I’ve read up a fair bit on dating. The books are inevitably written by Americans and, I presume, for the American market. They don’t really take into account the laissez-faire way we Kiwis go about dating. I met my erstwhile husband because we were part of the same tribe and we all used to hang out in the same pubs in Wellington in those days and dating just wasn’t part of our culture.
A few years ago I tried, disastrously, to do the dating thing, and the one guy I picked on about my third go turned out to be, well, let’s just call it a mistake. So, licked my wounds and I went back in my cave. This time, fast forward several years later to 2017, I felt more confident after learning about healthy boundaries, I launched myself onto a dating site for older people.
The first man was perfect! I wanted to marry him and have his babies immediately. We had a few texts afterwards and he said he was going away for the long weekend and would contact me when he got back. He didn’t. Then I noticed on the site that he’d moved down country. He just disappeared. A new word entered my lexicon: ghosting.
The next guy seemed decent enough, but didn’t show up for our second date and when I texted him wondering if he was on his way, he had some bullshit excuse about his daughter taking the car. I pondered why he didn’t let me know earlier, and just put it down to bad manners. A long time ago a very dear friend said I should let go of certain expectations when it came to manners. I’ve been working on that, but being a greenhorn in the dating biz I was slightly miffed. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I could see that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix by this stage. Then I heard the learned Dr Stephanie Carnes say that dating ‘is a numbers game’. OK, I thought, so this is going to test my patience. But somehow I still thought that Mr Right was just around the corner and sadly the next few dates came and went without much spark at all.
Another guy, about date four or five, was ‘very surprised’ to hear from me asking for a second date. All the books say before you make a decision at least have a second date, and I thought I was doing the right thing. So, I left him alone and sent a text saying I was ‘sorry it didn’t work out’ and wished him well.
I tried another old people’s dating website and had absolutely no luck at all. By this stage I noticed a pattern emerging. Most of the men just wanted to chat by text messaging. It was a clunky system and not very user-friendly. When I suggested a date they’d either go all quiet and not reply at all or make up some lame excuse. I was trying not to take it personally. The ‘sorry it didn’t work out’ phrase became a regular thing.
I consulted a colleague who’d been dating up a storm and who wisely explained that there are many different reasons for people to use so-called ‘dating’ websites, and one of them was that some people simply want to chat by messaging. Not actually go on dates at all. She pointed me to some research which did, in fact, prove this to be a fact. The word ‘dating’ began to take on a whole new meaning. One guy who was based in Long Island suggested we become ‘an internet couple’. I was astonished and it took some effort to reply politely and give him the flick gently.
I’d heard about Tinder a while back and thought it was just a hook-up site, but apparently, no – some people actually use it for dating and some even end up in normal relationships. I set out, once again, writing a new profile and posting some pics in which I didn’t look too bad. And made the point that I wasn’t into hook-ups and was looking for a long-term relationship. Almost immediately an extremely handsome man popped up saying he was newly back in the country and looking for a long-term thing. The first date went well, although I had to work quite hard to get him to come to my neck of the woods; he wanted a picnic in the park and I wasn’t sure I could make a quick exit in the middle of a park if need be. I was somewhat surprised when I received a love poem a day or so later and wondered if it was about me. The last line was something like ‘I fell for you’. The second date with him involved going to a market and wandering around, then a coffee afterwards. It went well. Then again, the ghosting thing. After a week went by I texted him to say that I was glad he’d shown his hand early and sorry it didn’t work out. No reply.
The good thing about Tinder is that it gives you a distance in kilometres between Auckland and wherever the other person is. So, for example, a guy in California is about 12,000km away. If that’s the case I press the red cross button immediately. However, another strange thing started emerging. Several men were presented as 3km away but when I asked where they were based, they all were inevitably back in the US having just been to Auckland for business. One in particular became very engaged, often sending me loads of hearts which drifted up the screen, all red and seemingly very heartfelt. I even sent a couple myself, to my surprise. Then he went and ruined everything by asking for money, saying ‘I’ll be indebted to you for the rest of my life’. This, after flattering the hell out of me. I sent the ‘sorry it didn’t work out’ message and there was no reply. Over the years I’ve read several stories about people being scammed into sending money. Did he really think I was that stupid? Especially after telling me how smart I was . . .
The other pattern I’m noticing is that the 3km guys who’ve all recently been to Auckland for ‘business’ are all planning to return ‘for good’. So enchanted with the place, they swear they’re making plans to emigrate. That was the case with California Man as well. Several men say things like ‘distance is no barrier where the heart is concerned’. How a person is supposed to create a dinkum relationship by texting or making phonecalls or even Skyping seems to be something of a long-shot, methinks. All I see are lines on a screen – the rest is fantasy. I feel strongly about this and I know for a fact that it can lead to disastrous results. Our brains tend to make shit up if there’s no tangible evidence to look at; body language is all.
So, my self-improvement work on boundaries is proving to be very helpful. If they want my phone number I simply say I’ll give it out after date #2 if we get to that stage. If they want to Skype because they’re 12,000km away, I say ‘Look me up next time you’re in Auckland and let’s get coffee’.
Yesterday I read that Barack Obama, in a thinly veiled reference to #45’s fondness for tweeting, made a plea for people to return to talking to each other rather than texting. I felt a little bit better then about wanting to date the old-fashioned way.