The Unconventional Woman reveals her face (!) for a TV interview about dating
On the day of the interview I remember still feeling tired from my course ending, I got to the studio late, at lunch time, to set up things in a semi presentable manner. That means I didn’t lunch, probably my first mistake. I was really looking forward to the interview though. I had already had a long chat with the journalist, Patricia, and she seemed excited about my emotional and intellectual angle on online dating.
One point I remember discussing on the phone: In my twenties when I wasn’t that bothered about love and was just experimenting with the functional qualities of relationships it seemed liked it was pretty easy to get a boyfriend. By the time I was 29 I knew more about what I wanted from relationships started feeling ready for something more serious, and I was hoping the guys that I met in their thirties would be more mature and capable of one. That was not the case at all. The more emotionally available I was the more people seemed invested in dating and discarding me. When they pretended it was otherwise it was a toxic pretense that damaged me by getting my hopes up. My friends were getting married right and left to people they met in their late twenties, and I was getting left in the cold because I took my time and waited until I felt ready. Patricia asked me why that was and I said it must be the responsibility…it doesn’t matter if I look young for my age, maybe it’s the idea that women are supposed to be thinking about marriage and kids between the ages of 30-35. They have to make a decision about that pretty soon, so they can’t just ‘hang out’ in a relationship. Patricia said she knew exactly what I was talking about.
We didn’t really mention that in the interview. I was interviewed with my friend Sarah, She is in her mid twenties, and she’s a native Londoner who just got out of a long term relationship. It came out how different our views on dating are! I was explaining how I try to deconstruct the photos and messages..hoping to discern some traces of personality that make someone more than their level of physical appeal. Patricia kept on asking me “That’s a very interesting intellectual view on things, but I want you talk about the fun aspect!” I started to get exasperated. The fun aspect? Well when I’m going through the process of sorting through potential matches with my friends we are laughing, but it’s very serious fun. And honestly why don’t people think intellectual processes are fun? Meeting a gentleman with the intellectual and emotional capacity to love you, or even someone who wants to be a cool part of your social network, could change your life. Meeting a jerk could damage you emotionally and put you off course for months, or years, and prevent you from meeting that caring gentleman.
Sarah gave the journalist more of the answer she was looking for, but first she complimented me on my ability to find interesting dates. Then Sarah explained how her tastes were a bit more on the superficial end. She enjoyed the swipe, and she said when friends were around she got even more of a giggle out of it. She would get carried away and match people on accident. Unlike me she really didn’t try to meet many of the people she matched with. Sarah said she was more likely to date a friend of a friend.
I said this is all totally indicative of Sarah’s background. Sarah is a few years younger and she just got out of something big, so there’s no urgency. Even though she is young, she is a native, so all her social networks are in place. She feels confident that appropriate people will filter through her network..you could also call this Sarah’s ‘circle of privilege’. Where as I’ve just come here, so I’m trying to construct my network. Sarah responded to this by mentioning it would be a big turn off if someone said they were new to London, and that she had no interest in allowing a date to become a friend later. Sarah has enough friends apparently (lucky I’m one of them). Then she said that she felt women she knew of who actually went on dates “really like people”
I started to feel depressed after this. You could see from Sarah’s comments the sort of glass walls that were keeping me from connecting to other people.
- People in London do not want new friends outside of their existing networks
- People are turned off if you are new to London.
- Apparently “liking people” is a rare attribute
- People mostly want to date people who are already in their social networks
- Online dating is just for laughs
- People using the most functional interface (Tinder) think of dating in a totally superficial way
Add to that my personal elements of precarity:
- I only have 2.5 years to live in the UK because of my visa, unless I find a job or a partner that likes me enough to help me with my visa
- I’m 30 and I know what I want. I want commitment/a relationship
- I’m an artist/student–I don’t have much of a financial status to contribute to a partnership (yet)
You can see how the numbers are against me. All the pain that I experienced individually over the past two years because of men can be easily be predicted by my social and cultural context. How could it be any other way? Why would it change? So it should make a lot of sense when I say I wish I had the ‘privilege’ and the ‘right’ to love someone.
After this segment Patricia’s cameramen started to set up for an interview upstairs. Sarah went and got a sandwich for me, while I tried to push a tear back into my eye so Patricia wouldn’t notice. Then we went upstairs for the second part of the interview. Patricia asked me how many people I’ve dated. I was prepared for this, I told her already that I’ve dated about 30 people in twelve months. When people are shocked by this number I guess they don’t realize that its not as much as that I’m a serial dater as a serious romantic, Society has made rules about my identity that make it hard for me to get into a relationship, this is my only way to attempt hacking the system… And it’s funny, the numbers show that the rules have nothing to do with my physical appearance.
The next thing Patricia asked me was about the jobs and identities of all the people I’ve dated. I wasn’t prepared for that, and I was so exhausted at this point my burnt brain was having trouble recalling more than 5 people. I had to question whether the Unconventional Woman premise of connecting with a cross section of the matrix was realistic, or were most people going in the delete file?
Our final shot was a picture of me walking down the street near the university. I felt like drifting down the sidewalk with my head down, nursing my inner turmoil. I could play a feminist Raskolnikov about to go on a binge of ex-boyfriend murders, except there’d be no Sonia to save me. Because if Sonia was a man what would his profession be? Then they reminded me to smile. Smile girl, signal your eternal availability, just keep waiting for your chance. Yes, you must pretend you are a girl.