Once upon a time, I sold ad space for a living. It was actually my first job out of university. It was the ‘80s, the City was full of wide boys, Thatcher was on the throne, almost literally, and we were all about consumerism.
We were also all about sex, despite the AIDS epidemic; trust me, that’s what they were calling it, then, and believe me when I tell you, we were taking it very seriously.
Anyway, one customer I could always rely on for block bookings of ad space was a dating agency. Dating agencies have existed for a long time, and I imagine they’ve always made money, because those ads kept running and running, month in and month out.
We used to laugh about them, scoff even. We couldn’t imagine the sort of people who would need to use a dating agency, and, now everyone’s at it. No one seems to have the time any more. Everyone seems to move around all the time, from place to place, and from job to job, and we’re all so much more cautious of strangers than we used to be, so making friends is more difficult. Meeting someone new is always meeting a stranger. Now, we always know someone through social networking before we meet them face to face, and we almost never speak to a complete stranger, at least not voluntarily.
We think it makes us safer. I doubt that it does. How well do we know anyone, after all?
I’ve been following Willard Foxton’s blog 28 Dates Later. Neat title, cool concept, and I thought he was bonkers. Will is a journalist, so he’s nothing if not intrepid. He and I follow each other on Twitter. His politics tend to the conservative for my tastes, but he’s an all around good guy, so far as I can tell, and the blog appealed to me. The premise was that he would date twenty-eight different women from twenty-eight different dating sites.
Crikey! I had no idea there were twenty-eight different dating sites! Blimey! There’s no way on Earth I’ve ever dated twenty-eight different blokes in my entire life! Other than with the husband, I couldn’t swear that I’ve been on twenty-eight dates, total, in my entire life.
Do people just have much busier love lives than I did? Is there something wrong with me?
You see, I think they do, but I don’t think there is, or was.
Apparently, as modern relationships go, people who meet on-line are now more likely to have longer more successful relationships than people who meet under more conventional circumstances. Having said that, on-line dating does seem to be the convention, these days.
Of course the statistics are skewed in favour of relatively short relationships, because people have only really been meeting on-line for about ten years, and, for example, the husband and I have known each other for thirty years. However, if you’re comparing like with like, of those people who’ve met in the last ten years...
I feel a theory coming on...
I wonder if people who meet on line take a little longer with things? I wonder if they talk a little more and communicate a little more fully? I wonder, in short, whether they actually get to know each other a little more thoroughly before other things start to kick in, like sexual attraction, for example.
I’m not going to bang on about promiscuity. I’m not going to sound like a prude. It’s not as if no one was having sex in the 80s... It’s not even as if I wasn’t. I do wonder whether the goal posts have moved, though.
Kids spend every waking moment together, either literally, or texting or e-mailing, or social networking. They never get to grow into themselves. Heaven forbid they should ever be alone with their thoughts. They never get to find out who they are, so when any kind of separation occurs, their fledgeling relationships disintegrate.
When people meet in clubs and bars, and they hook up and fall into relationships, how much do they know about each other? How often do two people find themselves sharing a home and a child before they realise they know nothing about one another? I know it happens. I’ve seen it.
I also know people who’ve met over long games of World of Warcraft. I know people who’ve met on-line and chewed the fat for days about the minutiae of some esoteric subject or other. I know couples who’ve argued over everything from the merits or otherwise of the films of Scorcese versus Stone, to who would win in a fight between He-Man and the Hulk.
The husband and I met when we were young, and we talked a lot, because we spent a lot of time around other kids and around our families. We watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books, and we studied the same subjects in different universities. We wrote a lot of letters to each other and we talked on the phone when we got the chance.
We had time, too. We had more time apart than we had together. We had the chance to be our own people first, and to bring what we learned on our own back into the relationship. We stood on our own two feet and formed our own opinions.
Dating’s a tricky thing. I suppose it ought to be fun, although the most fun dates I’ve ever had have all been since I was married with kids. I couldn’t imagine doing what Will Foxton has done. I couldn’t imagine wanting to do it.
I hope one of these days Will gets the chance to date the same girl twenty-eight times, and I hope he manages to do that before he marries her, and I hope that after he marries her he remembers to date her again at least twenty-eight times a year for the rest of his life.
He makes it all sound like a lot of fun on his blog, at least when it doesn’t sound horrifying or down right dangerous, but it’s serious stuff, too.
Slow down Will, and I hope you find who you’re looking for.
|I struggled to find a pic to go with this blog, since all the ads for dating agencies creeped me out, so I thought I'd show you a pic of a happy couple. Huzzah|