Just Ctrl C Ctrl V (part I)

The more attentive of my readers have noticed and the more pestering of my readers have remarked that my blog posts have been getting less frequent, and that I haven’t reported a current date story in quite a while. Well spotted.

Yes, I haven’t been on a first date since the beginning of the year. Instead, I met what my mother calls “someone nice” and have had a few whirlwind dates with him which quickly spiralled from “dating” to “going out” to “seeing each other”. While this is great, it means that I have no hilarious stories of terrible dates for you and I don’t intend to share the gooey, doe-eyed stories that my current dating life could inspire.

However, I’m blessed with friends whose dating life is much more turbulent and entertaining than mine and hope to share their tales of woe and my take on them. Recently, many of them have taken up online dating. Obviously I’m very opinionated about this, but  I don’t know whether they are not afraid of anything or simply haven’t heeded my warnings. In the following posts, I’ll highlight some of my experiences regarding online messages. Sorry, this post quite clearly targets hetero males, because those are the ones messaging me.

Sending a message on an online platform is the equivalent of introducing yourself to someone at a rave party at an international airport. As a girl, you simply have to be there, but as a guy it’s really difficult. You’re not the only dude at the party, girls are overtired of seeing the same thing over and over again, and there’s a lot of background noise. Your mission thus is to be brief and memorable, while not being creepy or trying too hard.

Yes, this takes a lot of time, and most women won’t even have the decency to respond to you. So why waste your time on elaborate witticisms and references to their favourite pokemon? The temptation is large to just write this one more-or-less fantastic catch-all message, and spam every single female in a 10 mile radius. Someone will respond, right? Right?

Wrong. Or actually: maybe. But your message has to be darn good.

The following examples are all taken from actual messages that I have received online. I’m fairly sure that they were not drafted with me specifically in mind, and would bet good money that copy and paste were involved.

Example A

u r sexy sexy

Note that this is the entire message. No opening or closing formula, no question, no punctuation.

In a way, this message is the Bauhaus example of online messaging. Reduced to the minimum, it does away with all the useless details, rationalising the effort that goes into massproducing pickup lines while preserving their functionality.

And isn’t there a certain poetry to the simple form created by this minimalist approach?

“u r sexy sexy” is not just “You are sexy.” but can also be parsed as “a a’ b b”, indicating a classic form at the foundation of this seemingly radically modern message. The repetition of “sexy” at the end of the line can be construed either as a stress and consolidation on the word sexy, which would make the meaning “You are very sexy indeed”. An alternative interpretation, due to general lack of punctuation, can lead us to believe that the second “sexy” is meant to address an intrinsic quality of the reader as in “You, the inherently sexy one, are sexy.”.

Without further context it is impossible to decide between these alternate hypotheses, and the sweet ambiguity lets our brain toggle between the different meanings, adding a flair of mystery to this message.

All in all, a masterfully crafted first approach. My interest in the fine literary mind shrouded in mystery behind this line was piqued.

The only question was what to respond to this level of poetic genius. All my answers seemed prosaic (!) and trite, my phrasing overly elaborate and my similes too garishly colourful compared to his serenely minimalist style. I didn’t want to resort to copying him and churning out something along the lines of “yo yo hot”, but my original ideas just couldn’t compete.

In the end, I gave up. I didn’t dare to respond to this iconic message.  Sorry, modernist1*, I don’t think it’ll work between us.

The take home message: Don’t overcraft a message, and leave some room for the other person to come back to you. This is not about showing off your creative writing class or creating a monolithic block of text, but about inviting the other person to a conversation. You don’t need to be hugely original, but you should open up a topic that makes it easy for the other person to respond.

*name changed by author.

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FWB- a Three Letter Word

The topics for most of my blog entries usually come to me in the guise of dates I go on myself, occasionally through a story a friend tells me. Today’s post is inspired by not one, but two friends, who told me virtually identical, and in any case similarly frustrating stories.

Casual relationships, fuckbuddies or friends with benefits are a common occurrence in the realm of modern dating. This form of relationship offers people who don’t want a romantic relationship, or who haven’t met a suitable candidate, the opportunity of stability, familiarity and regularity while dispensing with the need for intense emotional involvement and romantic commitment. At its very best, a casual relationship can tick all the boxes. The prerequisite is that this level of involvement is what both parties want – a  casual relationships makes a rubbish consolation prize when you’re madly in love with someone.

