I’m sitting out the front of the terrace in the inner-northern Melbourne suburb where I’ve lived for more than two years now. Daylight savings has just ended and the sun is hanging lower in the sky a little earlier every day. The blue into orange like the gradient tool in Photoshop, or for those of a similar vintage to me – Microsoft WordArt. More on WordArt later, but for now let me just say: I am living a fabulous Melbourne life. I don’t always notice just how bloody great it is, but right here and right now, with my feet up and a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream I got in a box from Coles, with my cup of very expensive social enterprise eucalyptus tea, with many moments of contentment and joy behind me and with many things to look forward to in front of me, I can categorically state for the record, in the words of the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut, “Well if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
It’s been a long time between drinks Dear Readers – I will be very grateful if any of you are still around and reading. I hope you have all been well. I’ve been finishing my masters, working, grieving, telling stories on stages, changing career, travelling, changing lifestyle and as a result most things now seem less urgent. I am in a good place, and sometimes, I know it.
I pressed snooze on my phone alarm three times this morning, imagining what it would be like to wake up and snuggle and snooze with someone else. I had a few different men I was imagining doing this delightfully lazy daydream with. None of whom I’ve pashed or even dated, but men I have actually met, had chats with (potentially flirted with but it’s so hard to tell when that’s actually happening innit?) and will see again in the near future. My very Dearest Readers – welcome to my brave new world of the Slow Burn Strategy (SBS). Of all the things I’ve learnt about dating, SBS is so far working the best. More on that later.
I’ve got a few other stories in the pipeline for y’all. For now, please enjoy this story I told last night, to a room that may or may not have included a few delightful gentlemen. Well, it was supposed to be a ten minute story on the theme of ‘teaching’, but I turned it into ten x one minute stories with an accompanying powerpoint presentation that would teach people something. So meta! Such semi-ironic use of WordArt for the viewing pleasure of woke hipsters seemingly obsessed with anything 90s! I am poking fun of them because I am one of them, or I want to be anyway!
Some of these you’ve read before, but the ending is different this time.
It’s good to be back.
With much love
TEN THINGS I KNOW ABOUT DATING
Lesson 1: Be picky
When I first tried online dating I was being open minded. Caring about grammar was too uptight! Caring about spelling was classist! I didn’t want to be too elitist by judging people on their careers! My first date was therefore with a prison warden who’s first words to me were ‘So what do you do for work, just art n shit!’ After denigrating my entire career and passion with ‘n shit’ he proceeded to monologue about dirt bikes and beer for 25 minutes! No second date.
Lesson 2: Distance + gender ≠ a match
In Tassie my main search criteria included males within a certain kilometre radius. I therefore would only find matches if I happened to be in Hobart and thus ended up regularly driving four hours down south for dirty weekends with a bloke with whom I shared two common interests – one of which was hiking, the other will go unmentioned in case one of my current students stumbles upon this here blog and joins a few dots. But join the dots. It also ends in ‘king’. One weekend this Hobart fella and I walked around Lake St Clair. It was beautiful weather and scenery and the chats were both deep and hilarious. That evening in the spa cottage we’d splashed out, reclining in the spa drinking cheap whisky, I revealed I’d never actually taken any recreational drugs. He revealed that he used to sell drugs, but now he does people to do that for him. No more dates.
Lesson 3: Be quick
In Melbourne I tried out the Happn app, where you match people who frequent the same locations you do. I was so sick of online ‘banter’ that eventually lead nowhere that after matching with this babe and talking a bit about the Akubra I was sporting in my profile pic we arranged to meet up for a whisky that night – in only an hour’s time! At the bar I was met by a babe in a mullet wig and cowboy boots, who joked that he thought we were dressing up. I matched that spontaneity by heading back to his house – where he was very attentive and very complimentary. Three more dates then he stood me up, made a mediocre attempt to make up for it and then I called it off.
