I’m currently staying with good friends in Los Angeles (The Producer and The Actress), and like the vast majority of my friends, they’ve been following this crazy Challenge of mine over Facebook for the past three months.
We were chatting about the blog the other day, and why, as a guy, The Producer enjoys reading it. One of the reasons he gave was he thinks it’s an empowering story. The girl, jilted by the guy, who turns it around and ends up in a position of power, being the one juggling the guys and rating her dates with them.
‘It must make you realise that everyone has their faults, right?’ He had asked.
And at first I hadn’t really understood what he was getting at.
‘Well you must have blamed yourself a bit when Henley Boy disappeared, right?’
And he was right. The first two weeks after HB went AWOL, I dissected our time together, wondering what I could have possibly done wrong. Had I made too much of an effort when I cooked dinner? Was I a bad kisser? Had I played too easy to get? We hadn’t slept together, but he’d seen me naked for the first time, the night before he disappeared. Was I too fat? You name it, I probably thought it!
Teenage doubts had begun to fill my head, and within a few short hours I’d gone from a confident, happy single girl, to an insecure teenager, wondering what she’d done to make a guy who’d clearly been into her, completely disappear.
Looking back over the past twenty-nine dates, the Challenge has definitely helped me understand I didn’t do anything wrong, and that I’m generally a pretty decent first date! (Though The Voice still hasn’t written his write-up of our date, so that conclusion may still change!)
Eventually hearing back from The Henley Boy also helped with my self-confence about the situation, but even without The Return of The Henley Boy, this Challenge has been pretty empowering. I’ve had some of the most attractive and interesting guys I’ve ever met, competing to entertain me. Not something I ever planned when I first came up with this Challenge, but definitely a pretty fun side-effect!
I’ve definitely grown in confidence as a result of this challenge. I’m a lot more comfortable being myself, and relax easily into the dates. It’s obviously helped that I’ve no expectations about where the dates are going to go, but over the past three months, I’ve definitely become a lot happier and confident in my own skin. And that’s really important, because realistically, the idea of dating is to meet people who like you for being you. Not simply those who are attracted to an attempt at a picture-perfect facade.
I don’t mind being single. Because being single is my own personal choice.
But the part The Producer was interested in was the guys. Hasn’t meeting twenty-nine dates made me realise that everyone has their flaws? After all no one is perfect.
It’s interesting, because I’ve never really thought of it in those terms.
The Producer assumed my reaction to self-doubt about the Henley Boy situation would be to see the faults in others during my dating challenge. But instead, I’d simply taken the experience to focus on my own self-confidence.
‘But people all have their quirks, right?’ my friend had pried.
I couldn’t help smiling. That was definitely how you could describe some of my worst dates – Mr Twenty40 who was extremely loud and rude talking about people around us on the Tube during Date Ten. The Burlesque Dancer had practically dribbled over me whilst invading my personal space to watch the burlesque show on Date Three. And The Pupil had nervously commentated every step of our Date out loud, on Date Number 17. And then obviously both The Oxford Blue and The Exhibitionist hadn’t even really been single!
My Dates have definitely not been without their quirks ….
But as for ‘flaws’ – it’s not really an angle I’ve taken on my dates.
Now maybe that’s where my Dating Challenge differs from if I had been actively searching for ‘The One’.
The whole point of this challenge was simply to remember how enjoyable dating can be, and to make the most of my summer.
And perhaps if instead (as the local newspaper article written about me a few months ago mis-interpreted!) I had been genuinely trying to use this challenge to find My One, then I would have been more critical in my appraisal of the guys. Too short, too thin, too fat?
But all these guys had volunteered themselves forward for my Challenge, and to be written about on the internet, so it seemed bitchy or ungrateful to pick at them personally.
However, The Producer’s comment did get me thinking. A few weeks ago, I talked about the way in which I had begun treating this Challenge like a Top Trumps game, searching out Tinder for varied and different kinds of guys. It was why The Queen’s Guard‘s photos of himself in his military bearskin outside Windsor Castle had appealed, and why I was so intrigued by the Jet-Setter, who had spent his life travelling the world as a professional yacht racer.
As I approach the end of my Dating Challenge, it’s time to consider the possibility of second dates with any of the guys I have met on this Challenge. And that’s where those more subjective judgments of guys come in. Because for most girls in their late twenties and early thirties, you would only consider a second date with a guy with whom there is at least the possibility of a future.
And this then goes back to my article about Hard and Soft Preferences. What expectations are you prepared to compromise on, and which are deal breakers? What are you most attracted to in a guy, and what is a complete turn off?
The interesting part about this Challenge, is that it has given me options. I’ve met guys I would never ever have met if it weren’t for 30 Dates by 30, and the way it’s allowed me to aggressively search for suitors.
