The Cam - The local witness to boundless first datesCeci Browning

I am a serial dater. There is no point in me trying to deny it because it is objectively true. Over the course of the last year, I recently calculated, I had sixteen first dates. Of those sixteen, twelve of my dates wanted to see me again. Of those twelve, I wanted to see five again in return. Of those five, three lasted beyond a second date, sticking around for however long it took us after that to work out we weren’t such a good match.

“Ten first dates instead of five first dates can only double your chances of finding somebody you like, right?”

Dating – by which I mean dating to find somebody, not dating the same person over and over – is a numbers game. The chances of a first date being successful are tiny, especially when it is with somebody you have never met before. From the number of dates I have been on, I know this. I am not oblivious to the statistics. But for this reason, because the likelihood of two strangers being well suited is so small, it makes sense to go on as many dates as you have the time and the energy for. Ten first dates instead of five first dates can only double your chances of finding somebody you like, right?

With this attitude, I am well attuned to first dates. I have a routine. Half an hour of yoga. Shower. Towel. Blow dry my hair. Matching bra and knickers. One small glass of white wine while I put makeup on. Black jeans. White blouse. The perfume in the purple bottle with the gold top. Three rings, a silver bracelet, and the necklace which says luck. Two pieces of Extra spearmint chewing gum (one after the other, not both together).

This, my total self-immersion into the world of dating, is something that one of my best friends cannot understand. He is in absolutely no hurry to meet somebody. He is not sleeping around and he is not getting over anyone; it is simply that he is content by himself. The desire to find another person to share all the gaps of life with, the gaps between the good stuff where there’s no excitement, no plans, just living: this hardly crosses his mind. First dates terrify him. I’ve seen him go on one, only one, in the entire time I’ve known him. It was with somebody he already knew, yet it was the most scared I have ever seen him, sweating through his un-ironed Ralph Lauren shirt.

On a visit to his house one Christmas, we talk about exactly this: quite how opposite we really are in our approach to relationships. It is about eleven in the morning. He stands at the kitchen counter, pouring beans into the coffee machine. I watch from the window seat as he pushes the lid down, then takes two small white cups from the overhead cupboard and places them side by side on the countertop.

“In the same way that some people might refresh their lives with a new haircut or a gym membership, I am reincarnated by the act of dating”

I have been telling him about the guy I have just started seeing – because he knows I have always just started seeing someone – and all the things that might suggest this guy is either interested or not interested, all the pros and cons of pushing forward with, or stepping back from, this particular person. My friend humours me for a while as he cracks four eggs into a large frying pan and pushes four slices of brown bread under the grill, then interrupts:

Why do you go on so many dates?

I think about it for a while.

Toast on the plate. Eggs on the toast. Plates on the table.

I didn’t really have an answer for him. I could claim it was statistics. This was partly true. I could claim I liked meeting new people, hearing their pasts and presents and futures all squeezed into a couple of hours of conversation. This was also true. But there was more to it. The real reason was fuzzy, sort of like when you turn the light off and your eyes adjust to being in the dark, and I couldn’t really work out what exactly it was, what the reason was that I kept trying and trying and trying, even when it meant being in a constant cycle of hurt and happiness, being a little unbalanced, all of the time.


Mountain View

Why I’m proud to be a Bitch

In the last few months, I’ve realised that perhaps the reason I keep making myself vulnerable in this way is that I actually like first dates. In the same way that some people might refresh their lives with a new haircut or a gym membership, I am reincarnated by the act of dating. The thought that eventually, when I meet the right person, I’ll never get to go on a first date ever again, troubles me. There is nothing like the feeling of being totally new to another person, feeling around for their outer edges, and trying to determine if they are the right shape to slot into your life. So in answer to my friend’s question, maybe the reason I go on so many first dates, is simply because – until recently – I haven’t actually been ready to commit to the prospect of a second one.