Monday, 21 September 2009

Play dates....

There’s always that disagreement between friends, which goes a bit like this: “Why would you date an immature idiot who thinks the Playstation and WWE is a form of entertainment?” while the rest of your friends come back with: “Well rather that than being stuck with an old fuddy duddy who doesn’t know his Coldplay from his Lily Allen?”

The same goes with my friends. Some of them associate older boyfriends with maturity, stability and potential husband material. But a few years ago two of my close friends were adamant that young-uns were the way forward: “They’re way more fun,” they would say. And they would gallantly go from one barely post-school date to another, always claiming that they wanted exactly the same from the relationship that their toy boy did. Until the day one of them gave them up for good.

Breaking up with at least three guys, in a row, all of which were at least two years her junior, she became bored of being the ‘teacher’ girlfriend. She would show them how grown up serious relationships work, but then dump them for not understanding, only for them to go on and find the one – living happily ever after.

Me? I’ve always been a fan of the older man. For some reason, unbeknown to me, I’ve always preferred dating older guys. When I was a mere 12 years old the guys in my year just weren’t good enough, if I couldn’t date someone in the year above then it just wasn’t worth dating. And I went on to date my fair share of ‘older boys’ – ones which weren’t as immature as the boys my age and somehow so much hotter.

My peak came when at 22 I dated a 36 year old. To begin with age didn’t matter – he made me laugh and we had fun together. But slowly those little things crept in that made the fun turn to fear – like how he had to google every band I mentioned, how he was the one taking the meeting while I fell asleep in the back, and of course there was that C word. At 22 I was unable to understand the meaning of commitment – never the less actually putting it into practice.

Of course I’ve run off track a few times – dating someone a year junior than me, for him to become the most insecure, jealous boyfriend of all time. But mostly, my dating history reads like a who’s who of Last of the Summer Wine.

So when a mere 21 year old stumbled into my existence and pleaded, with his northern banter, that I could write about dating a toy boy (well if I must!) – somehow, possibly through my drunkenness, I agreed to date him.

And so the date commenced one Friday evening not so long ago, and he very clearly helped me realise why I should stick to dating the ‘older man’.

To make matters worse I thought he was 22, not that it makes much difference – but anything more than a five year age gap, in my book, makes me feel like I’m babysitting rather than dating.

Now let me set the scene - I can take a bit of banter, an odd joke here and there. But too much and slowly I start to get irritated. The joke feels like an insult and I wonder if this person actually likes me at all. But like any young boy he was apparently insulting me ‘because’ he liked me – ‘go figure’.

It started with jokes about my age: “Well you’d be too old to know about that,” he said. Then there was my job that got a battering: “If you had a proper job, like the rest of us, then you’d know what hard work means.” He even went on to criticise my dating habits: “I bet you just serial date to get free drinks and meals out of these poor guys, don’t you?” he said, while I attempted to stifle a laugh.

At this point I could have been whisked back to my yonder years, uncomfortably placed in my school PE kit, while the young boys in my year attempted to make fun of me or hit me as they ran past me on to the playing field. At the time I was of course clueless about boys: “Why are they so mean to me?” I would ask my older sister, as she sniggered, knowing full well that they only did it because they had their eye on me.

And so the real low point of the date came when he not so much insinuated, but actually asked me, out of the blue, if I slept with all the dates I went on. Gob-smacked I tried to brush it off with a laugh and a witty comeback, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Did all 21 year olds think that dates ended this way? Or did he merely think he was going to insult me in to bed?

I would like to say that the date got better, that his sarcasm faded with his nerves and he made me see that dating a younger man can trump the older one. But it didn’t and he didn’t, and sadly, I’m still yearning for that 'special someone' who knows the difference between playground flirting and something which resembles proper grown up dating.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Dating in the Dark

An ex boyfriend once said to me, “I just don’t get it - how do ugly guys get good looking girlfriends?” His only natural assumption was that they were either minted or were above average in the downstairs department. And of course he brushed off any sort of attempt of mine at playing the ‘personality’ card.

It would be nice to think that we don’t live in shallow world where looks matter, but sadly we do. Film stars are just that because of their looks and models get paid millions because of their natural beauty, whereas some people don’t even get a look in because they’re just not what society claims as ‘pretty enough’.

And when it comes to dating it doesn’t get much better. A lot of us judge a ‘book by it’s cover’ – thinking that Mr Good Looking in the bar is just our type, while the ginger guy in the corner is brushed off when he attempts to even mutter in our direction. And online dating has become the visual portal for our prejudices too - we all apparently have a ‘type’ and if Mr So and So doesn’t even conform to those criteria are we even going to read his email? Have there been missed opportunities because Mr Average ticked all the boxes apart from his non-model type looks?

So what would dating be like if looks didn’t matter and personality counted for everything? Living TV are taking this concept to the extreme with their new show - ‘Dating in the Dark’ – where contestants meet each other in the dark and date without knowing what each other look like.

Most of us freak out about going on a blind date, let alone an ‘actual’ blind one. So of course it has caused some mixed reactions between the contestants, especially when they find out their ideal partner looks nothing like they expected.

We would be lying if we said looks didn’t matter – after all, you have to fancy them – what’s the point of dating someone who you’re repulsed by? But surprisingly, on Dating in the Dark, some couples end up together even though their date doesn’t meet their expectations. So it must be true to say that when someone’s personality shines through it makes them more attractive.

And of course we are always going to be swayed by our friend’s reactions. When I recently dated a guy for a London newspaper, accompanied by a picture, it came with mixed reactions - from the slightly reassuring: “Yeah, he’s okay,” to the damn right blunt text I received saying: “Surely you can do better than him?”

And it hasn’t stopped there – exes have apparently had big noses, weird hair, been too short and ‘not my type’ according to friends.

And when friends suddenly play down the fact that looks don’t matter you know it’s for a reason. If they rattle on about their new boyfriend’s great personality and how well they’ve bonded of course we’re not expecting them to waltz in with a Brad Pitt look-alike.

We're all going to be attracted to that stunning looking guy at one point in our lives – but if that’s all he’s got and there’s nothing upstairs then we’re never going to be able to contemplate a future with him. So yes, mister ex boyfriend, personality does count. In fact personality counts for so much more than we put emphasis on. It makes date number two so much easier and gives relationships that longevity we are all looking for.

So maybe dating in the dark should become a necessity for anyone who is looking for their perfect partner – either that or we should, for once, give that okayish looking guy a chance when he attempts to chat us up.


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