In many ways my experiences with dating have been largely positive.
I’m quite selective about who I will go out on a date with in the first place – not necessarily because I’m overly picky (nearly 50 year olds can’t afford to be super choosy…), but because my time is precious and I don’t want to waste an evening with someone who is a bit of a tosser when I could have spent that time with my children or a friend.
Then generally I won’t go on a date unless said date is prepared to give up his surname so that I can google him before I go. I’m surprised by the number of men who are not prepared – for ‘security reasons’ – to do this, or who are horrified if I reveal I’ve done it (although generally I don’t tell them).* But I don’t suppose any of the men I’ve dated ever find themselves considering whether or not they are organizing to meet up with a murderer or rapist. For the same reason I won’t allow anyone to pick me up from my house until I’ve got to know them well, and I also won’t get in a car with them to go to a second venue. Dating of the type which essentially involves meeting up with strangers is potentially dangerous – even sometimes lethal – for women, and so I take my safety very seriously. If this means I check online to see if you appear to be who you say you are then so be it, and if you are offended by it we probably just shouldn’t go on a date.
So, once I’m on a date, I already usually know that the guy is genuine, as far as I can tell not married, and we’ve done enough chatting to build a bit of a rapport. I’ve been on very few dates which were terrible, and even then they’ve made for amusing anecdotes. I met one guy in a pub and when I arrived he was clearly already drunk. For reasons I can’t now explain – but probably inexperience, as this was early on in my dating adventures – I didn’t immediately leave, agreeing to accompany him to dinner during which he loudly announced to me (and most of the restaurant) that he would like to lick my breasts.
I never expect not to have to pay my share of the bill, and in fact it’s fairly important to me that I do as I don’t want to be beholden in any way. There are still some men who think that if they’ve paid for everything you owe them something – and that something is generally sexual. However, if I sense that the guy is purely being gentlemanly, and our conversation has suggested that it wouldn’t be a financial burden on them to pay for it, I’ll back down and say thank you. I hate to think how poverty stricken I would be after 5 years or so of dating if I’d had to pay for me and my date every time, so I never expect it.
I’ve also learnt interesting things from my dates, even though many of them have come to nothing – things that I probably wouldn’t have learnt if I’d still been married. One date recently showed me a number of interesting works of art that are installed in new office buildings around Sydney and another pointed out the statue of a small cat at the State Library which I’d never noticed before and told me its story.**
I’ve been given wine recommendations which I’ve acted upon, and book recommendations which I’ve subsequently read. I’ve also had the opportunity to have some spirited debates about a range of issues with people who have views diametrically opposed to mine and most of my friends.
So – as I’ve said – generally my dating experiences have been positive. But I would, however, like to start a movement to agree some ground rules to which everyone adheres.
So if you’re not dating, you probably don’t know what this is (lucky you), but it’s when someone you’ve been either chatting with or have been on a date (or two) with suddenly disappears into radio silence. Now, when I’m only at the chatting stage and I haven’t met them in person as yet, I’m fine with this – in fact it’s a ploy I use myself. But I do object to it after a date – or worse – a few dates. I’ll give you an example of how this works. I recently got chatting with a guy on Tinder (yes, Tinder! Gasp! You can read more about my thoughts on Tinder here), and agreed to meet him for a drink. We met in a bar in Darlinghurst and got on famously – to the extent that we moved from drinks straight to dinner. He was formerly in the Navy, so interestingly well travelled, and was now working for the Fire Service of New South Wales in charge of all their mental health programs for staff about which he was clearly very expert and well informed. He also had a Masters in Indigenous Studies, had read many of the same books as me and is a bit of a leftie. Anyone who knows me well would recognize that this sort of man is likely to be of interest to me, so I had a great night.
He walked me to the station, and then when I was on my way home on the train, he sent me a text message to see if I wanted to catch up again for a walk and lunch on Sunday. I definitely did. We met as planned and had another great date – a walk in which we chatted easily, then oysters and champagne at Circular Quay, followed by an exhibition. He walked me to the station and on separating to go our own ways I told him I’d had a great time and would like to do it again, but my parents were arriving in a couple of days for a month and I wouldn’t be as available as usual. He said that was ok, and to just let him when I would next be free.
About a week later, I sent a text message saying I was free in a couple of nights, and would he like to catch up? He never replied. About 5 days later I gave in to the urge to send another message – just in case through some technological glitch he hadn’t received it. Again he didn’t reply, so I think we can surmise that I won’t be seeing him again.
Now, under these circumstances wouldn’t it be so much nicer – not to mention polite – to just send a quick text message in response to say ‘hey, it was great meeting you, but on reflection I can’t really see it going any further so I think I’ll move on’? The reality is that I left a 21 year marriage – I think I’m going to cope if after one or two dates someone tells me they are not interested…
The end of the affair
Ending a relationship, no matter how insignificant, is tricky and awkward for everyone involved, so my suggested rule about this is simple. If you’ve shared my bed, you need to tell me you’ve decided to call it a day non-electronically. So, as the natural progression from ‘if we’ve been on a couple of (non-carnal) dates, you need to at least send me a text to say thanks – but no thanks’, if our relationship has progressed to getting jiggy, you need to either phone me, or tell me in person. If it’s clearly not been super serious let’s not waste each other’s time by meeting in person to end it, but a phone chat seems appropriate. And if it’s been going on for quite a while, in person is definitely the way. A text message just won’t do in either circumstance.
And there you have it. A kind of manifesto for dating. Or is it a rule book? It’s all just about being polite and respectful really isn’t it? After all, dating is hard enough as it is – as my granny used to say…’let’s all be nice to one another’…old fashioned but useful advice I think.
*Just FYI guys – I can pretty much google you without your surname if you give up enough information…so you might as well tell me your surname. I often know who you are within about 10 mins of chatting, and well before I actually ask for your surname…
**The cat is Trim, Matthew Flinders faithful ship cat, who circumnavigated Australia then disappeared, and to whom Flinders wrote a touching epitaph which is on the memorial plaque near the statue. The café in the State Library is also named after the cat.