Back during my 30 Dates Challenge, I attended a Guardian Soulmates singles event, held at Vinopolis.
It was almost 18 months ago, but there’s one image which will stay with me for life. The hottest guy in the room, surrounded by a sea of women, literally waiting to ‘have their turn’ to chat to him. A rather attractive, eligible woman, stared up at him. Her eyes wide and doe-like. You could see she thought this was it. The moment she had met her future husband. Meanwhile, the relatively hot guy (put him in a normal room and he’d have been nothing special), stared down at her, and at the queue of women, making no secret of the fact they were waiting for him, and he shovelled a plated of salami into his mouth. Literally shovelled. Tipped the plate to his lips, and used his hand to scoop the meat in …
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a vivid depiction of what it is like to date in London!
As a 30-something single, eligible guy … the world can feel like your oyster, and like effort is unnecessary. The question is when does the merry-go-round stop? Meanwhile, as a single woman, you have a queue of competitors, each more desperate and decided than the next … and everyone is making insane efforts to find the One. Your question is how do you stand out?
On the one hand, it obviously makes sense. As women, we have more pressing biological clocks. There’s also suggestions that there are more single women in London than single men … I’m not overly convinced on the stats … but I do know that most of my friends in their 30s tend to date women in their 20s (an age gap pattern which seems to only increase the older you get), so it would make sense that there are less 30-something single guys looking for a 30-something single girl, than vice-versa.
Whatever the cause, it’s an unfortunate reality of single London-living. And one I don’t think many single women in London deal well with.
In the past 18 months, I’ve met a lot of single Londoners. Probably more single women than men. And there’s a pattern, particularly amongst the single women in their late 30s. They are successful and career-driven. They focussed on something else in their late twenties, or perhaps had a long-term relationship which didn’t go as planned, and ended up fuelling their energy into their work. They’re attractive, and capable … but have sometimes become too independent for their own good. (The latter is a trait I often recognise in myself). The one piece of the puzzle which eludes them, is the part which is reliant on another person. A relationship. But the more independent and successful those women become, the harder it becomes to find an ‘equal’.
I have sat opposite single women, asking me questions about how to attract men online, and in the back of my mind, realised I know exactly why they are still single. And that’s an awful expression to use. But when you sit having dinner with someone, and their knuckles are almost white with the stress of needing to find the one, so they can start the mid-life conveyor-belt of mortgages, marriage and babies turning, even I, as another woman, can understand how a man might be put off. They care about it all too much. And they’ve let it take over their every waking thought.
The thing I love about writing this blog, and forming my own conclusions about dating, is when a guy confirms the patterns I’ve observed.
Last month I went on a blind date with ‘The Rugby Boy’. We had been set up by a friend from University. She’d told him what I do, and so he admitted early on to having pulled out all the stops.
When I asked what that meant, he explained that he normally goes to the same bar each time for a first date. He’d been on Match.com for six months, and in that time, had been on perhaps 20 or 30 first dates. When I asked him why he just went to the same pub, he admitted he didn’t want to make too much effort. It was a nice pub, and central, and he saw it as a noncommittal option. It’s an attitude most of my close, single male friends have shared with me about dating. If they have a lot of options, they go to a minimal effort until they know the girl is worth the trouble!
But the thing which struck me, when he told me about his experiences on Match, was how much what he had found on the site, aligned with my mental image of the guy with the plate of salami!
You see, The Rugby Boy had been on what he described as 20 to 30 carbon-copy dates. Not just because they were in the same pub, but because the women acted so similarly. Each 30-something singleton, had steered conversation in such a way, as to ascertain when they might get married, and whether he wanted children. They turned the date into a job interview. As if they didn’t have time to waste before they got to the important conversations. Yes, he was an eligible guy … but could he give them the things they wanted, in the next few years?
Again I understand the reasons … but come on???
A date shouldn’t have to feel like a job interview!
As he described the dates, I saw the single 30-something women I know, their hands gripping the pub table, their knuckles white, and drink un-touched until they knew whether the Rugby Boy might be planning to father their future children! Suddenly I began to understand why most of my male friends do the same thing. A noncommittal drink … dinner on a first date only if they really like the girl. I used to see it as callous … but actually, if the shoe were on the other foot, how would I deal with a guy talking about marriage or kids on a first date?!
The funny thing was, when the Rugby Boy had asked our mutual friend to set him up on a blind date, the reason he’d asked her, was because he was sick of 30-somethings! My friend is 26, and so he’d assumed she would have younger friends, less stressed about the ‘big M’, and their biological clocks. Which was why it was rather ironic that she set him up with a 31 year-old … though we both realised very quickly that I’m anything but a normal London first date!
I often say I’ve rarely had a bad first date. I can’t remember the last date I went on which was less than two and a half hours long. But then I try to do fun stuff, and focus on the activity. I shy away from bar dates, which feel like an odd interview, and aim to have a great date, regardless of the man who turns up to meet me!
And yes, I’m 31, and my body clock is probably ticking at just the same pace as anyone else’s. But that doesn’t make me want to rush down a wedding aisle. Yes, I want marriage, and children, and all the same things those other girls want. But I’m not letting it dominate my every thought. And when I get a text or a call from a guy asking me out, my first thought isn’t ‘ooh what would I sound like with his surname …’
The irony of life is that we always want the things we can’t get. And whilst you know I hate prescriptive dating rules and game playing … there is a lot to be said for playing a bit hard to get. Not in a silly way … but simply by keeping your cards a bit closer to your chest, and relaxing a bit.
Dating should be fun … NOT an interview process. Yes, I get it – there’s a reason you’re dating. But there’s a reason the guy is dating too …. Just don’t scare him off in the first 30 minutes. Because the unfortunate reality, is that Londoners feel like they have unlimited choices … something Tinder and all the hundreds of dating sites and apps out there only helps perpetuate.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx