Tag Archives: helpful-hints

The First Move- A Dilemma

I usually love being a woman.

However,  a few niggles include the gender pay gap (which makes me steam and rant for hours), the fact that I can’t sing bass lines, and the following situation.

The scenario is a date, or another situation that ends with the two of us alone. It’s likely we have been talking for a while, that we’re quite close, and that all the official date happenings are already finished. The movie credits have rolled, the bill in the restaurant is settled and everything so far has been going well. If this were still the rom-com we’ve been watching earlier, the audience could predict exactly where this is headed: the first kiss, some frantic making out, possibly a bedroom.

However, because this is reality, we’re both required to traipse around this obvious conclusion and instead wait till one of us makes the critical first move. Movies tell us that this first move is a long gaze into each others’ eyes, followed by a seamless swoop of the head leading to a long and passionate kiss. I’ll call this “the smooth swoop”.

Reality teaches me that the first move more likely pans out in one of three ways:

1) “the Mad Chicken”
Our heads are sort of close, then one of us suddenly moves their head a bit closer, the other turns their face slightly, we both attempt a kiss, but one of us ends up licking a cheek and the other finds their nose lodged in an eye. Not terribly sexy, but comic relief goes a long way, and as this situation establishes a solid awkward baseline it’s often possible to recover from there and turn the night around.

2) “the Scared Rabbit”
Our heads are sort of close, we look into each others’ eyes, and then both realise that the other one is watching for our next move. We don’t want to take that responsibility, so instead of moving in for the kiss we both freeze in space, occasionally blinking nervously.
It’s very hard to get out of this scenario. We might be saved by a fox howling outside, or a flatmate walking into the living room, shocking us out of your frozen pose. However, the embarrassment of our inaction is hard to recover from, and chances are that the evening will end quickly, with a mumbled goodbye at the door and quiet relief when the other has left.

3) “Cat and Mouse”
My least favourite scenario – this is when we’re both game for a kiss to happen, but as soon as one of us moves in, the other one, just to prolong the chase, wriggles out.

(nota bene: I’m not referring to situations when only one of you wants to make out!)

The first person takes this as a display of disinterest, and retreats. However, the tables turn and now the second person takes up the chase, trying to move in for a kiss.

This can be repeated almost endlessly, if both of us are stubborn enough. And yes, the chase can be sexy and fun.  My dislike for this last scenario is partly that I’ve so often observed it with straight men who are simply not comfortable with being the one that “gets kissed”. They retreat just so they can take the active part seconds later. Sometimes I’d like to be the one who makes the first move though!

In order to avoid getting cat-moused, I’ve settled on this final gambit as my preferred opening move:

4. “the (Power-) Drunk Super-Villain”
In most action movies, there comes a time when the villain has captioned our hero, bound him in chains and is planning his slow and ugly demise. Being a narcissistic psychopath, however, he appreciates finally having an audience and then wastes a good ten minutes of precious potential rescue time.  He explains exactly what evil things he did, what his evil motivations were, how he’s planning to do evil from now on and probably shares his social security number and bank details while he’s at it.

This never works out, because the pretty sidekick arrives in this spare time, frees the hero and they proceed to undo all the villain’s evil plans. Do not make this mistake as a super-villain. Silence is gold!

However, at the end of a date, this behaviour works brilliantly.

You lean in, you say “I think you’re really hot and I want to kiss you”, you look at them briefly to confirm that they’re not horrified by this proposition. Then you kiss. Dilemma solved.

Just hope the sidekick doesn’t come barging in at this moment.

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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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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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The Dating Simulator

The reasons why I have not been dating much lately are partly  professional and partly because my private life was taken up by looking for a new flat. Dashing around London,  visiting perfect strangers in their homes and going through their cupboards has been my major evening pastime in the past weeks, taking up most available dating time. However, I’ve come to realise that dating and flathunting aren’t  that different altogether. You could probably see flathunting as a good practise for dating. You don’t see how? Let me elaborate.

1)   You put up an ad or react to ads online.

The most proliferous and reliable source of flats/dates comes from the internet. Yes, in a perfect world we would just run into Mr. Right on the street and find the keys to a free, airy, hardwood-floored studio apartment around the next corner. However, when looking for a flat on a deadline or a date for Saturday night, tempting fate isn’t the most reliable option.

And so I find myself screening ad after ad for the “lovely spacious double room” or “tall & handsome with good sense of humour” of my dreams.

2) People speak gibberish in ads.

The amount of jargon in both the world of online dating, and real estate are astonishing, and terribly confusing for the layman. Because webspace isn’t paid for per word or line, the earlier usage of crazy abbreviation “2bdr, k/b and GSOH” is now subsiding, but euphemisms and embellishments still abound. Funnily enough, lots of the words used are the same for both personal ads and room offers – however, the underlying meanings are very different. This goes together with point 3).

3) People lie.

You’ll find enough offers that seem too fabulous to be true. All the advertised flats are “roomy and light” with “great flatmates, who like to chat over a glass of wine”. Similarly, every single guy with an ad online “doesn’t take himself too seriously and has a good sense of humour”.

However, once you see the flat or meet the guy you’ll discover what the code stands for, and it turns out the “roomy and light” flat has no radiators, while the guy who “doesn’t take himself too seriously”, also doesn’t take drug laws too seriously, and thinks dope should totally be legalised, man.

To spare other people the same mistakes, I’ve compiled a quick list based on my experiences:

Term Used in Ad What it Means in Real Estate What it Means in Dating
lovely small room boring
charming chipped paint job, mismatched furniture lies to get you into bed
cosy shoe box that smells of mould overweight, and not willing to do anything about it
sociable and lively noisy flatmates gets drunk at least three times a week
lots of character no straight walls, carpet smells funky contradicts you a lot and wears obscure band t-shirts
decent-sized average average

I hope this helps with deciphering the code and finding the right room or date.

In my case, after being quite disillusioned by my online finds, I returned to the more oldfashioned way of being newly introduced to someone I already knew. Turns out you don’t need to look online, when you might already have met the perfect opportunity.

I’m not talking about a date – but I’m moving in with a friend tomorrow.

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A Tale About Stereotypes

Sometimes you don’t need to go on a date to learn an important life  lesson.

I went to my local off-license around midnight to get some food. I gathered courgettes, spring onions, noodles, bananas and yoghurt and went to pay. In the (admittedly short) queue, I yawned while waiting for my turn. The observant shopkeeper asked whether I’d had a long day, and I told him that I had been up since 5am. He wondered whether I was still going to cook tonight, and I confirmed that I hadn’t really had dinner yet. All of a sudden, the dialogue went as follows:

Friendly Shopkeeper: You live on your own?

me: (cautious) No.

FSK: You married?

me: (wary, but honest) No.

FSK: I can come cook for you! I’m a good cook! It’s going to be delicious! (meaningful glance)

me:  Haha, that’s so nice, but no, thank you very much! (nervous laughter)

FSK:  But you don’t have anyone to cook for you! You’re all alone!

me: Oh, but I have a fiancé! (<–desperate  LIE)

FSK: (surprisingly on his feet) But you still have to cook for yourself late at night, poor girl? Why?

The obvious true answer is: while imaginary boyfriends might be good at deterring unwanted male attention, they suck at making late-night snacks. But it was late, and I was tired and couldn’t come up with any great excuses.

me: Urm, ah, my fiancé can’t cook! I do all the cooking! (thinking I was being all clever)

[Just to set the scene: my friendly neighbourhood off license store is plastered with evil eye protection beads and yellowed posters in Arabic that seem to proclaim some deity or other.  Nothing about this store, the majority of thickly veiled female customers or the bearded guy in his twenties doing the night shift says modern or progressive, in fact it all has a distinctly conservative  look. Imagine thus my surprise at the next turn in the conversation.]


FSK: (indignant) He can’t cook? But you deserve someone who can cook for you! Don’t you think that man and woman should be equal in a relationship, and share responsibilities? [insert  surprisingly long gender equality rant here]

me: (astonished face, nervous giggle) Urm, yes, I mean, sure?

FSK: (with fervourNEVER cook for a man who won’t cook for you!!!

So now my local off-license assistant thinks I am in an oppressed relationship with a guy who can’t cook. Also, he single-handedly revised my stereotype that if you’re male, muslim and middle-eastern you know and care little about gender equality and how to achieve it. In fact, the shopkeeper was more progressive than my own fiancé!

Weird, except that my fiancé  is not only very conservative, but also completely imaginary.

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