At the beginning of the summer, I remember thinking that dating was like a board game. I’d always loved playing ‘The Game of Life’ as a child – where you drove around the board in a plastic car, filling the seats with the obligatory husband, and then a child, and then another child. I was only six or seven, and yet I knew what the aim of the game was. A full car.
But as I approached thirty, with a very empty (and impractical!) convertible all to myself, and no clue what the end game might even look like, The Game of My Life seemed far more like a game of Snakes and Ladders.
Relationships are made up of hundreds of separate ‘Ladder moments’. Some of them are huge – saying ‘I Love You’ for the first time, or getting engaged. Others are more minor – going public on Facebook. Leaving a toothbrush at his flat.
But then every now and again, you climb a ladder, only to realise you’ve actually stumbled upon a dating snake. And before you know it, you’re back at Square One again … Single.
This summer, as my kitchen noticeboard filled up with wedding invitations, suddenly life had begun to feel like a race, or a board game. And if my own wedding was the end goal, Square 100, then I was most definitely losing!
When I was at Cambridge, I quickly learned a valuable life lesson. There is no point comparing yourself to other people. You can never be the best at everything you do! And in a place like Cambridge, few people can be the best at anything! If you concentrate on what other people are doing, you’re only going to make yourself miserable.
And realistically dating is the same.
The hard thing is though, as you grow older, you look to your peers to work out where you need to be in life. Adult life doesn’t come with named school years and instructions. It’s not the same as being sixteen, and knowing everyone else your age is also in Year 11, taking GCSEs. Or turning nineteen, and heading off to University with your peers.
Once you eventually fall off the education conveyor belt, everyone’s life moves in different directions and at different speeds. However, social media showcases every major step in your peers lives, and so when your News Feed is full of wedding dresses and photos of newborns, it’s hard not to compare yourself to other people, and feel like you’ve fallen behind in an unspoken race.
But the thing about dating, is (as I’m sure a lot of Divorcees will tell you), Square 100 isn’t guaranteed for life. Not everyone ‘wins’ Snakes and Ladders indefinitely, and sometimes you can sit on the final square of the board for several years before disappearing back down a snake you didn’t even realise existed.
And one of the most exciting things about this past summer, is that it made me realise just how many forms the ‘Dating Game’ can take. And not all of them end in a ‘Square 100’ destination.
And being single doesn’t always have to feel like a Square One.
Dating doesn’t have to be a pursuit for something. Sometimes dating can just be fun. A chance to seize the moment, and make the most of what you’re presented with. Like Scrabble – life presents you with a handful of different options to the person next to you, and you work with them to come up with a completely different result to your neighbour.
The thing about relationships is that they involve other people, and for that reason, you are never 100% in control of the outcomes. Sometimes life deals you the cards, and you simply have to react to them. Other times, you shuffle them yourself, and determine your own fate to some degree – like shuffling the letters in Boggle. When I was a kid we had a version where you clicked a plastic semi-globe full of dice, sending them up into the air, to land on different faces. You were in charge.
If this summer’s crazy dating adventure has taught me anything, as I mentioned in my video blog a few days ago, it’s just how many nice, normal, eligible singletons there are out there! And that you always have options, even if you don’t necessarily always feel like it.
I’ve spoken before about the game-like feel to modern dating. How apps like Tinder play on the ‘playing’ aspect – even using images of shuffled cards – and how I even began to treat my summer like collecting Top Trumps!
Social media and the internet have literally widened everyone’s ‘pool of fish’, and single life is big business for companies, so if you’re based in a city, there are singles events almost every day of the week. Granted, a lot of them will be horrendous, but if you get into the right frame of mind about dating and meeting people, then you can take control of your own destiny to some degree, and actually embrace being single.
Sometimes, particularly if you have a lot of friends in longterm relationships, it’s easy to feel like the one who failed. That being in a relationship is the ultimate goal in life, and anything short of that means you’ve lost. I can actually remember hiding the relationship status on my Facebook page because I was ashamed to show people I hadn’t seen for some time that I was single. Now I’m writing on a daily basis about it, and talking on YouTube about it (and soon at public Dating Events!!!!)
Because single doesn’t have to be something forced upon you! It can be something you actively choose.
My name is Miss Twenty-Nine, and I’m Single!
But that’s not a confession, or a weakness, or even a failure!
Relationships may rely on two people. But being single, revolves around YOU. You are in control of your singledom, and your attitude towards it.
You can work out how many dice you’re rolling at any one time, and how many times you re-roll.
Because the great thing about being single, is you always have options (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). You can go on a date with one guy or girl one night, and meet up with a completely different one the next night. And that’s fine, because being single is just about you. There’s no one you have to answer to.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to spend my entire life this way. My end goal is still the full car of kids, and a husband, but I’m in no rush to get there. Rather than just bundling a guy into the car and driving off into the board game painted sunset, I want to take my time and make sure I pick the right one.
And in the process – I plan on making it fun!
There are countless metaphorical different dating ‘boardgames’ to play. Hundreds of different dice to throw. Thousands of cards to shuffle. It’s simply a matter of getting out there, and trying them!
Which is where the Games part should really come in! Look at the Wednesday Dating Club – a way to turn dating from a search for the one, into a fun weekly game, and perhaps demo some of the dating sources available to help you.
The aim of #WednesdayDatingClub is not to find your ideal date. It’s just to schedule A DATE, and get out and about! (Knowing heaps of other singletons are doing the same thing!) If you haven’t watched the video yet, check it out! You’ve still got four days to find a date for Wednesday night, and if you need some extra time, you can always get searching for a date now for the following Wednesday. We’ll be running the Wednesday Dating Club every week, so just pluck up the courage, and join us! If you’ve shied away from online dating sites or singles events before, because you were worried about the stigma, or admitting to being single, well now this gives you a reason to try them out, because you need to find dates for #WednesdayDatingClub! Because we ALL need dates for #WednesdayDatingClub! Because we’ll all be dating at the same time, and then coming back and sharing our experiences over Twitter, and YouTube and WordPress. Even if it’s a simple ‘I went on a date tonight too – it was good/bad/amazing/ok’ – or a full blown essay or video blog!
I know one day I’ll grow out of dating, and decide to climb a few life ladders with someone. But in the meantime, rather than dwelling on all the snakes who’ve sent me back to Square One, I’m going to make the most of the experience. Because (as I’ve realised from all my non-single friends living vicariously through me this summer!) because Single is something you need to embrace and enjoy, because once you find you’re ‘One’, it will be a thing of the past. You’ll have played your cards, and your dice will be thrown and fixed.
So you may as well make the most of trying to find the perfect hand!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
PS – If anyone is London-based and keen to join in with the #WednesdayDatingClub but worrying where to find dates, the dating website DoingSomething has offered a month’s membership for just £10 for blog readers – the voucher code is wednesday dating club.
And there is talk of some post-date meet up sessions in major cities too, so feel free to comment below and see if anyone near you is planning on taking part in the dating game too!