Think it’s just women having a hard time out there? If only you knew. These three men give their honest take on the dating scene...
THE HAPLESS TWENTYSOMETHING
By Alexi Duggins
I’d been single for five years. And, frankly, I was lonely. After meeting an amazing woman at my own party and letting her slip through my fingers, I resolved to start dating and not stop until I had a girlfriend. Here’s what I found out.
Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets
Weirdly, two weeks after signing up to Guardian Soulmates, I haven’t received a single reply. Fortunately, given the lack of human contact involved, it doesn’t even feel like a rejection. I decide not to do things by halves and set myself a target for contacting four women a day, every day. This turns online dating into quite the time commitment so, to speed things up, I start bashing out entertaining comments on people’s profiles. ‘A cheese fan, eh?’ I also worship at the font of the mighty Camembert.’ Two-hundred and thirty-six times I do this. The number of responses I get? Zero.
Never underestimate chemistry
‘You’ve spend how long internet dating?’ chuckles a female friend. ‘Why didn’t you just ask me? I’ve got loads of single friends!’ And so, one week later, I find myself on a blind date. We order some wine and quickly realize that we share almost exactly the same interests: I like cooking, she likes cooking. I like clubbing, she likes clubbing. I like trying to beat my high score on Tetris, she… well OK, maybe our interests aren’t exactly the same. Nonetheless, I walk her to her bus stop and it’s the moment of truth. She turns her face up towards me expectantly. I lean in. Her tongue unrolls from her mouth like a pink window blind and I pull away in a panic, realizing something very important. Conversational chemistry’s one thing, but when it comes to really clicking, Cher had it right: it’s in their kiss.
Speed dating is a number’s game. But sometimes that number is zero
I’ve now managed a grand total of two dates. I decide to up the numbers of women I’m meeting by going speed dating. In two hours of daft five-minute chats, I easily quadruple my year’s tally of romantic encounters.
But not one person I’ve ticked wants to meet up. Two weeks later I return and again I am completely unsuccessful.
Frankly, I’m baffled. As I step into the next event, the organizers take me to one side and tell me I can attend for free. ‘It doesn’t seem fair to charge you,’ says one of them. I’m crushed
When all else fails, hope she takes the initiative.
I have realized I have all the mating skills of a giant panda. At this rate, I’ll be put into captivity to stop my species dying out and assigned a keeper to lift me on to sexual partners. Then, at a do, to my astonishment, I find the woman from my party: the one who started this whole nightmare off, standing right in front of me, flashing me a megawatt smile. I almost fluff it again, but fortunately she takes matters into her own hands and kind of asks me out herself, via the medium of Facebook. Six months later, she has stuck around for many more lovely nights and introduced a word to my vocabulary I though I’d never use again: ‘girlfriend’. My year of dating has been a success. I’ve learnt that it takes persistence, it takes a thick skin and it takes women to be prepared to make the first move sometimes. But the main thing I’ve learned is that you just need to meet the right person for you. Because once you’ve clicked and start to warm to each other, it doesn’t matter how good your dating etiquette is. The hard part, though? Sometimes, that’s just down to sheer luck.
Alexi is editor-at-large at Time Out London
THE NICE JEWISH BOY
By Tim Samuels
Moses got off lightly trudging back down the Mount Sinai with a mere ten commandments. Had he been getting the rules to navigate the minefield of Jewish dating, he’d still be up there, chiseling away on the tablets, beset with RSI.
Jewish dating makes no sense to non-Jews, and is barely comprehensible to those of the faith. Mainly because it has little to do with faith. Even the most irreligious pork pie-munching Jew has a nagging inner voice (in the key of a disappointed shrugging grandma) whispering ‘Why don’t you try dating a little Jewish? It’s not going to kill you.’ Yet there’s nothing like 5,000 years of cumulative communal neurosis to add layers of farcical complication to your dating endeavours.
You can add two inches. But not more.
The perennial complaint from Jewish women is that dating is an endless procession of Oompa-Loompas. Dustin Hoffman would be a veritable giant. Female friends report guys turning up on dates a good six to eight inches shorter than their stated heights – others have Cuban heels bordering on circus stilts. One guy apparently didn’t leave the table or stand up all night for fear of giving the game away. But the most these girls would allow is up to two inches between advertised and actual height.
