Tag Archives: general

Reversing the Polarity – A Guest Post.

[Guest post by J., from ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’]

If you half close your eyes, it feels like the world is moving in slow-motion. There’s no dry ice, but the atmosphere feels smoky as the figures before us turn and twist in slow motion. The neon blue lights underneath the half-finished stairs make the dilapidated basement feel like a half constructed Starship Enterprise, a chariot to the Dancing With Stars. She leans in to kiss me, and the world forgets to breathe for a second.

But… I’m getting ahead of myself. As usual.

A few days ago, the author of ‘Wish There Were a Manual’ got in contact with me over email, saying: “You might be a male version of me.” She’d been laughing at my posts over at ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’, and seeing as we both had dating disaster blogs, the logical thing to do seemed to meet up and see if we could engineer the worst date in all of dating history.

Strangely, that didn’t quite happen.

Online dating is so much about presenting a front to people, a shop window for people to browse. You need to be able to sell yourself, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people cut a few corners to entice people to sample their wares. Some might add inches to their height, some post old photos, some even ‘forget’ to mention their offspring. As both of our blogs had been wincingly honest in places, I was fascinated to see what it was like to go on a date with someone who already knows pretty much the worst there is to know about you. As it turns out, it’s pretty freeing not having to posture or throw your swagger about. Although I still managed to do that obviously, because I’m a complete idiot.

We’d agreed that we’d walk through Regent’s Park and She arrived with a backpack of shoes and a gob full of anecdotes. After grabbing a couple of organic ice creams we sat on the benches and discussed everything from Dutch/Chinese Stalkers to time travel, via would-be-boyfriends who can’t read social cues while getting touched up by drunken chavs. At one point she lay on her back and smoked into the sky, one knee slightly raised, and I started to think… yes.

After a while, she got cold, so we started walking through the park. We named a lighter, laughed at ducks and almost kissed. Although I unfortunately managed to time the kiss at the exact moment she said the word ‘toilet’, which made us both laugh and totally blow the moment. “I can’t kiss you after saying that!” she laughed, and her eyes sparkled. But we did anyway.

As the date drew to a close, she asked if I wanted to escort her to Waterloo to meet a friend. As I didn’t have anything else planned, I agreed, and we walked through the streets of London. Halfway through this walk, dinner in Waterloo became dinner in Chinatown, and I got invited along. We had a great time chatting with her friend, and he asked “Are you coming dancing with us?”.

I looked at her, and I thought I might.

We headed to the Blues Fusion night, splitting with her friend along the way. Alone again, we stepped though the streets, holding hands. We got to the basement club and were arrested with visions of dedicated dancers contorting and spinning to bass-heavy slow jams. I watched her dance with some other guys. She’s stunning to watch, and there’s motion in her poetry. I shyly tried a few steps with her. While dancing someone said we looked so happy. Another lady asked us how long we’d been together and She said, without hesitation, “Seven years”, and we then bantered back and forth with various improvised stories of our dating history, and about how to keep your relationship alive. The lady said “You can see you’re still in love – you look like you just met yesterday!”

We walked home through the night streets at 4am, and ended the night swimming in a ball pool. I felt so clear and relaxed and happy – it was wonderful to have someone accept you for the awesome idiot you are, rather than the wonderful lie you’d like to present yourself as. Before drifting off in her arms on a battered sofa, the last thing she said was “Don’t mess this up.” I’m sure I will/already have, but if nothing else, at least I had a night that felt like a slice of hot magic.

I guess, sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.

This is Muriel. If you want to read my account of the same night, head over to impresswoman.tumblr.com. No, it doesn’t contain a graph, but I’m talking about expectations, humor and reverse psychology. 

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Be Descriptive

The below post contains personal ramblings about body type, weight, public perception etc. I’m happy and healthy, and not too neurotic about these things apart from when typing them up for my blog, so I think it’s ok to post this. However innocent my intentions, if you have weight/body issues, this post might be a trigger.

Second note: I’m using terms like “fat” and “skinny”, when I talk about people. This doesn’t denote a value judgement.

When filling out an online dating profile, you will almost invariably find a page with a host of dropdown menus that make it able to comparably describe you to others. While your personality gets little empty textboxes you have to fill in yourself, your physical attributes get an array of 9 point Likert scales.

