When Alita Brydon started sharing dating stories, she never thought it would turn into a national phenomenon. Her Facebook group, Bad Dates of Melbourne, has now reached cult status. Here’s why…
Unless you’re blessed with incredible and enviable luck, we’d wager you’ve been on at least one terrible date in your lifetime. Perhaps they just turned out to be a terrible person? Or they weren’t who they said they were? Maybe something embarrassing happened you’d rather forget.
We’ve heard some pretty shocking romance stories here at Body+Soul, but know this: you are not alone. There’s a high chance a story just like yours has been told on the completely anonymous and hugely popular Facebook pages Bad Dates of Melbourne and Bad Dates of Australia.
Founded in 2017 by Melbourne-based journalist and dating expert, Alita Brydon, Bad Dates of Melbourne and now Bad Dates of Australia started as a place for Brydon to tell the terrible dating stories she had been entertaining her friends with for years.
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Three years on, and thousands of submissions later, it has not only become a hub for Australian dating insight, full of hilarious/gross/serious stories, and a series of IRL events (pre-COVID-19), but a community built around conversations of consent and respect.
Alita, how would you describe Bad Dates [of Melbourne and Bad Dates of Australia]?
Dating is really broad, so we have something for everyone. Do you want a casual laugh? I published a story today about a woman who ate a booger! Something more serious? Yesterday, we shared a story about a woman who was feeling vulnerable after leaving an abusive relationship… It’s broad because that’s dating! Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you’re absolutely devastated.
What have you discovered along the way?
On the surface, it is a funny, silly, sometimes gross place where we all have a laugh about bad dates and have a chat and it’s all very just silly fun. But if you go deeper, it’s a community talking about safe sex, respect, LGBTQI issues, and sometimes race. Bad Dates Of Melbourne reaches a lot of people who traditionally aren’t listening to these messages. It talks a lot about respect, that’s what’s made me so proud.
A lot of men also write in with their bad date stories. What have you learned from them?
BDOM is around 30 percent men, according to Facebook, so it does have quite a high male audience. [But] I think men sharing their stories shows vulnerability, allows them to talk about their emotions, and also talk through these negative situations. I don’t think we do see men doing that enough in the media, so I love that men participate. But I will block anyone for bad behaviour.
Have you unearthed any serial bad daters?
There are a few but it’s hard to speak about them without identifying them. There was a guy who was taking women to the same mini-golf course, giving them the same line, and pretty much taking them on the exact same date – I remember seeing that story a few times.
Whenever you publish a story, there’s always a huge amount of people putting their hand up and saying, “Oh that happened to me!” [laughs] I read them and think we’re all going through this drama, we’ve all had dated people like this and we’re all in this, suffering together! [laughs]
Since you started, have you noticed any trends in the stories?
It’s hard to identify trends. But people are becoming much more aware of consent and that it should be discussed. That’s something that we weren’t talking about nearly as much a few years ago. There are the silly ones, too. For example, people forgetting wallets. There is a lot of wallet forgetting going on!
How did dating in Australia change during lockdown?
For the few first weeks, everybody was feeling thrown. For single people, many were in their homes wondering, “When am I going to have my next physical contact? When am I going to see people?”
We all went in with these high expectations of video dating, which has worked out for some people. I think there has been a lot of pain between people who want to break the rules and people who are holding to the rules.
How does that manifest on dating apps?
A lot of discussions will chug along for a couple of days and then someone will put pressure on the other person to meet up. The other person will feel incredibly uncomfortable and there’s a massive clash. So I mean, that’s what we’re seeing at the moment, a lot of clashes. What has been interesting is, hook-up culture, legitimate hookup culture has died, I’m sure people who are breaking the rules are still hooking up, but above-board hookup culture has died for now.
Have Australians been playing by the rules?
No! There are heaps of people breaking the rules out there! It’s been hard because I do want to reflect what’s really happening, but at the same time, I don’t want to promote meeting up when it’s illegal. I want to do what’s ethically right, so I haven’t published those tales of cheeky hookups and picnic kisses and all of that kind of thing.
Did you notice the lockdown created a new category of pressure that people use to put on others?
Oh yes, absolutely! There’s so much pressure to break the social distancing rules. I’ve had multiple stories, it’s a certain kind of pressure, like, “We have a special connection, I’m not meeting anyone else. This is an opportunity not to be missed, this is a once in a lifetime, everyone’s doing it, if we can go to the park and have a date there.” Loophole!
I spoke to one woman the other day who met a guy at a supermarket and had their date at the supermarket. She went back and saw him lurking around the front. She knew immediately that’s what he does: lurks around to meet women and go on dates at the same supermarket!
They always find a way.
These people prey on the fact that often women, occasionally men, but these vulnerable women, believe that they’re not talking to anyone else, it’s very special, very unique, all of that kind of thing. I’ve spoken to multiple women who’ve been on dates in parks, but one sent in a story about how and they had kissed.
She went home and she went, “Oh Lord, I have just pashed someone in the height of coronavirus, what is going on?!” She sent him a text asking if he was seeing anyone else and explaining that she felt very unsure, because, Coronavirus. He ghosted her! Where does that leave you feeling? I mean, it’s bad behaviour already!
What do you see a lot of among women and LGBTQ+ people?
They don’t feel confident. The good thing is, some do get a lot of confidence from reading the bad dates because the community is so supportive. I do occasionally get women writing about situations and asking what to do. My advice is always, “trust your gut, you’ll feel empowered. You already know what to do.” I love that it’s become a source of empowerment for a lot of women and LGBTQ+ people.
What has running Bad Dates taught you about dating in Australia?
We need more empathy in dating. I don’t see people as good or bad anymore, we’re all just shades of grey, so I think it’s made me a lot more patient about dating and more understanding. The overall thing is because BDOA has a light covering of entertainment, it makes us realise we’re all human and we all have experiences like this and if we don’t, we can still see how we can learn from these experiences, even just through empathy.
And finally, how does it feel to be the gatekeeper of Australia’s dating scene?
It’s like having this incredible bird’s eye view of the dating scene. I never thought I would experience anything like this, it is bizarre but very interesting! BDOA/M is always going to be anonymous because it’s meant to be about positivity.
I didn’t start it to make people feel bad, it’s meant to be about talking about our shared experience and how we can learn from it and laugh about it. It’s silly, fun and I’m always going to laugh at the poo stories and the vomit and all of that, but there is something more there.
Follow Bad Dates of Melbourne and Bad Dates of Australia