Yesterday I found a brilliant (read: not brilliant) article on HuffPo giving dating advice to women. You all know how much I love (read: don’t love) both HuffPo and ill-thought-out dating articles. You know the ones – they all seem to be entitled ‘Top 10 tips for women dating’, or ‘Top 5 ways to impress a lady if you’re a man’, or occasionally even ‘Top 10 search-engine-optimised sex manoevres with which to confuse your partner.’
These articles are clearly bloody difficult to write, and the writers frequently fall into a number of traps. To prevent this happening again, and causing me to spit cider over my phone and exclaim “WHAT?! You want me to do WHAT on a first date, HuffPo?!” I have written a guide for dating writers:
Top 5 tips for writing a top 10 dating tips article
1. Try to avoid assuming we’re all stupid. Tips such as ‘post a recent photo on the dating website’ and ‘don’t play with your iPhone during the date’ rest on the rather gargantuan assumption that your readers are a herd of cackling incompetents. You might as well tell us to not to punch the waiter, or ensure we turn up wearing shoes.
2. Before you set pen to paper, try your hand at some research. If that is too tricky, why not simply haul yourself outside for five minutes and meet a real human? This might prevent you from giving tips in which you make gargantuan, sweeping proclamations about the behaviour of the entire species. Clangers such as: ‘if you’re looking to hook up on a first date, that’s fine. Just don’t expect this to lead to a real relationship’ can be easily avoided by speaking to one of the countless thousands of people who have done exactly that.
3. When editing your tips, read them with the eye of someone compiling a 1950’s guide on how to be a Good Heterosexual Partner. Tips such as ‘if you want an over 50’s man in your life, you’d better give him the ability to feel needed by taking care of things for you’ will no doubt have that particular editor smiling with delight. This is a sign that you should cut them. Immediately.
4. Consider whether your advice applies to everyone, or just to you. Advice like ‘don’t wear flattering underwear’ or ‘don’t try to suggest changes to your partner’ only apply to a very specific subset of people – the sort of people who wear flattering underwear, for instance. Or the sort of poisonous critics who are likely to explain – on a first date, no less – exactly which things their potential partner might need to change about themselves. I don’t know any of these people myself, but if you’re writing this tip down, you are probably one of them.
5. Remember that dating is neither a war nor a job interview. When I read these articles there’s an overwhelming sense that the sole purpose of going on a date is for the person you’re dating to accept you. As if the best possible thing that can happen is that they don either a Donald Trump hairpiece or an Alan Sugar beard and magnanimously announce that ‘you’re hired!’
Dating tips writers – I appreciate that on the surface your job might appear to be one of a coach – cheering your team on until they win a shiny prize, and ensnare the man or woman they’re meeting. But actually your role is far more important than that: you’re there to help people have successful dates. By encouraging people to think only about whether they’ll be accepted by their partner, you miss out the rather crucial point that they need to accept their partner too.
Every minute they spend worrying about whether their underwear is too flattering or whether they’re making their date feel ‘needed’ enough is a minute not spent finding out whether the person they’re dating is actually someone they’re interested in.
My top dating tips
1. Talk to your date
2. Listen to your date
3. Decide whether you like them
4. Find out whether they like you
5. If, by the end of the date, you know the answer to both 3 + 4, then no matter what the answers are, you’ve had a successful date.