Hello, dear reader. How’s it going? Anyone taken the plunge and turned their central heating on yet?
Last week my friend Abi and I went for a catch up, which is always a lovely thing to do, because Abi is marvellous. She and I met on an appalling theatre tour in 2013, and ever since then we’ve been a very good team in a crisis. This was especially important last week because we’d both been through a pretty rough time. Lowlights included moving house under sad circumstances (Abi), trapping thumbs in train doors (me), and getting our hearts trodden on (both of us). Don’t worry, I won’t go into details. Unless you want to know about the thumb-trapping thing, which is so embarrassing that it’s automatically funny.
Anyway, our conversation moved from the specifics of our own failed romances to the general way that dating in London seems to go these days: matching, chatting, meeting, dating and then…nothing. Technology has made it frighteningly easy for people to disappear just as soon as you think things are going somewhere. Not an encouraging prospect. Setting aside the fact that love is being left mostly to apps nowadays, the whole new relationship thing does seem to have lost a bit of its charm.
“Where are the flowers?” Abi demanded. “Flowers used to be a thing, right? But when did any of us last get flowers?”
“Er…I got some the other day.”
“What?! From who?”
“Well…my sister. And she was trying to cheer me up about getting dumped, so…” “Doesn’t count really, does it?”
Generations gone by had rules and systems: courting, proposals, betrothedness. (“Is that a word?” “Too late, she’s said it now.” “Shall we…?” “No, best let her carry on. You’ll only confuse her if you interrupt.”) Our parents and grandparents knew what they were doing, because love in times gone by was a practised dance: everyone knew the rules and which move came next in the sequence. Love in times present is more like a Harlem Shake video, where there are no rules and no discernible moves at all.
Part of the problem, Abi and I decided, is the euphemistic nature of relationships: “dating”, “seeing each other”, “taking things slowly”, etc. I’m all for people discarding labels that don’t work for them, but there is no allowance for progress. No one wants to admit that, eventually, they’d really like a nice partnership with another human being.
Abi told me about a friend of hers who is originally from Germany, and how the non-committal dating scene of London horrifies her. In Germany, this friend says, people go on five dates, kiss, and then they are in a relationship. No tricks, no games, no messing around. Those are the rules. I admit that these rules might not work for everyone, but I like the idea of a structure, of development. Couples who are working towards something as a pair of people who are interested in each other, rather than two individuals who are competing to see who can be less emotionally invested.
I have a group of friends who live in the Highlands, and they are all in happily married couples. I’m not suggesting that they don’t have problems, or that their relationships have all been super easy, but they have all invested time and energy into making their relationships work. During my last visit my friend Robyn joked that the only reason for that is, in that part of Scotland, there is nothing else to do. She was being silly to make me feel better about being single, which I love her for, but I wonder whether there might actually be something in what she said. Are the men and women of London so distracted by their jobs, pop-up bars, house-warming parties, Oyster cards and Buzzfeed articles that we can’t focus on each other for more than five minutes? Is there any way to find a half-way point between being busy and being in love?
“Like, half-way between London and Inverness?” Abi asked when I brought this up.
“Yeah,” I said, and then realised something. “Actually no, because that means we have to move to Blackpool.”
Have an amazing day, gorgeous reader. Abi and I are both fine, by the way. We’re certainly not moving to Blackpool just yet.