However, all too often you’ll find that after a few dates you have two people with different levels of emotion and expectations. Person A is happy to keep dating casually, is open to a sexual relationship, but doesn’t want to become more involved romantically. Person B however is falling in love, would prefer to make the relationship more committed and exclusive, and wants to bind person A to them.

This outset can lead to the following scenario.

B: I really like you – I think we should consider a serious relationship!

A: Hm, this is fun, but I don’t want a serious relationship (right now/with you, etc.). If you’re interested in more, we should probably stop seeing each other,  otherwise you’ll get hurt!

B: Oh, don’t worry, I promise I won’t get hurt. Let’s just continue to see each other casually.

A: Sounds good to me!

We have two people, two different demands, two different emotional perspectives. Yet almost invariably, B will step down and through some sort of jedi mindtrick absolve A from the guilt of hurting them, while continuing the relationship to A’s specifications. In both of my friends’ stories, this was the case.

Let me make this really clear: I’m all for friends with benefits. Being FWB can be absolutely wonderful, giving two people exactly what they need. But in this scenario, only A  gets what they need, whereas B ends up making unreasonable concessions, out of fear of losing what little affection A is prepared to give them. Surely that can’t be right?

But how can you avoid this situation? What if you’ve fallen for your friend with benefits?

Oh, honey. Yes, it’s tempting to think that things between you and A are going to be complicated either way, and that being fuckbuddies is a good way of keeping them in your life. However, if what you really want is a proper monogamous doves-balloons-and-heartshaped-lollipops relationship, you’re setting yourself up for heartache. If A is willing to risk that just so they can still sleep with you, they’re not really worth your love, and they certainly don’t make a good friend.

Step away, please.

And what if you’re on the other side? What to do when you find yourself in A’s shoes?

What is the appropriate response when you realise your friends with benefits  is way more into you?

The usual answer from A to this is: Surely it’s not just my responsibility to deal with this.  B is a grown-up who is responsible for their own emotional well-being, and I should be able to trust them when they ensure me that they won’t get hurt.

That sounds nice, but somehow the resulting scenario feels all wrong. I’d therefore  like to offer the following caveat: As the less involved party you have a certain responsibility to protect the more vulnerable B. If you’re indeed friends, this might be the moment to look out for your friend. As previously mentioned on this blog, it’s unreasonable to expect someone in a state of mental delusion to make a responsible choice. Tell B that you don’t think its a good idea for you two to hang out anymore and then stick to it!

If you’re not friends, just fuck them over and enjoy your ride. But please don’t complain to your other friends afterwards about how you didn’t see it coming, and really wish B would get over things and you could still be friends.


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There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

This happened ages ago, but apparently I forgot to blog about this, despite it teaching me a very valuable lesson. I guess I was too embarrassed. But hey, I’ve been reprimanded for not updating my blog (by both my readers), so I thought I’d share it after all. I’m much wiser now, obviously.

When I moved house a while ago, I did it with help of several friends, who assisted in going through my wardrobe and sorting clothes into piles of why-do-I-never-wear-this and why-did-I-ever-wear-this, who helped to pack things into boxes and who made the new house a home. The only thing I needed to call a professional for was the transport of my belongings from my old to my new abode. As a moving company seemed a little unnessecary for my three suitcases and two boxes, I settled on a minicab.

This is a long introduction to how I met D., my friendly minicab driver. We chatted on the way across north-east London, and as the drive took nearly an hour, we had plenty of time to get quite well-aquainted, despite our limiting language abilities (his English was creative, my Turkish is pretty much nonexistant). We talked about the weather in London (not good), the weather in Cyprus (much better!), his wife and family (two grown sons, who come home with their girlfriends all the time, because they’re good sons), his nephew (very cute and marriagable) , my fiancé (imaginary) and so forth. It was all perfectly superficial and amicable. I was excited about leaving my old house behind once and for all, and didn’t pay much attention to any subtext – I actually patted myself on the back for catching on to the nephew thing. He told me he’d be off work after bringing me to my destination, and would go home to a beautiful Sunday lunch of homemade kebabs surrounded by his amazing family.
After my expression of approval of kebabs and family life, D. invited me to join him and his family in (stereo?) typical turkish hospitality. I found this a bit weird, and just laughed it off politely and said I’d be quite busy unpacking all my boxes. He seemed to understand that (I mentioned the language troubles), but quickly suggested that I could come by any other time. Again, I took this as an overwhelming display of somehow misplaced hospitality, and tried to shrug it off.
We dropped the subject, arrived at my new place, and he helped carrying all my boxes inside. In the end, he firmly said “Vee do kebab next sunday, yes yes?”, and I might have laughed and said “Haha, so generous, haha, we’ll see.”
Any attentive reader who can now tell me where this is going totally wrong: congratulations- you possess more common sense than me.

