Dazed and confused: What I have learned about dating

Dazed and confused: What I have learned about dating Briony Rainer

6th January 20174Comments
confused by dating

After a 20-year relationship which ended 3 years ago, I tentatively stepped out into the world of online dating for the first time ever in Spring 2015.

Oh my. Things had changed around here!

Having thought I might have got the hang of it by the end of 2015, it continued to evolve into a wonderful world of dick pics, outrageous and overtly sexual messages, and me really not understanding what the “rules” were if there indeed were any.

dick pic
Check out the very wonderful ‘new inquiry’ on Tumblr: the author is ‘struck by the conviction that people with dicks could do better’.

I did learn one thing though which is that online dating makes me feel thoroughly depressed and bad about myself. So since March 2016, I have only been dating men I have met in real life – five people, thus far. And yes, real life men are just as confusing, strange and inexplicable as those who are hiding behind the apparent safety of a computer screen.

But I have not given up just yet.

With the advent of a new year, I have reflected on the things I have learned, in general, and specifically about myself whilst I have been dating, and in no particular order, I thought I would share them with you.

First, three burning questions that I have no answer to:
1. What do you call someone you have dated for a while, but have not officially declared it a relationship? (Hi friends, this is my….erm…dating person?)
2. And, what do you call them after you have split up? (oh you know, that one I dated for a few weeks, who I’m not seeing any more…”ex” is so much shorter and easier, isn’t it?)
Suggestions welcome! For the former, I still have no idea, but for the latter, I am plumping for the “Nex” (not-quite-ex). Perhaps then, the former could be the Noyfriend (not-quite-boyfriend)?
3. Why do some men think it is OK to send overtly sexual or insulting messages online, just because they are online dating? I am including dick pics here. How would this translate into real life behaviour? I see it as the equivalent of meeting a woman in a bar, dropping your trousers, and then handcuffing them to the nearest table leg and telling them you are going to have anal sex with them. Which I’m HOPING most men wouldn’t actually do…


Likewise, ghosting, and all the other many and various ways to ditch someone without telling them (I have learned SO much new terminology in the last couple of years! Ghosting, slow fading, benching…I have been the recipient of them all). I see this as the equivalent of someone wandering off in mid-conversation, either never to be seen again, or expecting to continue the conversation as if nothing weird has happened in a couple of weeks time. Again, would this happen in real life? I really hope not!
For my part, before giving up online dating I started grading dick pics, school-report style. “C-, a bit bendy, strange shade of purple”. That kind of thing. I never received any responses. How disappointing.

Nevertheless, if I do get past the dick pics and contrived messages to an actual date, I have discovered the following:

I am good at first dates.

I love meeting new people and always approach first dates as an opportunity to get to know someone just as I would do if meeting a friend of a friend, a new colleague etc. This takes the pressure off. I am not concerned if I don’t fancy someone immediately I see them, as this often happens later. If they can make me laugh, have some kind of passion or interest and can speak intelligently about at least one topic, this usually gets me 90% of the way there! A nice smile or a cheeky glint in the eyes usually accommodates the other 10%. But it could be anything. A gesture, the way somebody speaks about a topic, being kind to someone. And if I’m still unsure, a kiss usually sorts it out one way or the other.

Which leads me nicely on to…,

I am bad at flirting.

I realised something quite important very recently. In order to start properly flirting with someone, I need to have a vague sense that I can trust them, which might take 2 or 3 dates to emerge. I have only kissed two people on a first date, and with quite a few people, it has not been until date 3. Because so many people seem to believe in instant “chemistry”, this means I sometimes don‘t get past the first couple of dates because I get friend-zoned. This is fine with me, but I thought it was quite an interesting revelation – and I may need to do some work on my early-stage flirting skills!

Does anyone do flirting lessons?

Honesty is the best policy.

Although it hurts, briefly, I would much rather be told “sorry I just don’t fancy you” or even just a blunt “I don’t want to see you again” rather than some obviously invented excuse, or any of the avoidance tactics discussed above. I appreciate that not everyone prefers such bluntness, but there are many ways to be honest in a kinder way. The only ”endings” I have ended up dwelling on have been the ones where there was doubt, uncertainty or dishonesty. Please, can we all act with a bit more honesty and integrity in 2017? We are grown-ups; we can handle the truth. Thank you, lovely people.

OK, so there have been a couple of people this year where the honest reason for not wanting to see them again was “despite the fact you have done some really interesting things in your life, you are fantastically dull and incredibly naïve”, and “I felt absolutely nothing when I kissed you, which I expected to, so that was weird”. In both cases, I went for the slightly crap lie “I don’t think we are very compatible in terms of personality”. This worked fine for the first one, but the second one tried to persuade me that we were! I had never had this happen before, so I found myself at a bit of a loss what to say, apart from “have some dignity, man!” (I didn’t actually say this). I ended up with “sorry, but I’m not going to change my mind” – and then felt REALLY guilty about it!

Instinct is always right

I promised myself, in 2016, that I would listen to my gut instincts a lot more, and not waste time dating people I didn’t think would go anywhere, or doing things that I didn’t really want to do. I have followed this most of the time, and ended up sometimes feeling bad for canceling: plans, dates, activities, but mostly incredibly relieved. Whenever I have had an instinct that things are not quite right with someone I am dating, even if it is just a slight feeling I cannot even put a name to, this has always turned out to be right, even if I chose to ignore it for a while.

A former colleague of mine once gave me THE best advice (whilst hugging me when I was in floods of tears over a man, sometime in 2015), and I will always remember it. It has become my barometer for how well things are going, and whether I need to start questioning if they should keep going. She said

“when you meet the right person, it feels easy. There is not much drama. Even during the bad times. If it doesn’t feel easy, there is something wrong. Listen to that.”

Good advice for 2017, and always. I am looking forward to the men that my 2017 dating might bring. And if anyone knows any tall(ish), dark-haired, slightly geeky single men who are up for a blind date and don’t mind a bit of bluntness, in exchange I promise to be respectful, act with kindness and integrity, and to practice my new-found flirting skills ☺

Happy New Year everyone!

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Briony Rainer


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