Eighteen months ago, I was a long-term singleton. I’d decided that my taste in men had become a little too stringent and restrictive (i.e. I always dated the same sort of guy and was left feeling bemused when they kept showing themselves to be scoundrels). So, I was set a challenge by my friends, in hope of changing the status quo – I was to join a dating site and I HAD TO accept every date I was asked on over the next six weeks.
A month and a half later I’d been on nearly 60 first dates (and can confirm that it is truly exhausting having to represent only the most palatable aspects of your personality over a prolonged period, I don’t know how the Duchess of Cambridge does it). I dated every type of man you could possibly think of, from every possible profession and background, ranging from 23 to 65 years old. I learned quite a lot about humanity, I like to think.
I also noticed a few common dating faux pas nearly all men make. That’s not to say that aren’t totally understandable……But they’re also massive turn-offs (hence why the sixty first dates only resulted in one second date). So, here they are, my gift to you, single men of Britain:
1. Not having a plan.
It doesn’t matter how feminist and independent you believe your date to be, we love a man who is good at decision making. Please do not arrange to meet us at the Tube station and then say, “so, where do you fancy going?” This question fills us with dread. We spent three hours getting ready for this thing. We’ve done our bit. We just want to be taken somewhere nice, please.
Bonus points if you say something like “I was thinking about going here as I’ve heard it’s great, unless you had somewhere in mind you’d prefer?” This shows you are decisive AND flatters our feminist sensibilities. We will swoon.
2. Saying “so why is a beautiful girl like you single?”
This is a stupid question on a couple of levels. First of all it makes us think you’re the sort of bloke who believes the dating game is just one long queue of girls, all of whom are DESPERATE for a boyfriend and are standing in order of physical attractiveness, waiting for the next man to walk past. Life is not the television show Take Me Out and we don’t want to go out with a man who thinks it is. Secondly, it immediately makes us wonder why YOU’RE single, before concluding that you’re probably either a serial killer, one of those guys that has a house full of “love dolls” or secretly married.
We know you’re trying to pay us a compliment and that’s lovely, but just telling us we look nice is fine.
3. Admitting you’re nervous.
This is the sort of admission that should only ever happen in retrospect. If it’s five years hence, you’re married and you’re having all your other married friends over for dinner one evening then by all means say “you know the first time I took Sarah out I was SO nervous I had to dash to the toilet seven times in the half hour I was waiting for her to arrive”*. This will seem sweet when we know and love you. Before that, however, it’s just a bit weird.
*This example assumes that your partner is called Sarah. Toilet-based anecdotes about girls you dated who aren’t your present girlfriend/wife are almost never acceptable.
4. Acting like you don’t care.
Having said the above, behaving as though we are utterly disposable and as though this is the sort of thing you do every night isn’t very attractive either. Even if you DO go on dates with different women every night, making us feel special, unique and cherished is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship and also, more short term, the non-negotiable key to getting into our knickers. Things that will make us think you aren’t giving the date sufficient gravitas include yawning, playing with your phone* and turning up in any sort of sportswear.
5. *Playing with your phone
Put. The. Phone. Away. PLEASE.
6. Asking a question then looking really uninterested as soon as the answer comes.
Sounds really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many guys do this. It’s as though they’re actually there purely to soak up the ambience of the pub and their date’s company has been requested solely so they don’t look like a Billy No Mates. Do not ask us something, then glance lazily around (especially not at other girls in the vicinity) as soon as we open our mouths to respond. This is not how a conversation is supposed to go and however subtle you think you’re being, we always notice.
Call us demanding, but in addition to expressing a verbal interest in our lives, we expect you to stick around in the conversation long enough to hear our response.
7. Saying ‘tell me something about you no one else knows’.
Right, first of all, we are women and by our nature confessional – there’s virtually nothing that, between them, our Mum, best friend and most trusted work colleague don’t know about us. Secondly, even if there was, we’re hardly likely to share this scintillating fact with someone who was, 14 minutes ago, a complete stranger. Thirdly, this then puts us on the spot to recall something really unusual and ‘zany’ about ourselves, at which point every zany and unusual thing we have ever thought or done will immediately evaporate from our memory and there will be a cavernous, awkward silence during which we will both wish we were dead.
8. Doing the ‘mid-point date assessment’.
If there is one sentence guaranteed to kill any sort of spark it’s “so, how do you think it’s going?”. We do not wish to analyse this date halfway through it, with you, thank you. We wish to analyse it with our best girlfriends – initially via the medium of text whilst you are in the loo and then further the next evening over several glasses of Pinot Grigio.
9. Bad-mouthing other dates you have been on.
This is the dating equivalent of being the office gossip who spend their days spreading spurious personal information from desk-to-desk and then wonders why they aren’t invited to the pub at six o’clock. Your dating horror stories are fascinating and we will be enthusiastic because we really, really want to hear them. But we’ll also then immediately be on our guard, wondering if this date is a future anecdote for another date you might go on.
If you’re interested in watching in horror as someone second-guesses each word that comes out of their face in case it’s used to incriminate them at a further juncture, may I suggest instead watching Question Time.
10. Talking about your ex/Asking about her ex
Ah, the holy grail. We all know we shouldn’t do it. Every magazine article, dating manual and wise older person has warned us against this particular pitfall for as long as we can remember. Yet for some reason I was asked about my ex on approximately 80% of the dates I went on and, as a direct consequence, I actually ended up missing my ex a little bit.
To be avoided. At all costs.
And here’s some “dos”:
– SMILE! – It doesn’t cost anything and it makes you look sexy.
– Insist on paying – A controversial one, this. We’re always happy to go halves or even to pay for the whole thing BUT if you absolutely insist we’ll assume you’re having deeply loving feelings towards us.
– Walk us to the station/put us in a cab/in some way show that you are bothered about what might befall us during our journey home.
– Text immediately you get in to say what a lovely night you had – Even if it’s a lie. It’s just British good manners.
Et voila. Happy dating, fellas!