Dating these days is, in so many ways, a veritable minefield.
There’s the picking of the chap, and finding one who’d not rather be dating his ex; there’s the picking of the venue, and making sure it’s not somewhere that you’ve been on too many other dates lest the staff start looking at you like the hussy you are; there’s the picking of the outfit, the wine, the suitable anecdotes that won’t make you look batshit crazy.
And, if a girl manages to pick her way through all that, she’s often left not much the wiser about her situation.
Gone seem to be the days when one could rely on meeting someone, knowing them a while and then getting married, destined to get under each other’s feet for decades to come, à la Parentals Blonde.
Now instead there are dates and drinks and dinner – sometimes several of each, and not always with the same man – before anything more fruitful can happen. And even then, it can be impossible to know quite where you stand.
In my dating experience, dalliances these days seem to be rather fluid: lacking in boundaries, it can be hard to tell quite whether what you’ve got is a flirtation or the beginning of one life’s great love stories (though, let’s be honest, it’s generally not the latter).
Say you’ve gone on six or seven dates with someone over a month or so. You can enjoy each other’s company, have all and various kinds of fun before suddenly finding that dates start to peter out before stopping entirely, leaving you none the wiser as to what it was you were doing for the last six weeks.
In that time, you’ve managed to drift not only into the start of something, but also its middle before wafting right through and out the other side before you’ve really had time to process what it was you were getting yourself into in the first place.
And somehow, before you know it, you’re single again and back to square one. But were you ever unsingle in the first place? A few dates and a casual approach to the diary – all well and good for someone like me who likes to see a boy she likes, but not necessarily too often – hardly constitutes a relationship. Although I think it probably means you shouldn’t be out and about screwing other boys (not that I am, you understand. Chance’d be a fine thing).
Of course, it works the other way too. If you’ve been out with someone a few times, wandered your way round a variety of museums making intelligent comments about the sense of movement in the drapery on the pediment figures of the Elgin Marbles, and less intelligent comments after several bottles of wine at small bars in Kensington, what’s the deal? You’re seeing each other, sure. But what’s to say either of you isn’t seeing other people? At what point does spending time with each other, drinking and flirting, the occasional lingering kiss mean that you should stop screwing the other boys (see above)? At what point do you decide that this is Slightly More than Dalliance territory?
And how the hell do you come to any of those conclusions without actually asking Chap in Question, which would quite obviously make you that crazy woman who wants to know “Where This is Going” and no one wants to be that crazy woman.
As I say: minefield. I suppose the answer is to try and pick one’s way through – ever so carefully – and just hope the whole thing doesn’t explode under your feet. Pass the body armour.