Lesson 4: Be bold
At the Emerging Writers Festival I spied a head of babin’ wavy black hair sitting on top of broad shoulders in a brown leather jacket sitting on his own watching a panel session. I sat next to him, chatted to him afterwards and was swept along to drinks with a bunch of other writers afterwards. Everyone dwindled away and we headed to a rooftop bar, a novelty for him as a Townsvillian. We held hands in the elevator. “Look,” I said, “we could go to this bar and have a few more drinks and then pash, or we could just pash right here right now. That’s what I want to do, what about you?” We pashed. Several more dates. An interstate week away together then he licked a plate once at a restaurant and revealed he was probably a mens rights activist.
Lesson 5: Peter Piper Picked A Public Place
Back in Alice Springs when I was being non judgemental I matched with a truckie. HAV U EVA BIN 2 THE ROCK? He typed. IM GOIN NEXT WEEKEND WANNA COME CUD BE GOOD WAY 2 GET 2 NO EACH OTHER BUT UD HAV 2 GET UR OWN WAY BACK. Maaaaaate. I’m not gunna come to work with you! On a 5 hour date! In a truck! With a stranger! Then hitchhike back! No date.
Lesson 6: Be Equidistant
In the Pilbara I arranged a date with an Italian Engineer. Unlike other miners I’d met online he had a car so didn’t have to rely on the Rio Tinto bus schedule. But the very fact that he drove 40 minutes to meet me, meant I felt the date should go for at least 40 minutes. Which is a really long time. When it’s a lunch date and he’s already eaten so he just watches me eat and gives short answers to my excellent prompting conversational questions. For example: what would you do with a million dollars. “Nothing,” he said. “You can’t do anything for that much. Ask me what I’d do with a hundred million then I’d have to think.” No second date.
Lesson 7: No dinner dates.
Self explanatory. Insert your own horrifically boring story about how you were stuck directly across from someone, making forced eye contact for as long as it takes to order, receive, eat and pay for a meal. Oh and inevitably spill food on yourself or eat too loudly.
Lesson 8: Be real and break up
Some of my best writing and most honest communication has been in break up texts. See examples below and please get in touch if this is a service that may be of use to you.
Exhibit A: Exhibit B:
Lesson 9: Date yourself
Go camping in the Grampians with whisky and a campfire and a full moon. Take a paperback to a cosy restaurant. Go see a show on your own. Watch Netflix and chill with fancy ice cream or pseudo-healthy treats you made with organic nuts and dates from the health food shop you smug legend you!
Lesson 10: Slow Burn Strategy
I haven’t been on any dating apps this year. This whole year! A personal best. Instead of seeking quick sparks in short dates and finding flames online, I’ve started going to things I like doing in the hope that I will meet people with similar values and have something that brings us together gradually instead of our distance, gender and profile pictures. My psychologist and my mum have both been suggesting this slow burn strategy for years. But to start a slow burning fire you need time and you need air. You need space in your head and a lightness in your heart. Not a naive weightlessness – we all carry things, but not to let those things weigh heavily upon you. I’m labouring this metaphor, but you need more than kindling. You more solid stuff that’ll take longer to catch, but will burn brighter for longer, eventually settling into softly glowing goals, still good for toasting marshmallows and for keeping you warm while you look at the stars.
I just give less of a shit you guys. In a good way. About dumb shit. About what I wear. About my work. About romantic love needing to happen in my life in the ways I expected it to. I’m not giving up on it happening, I just no longer feel this need for it to happen NOW. I trust that it will. I trust that I’m not missing out on anything by patiently letting things unfold while still proactively trying to meet and get to know people in a less contrived and less urgent way.
I went to a cooking class. Didn’t meet anyone but now I know how to make some kick ass salad dressings. I’ve been on some bloody great hikes I’d never have done on my own. I’ve seen a few comedy shows with a bloke I met at a philosophical discussion group (!). I sung at an open mic night and the babe sitting next to me called me a ‘badass lady’.
If I see a babe at a storytelling night (which btw I totally did) (there were a few and I made sure to make eye contact as I said the next bit) maybe they’ll be bold and buy me a drink (which they totally did), maybe we’ll talk about the stories we both just told or ones we want to tell. Or maybe we won’t talk at all this time, which is totally fine, because I know I’ll probably see them next time.
(I can hardly bloody wait!)