Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Unnecessary Introspection Part 6: Parallel Bars

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


Lady in red said...

I found this very interesting. I guess I am parrallel dating, although I have never thought about it like that. I dont think it was something I set out to do in the first place it just sort of happened. But everyone of the men that I meet knows when I first chat to them that I am seeing other men. As it turns out I have a very few select me who I see, I would like to say regularly but its more irregularly. I am not particularly looking for more but I get a lot of men wanting to meet me although I still dont fully understand what they see in me. I am not looking for more notches on the bed post. But every now and then someone new gets my interest. Every man I meet has my full attention. I always try to make sure that there is a chemistry of sorts before we meet but still dont guarantee that there will be a chemistry there once we do meet.
At present I have 3 men who I am seeing but none of them very often. they all know of the others although all identities are kept private.
I hope you have better experiences than the one you describe here

Fussy Bitch said...

You know, parallel dating or not, she just sounds like a lazy, ignorant bitch.

*on topic*

I've thought about it and I don't do parallel dating either. I'm fussy about who I go to meatspace with (for dating/sex reasons, I mean. I'll drink and giggle with any bugger!) so one at a time is right for me.

Shoshana said...

I think parallel dating works for someone who wants to be entertained, not someone who wants an actual relationship to occur. All parties should be informed at the onset of such entertainment however. Personally, I couldn't do it because I like to have emotional attachment to the person I'm seeing. And I can't do that if I'm trying to juggle a bunch of them.

Lady in red said...

In the past I would have agreed with you totally. However after the ending of a long marriage then a very on off relationship following that in my personal situation I am not ready for another LRT just yet but will be soon. In the meantime I crave the attention I missed out for all those years of my marriage. Everyone knows the state of play. I wouldnt say that there is no emotion involved though. I care very much about my lovers and I believe they care about me, otherwise the sex would not be as good as it is. We seem to have a good balance of caring without the intensity of feelings when there is just one partner. Although I have three lovers at the moment I have only seen any of them once so far this year due to other commitments on all parts. So its not like I am constantly at it with three different men.

Little Bird said...

This reminds me a bit of Wombat's post a couple of weeks ago about courting.

To me parrallel dating is fine, because it's just that, dating, with no sex. So going out with people and getting the measure of them until I'm ready to start the "courting" phase is OK. If you take "dating" as including sex, then no, I don't believe in parrallel dating.

VI said...

Christ, I'm going on my second ever online date on Sunday (last one was over a year ago). You're making me shit bricks!

Denim Boy said...

Maybe Eve knew she had some really interesting clumps of fluff on her own carpet and couldn't wait to get back to them..?

fwengebola said...

LiR ~ The main vibe I get from your comment is that you feel vindicated to see lots of people, but then they all know of each other so I can't see the problem. Plus you seem to be enjoying yourself, particularly considering your former marriage. And if you're happy and no-one's getting hurt, then go for your life.
FB ~ I did wonder about Eve. My only thoughts about the whole date now are along the lines of - if she enjoyed dating so much, why didn't she try? Or flirt a bit more? Or just fucking reply now and then. Funny thing about dates are that when you pre-arrange to meet up for a drink, there's so much more gravitas to it than if you're meeting a friend of a friend. I just feel the words DATE weigh me down before I've even left my flat.
Shosh ~ Yep. It's all about entertainment and says sooo much more about the person enaged in them. Either that or they simply don't see meeting up with a random for a drink as that big a deal. I wouldn't say I'm in it for emotional attachment (I'm male), but I'll give everyone their due. And if they're a model and completely disinterested, then I'll form an emotional attachment.
LiR again ~ Could I PD if everyone knew? Nah. I've always been petrified of hurting anyone. I've had it several times and it sucks big, big, big time, and I've always gone out of my way to avoid hurting people (viz: By never dating again). Excellent.
LB ~ Depends. Dating in a PD sense could involve some low-level snogging, or maybe some nibbling and possible appendage grappling. Either way, how do you tell the other dates that you're about to enter the courtship stage with a guy you've yet to mention to the others. It is a veritable minefield that I may be making a meal of.
Vi ~ My immediate response when I read your comment was - Excellent, maybe this'll give you some perspective and make it easier. If I had an online arranged date tomorrow, I'd be so bloody brilliant that any other dates my date has would bite the date dust.
DB ~ Ah good, nonsense. Never discount fluff-staring when you're on a date. It's fascinating stuff.

luna said...

