“What I learnt from 100 dates in a year”

Nov­el­ist Claire Mcgowan went on a se­rial-dat­ing mis­sion. Many awk­ward chats later, here’s what she wants you to know.

Glamour (South Africa) - - Glamour 2017 March -

afew years ago, in my early 30s, I plunged back into the world of dat­ing. Limp­ing from a di­vorce and a nasty re­bound split in quick suc­ces­sion, I was ter­ri­fied I’d be alone for­ever. But the in­ter­net is full of men, and I was de­ter­mined I’d date un­til I found one. If I had known it would take me a year and a hun­dred dates, I might have gone into train­ing first. Be­cause dat­ing a lot is like an ex­treme sport. You’re go­ing to get tired. You’re go­ing to get hurt. And you’re go­ing to wish you had a spare liver on hand.

At first, I ap­proached it like a project: lists, notes and metic­u­lous records. I was on Match, Happn, Okcu­pid, Guardian Soul­mates and Tin­der. The first thing I did on wak­ing up was flick to my mes­sages. Be­fore long, I could tell within 10 sec­onds of meet­ing some­one whether it was go­ing to end with 4am kiss­ing at the bus stop or go­ing home at 9pm and eat­ing ev­ery­thing in my cup­boards. My friends thought I was crazy. “Why don’t you just… slow down?” they asked. But I couldn’t stop – and I’d like to share what I learned, to save you time, en­ergy and, hope­fully, heartache.

Date one

“This is fine,” I said to my­self, as I waited to have af­ter­noon tea with the funny, in­ter­est­ing writer. It was my first date in over six years, and I was ex­cited. “This is go­ing to be easy.” Wrong. I de­vel­oped a rag­ing toothache as I sipped my Earl Grey and could only eat with one side of my mouth. Ap­par­ently, my crazed ex­pres­sion wasn’t a turn-on, be­cause he never con­tacted me again. The dat­ing world had changed since I’d last vis­ited; modern dat­ing can be as bru­tal as a den­tal ab­scess. I had to toughen up, and fast.

Date 16

I was on the brink of de­spair when I got chat­ting to a cute stand-up comic. That’s the good thing about on­line dat­ing: there’s al­ways an­other pos­si­bil­ity. On our first date, we talked for hours, and he called when we got home so we could chat more. We had so much fun for two months – I cried laugh­ing with him and stayed up all night – but the time between dates started to stretch and he never SMSED. I wanted more, so I ended it. I was con­fused. Was I wrong to ex­pect Sm­s­ing between dates? Maybe I had to com­pro­mise to meet some­one? All I knew was, I needed more.

Date 21

We chat­ted for ages on Guardian Soul­mates be­fore meet­ing. I was ex­cited. A lawyer, he seemed sweet and clever. But when we met for our date, I knew in­stantly there was no chem­istry. He was just as lovely and funny in per­son, but then came the kiss: game over. It’s a crush­ing blow when you re­alise the guy you’ve been fu­ri­ously mes­sag­ing for weeks leaves you colder than a slap with a wet fish. How­ever, he’s now a good mate, and we of­ten go to plays or art gal­leries – an un­ex­pected perk of in­ten­sive dat­ing.

“In­stead of dat­ing any­one who showed in­ter­est, they needed to share my pas­sions, and have an in­ter­est­ing job.”

Date 29

Things started to look up. I met an amaz­ing guy: hand­some, in­ter­est­ing and funny. Our first date lasted till 3am and in­volved star­ing up at the stars. I was tin­gling all over and couldn’t stop smil­ing. Yet af­ter our sec­ond date he ghosted me. Stunned, I went into a slump, and my friends staged an in­ter­ven­tion. I agreed to take a month off. While on­line dat­ing is dan­ger­ously ad­dic­tive – as fel­low suf­fer­ers of ‘Tin­der thumb’ will know – dat­ing when you’re scared and in­se­cure is not a great idea. I needed to take bet­ter care of my­self af­ter the knock-backs. ➻

