Harriet Pudney lays out the case for being asked on a date and saying “I’m good luv, enjoy”.
I didn’t quit dating on purpose. Nothing horrible happened, and I didn’t decide all at once. It was more of a series of last straws. After each underwhelming meet-up, I’d roll my eyes and text my friends with any particularly egregious details, take a few days, then log right back on and start swiping. This stop-start approach to dating apps is pretty common. But this whole year, I’ve felt more and more unwilling to return to the dating app folder on my phone, much less go on an actual date. The whole concept feels exhausting and pointless. And so, half by accident, I’ve hung up my boots. Sex, dating, and in fact dealing with men I don’t already know and like? No thank you, I’m good.
I don’t think I’m alone. While dating is a bit of a hellscape no matter your gender or orientation, the single men I know still seem to be able to approach the whole thing with a sense of possibility and curiosity. When things don’t go well they’re bummed, obviously, but they don’t have the bone-deep exhaustion I see in myself, and in just about every unattached woman I know. In our late 20s and early 30s, we just don’t have it in us any more. A couple of years ago, the whole thing was a hilarious adventure. Now it’s just a slog. Being in a loving, mutually supportive relationship would be great, but getting there feels impossible. Dating is like a shitty part-time job where you’re always hoping to find a bag of money on the ground and get to quit. The process feels completely unrelated to the eventual goal.
It’s not that I don’t tend to have at least an OK time on dates. I like meeting people. I think pretty much anyone is interesting if you make an effort, and I would rather die than come off as a snob. You won’t find me sitting there looking miserable and then wondering why I’m having a rubbish time.
However, there’s a big difference between being able to make conversation with someone for two pints and wanting to shop for house plants together. Take for example the guy who’d just split up with his girlfriend of five years – they were still living together, and he was going on four other dates that week. All the best with your journey, mate. Or how about the dude who told me about his desire to racially degrade an Asian woman during sex. I’m white. So was he. I still have no idea what his plan was. Or the guy who ghosted me, then kept liking my Instagram pictures for the best part of a year. Inexplicable behaviour. Or the proud male feminist who spent the whole night telling me he hates that girls like him because he’s not a dick, rather than for his actual personality, kissed me like he was getting shipped off to war in the morning, and then the next month crossed the road to avoid saying hi to me. What a prince. Each time, I’d think, “that was the last one. Not again.” Then, despite a growing sense that this was pointless at best and actively unpleasant at worst, I’d try again.
I was spending a disproportionate amount of my free time amassing funny stories. I love a yarn, but that wasn’t really the point of going on all these dates. As they stacked up, the stories became less hilarious and more depressing. Why was I doing this, again?
So rather than spend 20 minutes getting ready to sit in a pub listening to some little fascist complain how striking brewery workers were manipulative and selfish for the better part of an evening, these days I read a lot. I go to yoga, I call my parents, and I sing Roy Orbison at the dog. I spend more time with my friends. It’s incredibly peaceful, and has the happy knock-on effect of me spending less time on my phone. Fewer apps to absent-mindedly refresh means I’m feeling rather less Ingrid Goes West.
I realise this is a little counterintuitive. I would still like to meet someone, eventually, and here I am having completely stopped trying. But the amount of time and energy dating took had sucked all the fun out of it. I love men. Some of my best friends are men. But the way I was going, they’d all started to blur into one vinyl-collecting, shearling-jacket whiskey snob. I was bored, and worse, I was getting bitter. I’m not sure whether I’ve quit for good, or if this is just a much-needed sabbatical, but I am sure that taking dating off my priorities list has felt like putting down a heavy backpack. This sounds hopelessly second-wave of me, but a life that isn’t centred on men is possible, and in fact, it rules.