It’s not an interview
First dates that turn into formal interviews are just a bit of a libido-killer. Questions I’d suggest that are best avoided include: How old were your grandparents when they died? What family history is there of cardiovascular disease? How many children do you want? Where do you see your career in ten years? And would you want any sons you have to be circumcised? At least wait for the second date?
Easy on the Diet Coke
For a religion that mandates its people drink wine every week, it’s fair to say that Jews aren’t actually the biggest boozers around. I’ve been at Jewish parties where the Diet Coke has run out, while the beer and wine are still flowing freely. But is it too much to ask that, before you sign up for a life of being told how many children you’re having, what to earn and being put on a low-cardiovascular risk diet, you might actually have a date or two that involves something stronger than a Diet Coke?
Sharing can be OK
If you’re going to perversely insist on dating someone from the same – very limited – genetic pool, the odds are you’ll know someone who’s been there. The unofficial rules are: if two friends have dated (but not consummated) then you can play on. If more than one has been consummated, it’s not looking good. If a close family member – such as a sibling – has been there, then you’re on thin ice. However, at the age of 33, the slate is wiped clean – and there’s a tacit agreement from all sides not to mention any history.
If all else fails, go ‘frum’
If all options, exes and Cuban heels are exhausted – there’s one final card to play: to turn religious (go ‘frum’). Sure, it’ll mean a life governed by a full 613 commandments, a bushy beard/stylish wig (depending on gender) and not being able to use electricity on the Sabbath, but you’ll go from meeting to wedding in about three weeks.
Tim presents BBC Radio 5 Live’s Men’s Hour and is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. He is actually six foot.
THE POST-DIVORCE DATER
By Stephen Armstrong
If you want to experience a real dating shock to the system, try emerging from almost 16 years with the same person and trying to figure out how the rules have changed. The last time I was out there, Bill Clinton was America’s president, Michael Jackson still had a career and there was no such thing as broadband. Not even knowing how many kisses on a text counted as flirting. I went over the top like a raw WWI recruit. I had no idea of the carnage to be found out there, but here’s what I discovered…
The internet means always having to say you’re sorry
When you meet someone you like, you don’t tell them straight away about every mistake you’ve made, all the stupid things you’ve said or the worst haircut you’ve ever had. You give them the shiny version of yourself and hope that, by the time they learn the horrible truth, they like you enough to find it funny. But these days, women run online background checks that make MI6 look sloppy. I can understand why – after all, no one wants to date a psycho. Sadly, however, this means that every Tweet, every stupid picture, every work-related opinion you expressed to please your boss… they’re all cached. You’ve grown, you’ve changed, you have a skincare regime – but it doesn’t matter. My first date spend the evening saying, ‘I suppose you think…’ ‘I can’t understand why you…’ and ‘You’re the kind of person who…’ It was like I’d come on a double date with my evil twin.
When planning a date, don’t be too clever
Date number two was an out-of-my-league corporate lawyer. I tried to impress by taking her to In the Realm of the Senses – a subtitled Seventies film at the BFI. Some blog called it ‘a passionate love affair set against a rising tide of Japanese militarism.’ What followed was a two-hour art-house porn film with a couple shagging in a variety of unsettling ways until she strangles him and cuts off his manhood. At one point, three soldiers walk down the rode. There’s your rising tide of Japanese militarism. Our planned post-movie dinner vanished as she inched away from me. I wasn’t hugely surprised when she didn’t return a single phone call.
Getting drunk is not the way to deal with a mismatch.
Five minutes after you arrive you realise it’s not going to work, but you’re not man enough to say anything so you’ll think you’ll have a drink or two to get through, but you can’t handle your drink like you used to when you were last dating and you get very, very drunk and then you end up sleeping with her and then you feel awkward about not calling the next day so you do to be polite and agree to meet because you’ve run out of things to say and suddenly you’re actually dating someone when you really wanted to go home and watch Sherlock.
Even though it is easier to date women in their twenties than when you were in your twenties (for some reason – go figure), you should not be tempted.
She was 26 years old. I paid for the cocktails. She said, ‘Oh my God, you pay for things with money instead of debit cards. ‘That’s so sexy.’ Which seemed quite promising until she added, ‘It reminds me of my dad…’