Lies a clue in the opening sequence when she takes a lengthy call:was she being invited to a cool gig?
She couldn't cop out of the date with you but equally was weary of bringing you along.

Or her period came on.

Americans always arrange for a friend to ring them after an hour for a fake emergency as a way out of a crappy blind date.

Why do you feel the need to harp on about it still today?
Internet dating is rife with that sort of mishaps ,some write books about them.

On parallel dating:ditto the Little Bird.

Anonymous said...

I think the key point here is that both parties need to be on the same page, and need to be looking for something approximating the same thing. I know women who collect internet dates -- for them, it's about the number of men on their "favourites" list.

I'm closer to LIR's point in life ... what we're looking for isn't the same kind of thing that you and many others here are looking for. On the other hand... no one, no one at all, should approach any kind of date the way that Eve did. Any man that I encourage at all knows exactly where they stand with me... and they know that I am interested in them and focussed on them when I am with them (online or in person). That's respectful. I would be equally respectful to anyone in my life, prospective lover or colleague or family member or friend. Eve was quite simply an ignorant bitch -- nothing to do with Internet dating.

Woah... a little soapbox-ish there. :)

Anonymous said...

what a waste of an afternoon/evening, who meets up without wanting to shag, or at some stage shag, meeting lots of people to just chat shit bores me, if its a friend its different, but a website where people meet and just chat, its weird.

Little Bird said...

Uh Wayne, if you haven't noticed mostly we all just meet and chat on each other's blogs without shagging. Are you saying we're weird?

Lady in red said...

I agree with LFM as when I am spending time with anyone man or woman, online or for real I focus on them and will always respect them. I would never in a million years intend to hurt anyone. In fact I go out of my way to try not to hurt anyone even those who have hurt me. I think that in what I am doing the person most likely to get hurt is me. Especially now that I have met someone who I really like and would in different circumstances wish to persue a more stable and personal relationship but unfortunately while I am reaching towards a time where I will again be ready for a relationship he isn't. So I have two choices. Not see him at all or see him as a friend with benefits.
I choose the latter over the former.

Anonymous said...

Little Bird:
there is nothing wrong with posting and chatting, I am saying meeting someone in person, just driving around and going for coffee, or mince pies, or whatever, its all weird, how many people could you meet, whats the point. You would soon run out of time. Everything we do has some point of value to it, meetings of male and female have a usual underline meaning, "sex", one party of the other is looking for that. If you meet up with another blogger just to chat, or see what there like thats ok, but a website where people just meet for "don't know what reason", I dont really go for it. Sorry

fwengebola said...

Luna ~ Oh my god, she was planning another do! It all makes sense! Bugger. I like the way you lumped every single American as arranging a friend to save them from a bad date.
LFM ~ Well this certainly brings out the chatty in you. I guess I am looking for some female stability (so I can then complain about it). You and Lady in Red must be walking vibrators. Or something that should be witty except I'm knackered.
WC ~ It is possible to have a good chat without sex. I normally do that on a weekend with my male friends.
LB ~ Yes he is. Hit him.
LiR ~ Ah nuts, that sucks. I just see this multiple dating as opening up a big bag of hurt and unleashing tons of guilt.
But that's just me.
WC ~ Mince pies are weird, full stop. Admittedly, I see your point and ultimately Eve could've tried, but even if she did, isn't meeting up to gauge each other normal?

Anonymous said...

A walking vibrator, Fweng? Does that even make sense? Wouldn't the man have to be the walking vibrator, anatomically speaking? Come on... let's make those witty comments at least make sense! Work on it, would you?

luna said...

Viz the Yanks:don't you read Glamour,Cosmo,Oprah?
I read them all.I've got piles of old Glamour mags with Cindy Crawford on the cover!!!

fwengebola said...

LFM ~ I have been very very tired these last few days. I have no idea what I'm doing anymore.
Lune ~ No, of course I don't read Glamour, Cosmo, or Oprah. I didn't even know Winfrey had her own magazine.

luna said...

She's on the cover,always.
One million ways to pose in one million different outfits and hairdos.
A Guiness Record serious contestant,she is.