If you believe books, gurus, experts, dreary bloggers and, worst of all, your nightmare mates, dating is a modern minefield, just waiting to catch you out and blow your head off. Don’t say this, don’t do that – it’s a wonder we bother swiping right or chatting anyone up at all. But while some dating tips really do work – a total avoidance of politics and don’t assume a lick of the lips or a hand on the knee is a come-on being two of my favourites – quite a lot are simply bad advice. Battle-scarred and bloody, I present you with some of the hokey old clichés you can place firmly in the bin right now.
Wait at least [random number] days before calling
Perhaps the most egregious dating lie is the idea there is some kind of system of appropriateness for when you should call someone, and that when you choose to break this seal is in any way indicative of how you feel about someone. In fact, we buy into this idea so much that it can’t possibly be trusted, because even the guys that don’t give a shit about anyone are clued in to the fact that to look sincere you have to wait a couple of days before calling, so the recipient of the call can have no idea whether this guy is genuine or not. If you’re worried this person will think you’re a dickhead for calling too soon, then 1) they sound a bit dim so maybe you shouldn’t call at all and 2) try to make a joke or gesture of it. “I could’ve waited three days to call but it’s a stupid rule and I really like you.” If they don’t go for this perfectly charming response then f**k them, frankly. Call me instead.
Dumping over text is disrespectful
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If it’s less than three months, it’s fine. No, seriously. Doing it face-to-face will only be more traumatic for you both. Just be kind, clear and truthful. Dragging someone all the way to a bar and then ditching them, or calling at their house and doing it in their own kitchen is borderline sociopathic and I’d challenge anyone who says otherwise – so basically every other dating “expert” on Earth. Doing it in person when you’ve not been together long prolongs the agony and makes or more of a drama than it needs to be. Also: pathologically despising someone is the best way to get over them, and let’s just say they won’t be your biggest fan once that text alert pings. Plus, you’re giving them a brilliant story to tell their mates.
Everyone loves banter
A bit of bantz, some light negging, some hi-laaaar-ious putdowns, a bit of sparring. It’s exhausting to be on the other side of this, believe me. Save it for when you know each other a bit better. I know some people really love being kept on their toes for three hours solid but you have no way of knowing this on the first date and one of you always takes it too far, usually over the subject of a fat arse or a big nose or dodgy taste in music. Don’t. It’s a trap.
Compliments make you look sexist or needy
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If someone is handsome or funny or pretty or well-dressed, then say it. Compliments aren’t necessarily cheesy or unwelcome; sometimes we need to hear it. Areas to avoid complimenting: breasts, lunchbox, arse, fascist opinions, courage in the face of considerable adversity when it comes to physical attractiveness.
Treat ‘em mean etc
Seriously. This will not wash in the 21st century. The people who perpetuate this kind of hair-pulling and freezing out and generally having no sodding idea where you stand from one minute to the next shouldn’t be dated anyway – whether they’re doling it out or saying they prefer it as a seduction technique. Don’t treat anybody mean; there are specialist nightclubs for that kind of thing and they are worth a visit. But anybody who wants to spend all eternity being treated with mild contempt by a potential lover probably deserves to spend their nights waiting for a phone to ring.
Being stylish is unmanly or too gay
Turning up in a filthy singlet and frayedboot cuts might work one date in 100, or on a DH Lawrence-themed fetish night, but it is no way to live your life. Dress for you, and as well as you can manage. An effort is always appreciated.
Play hard to get
Can you really be arsed? The trouble with things that are hard to get, like, oh I don’t know, validation from your parents or a table at a new pop-up, is that once you do get them, they turn out to be a disappointment and you either tire of them quickly or resent the wasted effort on obtaining them. If you’re going to be a rare curio, at least be worth the wait.
You will meet someone when you least expect it
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Well, yes and no. Nobody is going to drop through the ceiling while you’re watching Match of the Day. You still need to make an effort, be visible, meet new people, and show your face. If you really want to meet someone, not everything you do has to be geared toward dating – start with some self-improvement and see where it takes you. You might not be expecting it, but you do need to be half-ready. Like, still pluck your nose and stuff, y’know?
They love a bad boy
Honestly. Shut up.
You have to love yourself before anyone else will love you
We put a lot of pressure upon ourselves to be sane, sorted and deliriously happy, but the fact is the modern world is a garbage fire and most of us are desperately clambering up the inside of the dumpster trying to escape.
Being comfortable in your own skin is definitely a plus, and a sense of self-worth is important in all aspects of life, never mind romantically, but the idea that only perfect, smiling androids can find true everlasting love, or are worth going on a date with, is totally false. It’s a cliché but perhaps your gallows outlook on life or the traits you perceive as imperfections can be attractive to others. We are fascinating, complex creatures, and happiness and confidence are just two very small characteristics that make us up. As long as you’re honest with yourself and don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t do, or be, and aren’t overly negative or self-deprecating, then you’re ahead of plenty of other men already.
Just be yourself
This does not apply if you are a massive c**t. Be the best version of yourself you can be without looking like you’re actually wearing the pelt of someone much less horrible than you. Don’t be fake, but don’t mistake being honest and gross as preferable if it’s the only reality you know.
Don’t pay the bill
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Putting aside the patriarchy, gender equality, who earns the most and the fact you may be tighter than a crab’s arse, there is a very simple “rule” for who foots the bill for a date – if you asked them out, you offer to pay. If they insist on splitting it, refuse once and once only. If they insist on splitting it again, just accept and split it. Why? Because otherwise you’ll be there all night and all the waiters have got homes to go to and your fellow bar patrons or diners can’t listen to you both trying to out-polite one another any longer.
Nice guys finish last
Any self-respecting nice guy wouldn’t mind finishing last – it’s only polite.
Don’t have sex on the first night
Why? The idea that someone who will have sex with you after just one date isn’t a keeper or doesn’t deserve your respect is one of the most harmful and mealy mouthed old tropes in dating. Just think of all the sex that could be happening if we banished this boring old myth. I know couples who bonked on the first date and are still together 15 years later, gloriously miserable with children and mortgaged up to their immaculately lacquered hairdos. Likewise, I know guys and girls who wait for the big bang and never get beyond six months. It is impossible to tell how a relationship will pan out, and, you know, some people just really like sex and are quite willing to show you just how much after merely three drinks. Plus, if it’s terrible, you know not to bother calling.
Be persistent and they’ll like you/agree to go on a date
Carpet-bombing someone with attention isn’t going to endear you to them. Learning to take no for an answer and reviewing rejection are essential if you do want someone to be interested in you.
Listen to the dating experts
They don’t know anything. And don’t you think most of them look like they have something nasty under their floorboards? And why are they still single? Hmmm? Exactly.