Anyone who thinks dating in Northern Ireland is still an easy come, easy go affair, is kidding themselves. The UK is only just beginning to follow in her big sister in the USA’s footsteps, looking over the blueprint with blurry eyes and muddy fingers and like any big to little relationship, while she has it nailed to the board, we’re straggling along behind, tripping over our feet to catch up. But we are catching up. Slowly but surely and totally uncertainly, we’re gaining distance on the dating game, writing new rules as we go along.
When I last dated, we didn’t date. Really, that’s how long ago it was. We hung out or went steady but there was no middle ground and meeting up with more than one boy at a time was a sure fire way to get yourself a reputation. It was a solid NO, but now…..well……it seems hedging your bets has become a fine art and single dating is the saps way to loneliness.
Leah is a dynamite dater. She broke me into the world of internet dating, pulled the heart from my sleeve and stuffed it carefully in my pocket until one day I let a man slip in and take it out. She has the rules pretty well sussed. She dates as she goes, rules them in, rules them out, name’s jump up and down and eventually fall off the list. It’s a slow, fun (if you play it well) matter of elimination. And like with anything, the harder you play, the better you get but never get too confident because there is always someone playing better than you, working harder than you and raising the stakes far above your head. Only in this game, if they’re doing it right, if they’ve really found the key, you won’t even know it’s happening. There are a few tell tales signs he’s playing, first, he tells you he isn’t a player – bingo – wha, wha – the alarm bells ring. That’s his first move. Not so smooth. Next, he goes for the friend angle, the guy who wants to laugh at your stories, listen to your work stress, text you good morning. All within the first week. Now you know what you’re dealing with but what if he works away from home, so he keeps it up? He builds on the trust; he talks like a friend who just happens to be attracted to you. Those, small, subtle hints that he wants to get up close and personal, the ones that chip away at your armour (assuming you have some – I’m building mine). What if you slowly start to believe it? Because no-one would bother playing for the long game, right? No-one would be so calculating. That’s exactly what Leah thought, until, after weeks of wasted texts and phone calls, he flies home and nada. Not a word. Nothing. Stone cold quiet. Naturally she thought she’d been played, the realization of which was like a bucket of water on a cold day. She was left feeling bitter and angry. Imagine the shock of finally letting someone seep under her skin just to find she was some sort of what, time filler? Well naturally she lost it. I may not have lost it, you may not have lost it but this is Leah, she’s short and feisty and well, Leah lost it. This is when the hard play came in. When golden balls switched on the charm, loaded on the charisma and coaxed her into his bed.
The following morning – It was nice meeting you and everything but I really can’t see a future with a girl who over reacted like you did. Take care.
Even players get played. And what did she learn from it – to play harder. And faster. And layer her skin a little bit thicker.
It’s been ten years. I really should have expected change, but this, nothing prepared me for this. There should be training in etiquit, diplomas on tactics and a God darn it manual on texting and sexting and whatever other sub genres there are floating about out there, I am nowhere near well enough qualified to know. Dating has become a vicious game of ploys, everyone looking for an angle, manipulating to meet their own ends, walk in there unguarded and you will be slaughtered on sight. The bottom line is, you play or you get played.