Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: The Break Up

Recently, my now-ex boyfriend and I “consciously uncoupled”. There were no broken wine glasses and, thus far, no boiled bunny rabbits, either. It was clean, civilised and amicable.

Having said that, just before Christmas is an odd time to split up with someone. Lifestyle publications inform me that everyone is “cuffing” right now, i.e. grabbing on to the nearest human being for warmth.

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And although my studio flat is unfathomably desert-like regardless of the outdoor climate, part of me understands the need.

All the Single Ladies

Rejoice, singletons! Great changes have arisen in the past couple of years. Online dating has lost its stigma and become commonplace among the bright young things in London. Apps can promise you anything from hanky panky to happily ever after at the swipe of a smartphone screen. Gone are the tender moments preceding love, the “will they won’t theys?”, the uncertainty, the waiting.

Because Kate, 24, from Walthamstow is “just looking for some fun”, and you’re pretty sure this “fun” equates to an awkward, ill-advised shag that concludes in one person forgetting the other’s name. Just make sure you aren’t on crossed purposes…

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The dating app scene is not so fruitful as it would seem. The most pertinent issue is that it encourages a ‘shopping list’ approach to dating, where superficial details such as age, appearance and job are prioritised, and there is no indication of any actual chemistry. An obstacle indeed, considering that the phrase “He’s not my usual type, but…” will, in many cases, be the phrase that precedes a relationship.

While it is important – incredibly important- to be attracted to someone you have any form of relationship with, the impression you get from a 2D photograph can vary dramatically from the impression you get after a five minute long interaction. Call it pheromones, call it body language, call it a sudden admission of veganism – nothing can replace face-to-face contact for assessing compatibility.

The Meat Market

Despite my ambivalence towards the nightclub “meat market”, my last two relationships have been with people I’ve met in clubs. Why? I can only assume that alcohol, the early hours of the morning and –uhm—darkness are conducive to a budding romance. Not to mention that a drunken kiss in a club is somehow more socially acceptable than one which takes place sober in daytime. That’s just British manners.

Nonetheless, this tried and tested method has lost its appeal in the past couple of years. Being in a relationship gives you a certain supercilious air when walking through a nightclub. Whether you get noticed or not, you have Schnookums to go home to.

So it is something of a leveller when you realise that, like it or not, the humiliating chorus of ‘All The Single Ladies’ now applies to you. Ditto “I Will Survive” (although personally, I like that one).

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Nor can you expect them to be immediately smitten. It’s a big step down to go from being someone’s girlfriend to someone’s “just another girl”. The solution? Get over it. Students and club promoters might thrive in that sort of environment, but beyond that it’s probably not the ideal place to find your latest squeeze. And dancing badly with your best friends is a lot more fun.

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker

So, you have been single for a month, or long enough for the dust to settle. Suddenly everyone “has a friend”. Awkward, dwarfish, serially philandering or otherwise, these gentlemen are – according to well-meaning pals- your answer to eternal loneliness. I’d rather date Miranda Hart’s fruit friends.

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Then again, have you ever fancied having an arranged marriage? There’s plenty of evidence in favour of doing it. Low divorce rates. Traditional values. Guaranteed parental approval. In short, provided there isn’t a 40 year age gap, arranged marriage is straightforward and simple.

And hey, there’s one argument that modern Western culture offers us too much choice when it comes to dating. Swipe through a hundred Tinder photographs and no doubt you’ll fixate on the man with the great abs rather than the great heart. Pretty shallow, no?

Arranged marriage is the antithesis to this newfangled dating scene. Modernity says “more choice”. Advocates of arranged marriage preach making the appropriate choice. In theory, it promises all the things society tells us- women particularly- we should want. Security, reassurance, commitment.

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My objection is precisely how simple arranged marriage would be. It’s important to end up with someone who will complement the choices you make for yourself, rather than simplify your life and your ambitions. Maybe a marriage of independent minds is harder than a marriage of convenience. But it’s worth trying for.

Single and [Not] Looking

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There are, of course, other ways to mitigate the loneliness: Gin and tonics. Dolly Parton lyrics. Burger joints without a nutritional conscience.

And, while I’ve never been one to run away from my feelings in a proverbial sense, a recent guilty pleasure is to hurl myself along a treadmill to whichever god-awful popstar is making too much money at the moment (Taylor Swift, I mean you).

John Lennon said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. But he might well have said that love is what happens when you’re making other plans, having met Yoko Ono while at the height of his Beatles fame.

I’m a strong advocate for channeling your energy into your friends, hobbies and ambitions rather than worrying too much about finding a partner. No one wants to end up an old maid – or a “bachelor”, which sadly sounds a lot more suave – but, thinking pragmatically here, it’s having those “other plans” which makes you desirable rather than needy; fulfilled rather than needing to be fulfilled by someone else.

Which is why, in this fast-paced dating culture, I’m in no particular hurry to move on.

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