I said goodbye completely obliviously to the fact that a guy who had my full address and phone number just invited himself round for a date, happy to have gotten a good deal on my taxi and having found the one friendly cabdriver in London who’ll help to carry boxes. Obviously this sort of naiveté doesn’t go unpunished.
I thus woke up the next Sunday around noon to a phone call from an unknown number.
“Yehs, yehs, is D. – going to be a bit later, but be there with kebab and vie-yun in half hour. yehs?”
Oh, holy fuck.
Half an hour later, I opened the door to my minicab driver, who had truly brought lamb kebabs, salad and a bottle of red. My manners dictated that I ask him in, and I set the table. More, slightly less amicable, slightly more awkward, smalltalk about his family, my family and the weather ensued. We ate the kebab, but didn’t drink the wine cause it was only 12.30 and he still needed to drive his cab. We quickly ran out of things to talk about. I started learning how to count in turkish. D. tried to kiss me.
Oh, holy fuck.
I asked him to leave, he asked for “Jus won keess”. I got him out of the door, double-locked it and put the chain in. My housemate came out of her room and asked what on earth had just happened.
I felt like an utter idiot. I always assume the very best in people, and really try to give everyone a chance. A lot of times this leads to great experiences and making new friends very easily. When opening the door, I genuinely thought “Hey, how nice is this guy for bringing by kebabs! This is so friendly.” Somehow I think that might not be the best strategy in London, where people have a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda. I got off rather lightly this time, but more caution might be advised in the future.

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The Other Side of the Fence

Someone asked me whether I was really always the one being asked out, always the one doing the picking, choosing and ditching.

In short: No.

But the main purpose of this blog was to entertain and spark some debate, and that’s easier to achieve (I think) with anecdotes of dates that I actually went on, than with the story of me waiting desperately for that one phonecall/text/facebook message from that one person. Which is a true story.

Yes, I get asked out, but not always by the right people, hence the funny anecdotes. And sometimes I wish I had the guts to ask someone out, but I don’t dare to or get really clear “don’t even bother” signals.

So really, I spend about half of my time on the other side of the fence. But this blog isn’t meant to be about emotional turmoil, but rather about social conventions regarding emotional turmoil, and so the stories are skewed in that direction.

That said, I did get asked out recently. Stay tuned.

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Sine Qua Non?

Maybe a bit too glum and dry, but a not-too-recent date brought up this musing.

This blog is about dating. However, it’s not about falling in love, having sex or finding a life partner (or debatably all the interesting aspects of dating).  Instead, most of my posts centre on the formalities and mere technicalities of dating. Maybe this is due to my personal predisposition to feel more at ease once I have established a routine, and identified all the rules. In the end, this routine provides the necessary framework for the exciting rest, right?

With this premise, I happily blog about what goes wrong, what feels right, about patterns that I observe and about the little anecdotes my life provides me with that support this presumption.

But once in a while, a date comes along that challenges my framework. Much like any scientist, this leaves me astonished and a bit disgruntled. Acknowledging that my model can’t account for my data,  I either ignore the new data point as an outlier (the easy way out) or I need to change my model.

Some time ago I had a date that reminded me of an important flaw of my model, in that the date itself wasn’t flawed at all – it was simply perfect.

The pre-date communication went well, with several short messages that made me laugh and curious about N. and when we did meet, he proposed a good outing. We had time to talk, we shared sushi and hot chocolate, we walked around a bit, we laughed. As his emails had suggested, N. was attentive, spontaneous and great fun to talk to. He wasn’t rude to anyone. He wasn’t creepy and overly personal. He wasn’t boring or taken either. And you know what? He didn’t mention how drunk he was at university even once!

