I've been a single guy all of my life. Okay that sounds a bit scary so let me qualify that. That doesn't mean I'm the sort of socially awkward guy whose only contact with a women is his rather unusual relationship with his mother, has never had a girlfriend and couldn't possibly redecorate his room because of his spider man wallpaper.
I'm the sort of single guy who has not quite settled down. I'm a serial dater but that doesn't mean I'm any good at dating. I've had lots of relationships, always monogamous in case you are wondering, but I've never met my soul mate. I was a fan of Sex and the City and I remember an episode where Carrie Bradshaw was dating someone who turned out to be incompatible. Okay so that defines most of the plots of Sex and the City, but the programme portrayed a much more interesting interplay of relationships between the four friends; their dating behaviours were really secondary. In this particular episode Carrie was writing her newspaper column and asked, "What are the deal breakers?" The point being that in any relationship there are always issues, things that you will tolerate and things that you won't. Those are the deal breakers and I've always come up against them. I suppose I may be choosy, however, it takes time to discover what you can live with and what you can't.
Over the years I've found girlfriends socially, through shared interests, through lonely hearts ads (remember them?), and more recently through dating sites. I've become a bit disenchanted with the dating sites as I suspect there are a lot of fake profiles. When you get a lot of messages that never make reference to the contents of your profile you end up thinking you are receiving standard letters. When those messages come more frequently after buying a subscription you wonder if they are just trying to get you to renew.
The latest thing is Tinder. Tinder is what's known as a geosocial networking app for your iPhone or Android phone. You can set it to seek out potential partners within an age range and within a specific number of miles. It shows you pictures, and any joint interests, of those people who have set their criteria to find you. You can then choose 'like' or 'pass' based on their picture and any interests in common. It's anonymous so that if you pass on someone they never get to hear about it. If you like someone they still won't hear about it unless they have seen your picture and liked you in return. It's the electronic version of walking down the street, seeing someone you like the look of and wondering if they like the look of you. The beauty of it is that there is no rejection, if they don't like you, you never hear about it.
After the match is made the app puts the two of you in touch via a messaging system whereby you text each other through the app, still for free, and you take it from there, exchanging phone numbers, emails or whatever. There is no way to contact someone who doesn't reciprocally like you.
Now my experience of this, and the same is probably true of all on-line dating where the wooing is largely written, is that people can expect a bit too much too soon.
The pictures on the profiles are often the sort of pictures people take on their phones, looning about in bars or clubs, at some event such as a festival, often with a drink in hand, often a bit poo-faced, and having a great time. This is largely how we take photos now; that's what camera phones are for, ever present, making a record of the high points in life.
So the association is one of getting out there on the razz and we want that from our potential partners. But is that really compatible with written messages and is it compatible with a relationship? Is it really fair on the other guy, or the other girl, to expect them to shine over a few short texts or emails and thus establish a connection?
I was sitting in my house this morning having a quiet coffee before I started the daily grind of writing blogs and fiction, doing some DIY and making plans for the weekend. It occurred to me that none of the women I'd communicated with on Tinder really had any idea about my life. Looking around I considered my 'stuff', my home, personal style and the background to it all. That barometer is very cherished because it was given to my father a year before I was born. I love the way the light falls on that sofa under the window. I'm looking forward to making progress on the garden in the spring after the new fence has gone in. I like to think of myself as a complex, compassionate thinking person with broad interests and a great deal to share.
How do I get this across in a few texts? In a world of crazy X-Factor and fame for all, where we all want to be glitzy celebrities, where we want instant gratification and have the attention span of a gnat, how do we give potential partners the chance to shine?
It was once said that, 'every man and every woman is a star.' There's someone you see on the way to work on the bus every day, or perhaps you see them carrying their shopping home from the supermarket occasionally, or they work on the next floor and you see them in the lift. That person plays the violin. They play the violin with such extraordinary virtuosity that they could have been a professional but for some twist of fate twenty five years ago. But you will never hear their music because you don't speak to them, or if you do encounter them you never get beyond exchanging a few texts. While texting they won't tell you about their violin because it's nothing new to them, it's just a part of their life. People often only talk about the new things in their lives, the things that currently enthuse them. Texting or emails will never uncover these deep loves and fascinations. It takes time to get to know someone and many of us aren't very good at that any more. Conversation is an art that is going out of fashion yet it's the oil that lubricates our society.
It takes time to find out who someone is. That's why many relationships don't work out. That in itself is no bad thing, if it turns out the couple were really not suitable. They just needed to learn about each other and that's nobody's fault. Perhaps it's not too easy to get a divorce; perhaps it's too easy to get married in the first place. Commitment should not be entered into lightly and Carrie Bradshaw's deal breakers are the key. But being a serial dater, who'd like to break that cycle, I'd like to have the chance to express myself in more than 25 words, and I'd like to give you that chance too.
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Jack Barrow lives in the UK -- as you can tell from his spelling!