Dates 30-50

I be­gan to won­der if I’d ever meet any­one I liked as much as Mr 29. And things seemed to go from bad to worse. Date 37 was so awk­ward I burst into tears in a deli on my way home. Then num­ber 48, in Au­gust, seemed soul­ful on­line, but af­ter 10 min­utes asked if I wanted to go to his place for a “cheeky tum­ble”. I was dat­ing men who thought it was OK to dis­cuss in­cest on a first date and greet me with, “God, your hat looks like a tea cosy.” I dated one guy four times, only to learn he’d given me a fake name. My self-es­teem fal­tered. I was ex­hausted. Why did all these dates come to noth­ing? Did any­one on­line ac­tu­ally want a re­la­tion­ship? I did some soul-search­ing to try to un­der­stand my pat­terns. Was I choos­ing ‘bad’ boys and re­ject­ing the sweet ones? I de­cided I’d also wait longer to have sex, as for some guys that seemed to be the end goal, and it was too hurt­ful when they van­ished. Too pushy be­came a warn­ing flag and a use­ful way of weed­ing out peo­ple quickly.

Date 67

All that hard think­ing helped, and I soon met a run of lovely guys. I went on sev­eral dates with 67, a chil­dren’s ’s au­thor who was the most amaz­ing kisser – my knees prac­ti­cally gave way – but he was go­ing through a tough time. We agreed it wasn’t work­ing, though we didn’t un­der­stand why. I re­alised that ‘per­fect on pa­per’ didn’t mean much un­til you’d got to know some­one.

Date 72

Num­ber 72 was a cool jour­nal­ist who knew all the best restau­rants in town and pur­sued me sin­gle-mind­edly. Our first date started rock­ily: we were stuck at a rained-out out­door cinema, es­sen­tially pic­nick­ing in a pud­dle. But he was so nice and com­pli­men­tary that I be­gan to en­joy my­self, and we went out a few more times. But hard as I tried, I just wasn’t feel­ing it. I had to be kinder, I told my­self, and re­mem­ber that many of my dates might be as ner­vous and in­se­cure as I was.

Date 90

Christ­mas came and I’d met half the city. Des­per­ate to stop dat­ing, I spent two months with a chron­i­cally com­mit­ment-pho­bic guy, who said we could only be to­gether if we saw other peo­ple. Some­thing had to change. I made a sec­ond list of selec­tion cri­te­ria. This time the total no-nos (lives with par­ents, bad hy­giene and so on) and set out again. Dat­ing peo­ple with ob­vi­ous deal­break­ers was a waste of time and tears, and I turned down dates that didn’t seem vi­able. It felt like I was tak­ing con­trol.

“I be­gan to turn down dates that didn’t seem vi­able. I felt like I was tak­ing con­trol.”

Dates 99-100

On the an­niver­sary of my first date, I had two planned. As se­rial daters know, it makes sense to sched­ule. The first – an awk­ward cof­fee with an out- of-work ac­tor who lived with eight other peo­ple – sank like a lead bal­loon. As I headed to my evening date, my heart was equally heavy, but I girded my loins and went to my favourite bar, which has a cool ’40s vibe and great retro cock­tails. There, I found a grown-up Harry Pot­ter looka­like with glasses and a striped scarf. ‘ He smells nice,’ I thought, as we hugged hello. And when, many hours later, I’d missed three buses in a row as we kissed good­night, I was cau­tiously op­ti­mistic. Af­ter all, I’d had amaz­ing dates go wrong many times be­fore.

But it’s now been over a year and we’ve just moved in to­gether. It be­came clear very quickly that this was some­thing dif­fer­ent. It was so easy – no awk­ward­ness or sug­ges­tions of polyamory. And this was my eureka mo­ment from 100 dates: Lots of peo­ple on dat­ing sites and apps don’t re­ally want a re­la­tion­ship ( I know, de­press­ing!), and noth­ing you can do will change their minds. No mat­ter how many dates you go on, if some­one isn’t right for you, it just won’t work. But when I did fi­nally meet the right per­son, I was glad none of the other dates worked out, be­cause they all led me to where I was sup­posed to be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.