Instead we spent a few delightful hours doing some of my favourite things, eating my favourite foods, and generally agreeing a lot.

It’s probably worth mentioning that he’s not bad-looking either.

However (you knew there was a catch, right?), we didn’t go out again. Yes, I realised that I’d absolutely love to spend more time with him. He’s clever, kind and we have similar interests. I was almost sure that we’d make great friends. There, I said it. Friends.

I just didn’t feel attracted to him.

I always knew that attraction isn’t easily summarised or defined, but somehow I presumed that missing attraction was usually based on something tangible being wrong with a date –  like the dealbreakers I previously described on this blog. To a certain degree, I thought that if someone came along that “ticked all the boxes”, I’d also be attracted to him.

Yet here came N., handsome and entertaining, with no discernible faults  on a picture-perfect first date. And my visceral response was completely absent.

I therefore think my model needs revision. The above mentioned factors, collectively named “dating skills”, while necessary, are obviously not sufficient. Something else is missing here.

It could be called attraction, chemistry or spark, but for my model, I’m naming it sine qua non, or “the one without which nothing else will be possible”.

Now I’m not sure whether the consequence of this discovery should be to only date people who I initially feel this sine qua non with, or whether I can only discover this magical spark once I’m on an otherwise mediocre date that is lit up by it.

Stay tuned.

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Txtspk

The other day I talked to A. and he asked me whether I’d called back a guy who had given me his number. I told A. that I hadn’t called him yet, and he accused me of playing hard to get. My main motive was slightly less Machiavellian – I simply didn’t have any credit on my phone. On the other hand, I readily admitted that I probably wouldn’t have called straight away anyway out of fear to appear overeager.

I find it difficult to gauge when the right time for contact is. Call too early and you seem desperate, too late and you appear uninterested.

In between those two there is a tiny time window in which it is “cool” to call.

Oh how I wish I could nail this window down to an exact timepoint like “sometime between 10am and 3pm on the second day after you’ve last seen each other”. Alas, at least with me on the receiving end, the acceptable time window moves around depending on how well our first meeting went, what we agreed on, and how much I’m holding out for this call. In general, I’d say anything on the first or second day is good, whereas I’d find more than 72 hours of unexplained silence weird (did you first request a CRB check on me?).

However, while I’d usually raise an eyebrow when someone contacts me the same evening, there have been times when I’ve been thrilled to see my phone light up at 1am, just after returning home.

Time of day is also key – a message at 3am makes me way more suspicious than the same wording at 10am. There’s just no way you can send a casual, breezy message at 3am. Just that you’re still up and thinking about messaging me makes it un-breezy. So if you want to “be cool”, contact me during working hours or in the early evening-but any time works if you want to let me know you really care (just don’t call me in the middle of the night).

This also broaches the next question – how do you contact someone? In our times, multiple channels of communication are open with most people, which brings further confusion. Is it better to call? Or should I send a more casual text? Is a facebook message too nonchalant or an email too formal? The enraging truth is that this decision also has to made on a case-to-case basis. On the receiving end, I certainly prefer written contact. However, this is pretty much only for the fact that I find it much, much easier to react on paper, because I have time to consider and phrase my sentiments. However, if you can deal with me feeling pressured go ahead and call, I’ll probably say yes to a second date simply because I’m caught off guard. Texts can range from being sweet and making me laugh to pointless, full of bad spelling and too short to convey even the most basic message. Emails are nice, if maybe a touch too official – especially when sent from a long-winded work address with 7 line signature. Ok, I get it, you have a job, well done! This is especially endearing (not.) when the actual message is way shorter than the signature.

Personally, I’ll also screen all written contact for telltale typos an disgstin $lang. I use certain abbreviations myself when texting, but couldn’t take anyone seriously who’d write “Yo, want 2 go dancin dis sat? talk 2 u l8r!” etc.

Obviously that in turn makes me really self-conscious when sending texts myself – do I come across as a pedantic stickler just because I spell out “tomorrow” instead of typing 2mro? Or will my email go straight from inbox to trash because of incorrect capitalisation?

All this amounts to my texts being sent all the later the more I like someone, because I fret way too much about how they will be received. Somehow ironic, when their very being so late makes them being received differently.

