IN A NOT unusual state of affairs, I was speaking to my regular partner in rugby criticism, general cynicism, and political commentary related crime on the phone yesterday. It wasn't one of our better efforts. I think we were off the line before the three hour mark had been passed, and there was at least one first world problem left unsolved (as it has been for the last year or so. Rhymes with Ollabies. Suffice to say the answer to Trump is a sealed barrel and an Arctic-bound freighter).
We were also, as is our wont, discussing his recently reinvigorated love-life. As an old fart married lady, I find it a way to live vicariously, and dole out constant and unrelenting advice that The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant has learned to cleverly tune out**. In other words, I'm in hog's heaven. It's irrelevant if my tremendously dear friend - let's call him Toby Ziegler, because I know it will annoy the hell out of him - wants the advice. He's going to be given it. That's what friendship is, right? One person telling a tale of drama/happiness/woe/unrequited love, then the other person interrupting at pertinent points in said story, and telling them exactly what they did wrong.
Mates. A wondrous invention for the ages, along with the marvel that is alcohol to help put up with their yarping, and opposable thumbs, giving us the ability to play games on one's iPhone whilst they lecture.
Anyhoo, somewhere in between my 'and then you should've done this' and 'why didn't you say x and y, rather than z', and 'for the love of monkeys and the general public's eyesight, you didn't honestly wear that heinous shirt did you', something he was saying about a particular dating extravaganza we were picking to pieces finally penetrated my cloud of self-congratulatory cumulo-waffle.
"Most people don't talk about how dates are progressing as a tender process, do they?" he asked.
"She said I was 'part way through the tender process' and that she was judging me on my submission. I'd like to think there was irony involved, and I think at the time I may have given an admittedly weak "haha, yesssss, quite". Looking back, I'd have to conclude, computer says no on the presence of Fabulon or other aids to achieving crisply pressed linen."
I think, after this statement, even from halfway across the country, he heard my jaw drop, and was able to envisage the simultaneous red mist appearing on my fat little face.
I've heard some funny sausage efforts justifying decisions made in how people search for love, lust, and the finding your soulmate, Homer, malarkey in my time, but this - this took the biscuit.
I get that in the cut-throat world of the instadate, snap judgements are made. The temptation to treat an evening's meet-up for cocktails as a job interview is inevitable. I'm guilty of it myself, pre-Man, naturally, post a disastrous blind date with someone who billed themselves as six foot four and 'disinterested in the material'. My face was probably quite the sour saucer of milky non-goodness when he turned up to our luncheon meet, greet and as it turned out, definite Dutch treat.
He was five foot three and divided the bill down to the cent. He also refused to leave a tip for the very nice waitstaff. As someone who is five foot ten and largely unimpressed by that kind of shenanigan, suffice to say I wish he had provided a CV, complete with references from previous relationships, and possibly a height/truth related bond. (Note to self: possible lucrative business opportunity, beyond the wildest dreams of RSVP and other amateurs. See it as combo of realestate.com.au and MI6).
But there's a world of difference between wanting to know more about the person you're blind dating, and dating blindly. This statement about what amounted to jumping through hoops was made on an occasion where the other person - and this is not friendship bias talking - had gone to a great amount of effort. He had no plan in mind other than to give pleasure. And yet his evening, which he saw as a chance to simply get to know someone better, was being viewed by the other party as a step in a formalised methodology he had to complete 'correctly' - or else he would be given the heave-ho.
I get it. I'm horribly, blindingly aware that every date, every relationship, isn't a fairytale, with the prince/farmboy/pro-wrestler/used car salesman and prince/princess/unicorn/monster-truck enthusiast riding off into the sunset together on a horse/in a boat/eating chocolate/in a Ford with oversize tires. Not necessarily in said given combination. That's fine. and what advice would I be able to ram down Ziegler's throat if the world were a rainbow-infested bliss bomb? But there's a limit to even my cynicism, and it was reached today.
Finding love, or its close equivalent, isn't supposed to be a job. It's not part of your career, so don't treat it as though it, and you, are in the office, pretending to be busy reading through a mountain of praiseworthy blather. Just sit. Talk. Listen. Find out if there's something beyond the six foo- er, five foot three exterior. If there's not, then there's not. And that's fine. But you'll never know if you're busy openly and vocally pre-judging against a set of buzzword bingo criteria, made up to ensure people feel small (and not just because they're five foot three).
You don't need to put on your corporate hard-hat, and turn the search for real love into a tender process. Instead, see it as what, at its best and brightest, it can be.
A tender one.
**He nods, smiles vaguely, keeps one earphone in on the side away from me, and listens to podcasts. He's really mastered the art of inserting relevant comments into my rants. Seriously.