- 05 Mar 20
As the song almost said: “I know all there is to know about the dating game.” Or do I? That’s the question with which our sex columnist wrestles, having experienced too many strange ‘situations’ for comfort...
Dating is strange. That might look like an odd sentence, but it’s a realisation I have come to over the past few months. Dating is strange. Dinner or drinks acting as a cover to the reality of the situation, the situation that presents itself as a relaxed evening when really it is a sort of test.
Now, it’s not a test that you have to study for or a test you should worry about. It shouldn’t even feel like a test, but when you look at what a date is, well, it’s a bit like that. You are testing compatibility and attraction and there is no trick for getting this right. Or even if there is a trick, it will only last for a day, or a week, or a month: eventually, the trick will wear off. And on top of this, the test isn’t one-sided. You are the test-ee and the test-er, and the results could be the same or different and you might never know. And that’s a strange concept.
Or, at least, I think it is.
Not only is it a strange concept, but it’s a complicated one. My mother always seems confused by the situations I find myself in. She says that, back in the day, you went on a couple of official dates. If you liked each other you became boyfriend/girlfriend and a few years and a white picket fence later, it was happily ever after. And while that sounds nice, I question the painful patriarchal and heteronormative principles that “back in the day” dating was based on.
But I will agree with her on one thing: dating is very confusing now. From rules to labels to apps, most of the time, I have no idea what I am doing.
At the age of 24, I have had a couple of relationships and a whole load of “situations.”
I like to call them situations because they aren’t just friendships, but they aren’t relationships either. A lot of the time they aren’t even close, but they are something, and that is an important distinction. Sometimes they are sex, sometimes they are sliding into the DM’s, sometimes they are so close to being something but never actually end up being anything.
Some situations can be fun: casual sex with someone you feel comfortable with or flirty texts here or there, can provide a little pleasure and entertainment in an otherwise dull February. But it can also be frustrating, putting energy into something that doesn’t go anywhere or doesn’t go where you hoped it would. And yet it is a cycle that I seem to find myself in.
The spark at the start of a situation always brings me back. I can rule off boys in my head, I can be content with masturbation, I can focus on myself and I can be happy with all that. I am happy with all that. This isn’t the “I need a man to be happy” conversation: I know what I want for myself in life, and while love and sex are important to me, a man isn’t part of the plan to get me where I want to be.
But that spark when you meet someone – romantics call it butterflies and millennials call it fanny flutters – is something special. That pull towards the other person. The images rushing through your head of them kissing you. Imagining what it would be like to kiss them for the first time. Imagining what it would be like to have sex with them for the first time. Imagining what it would be like to have sex with them for the fiftieth time. That spark draws me back in, time and time again.
I have had situations where year-long silent attraction has turned into sex and then a date and then nothing. I have had situations where there is radio silence between meetings, but once we bump into each other it’s back on for a night – and then nothing. I have had situations where casual sex has turned into me catching feelings that aren’t reciprocated, so then it’s nothing. I have had situations where casual sex has turned into him catching feelings that aren’t reciprocated, so then it’s nothing. I have had situations, too, where we both have feelings but for some reason or complication, it just ends up being nothing.
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
I have wrecked my head with the rules; with, who should text who; who texted last; who made the first move? With, when should I have sex; when shouldn’t I have sex; does it matter if I have sex or not? With, what are we; what do we want to be; what is the difference between dating and exclusive and partners? With, what does it all mean?
And maybe all of this just goes with being in my twenties. Maybe this is what every other twenty-something is going through. Maybe it’s just what dating is now. Maybe. But sometimes I wonder if it all could be a little simpler. Not “back in the day” simpler. Just… simpler.
There seem to be so many rules and opinions and phobias around dating and sex that I think sometimes it stops people from actually talking. I can’t tell you the number of times I have tried to read myself into the hidden meaning behind the choice of emoji or punctuation. We try to guess what someone is thinking or feeling rather than just asking. We send out signals and hints rather than telling someone how we feel.
I know for myself, at least, that I try so hard to be obvious without being too obvious because getting turned down is scary. And it is. Telling someone you are into them and not having them feel the same way is shitty. But I am starting to question what’s worse: feeling shitty for a short period or wasting hours on end trying to read someone’s mind?
Sometimes a situation is discussed. Sometimes it’s a situation and not a relationship on purpose. Sometimes a situation is all you want. But what if it’s not? What if it’s a situation cycle that you want to break out of, that you want to nip in the bud?
I’m starting to think that rules aren’t always there to help us. That, maybe throwing caution to the wind and just putting yourself out there, might just be the way to break out of a “situationship.” I hope I’m right, ‘cos here I come!