So altogether, my strategy is:

1) Wait (for daytime for more casual replies)

2) Be brief (unlike with these posts…)

3) Be as niggly/sloppy as I personally like to be. In the end, I neither want a guy who feels intimidated by fully spelt-out dates nor one who rejects me for an occasional slipped punctuation mark.

What’s your strategy?

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Two Stories

I often get asked whether my stories are out of real life and “true”. In sight of this, I’ve added this disclaimer to my “about” page:

Yes, this blog is based on my real life, on real dates and real stories. However as my main purpose is to entertain and muse about dating in general all the examples and stories (although drawn from reality) might be dramatised.

Sometimes I think this is still worth elaborating on. Not to get overly philosophical, but I do not believe in “truth” per se. Whatever event happens out there in reality (and for this blog we’ll just assume that reality exists) becomes our personal story through our own perspective, our biases, our native perception, our history, and as we retell our experience, our story is edited, some details omitted, some highlighted. The necessary blanks in any story are filled by the listener’s imagination. Therefore I find it rather amazing that our personal experience and story overlaps at all with others’ stories.

To illustrate my theoretical musings, I’ve decided to write two short stories about last night. Both are true, in that they depict what happened and I haven’t added anything.

A Side: “A Perfect Night”

Last night, I was invited to my friend’s V.’s house for home-cooked dinner. Initially, he had invited several people, but only me and my good friend B. turned up at 7.30 on the dot. We girls both brought wine, and opened the first bottle immediately. The conversation was lively and we finished our drinks quickly while waiting for another friend to start with dinner. Maybe an unwise choice, as said friend never materialised and by 10 o’clock we were ravenously hungry and quite tipsy. When V. came back from the kitchen with his specialty dish it seemed the most delicious thing either of us had eaten in weeks and was devoured within minutes.

After dinner the three of us retreated back to the sofa with our wine and a movie, which was an old favourite of both B. and mine. We are also both European and share a certain touchy-feeliness. In the course of the following hours, we became more and more entangled on the sofa with V. happily sitting in the middle, and legs were draped over cushions, heads buried in laps, hands lazily stroking backs, arms and necks. And that’s all I remember of the next two hours. In this situation, we all completely ignored both the movie and time and only realised when the last tube had long gone.

We didn’t have a choice but staying over and made our way to V.s bedroom, where we woke up this morning with crumpled sheets and big grins on our faces.

 

All in all… the perfect night. V. certainly seemed very happy in the morning.

 

 

B Side: “Sleeping Beauties”

After an exhausting week behind me, and with a busy weekend ahead, V.’s casual dinner invitation seemed perfect to take my mind off things for an evening. I arrived completely frazzled and tired from a hectic day and tried to unwind with a choice of M&S house wine. B. and I were joking with each other and raided his DVD collection while we were waiting for dinner. We discovered “Never Been kissed” and mocked V. for owning such a highschool Rom-Com classic. He told us the DVD was his roommate’s and he’d never even seen the movie.

By the time we had dinner, the tiredness and hunger had mixed with the wine to a state of sheer exhilaration. Every remark seemed funnier than the last, the food was manna from heaven and “Never Been Kissed” had been stylised into the best movie of all times. Closing V.’s gap in popular culture knowledge, we put it on after dinner – that this seemed like a fantastic idea should show what state we were in.

Anyway, we retreated to the sofa, huddling in the middle so we could all see the tiny laptop screen. Shortly, we were all leaning on each other, trying to make ourselves as comfortable as a two-seater sofa will three people ever allow to be. And that’s all I remember of the next two hours. The familiar movie in the background, the warm apartment, ample wine and a full belly achieved what I’d been yearning for all through my exhausting week: a nap on a sofa. Yeah, it wasn’t my sofa, and there were two other people on it, but that seemed a pretty minor dent in my state of bliss. I previously told you that B. and I have lots in common – apparently our propensity to doze off on the sofa after dinner is one of them. Yes, within 20 minutes we were both asleep, draped over poor V. who didn’t dare to move and was thus forced to watch “Never Been Kissed” with two sleeping ladies in his lap.

I woke up to the rolling credits of the movie around 1am, long after the last tube had gone. B. was still sleeping soundly. I coaxed her to come with me to V.’s bedroom, where we shared his bed (which came with pre-crumpled sheets) for the rest of the night. V. himself slept on the couch.

 

All in all, the perfect night? Anyway, it was just what B. and I needed.

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