Where are the Instructions?
When I was at school, girls could study whatever they wanted, as long as it involved home economics. I have to say, learning to sew a pillowcase and make edible corn fritters might have been designed to turn me into the perfect wife and homemaker, but it left me feeling desperately unprepared for the step preceding that – dating!
When I was growing up, there was only one nightclub in town. For anyone over 18 (or in the days before photo ID, anyone who could memorise the birth date and star sign of an older friend and could stand upright) this was where you spent Friday and Saturday nights. And so sets the scene for my introduction to dating.
For years, the last song of the night was either Khe Sanh or You Shook Me All Night Long. The opening chords to these songs launched a drunken, sexually-charged, borderline psychotic game of musical chairs.
Those notes were an alarm announcing that in less than five minutes the lights would be on and for all the desperate and dateless it was the last chance to pick up. So for three and a half terrifying minutes, the best you could do was stay out of the way, while horny Wranglerclad singles prowled the dance floor like they were auditioning for a part in Night of the Living Dead.
When the song was over, and the doors flung open, the victors wandered into the darkness with their prizes arm in arm (I’m convinced this was more about balance than passion), and the losers were left to wait in line for a cab. Is it any wonder that with this as my training ground, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to dating? To this day, when I hear Cold Chisel or AC/DC, I cross my legs and reach for my car keys out of pure instinct.
With 15 years’ experience since then, you’d think I’d have the whole dating thing down to a fine art. But as I sit here replaying the horror that was last night’s date in my head, I clearly still have some things to learn.
Now, I’m not saying this guy was a jerk. He may be perfectly nice and had had a really bad day, but from the time we ordered the first cocktail to the time I decided to skip dessert and started signalling madly for the cheque, the man didn’t have a nice thing to say about anyone or anything in life.
He hated his job; couldn’t stand his money-grabbing ex-wife. I thought we were onto something when he started talking about his kids, but that turned into how pi**ed off he was about having to pay so much maintenance to said, ex-wife.
At lunch with my friends the next day, wiping tears of laughter while describing the date’s details, I uttered the phrase familiar to singles the world over: “Why does this keep happening to me?” To my surprise, my ever-supportive friends’ reactions could only be described as, well, scoffing. My friend Mick rolled his eyes and went on to explain that it had nothing to do with my presentation skills or what he was certain is a thoroughly appropriate date dress. It’s more to do with my judgement.
He went on to point out that for the ten years we’ve known each other, I’ve dated cheaters, drinkers, narcissists, a very nice gay man who had yet to come out and, unknowingly, an adulterer. In each case, in one way or another, I had tried to convince Mick they were all really sweet and just needed my love and support. During the few times I’d allowed myself to be single for more than a month, I’d been introduced to some rather handsome, nice and perfectly normal men and I was totally disinterested. I had to admit he was right.
Sadly, I have no advice. Clearly, I’m just as clueless as everyone else, but it’s liberating to know I’m the problem - and I can fix me. One step at a time I guess. I would like to thank my friend Mick and all the other men I know who make it impossible for me ever to say “all men are horrible” and mean it. Some of them are pretty awesome – it’s just a matter of finding the one that’s awesome for me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot date with this gorgeous guitar player who borrowed five bucks from me when I met him at the taxi rank after last night’s horror date. Wish me luck!