People ask me for advice sometimes, and I find this a bit terrifying because ultimately I am just a bumbling nobhead, who stumbles through life trying to work out how to look like a grown up without anyone noticing that actually I am a ball of bluster and panic. I expect some of you feel like this too, but because I am human I think that I have it much worse: that I am surrounded by functioning adults who have brains and wisdom and the ability to fill out mortgage paperwork, while I still struggle with the concept of having to throw milk away when it starts to get smelly.
So when you ask me for advice, know that I am doing one of two things:
1. Making it up, based on ‘what I reckon’, and given that I often come home half-drunk and ‘reckon’ I should lie face-down on the carpet until my partner covers me with a blanket, my reckonings are unlikely to be particularly insightful.
2. I give advice that other people have given me before, which struck me as wise and thoughtful and far better than anything I could say.
Today I am doing the latter, and I present to you the 3 best dating tips I’ve ever been given.
Dating tip 1: say yes
A long time ago I had a horrible break up. I did that thing where you hide in your flat in your pants, crying to old episodes of Scrubs and eating cheese until you almost stop liking cheese. It was pretty serious. My life was never going to be good again and everything was awful and I couldn’t see myself doing anything at all because he wasn’t by my side.
Then my Mum called.
She told me to pull myself together and stop moping and all those comforting things that Mums are supposed to say. She told me I was beautiful and that I’d find someone else in no time if I wanted to, but that I didn’t need a man to complete me and yada yada etc. I cried some more, because all of this stuff was just clichéd and obvious bullshit which was instantly swallowed by the pit of my misery. I wanted something practical. Something useful. Something I could go out and do rather than just repeat to myself as a wishy-washy happiness mantra.
“Say yes,” she explained.
“Yes. Say yes to every single thing you’re invited to from now on. Evenings in the pub, trips to the theatre, weekends away – everything.”
“Why? To meet someone else?”
“Don’t be a tosser,” she replied. “You do it because it will make you that ‘fun’ person: the one who always says yes. The one who gets excited about life and wants to join in with things. The one who’s always got something exciting on the go.”
“Will it win him back?” I asked, like a pathetic loser.
“Who gives a shit? You’ll be too busy rock-climbing or something.”
So I did: I said yes to everything. And so followed one of the most enjoyable three months of my life. I was skint, of course – all this socialising gave my wallet a thorough hammering – but by God I was having fun. A few weeks after she gave me this advice I was having dirty tent sex with a hot guy, and drinking vodka with strangers on a beach. Thanks, Mum.
Dating tip 2: approach people you fancy
We focus so much on how to ‘capture’ the man or woman of our dreams, and how to entice other people, that frequently we forget that the whole point is that we should like each other. I’ve heard a few variations on this piece of advice before, but none so brilliantly put as that posted by @ArchedEyebrowBR yesterday. In her post – online dating tips for the fat babe – she laid down some pretty significant wisdom that I think is relevant to everyone:
Don’t be at the mercy of everyone else: ask out the people you fancy, not the people you think will fancy you.
Hell yes. Something I have repeatedly and miserably failed at for most of my adult life, in part because I see so many things that give me pause for thought. He won’t like me – I’m too tall. He’ll probably think I’m too common. He goes for blondes.
Why is this stuff in my brain? It didn’t fall in there by accident – it’s there because I’ve had experience with similar guys that has led me to be wary of a particular reaction. It’s also partly down to the media constantly telling us what we need to be like, and down to my youth, during encounters at school which made me believe that like should stick to like. Goth kids with goth kids, fat kids with fat kids, clever kids with clever kids, and God forbid you should have a boyfriend who plays rugby when you’re a glasses-wearing sportphobe.
Anyway. Sometimes this stuff will be true – sometimes the person you fancy really will turn you down because you’re too tall, or whatever. But that is because they may well be a douchebag. And how much fucking better to know that you’re picking from a pool of people you have a genuine attraction to, than ‘settling’ for someone you think you might be able to get because you’ve always been told you can only have one thing?
Imagine if you were vegetarian and you’d been told that the buffet was 90% meat. You arrive at the venue expecting to be fobbed off with some crappy spinach and ricotta bullshit and a measly side-salad. Then you discover, to your delight, that the meat is actually cheese and you can have your pick of anything on the table.
ArchedEyebrow has literally just announced that, but for dating – tuck in.
Dating tip 3: you will never be happy ever after
Please don’t think ‘oh God what a depressing tip to end on’ – this is actually one of the most positive and uplifting pieces of advice I have ever been given, and it applies to LIFE as well as dating, because dating is basically part of life and is not some special expert subject on which only people who tell you to ‘play hard to get’ are qualified to comment.
This advice was given to me by the amazing Justin Hancock, who is wise. He was explaining mindfulness to me, and talking about being present in the moment. I’m not an expert on mindfulness, but this bit really struck home (I’m paraphrasing):
We often think of happiness as this big end goal – like we’ll get to a point in our lives and we’ll be happy. We’ll have a nice home, family, job, whatever, and by that point we’ll have reached peak happiness. Then we get sad about something and think OH NO I’VE RUINED IT and WHY CAN’T I JUST BE HAPPY. But it’s normal: happiness comes and goes, and we’ll never reach this ‘peak happiness forever’ – it’s a myth.
Actually, happiness is always a temporary thing. It’d be weird if it was just a climbing scale and, at a certain point, we reached a state of irreversible bliss. Even when we achieve our ‘dream jobs’ we’re not stagnant – we’re usually not content to just turn up from 9-5 and work to rule every day for the rest of our lives: we have ups and downs, fights with colleagues, deadlines that are unreasonable or realistic, new ambitions or needs or desires.
Likewise with dating: you can meet someone you love so much you want to lick their used socks and snuggle so hard into them that your face becomes melded to the crook of their neck, and still you won’t be happy forever. That person will eventually piss you off, and you’ll piss them off, or you’ll have to go for Christmas lunch with their parents or something and you’ll be miserable because their dad makes shit gravy and doesn’t do the sprouts properly.
The point is, no one will ever be happy ever after. Knowing that makes me much happier today.