However, while there are very fixed measurements for some attributes such as height, and quasi-objective descriptions for things like eye colour (step away from the qualia issue, please) there are certain dropdown menus that rely on rather more insight and subjective analysis.

I’m specifically talking about the “body type” field. My dating site of choice gives you the choice of:

Rather not Say, Thin, Overweight, Skinny, Average, Fit, Athletic, Jacked, A little extra, Curvy, Full figured and Used up.

So yes, plenty of options to choose from. I initially chose Average, as a cover all term, because  it’s hard to be more specific. There are two different issues at play. The main point is a) How I perceive myself, and which words describes that. Even more tricky though is issue b) How the consensus of site users uses and perceives these terms.

It’s no use if I put Skinny because I totally lost a pound last week, and haven’t had breakfast today, so my stomach looks practically concave. I’m still very firmly not-skinny in the eyes of others.

I thus went with the elimination method: I’m definitely not Skinny (too many things under that skin), Overweight (BMI says not), Thin, or Jacked. I’d also like to believe that at not-even-the-end-of-my-twenties-yet I’m also not Used Up, although my under eye circles tell a different story on Monday mornings.

That leaves me with: Average, Fit, Athletic, A little extra, Curvy and Full figured.

And this is where it becomes difficult. First of all these six seem to fall in three clusters: Fit and Athletic belong together, and so do A little extra, Curvy and Full figured. The former two are for sporty figures, the latter three for various forms of the higher range of the BMI.

A little extra is probably just a euphemism for overweight or obese, where the extra is the bit that goes over the normal weight. So I decided to exclude that. Even though I think there’s plenty of extra on my lower stomach for example. overall it’s probably a misleading term. Again, I’m not actually that big, have a NHS approved healthy weight and wear clothes from the not-plus-size range. I have a similar problem with Fuller figure, which seems even more cryptic. Does it mean fuller than Average people? In a society with rates of 60% overweight and  23%  clinically obese, that puts the bar quite high. Or am I fuller if I’m heavier than my healthprofessionally determined normal/ideal weight (which then seems to hold true for over half of the population)?

Again, this term seems to be euphemism for extra weight, maybe a little, maybe a little more than a little. In my perception fuller figured also correlates with increased height, and brings up a Wagnerian heroine: tall, big and impressive.  Concludingly, I’m not happy to conjure a Rubenesque image, where my creamy, fleshy thighs overspill the dainty red velvet chaiselongue, naughty bits barely covered up by some cleverly draped leaves/waistlength hair.  Any guy hoping for that when reading my description would be surly disappointed upon meeting me.

Ok, we’re down to Average, Fit, Athletic and Curvy.

The problem with the sporty descriptions is that they also suggest a very clear image. If I describe myself as athletic, guys will hope for a tall Swedish triathlete with lithe, toned legs, flat stomach and small, but perfectly perky chest.

Fit probably goes in the same direction, possibly with slightly bigger breasts.

Much as my arms and shoulders are about as defined as you’re allowed while still wearing strapless dresses, and my calves are “proper hiker’s calves” as my granddad approvingly called them, my overall figure is nowhere near lithe. I have the aforementioned extra stomach, a very non-sporty looking bum and breasts that when running require the attention of a maximum security sports bra that costs more than my running shoes and should really come with a valet that helps you putting it on and lock the three (!) different closures. Comparing myself to the Swedish triathlete seems false marketing at best.

This brings us to Curvy.

Ah, Curvy. This is the one description that inspired this rambling post. My friend suggested that’s what I should call myself as it “sounds much sexier than average“. And with aforementioned bum and boobs in relation to my waist he might not be altogether wrong. However, I have two problems with this term.

a) Some people seem to use Curvy as another girl-specific euphemism for overweight. And while the two populations certainly overlap (pun definitely not intended), there are plenty of overweight girls who are not curvy, and still claim this term, as it gradually morphs from “very distinct boob/hip to waist ratio, regardless of actual size of either” to “lots of boobs and bum, we’ll not look too closely at your waist”. The main point of debate seems to be whether curves require a distinct “in-out” movement, or whether say, an apple or barrel with their convex outline can be called curvy.

Again, I have a hard time calling myself fatter than I already am and feel no desire to group myself with lots of big-is-beautiful advocates.

