The Localist

Dating Stories, Sydney Style

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Blame Hollywood, but everyone wants a nice little story about how they met their partner. Preferably a serendipitous tale, like a visit to an art exhibition, stranger walks over to join another in admiration of a painting: ‘Is this your favourite too?’ Cue date.

The more realistic version: drinking all the free wine on opening night and being the last two people standing on the street after the gallery closes. I say realistic because this did actually happen to me and I remember being quite excited at the time because despite the air of desperation about the whole situation I could still technically say we met at an art gallery and people would think about scenario one.

While meeting online is pretty much the only way to get a date in Sydney these days, most traditional dating websites seem to come with a fair bit of stigma attached. I put this down to the complete lack of a ‘story’. For example, if you set up a profile on RSVP or Ok Cupid, your nice little love story consists of the way in which you trawled through photos, checked match percentages, star sign compatibility, height difference, life goals and dating intentions. These were then reviewed and partners shortlisted for selection. Spontaneity factor: zero. Chance of having a casual conversation at work about your activities: zero.

Enter Tinder, the app relying solely on photos, mimicking the harsh reality of life. Swiping right means interested, left means the opposite. If both parties ‘like’ each other, it’s possible to chat. This means that, shockingly, you might not actually know the star sign of the person you are about to meet, nor their favourite inspirational quote. But don’t panic, it’s simply reintroducing the random into dating, which may very well lead to a love story worth sharing. Or at the very least, a story.

Firstly let’s review the other options:

RSVP certainly has its merits. If you want a life where main priorities include: office work, going to the gym, Bunnings on weekends, somebody named Daryl and ‘relaxing with a nice glass of wine’ (meaning its literal interpretation and not a euphemism for fun shenanigans like late night skinny dipping in your apartment’s spa pool). Content and photos are vetted for mainstream-ness, therefore it’s a little light on personality all round. If RSVP were a cuisine it would be pub food, predictable, edible, at times delicious but ultimately limited by its very nature. It’s free to join the site but the biggest downside, aside from Bunnings with Daryl, is that each contact costs you a ‘stamp’, purchased in sets of 3 for $49.95.

Ok Cupid is kinda the opposite. A giant free for all, which can, at times, make you yearn for the sanitised world of RSVP. On setting up a profile, the website encourages you to answer questions about yourself in order to calculate your percentage of ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’ with others on the site. This is quite a handy tool because you’ll likely have to weed through a number of strange messages from colourful and unsuitable characters. A classic example: ‘sexy4u69’ sends you a message. Name choice aside, you can see he’s an 80% enemy. He’s probably stated that he only wants a polyamorous relationship with a politically minded atheist who changes their toothbrush every 3 months (the questions get quite specific). Yet, bizarrely, he’ll still try his chances with you. Simply ignore.

However, if you get up around the 80-90% friend mark with somebody, you can safely chat away knowing you have at least some trivial things in common. A word of warning, questions range from: ‘Do you smoke?’ To ‘What is your favourite sexual position?’ I suggest you set all the answers to ‘private’ lest you want the entire survey published on your profile, revealing all intimate details to the Ok Cupid world for 2 days before you notice and go into panic mode. Not that this happened to me.

And then there’s Tinder. The mechanics are basic but the potentials vast. Within my social circle, I’ve witnessed the full array from the initiation of emoji sexting (you have to get creative with the aubergine and the hand signals), to the actual, successful, genuine, relationship.

Tinder’s strength is its lack of expectation from both parties. On the downside, this means sometimes you may forget that the photos flashing across your screen are actual people as it feels like some sort of game. Consequently, dates are prone to cancellation at the last minute, and a ‘break up’ can simply consist of one unanswered text. However, if you can stop yourself lamenting the fragmented post modern world we live in and go with the flow a little, the good news is that jumping straight into a date with someone you hardly know will always give you some sort of a story.

Of course there are the usual digital dating pitfalls, such as not recognising your date at the bar and introducing yourself to a stranger. This is often combined with the common ‘date doesn’t look anything like the photo’ cliché. But don’t let these minor details put you off. If the date is a certain ‘no’, usually established in the first few minutes, it can still be enjoyable as you mull over the worst bits in your head for what I consider to be the politest minimum time of 30 minutes, rehearsing the humorous awkward moments to transmit back to friends the following day.

Which brings me to my final piece of Tinder advice: never date alone. Just as a good love story is something worth sharing, the retelling of a comical bad date brightens just about anybody’s day. Tinder’s gift is stories and at the very least, the bonding power of these tales is guaranteed to connect you with others.

AUS_JenniferGoodwin_M

 

MEET THE LOCAL: JENNIFER GOODWIN

 

Image. Photo by Herald Sun.

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