Love in the Time of Vodka

13 October 2007

So I had a date at the weekend. At least that’s what it looked like at first glance, but who can really tell these days? It is a confirmed tragedy of our times, that hoards of perfectly meaningless and romantically null evenings are nowadays scurrying all over the place disguised as dinner dates, whilst the ‘real things’ tend to hide their bushels of budding amour under false fronts of mere friendship. I am just one of many victims of the modern dilemma: ‘A date, or not a date?’

Example scenario A: Earlier in the summer, I had quite innocently agreed to go to the theatre with a good friend from work. This guy was a notorious flirt, to the extent that he carried the title ‘The Asian Persuasion’ and I was enthusiastic enough to believe that he was genuinely as keen as I to see ‘Othello’ at the Globe. His gallantry extended no further than paying for 2 tickets, at a fiver each, to stand in a crowd of up to 700. Where, oh where, was the hint that this was a date? How was I supposed to know that, upon my becoming accidentally entangled with our mutual boss in the sultry haze of a summer barbecue, Mr Persuasion would feel so ill-used that I wouldn’t get a word or even a flicker of recognition out of him for over a week?

Now to scenario B: last Saturday night. This time, all thoughts of mere friendship had taken a well-deserved holiday, and I was looking to meet a gentleman who’d asked for my number shortly after meeting me, taken me to a wine bar and then out to dinner, texted me every day since we’d met… We went for drinks, then to the theatre and finally on for a late-night dinner. He was, at all moments, charm itself. And yet, without going into too many details, the ‘date’ status of our meetings came into question. What, I ask, were these evenings if not dates? Surely, in the grand hierarchy of ‘Dates and their minor relations’, an intimate evening of wine, theatre and conversation would absolutely trounce two hours stood in the wind and rain, buffeted on all sides by similarly bedraggled folk, watching Othello take out Desdemona with a pillow. Frankly, my dear, I am completely flummoxed.

Where’s etiquette when you need it? Oh, for the guidelines of the good old past, when men were men, with swords at their sides and billowing open-necked shirts. Actually that’s just pirates. The point is, in the time of Jane Austen, par exemple, there were codes – rules even – which dictated the pattern of courtship to the extent that no poor soul would be left wondering whether she is a date, or a wingman.

Having a more restricted range of seduction techniques was not necessarily a bad thing. A gentleman of good intentions could ask you to dance, call at your house, butter up your parents and happily-ever-after was practically settled. A girl knew where she stood. And those intentions that weren’t announced through the usual recourses were almost invariably wicked intentions, which often came with a dashing pair of mustachios to boot. It was win-win all round.

Now, naturally, I’m not advocating a return to the repressiveness of old-fashioned doctrines. But it simply seems as though tearing up the guidebook hasn’t made negotiating the path to true love any easier. I assume that’s because there isn’t any specific ‘path’ any more, we are free to take any route we fancy, but the result of this generally seems to be an awful lot of bewildered folk floundering around, searching blindly for romance, rather like a modern day forest of Arden minus the handy fairies. So I say, save us from the wood – give us back the signs!

o I had a date at the weekend. At least that’s what it looked like at first glance, but who can really tell these days? It is a confirmed tragedy of our times, that hoards of perfectly meaningless and romantically null evenings are nowadays scurrying all over the place disguised as dinner dates, whilst the ‘real things’ tend to hide their bushels of budding amour under false fronts of mere friendship. I am just one of many victims of the modern dilemma: ‘A date, or not a date?’

Example scenario A: Earlier in the summer, I had quite innocently agreed to go to the theatre with a good friend from work. This guy was a notorious flirt, to the extent that he carried the title ‘The Asian Persuasion’ and I was enthusiastic enough to believe that he was genuinely as keen as I to see ‘Othello’ at the Globe. His gallantry extended no further than paying for 2 tickets, at a fiver each, to stand in a crowd of up to 700. Where, oh where, was the hint that this was a date? How was I supposed to know that, upon my becoming accidentally entangled with our mutual boss in the sultry haze of a summer barbecue, Mr Persuasion would feel so ill-used that I wouldn’t get a word or even a flicker of recognition out of him for over a week?

Now to scenario B: last Saturday night. This time, all thoughts of mere friendship had taken a well-deserved holiday, and I was looking to meet a gentleman who’d asked for my number shortly after meeting me, taken me to a wine bar and then out to dinner, texted me every day since we’d met… We went for drinks, then to the theatre and finally on for a late-night dinner. He was, at all moments, charm itself. And yet, without going into too many details, the ‘date’ status of our meetings came into question. What, I ask, were these evenings if not dates? Surely, in the grand hierarchy of ‘Dates and their minor relations’, an intimate evening of wine, theatre and conversation would absolutely trounce two hours stood in the wind and rain, buffeted on all sides by similarly bedraggled folk, watching Othello take out Desdemona with a pillow. Frankly, my dear, I am completely flummoxed.

Where’s etiquette when you need it? Oh, for the guidelines of the good old past, when men were men, with swords at their sides and billowing open-necked shirts. Actually that’s just pirates. The point is, in the time of Jane Austen, par exemple, there were codes – rules even – which dictated the pattern of courtship to the extent that no poor soul would be left wondering whether she is a date, or a wingman.

Having a more restricted range of seduction techniques was not necessarily a bad thing. A gentleman of good intentions could ask you to dance, call at your house, butter up your parents and happily-ever-after was practically settled. A girl knew where she stood. And those intentions that weren’t announced through the usual recourses were almost invariably wicked intentions, which often came with a dashing pair of mustachios to boot. It was win-win all round.

Now, naturally, I’m not advocating a return to the repressiveness of old-fashioned doctrines. But it simply seems as though tearing up the guidebook hasn’t made negotiating the path to true love any easier. I assume that’s because there isn’t any specific ‘path’ any more, we are free to take any route we fancy, but the result of this generally seems to be an awful lot of bewildered folk floundering around, searching blindly for romance, rather like a modern day forest of Arden minus the handy fairies. So I say, save us from the wood – give us back the signs!