For those who don’t know, those of us in the UK don’t really ‘do’ dating, or at least not in the way people in the USA do. A generation’s worth of Friends, SATC and Seinfeld means we are more than aware of the conventions and rules involved in US-style dating. In practice, though, there’s still a sort of underlying consensus over here that any date is a big deal and that you should have decided whether you are going to like someone *before* the first date. Yes, I know, that kinda defies the point.
How It Should Be Done
As far as I see it, this is the way dating *should* work. You meet someone who is also single and you exchange numbers. You meet up for a coffee or a meal and, over the next couple of hours, decide whether there’s a hint of a spark or not. You also try and suss out how much chance there is of them being an axe murderer, but let’s assume for now that they are not. If either of you doesn’t quite feel the spark then you gently turn down the second date with no (well, very few) hard feelings. On the second date, you are slightly less nervous and can get to know him/her a little bit more. At this point, you can work out if you have the same sense of humour and if you’re interested in the same stuff. Two yeses in these compatibility stakes = a third date. The third date is the one where you decide if you want to take things further and what happens after that is generally allowed to be off-book – the formal dating part is usually over.
The problem is that over here, we sort of want to know all the answers before we even begin. Again, yes, this is stupid. I myself cancelled loads of potential first dates (and by “loads”, I mean “at least two”) during my single days, just because I wasn’t sure if I’d like him. Another thing we are guilty of is getting over-excited when a friend goes on a first date – we pile the pressure on them by our inability not to demand pre- and post-date analysis.
So, why do we make so much more of a big deal over a little date? Is it because it’s in our nature to be quite self-deprecating and are afraid of wasting someone else’s time? Is it because we don’t want to waste our own time with someone who we’ll end up not seeing again? Are we more sensitive and afraid of being rejected or – worse – having to reject someone else? Or perhaps some old-fashioned idea of courtship comes into play – us girls still half-expect men to woo us, but men these days are afraid of offending the strong-minded modern women by coming on too strong.
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that, by being so cautious, we are very much reducing our chances of meeting people we wouldn’t normally have the chance to get to know. It’s all about averages, right? The fewer people we meet, the less chance of finding the right one. If we don’t regularly go on first dates, then how can we ever hope to get into a relationship?
Well, since you asked…
How It Works Over Here
It’s not like we don’t date at all. It’s more that the dates we go on are pretty much always with people we already know a bit about. We usually date acquaintances – friends of friends who we’ve met a few times and who we’ve already acknowledged a mutual attraction with. If not friends-of-friends, UK dates tend to be with people from online dating sites – i.e. people who we’ve already had a chance to judge for their likes, dislikes, humour and looks. When we deem someone first date-worthy, we generally already know that there’s a good chance of a second date…and a third. This approach is not without its advantages – friendship (or at least acquaintance-ship) is a good foundation to build on, and dating less = less chance of casual rejection.
We do sometimes agree to go on blind dates but, again, we tend to feel the need to find out everything about the other person before we agree. Plus, there’s the worry about offending the person doing the set-up if the first date doesn’t lead to a second. Best not to risk it then…staying at home alone is much less likely to upset anyone.
My boyfriend once said to me that he nearly cancelled our first date because he wasn’t sure we’d have anything in common – which goes to show how important it is for us Brits to take a more relaxed approach to dating. I reckon it’s great to have high standards, but only as long as they are coupled with an open mind. Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts about dating in the US, UK or any other countries, so do leave a comment if you have a story to tell!