Niche but practical dating tips for when ‘be yourself’ won’t cut it


It’s hard out here.

No one actually properly prepares you for casual dating. Sitcoms and movies give you the general idea and your parents (pitifully) try to fill in the spaces, but I don’t know a single person who isn’t completely blindsided by the reality of it.

There are hundreds and hundreds of books and websites and articles that offer tips and advice but, in my opinion, they’re never really that useful. ‘Be yourself’ you’ll read a hundred times. ‘Never settle’ you’ll read a thousand times.

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But there are so many layers to the romantic landscape that I think the broad strokes just aren’t going to cut it. That’s why I’m going to share some niche dating advice I’ve learned in my travels. Here we go.

A ‘glow up’ will not make dating better

Being more attractive should make dating easier. There’s no way you’d keep getting hurt and disappointed if you were just a little better looking, right? Wrong. You know how if you put your most athletic friend in a basketball game with an average person he would absolutely destroy them, but if you put him up against even the worst NBA player in the league he wouldn’t stand a chance?

That’s what dating is like; the competition scales with you. So no, you won’t be hurt by mediocre people and ignored by hot ones; but you will be hurt by hot people and ignored by even hotter people. It’s bad for everyone.

People can like you and still not want to date you

I’ve been rejected and dumped a few times in my life (a lot of times) and after each one, I would stand in front of the mirror, like a scientist in a horror movie who’s accidentally turned himself into a monster, and say to myself ‘What is wrong with me?’. Because, of course, there has to be an intrinsic problem with you for someone to not want to be in your company anymore.

It wasn’t until I was on the other end of a parting-of-ways that I realised this wasn’t the case at all. Sometimes the person is sweet and cool and you like them but, for whatever reason, you just don’t want to see them anymore. You just don’t.

Sometimes it’s so random, that if someone put a gun to your head and asked you why you didn’t want to date them, you’d still have nothing to say (and your brains blown out by this really weird and intrusive, hypothetical serial killer). Attraction is like a food preference in that way. I know carrots are healthy and tasty but I just don’t really like them. There’s no rhyme or reason to point to, and I still want the carrots to know it’s nothing personal and there is someone out there for them.

If it seems like someone doesn’t like you, then they don’t

I know I said I wouldn’t be sharing any clichéd tips, and this one has been plastered on every single teen blog since 2007, but I need you all to know that it is 10,000 per cent valid. Desire for someone is almost uncontrollable. It wells up in you to the point where you feel like you’re going to explode and there’s nothing on Earth that can stop it.

So, if someone cancels on you constantly, rarely speaks to you and gives mixed messages then they do not feel this aforementioned desire. They do not like you. Or they like you so little that they may as well not like you. No, they aren’t playing hard to get. No, they aren’t scared of their feelings.

There aren’t even Buddhist monks who have the self-control to stop themselves from reaching out to someone they are into, so I doubt a 19-year-old ‘Naarm-based’ freelance designer is ignoring your texts because ‘their love for you is so strong that it’s destroying them’ or whatever hallucination you are convincing yourself of.

‘But they reply to my messages sometimes!’ Cool. They still don’t like you. ‘They still like my Instagram photos!’ Spectacular! Do they like you though? Trick question – the answer is a resounding no. The easiest part of the relationship happens in the early days, so if you’re crying and stressed out within a month then there’s no hope. Sorry.

Do not have an HSP before going home with someone

This one feels self-explanatory.

None of the above tips were helpful? ‘Stupid’ even? ‘Self-aggrandising’? Fair enough. That’s why I asked some of my friends and followers for their own one-of-a-kind pieces of advice as well.

“I’m wary of people who try to create a sense of emotional connection or intimacy by… talk[ing] about their/my trauma on a first date. A lot of people perceive it as demonstrating vulnerability, but to me, they’re just oversharing. I wouldn’t tell a colleague or friend of a friend about it the first time I met them so is it any different in a dating context?” – K

“I wish I figured out sooner how critical the ‘One Direction litmus test’ is when dating men. If they don’t like One Direction, walk away. (This rule has never proven itself untrue).” – E

“When I go out on a date that I think may involve a sleepover, I choose a handbag that is suitable to carry a very discrete overnight pack… usually a small fashionable one. I typically slip it out under the guise that I’m using the toilet post-coitus and do my whole routine.” – G

“Getting back your personal items that you for real accidentally forgot at a hook up’s house… is empowering and should be done in an extremely timely manner. (Don’t let them scab a postage fee off of you).” – R

“If his dating profile is mostly photos of him taken on a disposable camera, he’s just the worst; simply no good.” – C

“I would say, just going on the date ASAP is the best way to avoid getting the premature ‘ick’ from people.” – L

If after all this you still feel like you haven’t learned anything, like you’re still a novice, like you haven’t found an answer to your specific dating malaise; then join the club. I could write down dating tips 24/7 for the rest of my life on kilometres worth of paper and still not find a solution for every romantic problem out there.

But that’s the fun, isn’t it. Going through your own specific little problems and solving them yourself. And then, if someone else goes through something similar you can share your knowledge with them. One day you might even be able to share it in an online article. But who would read that?

You can follow Ben here and here.

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