“I’m writing an article on dating.”
“Need help with it?”
“I do. So would you wanna go out – if only for research purposes?”
That exchange actually occurred. Good line, right? And it worked, too.
As winter sets in, so does the urge to take a partner for the season. Someone to keep you warm. Being from Canada, this is a necessary survival tool. And while Sydney’s ‘winter’ is no comparison to the frigid temperatures I am subjected to in my home country, I’ve already noticed those around me transitioning from single sensibilities to relationship revelers.
I don’t claim to be immune to this seasonal phenomenon, but am I the only one who sometimes wonders, ‘Dating? What’s that?’ Or more specifically, ‘What’s the purpose?’
Two weeks ago I asked someone on a date for the first time in over a year. Previously, ‘dates’ had consisted of drinks at his place. Or drinks at my place. And almost always ended in sex at his place. Or sex at my place. Not really a date per se – but a more formal hook-up.
The realm of dating is relatively unknown to me. I don’t really ‘date’, as I’ve explained. This gets me into trouble. My Big Relationship of three and a half years was born out of a fuck buddy situation. It worked. Last year, I thought the same thing was happening. It didn’t work.
He broke things off, claiming that he wanted romance and I wasn’t giving it to him in our usual routine of a few beers and incredible sex. He hated that I rarely stayed for breakfast and never took him out. I recall drunkenly telling him that if he was waiting for a knight in shining armor to arrive, he’d be waiting a long time, ‘cause he ain’t coming.
It’s not that romance is dead, or that I’m incapable of being sentimental, I just feel that showing someone my favourite YouTube video can be as romantic as a candlelit dinner. Flowers? Couldn’t care less. But if you bring me a mixed CD, I’m yours forever.
And what are we really doing in the act of asking someone on a date? Are we looking for a relationship or a distraction? In the asking, is it, “Would you like to spend some time with me so we can suss out our compatibility for possible decades to come?”, or is it, “I feel I am supposed to do this, so will you join me in being a functioning member of society?”
I have multiple friends whose ‘boyfriends’ have a shelf life of a loaf of bread. Why so quick to attach that label? Instead of being a hesitant homo, like myself, they take dating at such a fast pace that they practically skip over it and are then left with a boyfriend who isn’t right for them at all.
Romantic dating is a fabricated reality; a fantasy.
Dr. Jessica Revill, of Heart Menders, who offers psychological counseling in the Innerwest, says, “the activity and intensity, the specialness, of the initial stages of dating can’t be sustained”. She says that “the ether” in the beginning transforms into patterns that allow for specialness in normal everyday life. The key is finding someone who holds similar value in what is felt to be special.
Rather than methodically mapping out a relationship through a series of meetings, I would rather let things grow organically. Instead of a predetermined idea of what I want (so commonly asked), I would like to let that come from the other person; to look at him and think, ‘This. This is what I want.’ And hopefully, that specialness is shared.
My biggest and deepest loves have always been unrequited ones. Yearnings for straight guys; boys out of my league; men in relationships – because it’s safer. Because the hurt is self-inflicted, and therefore more manageable than the unpredictability of allowing yourself to be loved in return.
I’ve known a cute young man almost my entire time I’ve been in Sydney. I took over his room in my apartment. And every now and again we happen to engage in cuddles and kisses. I asked him to stay over one night and he declined. With the aid of libations, I later asked him why he hadn’t joined me in the bedroom. He said it was because I hadn’t asked him on a date.
A date! Why didn’t I think of that? The thought hadn’t crossed my mind. So I did. He said he’d love to. And it was that conversation at the outset of this article that set into motion the second date. A second date! Even rarer for me.
I like this boy. Do I think we’ll be lovers for the long haul? Doubtful. And we’re both leaving Australia within the year. But I’m still looking forward to that second date, despite it going against all my cynical tendencies. I’m even thinking of making him a mixed CD.
So this whole ‘dating’ thing might not be as meritless as I had once thought. Maybe my aversion to romance comes more from a fear of the consequences of it. I can move half way around the world with ease, but am still afraid of the life change that might come with finding someone to love.
I recently came across a quote that I feel is an apt description of what many, including myself, face. It may also be another reason I’m wary of ‘The Date’: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within your self that you have built against it” – Rumi, 13th Century Persian Muslim poet.
Maybe there is a necessity to dating. Maybe the real purpose is for oneself. It can be a way to take risks and discover your own blocks. Dating can reassure you that you are willing and able to put yourself out into the scary process of making a human connection.
Because regardless of whether it’s for a night, or a lifetime – isn’t that all anyone is looking for? Maybe instead of asking ‘why’?, I should be asking ‘why not?’
Story by Mark Keller, photo at top by Lawrence Tan.