Saturday 24 February 2018

Why the Irish will never be able to embrace casual dating

Dating in Ireland
Dating in Ireland

Tanya Sweeney

I turn my back on the world of dating for no more than five minutes, and a new term surfaces to describe the questionable behaviour of singles.

We’ve had ghosting (when a person you’re dating just evaporates into thin air and cuts off all contact without warning) and mooning (when you are forced to put your phone on ‘night-time’ mode to escape someone who is calling or texting too much).

And now, phrase fans, welcome to ‘breadcrumbing’. Much as its name suggests, it’s the act of offering someone you’re not particularly interested in a tiny morsel of attention or

affection from time to time. Done ostensibly to keep the other party interested, breadcrumbers keep the embers alight with random flirtatious texts, and the odd Facebook like, before receding back into obscurity for another while. You don’t need to be a pop psychologist to figure out just why this is so spectacularly effective. When fragile egos are involved, as they invariably are when we date, we’ll take anything for a boost.

My God, have I ever put my time in with the breadcrumbers. Before I’d even heard of the word, I’d suspected that I had a breadcrumber magnet. The gist was always depressingly the same: girl meets boy. Girl goes on date with boy, and had a great time.

Girl even laughs at boy’s jokes, making her think there may be home there in the future. Girl doesn’t hear from boy afterwards, and nurses her bruised ego until such a time as a cheeky ‘Hey’ text arrives at 2am. Girl can’t quite believe he is back in her life. Girl is officially now In A Thing with boy. A Thing only curable with heartbreak, litres of ice cream and other break-up behaviours like bawling at an episode of Fair City.

People, this is the worst and rudest kind of crap you can expect another person to put up with. In terms of dating etiquette, it’s up there with spitting in the soup.

Fine, I get it, you want to keep your options open. But surely you realise that the other person — trapped in your holding pattern, for better or worse — believes that they’re the ones at fault? That it’s something they’ve said or done? This taps into people’s worst fears of abandonment.

Ultimately, it will make them a worse partner in the long run, because the poor schmuck that comes after you is going to have to bore his sorry way through more layers of hostility, issues and self-protection.

This, ultimately, is the big problem that people have with dating. If you’re walking into a situation whereby you’re having a few drinks (on the surface of it) and sizing them up as a potential life partner/parent to your kids (on the other hand), it’s a bit of a surreal one. It takes huge amounts of bravery and vulnerability to hold your beating heart out in front of someone and hope they don’t pick it up and chuck it into the road for a laugh.

But like the prom, Black Friday and Starbucks, we’ve taken to the American way of casual dating even more readily than our British counterparts. The whole seeing-multiple-people-until-someone-brings-up-exclusivity is something we appear to be fine with. But for the Irish race, this is too newfangled a concept for us to be truly good at it yet.

The Americans, for their part, are much more upfront about things. Some treat it like job-seeking, sending their CVs and attending interviews at multiple companies until they find the job with the exact right kind of canteen coffee and benefits. Nothing personal if you have a cafetiere; it’s just they’re more of a Nespresso person.

Go on a lukewarm date with an American, and he’ll shake your hand and say something nice and polite. You’ll know pretty much that you won’t see him again, and that’s fine.

In Ireland, the guy who has lukewarm feelings for you will still snog you like you’re in The Notebook, take your number as though it’s next week’s lottery numbers and lead you into a false sense of security. Because, options. Why, though? Why bother with the pretence? Why risk creating more collateral damage than is strictly necessary?

Say what you will, but tradition still weighs down on us heavily in Ireland. Personally, I don’t think we’re okay in being one-sixth of a guy’s girlfriend collection. Some of us say we do so as not to seem clingy, or be written off as a possessive psycho. Doesn’t mean we’re fully on board. If you are, that’s great. God bless your ego-free, ultra-confident self.

But we’re only a couple of generations away from courting at the ballroom and marrying the first man to lay a hand on us. You didn’t really think we’d be okay with being one of five potential girlfriends for someone, did you?

The problem with this new world order is that we’ve forgotten to treat everyone like a living, breathing human being. They’re either Option #2 or Option #3. And we are absolutely in over our head with the options. Drunk as lords on them.

Take it from me, you’ll live to rue the day you ever went with limitless options at the boyfriend buffet, and giving it a shot with someone you may or may not have feelings for.

Even several years after I’ve gone on dates with men, I still get the odd text or email from them. Some apologise for disappearing into thin air, expressing remorse that they didn’t play nicer (one in particular offered the following explanation, as though it were meant to make things all better: “It’s just that I’m a bit light in the cojones department.” Jog on, bro).

Others are more barefaced with that, knowing that in times past, their single-word text (‘’Sup’) was like a flame to my helpless, idiotic moth.

If you still smart when you get the breadcrumbs, take it from me. In a while, you’ll look at them and laugh heartily.


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