It turns out I have a lot to say about modern dating, so this is part one of a series of blogs on the subject. Buckle up married readers, you’re in for an education….
As you know, I don’t really think things through. With that in mind, I figured it was a bloody great plan to take an idea from Netflix and actually do it in real life. And also, share the whole thing on Instagram. Because really, what could go wrong?
The idea was to say yes to anyone who asked me on a date for a whole month. Regardless of my interest in the person, I HAD to say yes. As I’m pansexual, that literally meant saying yes to EVERYONE. I liked the idea of the challenge because more often that not, I talk myself out of stuff, or I’ll write someone off based on one tiny red flag. This concept meant that I would date people I wouldn’t normally, and who knows, maybe meet the love of my life?
It was July 2019 and frankly, it was time to get back out into the dating world. I was on Bumble, one of the slightly less gross dating apps and figured I’d put some effort into it for a month and see what happened. So this whole plan, (if you can call it that), came into my head and seconds later I was like, cool, I’ll just pop that on my Insta story and the hashtag #YesToDate was born. Within 15 minutes of posting, I had someone on Instagram ask me out. It was at that point that I was like “Oh shit….. I really didn’t think this through.”
Don’t Get Murdered
Within minutes I also started getting messages from people interested in the challenge. Lots of messages. At first there were a lot of people worried that I would somehow get murdered and warning me to be careful. I actually wasn’t worried about that at all. Sure, the chances were that I could get someone a little bit strange but frankly, have we met?! I am definitely more than a little bit strange. If anything, I felt sorry for them. The messages then turned to those of intrigue and support. I even had the local BBC radio station asking me to talk about the challenge on air. (I figured that was a step too far even for me and politely declined).
So anyway, the dates start rolling in. But not from Bumble as I had expected, literally from Instagram. Weirdly it was mostly people I already knew. I didn’t expect that at all. I mean, if they were interested, why didn’t they ask me out before this challenge thingy?
Well, that’s one of the main things I realised: Modern dating is fucked up.
In the Good Old Days
Let me take you back to 2004. I had graduated university and I was single. This was before social media and smart phones, the internet wasn’t really a big deal. Yes children, such a time actually existed! Online dating was around but it certainly wasn’t something you would admit to. There was a stigma to it, like you were a loser who couldn’t get a date in real life. I remember one of my dear friends met her now husband online and they agreed to make up a story about how they met so they didn’t have to tell people the truth. It’s actually funny how society and perceptions change because now, I just assume everyone meets online.
So anyway, 2004, I’m walking through the Grosvenor Shopping Centre in Northampton, with my pal. We bump into a guy we went to 6th form with. She knew him better than me, but we all talk for 5 minutes like old friends. I literally fall in love with him “at first sight” (that’s a whole other blog series!) and afterwards I ask my mate to pass my number on. I end up going on a date with him and within a week, he’s my boyfriend. It turned into a relationship that lasted for 4 years and included a (failed) engagement and 2 years living in Dublin. There was none of this seeing each other, dating multiple people for months, playing games with each other and no expectation that the first date would lead to anything other than commitment. That’s just how it was. It was simple.
15 years later, I found myself in a very different dating landscape. It’s not often that people will come up to you in a bar and start talking to you. (Or maybe they do but I’m just old and undesirable?) If you’re single, you get on the apps. A lot of the time it’s Tinder or something like Bumble or Plenty of Fish. They are all essentially the same. They offer pictures and very basic information about a person. You’re making a snap decision, based mainly on looks, and you can scroll through hundreds of people if you wanted to. If you do match, and you actually start messaging, it’s awkward and boring and takes a while to get to a point where either party will ask for a date.
Let’s Play Tinder
Also, people actually “play Tinder”. They will sit and scroll through just to see how many matches they get, with very little intention of ever messaging anyone or meeting in real life. A couple of years back I had a casual thing with guy a lot younger than me. I actually sat in a bar with this guy, scrolling through his Tinder with him, guessing his type, sending messages to people he matched with, literally laughing about the whole thing. 2004 Laura would NEVER have done that. Firstly, I wouldn’t have been casually dating. Secondly, if I was, I would have been too emotionally involved to think that playing Tinder with someone you’re sleeping with, is ok.
Brene Brown is Right
So that’s the other thing. My observation of modern dating and how it differs to 15 years ago is the complete lack of connection and vulnerability. People now seem to have a huge fear of rejection and a huge hesitance to open up. It’s like, instead of telling someone you’re dating that they are the best thing ever and you love them, let’s not do that. Let’s suppress that emotion, anxiously wonder how they really feel about you and wonder why there’s no sense of emotional fulfillment.
This dating challenge got so much interest from people wanting to date me, not because I’m particularly special, but because I made it safe for them to ask. I would definitely say yes. There was no fear of rejection, embarrassment or shame. It also got so much interest from people watching it because modern dating is problematic and people wanted to see how and if it would work.
All that said, people must be getting past the dating stage because relationships form, marriages, civil partnerships, cohabitation and children all still happen. But I do wonder, with divorce rates for same sex couples in the UK at 42%, if the mistakes we’re making at the dating stage in terms of intimacy and vulnerability are impacting the foundations of long-term relationships? Answers on a postcard….
(In part 2 we’ll be delving into the brave daters who asked me out and the dates themselves. Watch this space….. #YesToDate)