The second point goes rather in the opposite direction.

b) In the eyes of some guys, curvy seems to mean a mix of Betty Boop and J.Lo. I’m neither. Yes, I have boobs, but I can still walk straight and thankfully don’t get a backache from my bra. Likewise, my butt does not shatter baked bean can pyramids in supermarkets when I turn around, and my not so dainty arms and legs are in proportion with my torso.

Between a and b, and the implicit message of “I’m a fat version of Betty Boop”. I’d rather stay clear from the term and be safe.

Which leaves me with AVERAGE.

My fit shoulders, athletic arms and legs, curvy boobs and waist, little-extra belly, full hips and thighs simply average out.

I feel misrepresented.

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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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Nighttime is My Time…

I think time of day is crucially important when making decisions. What seems perfectly reasonable at 2am almost certainly sounds like a daft idea during bright daylight. In the world of dating this may be even more true than during other interactions – nighttime seems very special to any sort of romantic activity (see going to the park or dealbreaker III for specific examples, although virtually all the stories on this blog happened between 8pm and 8am). Especially the wee hours of the morning appear prone to intimate conversations, emotional revelations and rash decision making. This is not a new observation, and someone has even centred an episode of a sitcom around this phenomenon.

But what makes this time so special, so intimate? Is the link between nighttime and romantic activity strictly coincidental, correlational or even causal?

In a recent conversation with a friend we identified the following three factors.

1) If you are talking to someone at 2am, you probably have been talking to them for a while or know them well.

This is an important factor, and strictly correlational. We usually don’t start conversations with strangers at 2am,  so you probably have been talking to the other person for several hours since you started the conversation at a more conventional time that evening. This means it’s the unbroken length of conversation time, not the daytime itself that leads to revelations and sharing of intimate details.

A possible extension to this rule is that if you feel comfortable to start a conversation at 2am with someone you probably are either already familiar with each other, or at a party (and possibly inebriated). Both of these situations again benefit being close to someone.

Even if this is not true for you, and you neither know the other person nor have talked to them for a while, the sheer existence of this social convention creates the illusion of intimacy (“We are talking at a socially unconventional time – we must be able to share intimate details with each other”).

2) It’s dark outside.

Both me and B. agreed that this was somehow important, and probably a causal factor. Maybe it’s the age-old kindergarten trick of “if nobody sees me doing it, then I’m not doing anything wrong”, but regardless of the mechanism, inhibitions definitely drop in the dark.

3) Nobody else is awake.

Being alone with the other person definitely helps to bring intimate moments along. And at 2am you’re much more likely to be left alone than earlier in the day, simply because other (sane) people are sound asleep. Furthermore, not only are you physically alone, you also share the feeling that you’re the only people out of bed. If the two of you are the only ones to do something, then this means there is a special connection between you, right? Again, this creates the bond of  together defying a social convention.

This factor is a mix of correlational(physical aloneness) and causal(perceived aloneness).

So there you have it, the nighttime/intimacy link is neatly analysed and explained. I still don’t think I subscribe to the theory that “nothing good happens after 2am”. Quite to the contrary,  I believe that the wee hours are a time with incredible potential.

However, certain safety measures should be in place to fully benefit from the nighttime phenomenon. During the day it all seems just so clear, so it might not be much use to pretend “Would I act the same if it were 10am right now?” – we have just established that you probably wouldn’t.

Instead, just ask yourself whether your reaction the next morning is likely going to be “Wow, I finally dared to do this/ tell her/kiss him. I can’t believe I had the guts to do so” or “OMG, WTF, please let this not be true/Why  have I ever done this???”.

The fine line between relief and regret can be hard to make out at 2am, but it’s certainly worth trying.

***disclaimer: this post was written in broad daylight***

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I Wish There Were a Manual

When talking to my friends recently,  conversation always seems to turn around one big topic: dating (so much about having moved on since high school) and our confusions around it.  Now, we’re all in our twenties or thirties, so this isn’t due to general inexperience.

Quite to the contrary, most of my friends are doing it, yet everyone seems baffled about the non-explicit underlying rules, about definitions, about just about everything.  I have to admit that I’m new to dating myself (so far I either used to go out with people exclusively, or I didn’t go out with them at all) and I don’t really understand it. Talking to friends brought little clarity, but lots of entertaining anecdotes.

I just wish there were a manual.

This blog is meant as an excuse to discuss the topic some more, rant about pitfalls, share stories (“listen and learn”) and just generally a running commentary on starting to date in your mid-twenties.

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