“There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection IS the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.” ~ Judith Martin
This post is a sort of follow-up to one I wrote last year called Dating Advice For The Diffident.
Some commentators, particularly on Reddit where they somehow mistook me for a heterosexual male ‘stud’*, felt that the advice I gave back then – which essentially boils down to ‘if you find somebody attractive you’ll need to actually talk to them if you want things to go any further’ – was too complicated to put into practice.
With that in mind I have decided to share with you the single greatest piece of dating advice that you will ever receive.
Which is this: Women are not a homogenous group. Neither are men.
‘Men’ and ‘Women’ are collective nouns for billions of disparate individuals with a myriad of different interests, desires, thoughts, and feelings.
And no-one can tell you something that will make any man and/or woman fall for you – anyone who says they can is selling you snake oil.
Dating isn’t like a computer game or Scientology; there are no cheat codes or levels.
Instead you have to put in the difficult and time-consuming work of first deciding what it is you actually want out of a relationship – as this can differ wildly from person to person.
Some people want a partner to travel and go on adventures with, others want someone they can stay home and settle down with.
Some people want to create a nuclear family in suburbia, with a dog, a white picket fence and enough rugrats to start their own soccer team; while others would prefer to be part of a glamorous, child-free power couple like House of Cards’ Frank and Claire Underwood.
And far more than either of these are seeking a happy medium between their relationship, work, and family life.
Some people want the freedom to pursue more than one relationship, many more are only open to strict monogamy.
It’s important that you take the time to work out what sort of relationship you’re looking for because then you’re going to have to go out and find someone who thinks they might be after a similar sort of thing.
And there’s no easy way to identify them – you will only find out whether the person you think you might fancy is looking for the same things in a relationship as you are by talking with them and getting to know them.
But, y’know what? This is supposed to be the fun part – not something you look for ways to speed through or skip over.
If you don’t enjoying spending as much time with another person as it takes to learn such basic information as their name, where they went on their last vacation, and their favourite type of cake, having an entire relationship with them would only feel like purgatory.
You owe it to yourself, to your prospective partner, and to every single other person who’s going to have listen to you both complaining not to plough blindly into relationship purgatory because you think you need to level up to being in a relationship with somebody, anybody.
A lot of people seem to forget that at this stage it’s as important to focus on whether you’re into them as it is to worry about how appealing they might be finding you. If not more so. After all we already know how awesome you are.
Only once you’ve established that we’re talking about somebody you could enjoy spending a lot of time with and are feeling some chemistry around do you need to even consider the best approach to take to wooing them.
And the closest anyone has ever come to a valid universally applicable piece of advice on that matter has been to suggest that you learn how to make people laugh.
Most people claim to be attracted to people who can make them laugh.
But how to succeed in doing so can differ hugely from person to person – think of how Roy Chubby Brown, Michael McIntyre, and Eddie Izzard all manage to have lucrative careers.
And even if you can pull it off this advice bears no cast iron guarantee. I find some of the things Russell Brand says absolutely hilarious – but I wouldn’t touch the skeazy mother-fucker with someone else’s ten-foot barge pole.
In which case you’ll have to think of something else.
Something based on all those things you’ve just learned about them while you were getting to know them as an individual human being rather than a generic ‘man’ or ‘woman’.
And if that doesn’t work, well, that’s sometimes how it goes. In fact it’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s doesn’t mean that you weren’t doing it right.
Because finding somebody you can love and who will love you back isn’t something you should approach hurriedly or flippantly.
Nor is it something that I can teach you in an online article.
There are no shortcuts – you just have to give the task the care and consideration that it deserves.
* which was only marginally less confusing than the time BlogHer mistook me for a born-again Christian virgin who’s saving sex for her wedding day.