There are many reasons why people date; sex, companionship, the fervent belief that if you don't act now you'll die blubbing and unloved in the cruel gutter of loneliness. But I should imagine the simplest reason for dating would be to meet someone decent. And if you do meet someone decent, then the differentials - fuckbuddy, good boyfriend/ girlfriend material, or just an activity partner - are down to what you and your new friend are looking for, or even how you both suddenly make each other feel.
A few nights ago, I was reading London Girl's blog. She wrote a post about Dating Morals in defence of a comment from a contributor, and I found myself slightly peturbed at her concept of Parallel Dating. I'm aware of its existence, but I've never heard the phrase coined before. Simply put, it is the act of dating a handful of people concurrently over the same period, a bit like eating in three restaurants in the same evening. Parallel Dating appears to be very common in the Internet dating arena, presumably because it is a normal outcome of having so many single people to meet.
I've been Internet dating for a few years now although I've never taken it seriously, apart from the dates themselves. For the women I'm about to meet, I've seen their picture and read their profile and if all the metaphorical boxes are ticked and the feeling's mutual, I'll go through the potentially spirit-crushing sexual job interview of the actual date itself.
It's nervewracking for me because I feel so laid bare. I'm advertising that I'm still available and thus possibly mad, I've shown a few half decent photos for the judgement of others, and I offer a hopefully amusing profile to get a shred of personality across. However, in my carefully handpicked half dozen or so dates I've had in as many years, they've all been great thanks to my approach of damage limitation. They all went well, they tended to lead on to something more substantial, and I've learnt a great deal from the experience.
Apart from one.
And the reason I mention Eve now is because the penny has only just dropped - I think I may have been just one of the guys in her Parallel Dating adventures that month.
We'd met in a garish bar in North London. I had driven there early and planned ahead by bringing along a paper to read until she arrived. Eve and I began on that well-trodden route; Profiles checked, contact made, email addresses swapped, numbers exchanged (Mental note: She keeps a stash of porn under her bed - excellent), and a meeting arranged.
So far, so good.
The bar itself was tremendously downmarket. A surly youth at the end of the bar put me at ease by grimacing at me. While stood at the bar, a stocky kid walked up and pushed me out of the way. Had I not been a bag of nerves, I would've happily escorted him out of the bar by his scrotum and laid him in the road like a speedbump but with plenty of room to get served, I ignored his trying to pick a fight and felt strangely gratified and grown up that I didn't rise to the bait.
Sat in the corner only half able to concentrate on my paper, a DJ was setting up for karaoke. He too was instumental in putting me at ease among my surroundings as he accidentally blasted shrieks of feedback out of the large speaker inches from my right ear. But I didn't jump. Perhaps I was calmer than I thought.
And then my phone rang. It was Eve.
'Are you in the bar?'
'Yeah, I'm by the window in the corner.'
'Ok, I'll be there in a minute.'
Ok, shit, I'm not that calm.
And so I sat.
And I waited.
And then there was Eve on her phone, waving at me as she passed the window outside and heading for the door. I wiggled in my seat, straightened my back, and attempted to look more Brad Pitt and less Mining Pit. Eve walked in to face me and stopped. She was still on her phone. She raised her finger, the international sign for 'Just a minute...!', so I nodded and smiled. Eve was still some distance away so all I could do was sit and watch as she continued her engrossing conversation.
So I sat back in my chair and pondered all this.
Is she actually going to end this call and say hello?
Who the fuck's she on the phone to anyway?
Oh no, is it a friend? Is Eve telling them that she's seen me, regretted being born, and now doesn't want to go through with this?
Evidently not. While she yapped away, Eve made gradual steps towards me until eventually saying 'Goodbye' into her phone and 'Hello' to me very casually. Her indifference put me at ease, and made me equally laid back. We chatted pleasantly, and when the karaoke started in earnest, she suggested we drive to another pub a bit further away.
So now I'm in the car of this girl I've just met. We drove to a pub in the middle of nowhere and got a table. I Upped the Chat. I asked her more about herself, and told her a bit more about me. I related some devastatingly amusing stories that she didn't seem that interested in, so I asked her about her interests, but she didn't have any, other than looking bored. So I stopped talking and sized her up with eye contact and body language. Maybe this is more about sex that a meeting of minds?
This is slightly disconcerting for me as I like talking to people, and I like hearing what they have to say. As a result, I am fairly confident in these situations but find it difficult when up against a social brick wall. I like sex too yet with all pathways being sealed off before me like a major London thoroughfare, I soon began wondering what we'd met up for.
'So what's your story with Internet dating?', I asked Eve.
'I like meeting people,' she replied without offering anything else.
'But what's the point if you don't actually engage in a fucking conversation?' I wondered to myself, which was then followed up by 'Oh God, it's me, isn't it? You're actually cheerful and friendly but I repel you and you'd rather I had a heart attack now as this is all too awkward for you.'
Except I couldn't leave, as she'd driven me miles away from my car and into the back of beyond.
So I continued to force a conversation out of a girl who may as well be fluent only in Malay. At one point I said something which, after a silence that would last for all eternity unless I did something, I was actually forced to say,
'And your opinion on what I've just said would be...?'
When Eve drove me back to my car, I told her I'd had a nice time, which was largely true. If I wasn't with her then I'd have been at home staring at clumps of fluff on my carpet instead. I said goodbye and offered her my outstretched hand. She snorted at this as she expected a farewell peck on her cheek but she could keep it. I'd spent the last few hours talking to someone who seemed about as interested in a laidback conversation as George Bush would be to visit Baghdad for a casual stroll.
Maybe this was a personality defect in me, but I'm still pretty confident that she just couldn't be arsed to try. So Why, I'd always wondered, did she go through the motions, arrange a date, and then barely give me the time of day? I'd never known.
I'll never know for sure, but maybe she was Parallel Dating. She clearly enjoyed meeting lots and lots of men for lots and lots of dates. Her lack of interest may have been down to the fact that she had other options, better options, and didn't have to try.
In which case, that sucks. I'm sure it worked out well for her, but for me, or for anyone in that position who is keen enough to give a date a shot, it all seems so disposible and disrespectful.
As I've said in London Girl's comments, it's all about respect for the individual. Many dates aren’t, for me at least, a halfhearted browse among Peopleproducts. You are meeting someone new and potentially fun, with their own idiosyncrasies, emotions, family and friends, and history. You are being unkind to yourself and to your date if they’re just one of many others, juggling your options as if people were commodities on a shelf, or pawns in a game of relationship chess.
So Parallel Dating isn't for me. I don't want to play the numbers game, even if the odds of me having sex and ceasing to whinge for half an hour are greatly increased. And if, as I suspect in Eve's case, I'm meeting a girl who's seeing me and several others, I'd like to know first. If anything, it would probably put me at ease as I'd approach any impending date with the flippancy that they'd be taking it. It still shows very little for the person you're meeting, but at least you're starting out honestly.
Of course, there's a chance that Eve may not have been seeing anyone else at the time. I may have bored her so much that she wanted to remove her intestines with a spork and strangle herself with them.
But that's simply not possible; I'm great.
Coming soon ~ Unecessary Introspection #7: Nemesis II