I’ve said it before, but one of the most frustrating parts of being single, is that the older you get, the harder it is to meet people. So it is genuinely a very rare situation to have so many options! And when you do have options, it’s pretty hard not to compare them!
Which is how we end up back at Top Trumps.
Top Trump cards divide a character’s powers and characteristics up under different titles. Age, Strength, Fanciability … you name it, you can rate it, and compare it.
And if you speak to anyone who is single, there will be certain characteristics of other singleton’s which carry more weight than others.
Take age, for example. I’ve dated guys who are older than me, and guys who are younger than me, and I know which age range works best for me, personally. It’s something most singletons consider, and one of the first questions most dating sites will ask you to confirm.
Then there’s sexual orientation. Which might seem like a simple one – but as I realised last night when I signed up to the dating website OKCupid, just because I’m only attracted to guys, doesn’t mean there are no other considerations in that respect. Would I date a bi-sexual man? Would I date a man who’s had sex with another man before?
Different characteristics carry different weight for different people.
When I met the Henley Boy he was doing his Masters degree. He only had a part-time job, and was living with his Mum as a result. Interestingly, I realised quickly that those weren’t things I was overly concerned about. He was bright, driven, interesting and funny, and he made me grin from ear-to-ear whenever we chatted. So his bank balance and living circumstances were of little concern to me.
And yet a few weeks ago I was at a singles event, chatting to another single girl about different dating sites, and her ‘go to’ example of an awful guy was one living at home, without a proper job!
You see that’s the thing about Dating Top Trumps – everyone puts different weight on different features. For me, as a tall, well-travelled, driven girl – height, a love of travel and personal ambition are important to me, even if the guy in question has yet to travel or achieve the things he wants to achieve.
It’s something which the dating site OK Cupid (recommended to me by The Voice) definitely plays on. The app asks you hundreds of different dating questions, hoping to establish what is important to you in a relationship, and investigating what you are like in a relationship (even if you don’t already know!)
Whilst setting up my profile I was asked questions about sex, religion, politics, emotions, and my ideal partner. Some of them are questions I’ve already asked and answered on this blog. Others are things I had to genuinely think about. Or questions which would probably be affected by other features in my potential match. Would I consider dating a tramp on the street? Well no. But if the man of my dreams in every other way happened to be strapped for cash, would I mind? No.
It’s interesting, because given individual separate questions, I think most of us know our answers.
But priorities can be a very different thing. Which of those beliefs is more important when you consider more than one at the same time?
If I were to consider all of the twenty-nine dates I’ve had in the past three months, I’d definitely be lying if I said I didn’t have some favourites. But if I were to narrow it down to just one second date out of the twenty-nine guys, how would I do that? They all have their clear advantages. The things that any girl would tick an automatic ‘Yes’ for!
Some have been extremely attractive. Others have been amazingly funny. Some have been highly successful in their careers. For others, money has clearly never been an issue. I’ve dated guys with graduate degrees from some of the world’s best Universities, travel histories more exciting and varied than I could imagine, and model good-looks. Men who have climbed mountains, run marathons, or simply just go to the gym so often that their body could cut glass!
So how do you compare guys, when you’re not simply focussing on one single Top Trump criteria? Do looks trump humour? Does ambition carry more weight than family money?
The answer is that not only is everyone’s personal Top Trump card different, but so too is the way we each interpret other peoples’ Top Trumps. Different criteria carry different weights for different people, and when combined with other assets.
I can’t speak for everyone, but whilst I have certain Hard Preferences – namely height, sense of humour, and a need to be at least partly phyically attracted to a guy- the rest of the preferences are pretty amenable, and it’s only once you’ve truly got to know someone, and stopped thinking of a person as a list of different qualities, and rather as a complete, complex human being, that you can properly establish whether that person is right for you or not. I’m picky and I have high standards, but I have high standards in a boyfriend as a whole, not for one specific quality.
Which is why I’m definitely beginning to understand the value of the second date. And not necessarily just selecting one candidate for a second date.
If you’re attracted to someone … or wondering if you’re attracted to him, then give him a try. If you apply the same logic to second dates as I’ve tried to encourage with first dates, then a second date should be a fun evening, where spending time with the other person is an added bonus. An opportunity to do something a bit different and fun, whilst also getting to know your date a bit better in the process.
No one thinks of their friends as Top Trump cards. Because you know them. They are more than a bunch of qualities, they’re a real person. And whilst a first date might only scratch the surface of who a person is, and leave you with a list of qualities which you can only separate and quantify at first sight, the whole purpose of a second date should be to see those qualities combined and in action, and begin to see your date as an actual person too.
Because if you eventually end up in a relationship, it will be with that person. Not with a Top Trump card!
So I guess let’s bring on some Second Dates!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx