Why isn’t dating fun anymore?

There is an epidemic happening in the world. Not a pandemic – we’ve been there, done that. An epidemic of attractive, successful and interesting 30-somethings who cannot get a good date. I’ve conducted extensive research on this issue by speaking to my single friends around the world, male and female, and have been hearing the same stories from everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation or geographic location. It doesn’t make for easy listening.

I’m sure dating used to be fun. I spent most of the second half of my 20s single myself, and I have a tonne of great stories about amazing dates, occasional dating fails and blossoming relationships that never ended up going anywhere. There was the 7-hour first date with the 6’5” physiotherapist, where we literally couldn’t stop talking; the guy in Melbourne who took me on a Sunday afternoon bar crawl around his hipster neighbourhood and kissed me in the middle of the date to ‘get that out the way’; the Kiwi musician who showed up to our first date with no shoes on, carrying a guitar and eating an apple (I went on to have a 10-month relationship with that one).

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I could name many more memorable beginnings. While most of my dates in my 20s didn’t end in serious relationships, they nearly always led somewhere. I never felt pressured to ‘perform’ on the first date in case I didn’t get the offer of a second, and I seemed to be pretty good at dating men I genuinely liked and had some form of connection with.

I have barely dated in my 30s, however. And hearing from my friends what it’s like out there is certainly not encouraging me to ‘get back out there’ (god, what a horrible phrase). It’s odd, because we are all in our prime now. We’ve got our shit seriously together, know who we are better than we did a decade ago and don’t need a relationship to ‘fulfil’ us.

We can’t blame the dating apps because they’ve been around for years and years now. I think it’s time we started blaming the society we live in for creating a whole range of single monsters that are but a swipe away from bringing misery into our lives.

Dating apps used to be about just that – getting dates. In 2022, they are more like places to find pen pals that you will never meet, even though, according to Bumble, they are only two miles away. You’ll match and exchange a few messages, then things fizzle out. Extremely rarely does anyone actually arrange to meet up in person, it seems.

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All we have to go on when using an app to meet people is a few photos and some ridiculous ‘prompts’ where everyone writes a variation of the same thing. Interests? Travel and food, of course! Perfect Sunday? A walk, roast and Netflix on the sofa. Hobbies? Climbing is the new fishing, but basically I just like being outdoors LITERALLY ALL OF THE TIME. Don’t you?! The only saving grace of an app like Bumble is that it lists people’s star signs, which means I am thankfully able to avoid my kryptonite of Scorpio men (even though I always think they are hot).

Then, if you find a match, a few messages may be exchanged and sometimes the conversation is, shock horror, interesting or intriguing. Sometimes the stranger on the other end of the internet is funny and charming. If you are really lucky, one of you might suggest moving the conversation over to Whatsapp (a huge level of commitment).

You might think then that the in-person date is a sure thing. Now we have Whatsapp and I can see when you’re online and maybe even the blue ticks of read-message promise, it’s surely the next logical step, right? Wrong. There is still a huge risk of being ghosted at this point, despite having never met in person even once. You’ve put in all the funny chat and played it cool when they didn’t reply for five days because ‘work got busy’, and still it peters out into nothing. Not even one measly date.

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And that’s when you put them in the Whatsapp archive. If you are single and dating and not using the archiving system, then you’re doing a better job of it than the rest of us. The archive exists for people who were texting us regularly then went quiet. It’s for the ones who arranged a date with us then flaked out, leaving us with an empty evening at the last minute and a decent knock to our self-esteem. Even those who we went on several dates with before they started acting weird and aloof and leaving us feeling crazy. And since we can’t ask them what’s going on (as the biggest rule of dating is to act like you don’t care at all times), our only option is to file them in the archive.

The only way someone gets out the archive is if they message you again. It does not happen often. A friend of mine had a record 23 chats in her Whatsapp archive in one year. That’s 23 guys who ghosted or went weird on her or messed her about. An epidemic.

Does dating sound like fun yet? Wait until I tell you about the ones you meet in person! How about you spend two hours chatting at a gig, he buys you a drink, flirts profusely, kisses you and then you see a photo of a girl on his phone background and feel compelled to ask: “Are you single??” and he sheepishly responds, as you expect: “No, I am not.” “Well, thanks for wasting my goddamn time all evening. Best wishes to your girlfriend, by the way.” It’s beyond depressing and irritating if you are genuinely trying to find a connection or, hey, even just enjoy yourself.

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If you started reading this thinking I was going to answer the question of ‘why isn’t dating fun anymore? I’m afraid I can’t. But I can make some guesses. I think there are two camps of singles: those who don’t know what they want so won’t commit to anything, and those who know what they are looking for but not prepared to give anyone a chance to disappoint them. The problem with both camps is the same, that no one is being honest.

Our expectations of what to look for in a relationship are insane these days. 150 years ago we married for mostly economic reasons and our life expectancies were about half what they are now. Then we added love into the mix and raised the stakes considerably. Fast-forward to 2022, we expect our partner to be our best friend, co-parent, lover and support network. We also expect to fall and remain madly in love with this one person, who will continue to meet all of our needs for the next 50 – 60 years. Does that sound easy to find? We strive so hard for this though it’s basically impossible for anyone to achieve. We are all only human.

I don’t know if we are experiencing some kind of Covid hangover where people have been so isolated and/or self-sufficient they have ended up becoming selfish and only care about their own needs being met. But I do know that honesty is becoming increasingly scarce in the dating world. If you’re someone like me who loves to overthink everything, it’s terrifying. When did dating become so loaded? Where are the good old days of living in the moment and enjoying what comes?

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The thing is, you don’t even get a chance to get to know anyone with these new dating ‘rules’. Anyone who has dated in the past, say, 10 years, will absolutely have been ghosted by someone at some point. But now we are being ghosted by people who don’t even know us. We won’t give anyone a chance because we’ve already written them off at the first opportunity. Maybe we are afraid in our 30s of getting hurt or wasting time; none of us are without baggage by this age. Still, something is keeping these dating apps full of singles, ever hopeful the next match will be different.

I’ll leave you with one last horror story that may have put me off ‘getting back out there’ for the rest of the year: the man who had promised a first date an evening of wine and getting to know each other, later that evening went on to ask the question every girl wants to hear:

“Would you like to use my sister’s vibrator?”

Turns out, getting to that elusive date isn’t always the coup you hope it will be.


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