflection I was doomed to fail from the outset and if you’re looking for love on Tinder, you’re doomed too. As above, Tinder completely objectivises dating as “yes, no, yes, no” on looks alone and pays no heed to personality or compatibility – the infinitely more important things to find in someone you’re going to commit yourself to. Dating strangers can be fun, but the second you start putting pressure on yourself to find a partner it can become a depressing string of unsuccessful dates, periods of no matches and, heaven forbid, re-writing your bio. (I’m basically a comedy writer and the best I could come up with was “Taglia-tell me a pasta pun.” It got to the stage where if one more person had said “You’re so Fusilli” I would have gone on Take Me Out, covered myself in petrol and self-immolated in front of Paddy McGuinness in protest at the sheer futility of it all.)
Mutual attraction is undoubtedly vital for any decent relationship but it shouldn’t be the cornerstone. The decline and fall of the dating app is, in my opinion, based around more and more people starting to realise this. Don’t look for love on Tinder – you’ll just get burned.
Good wordplay there, me.
- Perceived Societal and Self-Expectations Are Massively Detrimental
Tinder is, or at least was, a huge part of the millennial culture in that it basically changed the rules of dating. “The Dating Game” today, as I see it, loosely follows these rules:
Date one: Almost always a drink to gauge attraction levels;
Date two: Dinner, usually half-and-half payment;
Date three: If you played your cards right, often the time to get friskaaay (“get friskaaay” is a good example of why I was single for so long).
I have friends who will follow this plan to the letter and will be put off by prospective partners who don’t – it’s black and white to them. But who said that that’s the optimum dating schedule? Did Cupid keep his arrows in his quiver until the bloke from Ancient Greece plonked down his AMEX after date three and said “This one is on me?” Did Eros decree that the Roman lady would lay with a man only once she realised that his villa was a mere ten-minute Uberum away from their third date at the baths? No, they didn’t, unless I missed a substantial chunk of lessons about classical society when I was studying both Latin and Greek at school (again, single for a reason). If you start putting pressure on both yourself and your prospective partner to conform to “normal” dating standards then you may well be rushing or delaying what feels natural – just because you sleep with someone on the first date doesn’t make them a slag and if they want to take it slow it doesn’t make them a prude, it means they’re going at their own pace.
Conforming to arbitrary dating rules might not just affect your perception about what dating should be but also how you should be, how you should look or how you should act. You might think that in order to match up to other people playing this stupid dating game you should have more notches in your bed-post, should have at least one long-term relationship under your belt or should dress or act a certain way. Bollocks. To. That. The absolutely crucial thing in finding a spark is that feeling of it being natural, that it’s comfortable – this doesn’t mean you should wear joggers on a date and openly break wind in front of them (though if you find someone who’s not bothered by that then for God’s sake marry them), but you should absolutely be comfortable in yourself and not try to be anything but yourself. If dressing a certain way or losing weight helps you to feel comfortable then by all means do it, but you should do it for yourself and not for anyone else. So many of my peers have gone into a relationship where they’ve used a partner as an emotional crutch to paper over their insecurities – a relationship should be something you share, not a way to prop yourself up. Trying to conform to those around you rather than being yourself will only make you miserable. Speaking of:
- Fuck The Rules.
I know that this is unbearably smug, but things are going really well with my new lady because we didn’t conform to the dating rules. I met her when I wanted something short-term and had set up some preconceptions of how our courtship would pan out. When I quickly realised that I was falling head over heels for her despite my thought-out plans I panicked and sent an overly long, overly emotional text to her and, thank God, she was mature enough to talk me through why I was following those arbitrary rules and not run for the aforementioned hills (I wonder what all the women on those hills get up to). After all, Dating Game 101: “Never tell them what you’re thinking.” Since realising that this rule is a steaming pile of male-bovine intestinal paste, we’ve openly talked about everything from how we feel about each other, our insecurities, our fears and hopes and everything in between because it felt natural to do so. We haven’t played any of those “She just texted me so I should probably wait approximately 3 hours until I send something back” games and are happily vomit-inducingly soppy when we message each other. We even dropped the L-bomb at the same time after less than a month of dating. We’ve done things our own way, are both completely at ease with each other and I can’t remember the last time I was this happy (Smugness over, apologies). Yet in the eyes of “The Dating Game” we couldn’t have gone about it any worse. I’m certain that if I had followed what I had thought was the ideal dating system, I would have absolutely fucked it all up. But, thankfully, she helped me to realise that when you find someone special the “rules” become entirely irrelevant – you make your own.
So, if you’re looking for love, remember this: The modern dating game is fundamentally flawed in that it assumes everyone is the same and should compete to be the best at a number of pre-set characteristics that you “should” have or your partner “should” have. In the real world, everyone has their own qualities and quirks and you should never compromise on yours as they’re what make you unique. The quicker you realise that and the quicker you make peace with that, the more comfortable and confident you will feel. And what does pretty much everyone look for in a partner? Confidence. Don’t be a sheep – be yourself and rock it.
Fuck The Rules.