Does moving in together change everything? For better or worse?

Apparently I’m not single (according to my beloved husband) but I still got totally swept up in Zoe Foster’s brilliantly quirky new dating book that she’s written with hilarious commentary from Hamish Blake throughout. More about him shortly because I know his female fan-club rivals that of Robert Pattinson.

Zoe’s first book was a novel called Air Kisses, a thinly veiled account of her life as a beauty editor. Not only was it a great read, I was also lucky enough to launch that book while heavily pregnant and with my frock inadvertantly tucked into the front of my knickers. I am a human style bucket, yes I know.

With her next novel (about WAGs) due out next year, Zoe has taken a literary detour via a fresh non-fiction book about dating.

Called Textbook Romance: A Step-By-Step Guide To Getting The Guy, it is peppered with brilliant male insights from Hamish all the way through and even if you’re not single, it’s a very funny read.

The book jacket says:

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a textbook with clear lessons on clever dating and how to build that Perfect Relationship? One that tells it straight but lets you laugh at yourself too? One that leaves you with your dignity and your personality intact? There is!

Zoë Foster, relationships guru, provides whip-smart step-by-step lessons in successful romancing, with male commentary from self-confessed male, Hamish Blake.

From ‘Never Drink and Text’ to the secrets of avoiding the ‘Thai and Tracksuit Pants Curse’ and the meaning of ‘Engaging the Apricot’, Textbook Romance is essential reading for every girl looking for love that lasts.

To open up some discussion about being single and because I’ve long thought Zoe was one of the most original and freshest young female voices in mag/blog/book land, here’s a Q&A I did with her about Textbook Romance……

Q: So, you’ve moved from giving (excellent) lipstick advice to love advice. How did you make that transition?

I’ve being doing both for a while. Back when I was the beauty & lifestyle editor at Cosmo (and single) I started writing the Dating Term of the Month column each month. I loved writing about the male-female dynamic and in what sounds outrageously self-important, feeling like I was equipping young women with some form of emotional artillery. Also, for some reason I’ve always been the girl people came to for relationship advice – whether it was what to write back to his sms or whether to write back to his sms, or whether you should throw the phone at his head instead. I put this down to my mum being such an incredible, wise, spiritual woman, (and also a professional counselor), and me brazenly thieving her best work. Also, a lot of the time I play the Tough Love girl – people tend to ask me for advice when they feel on some level they’re perhaps not making the right decision about something, or are wading into murky relationship waters, and need a verbal walloping to get back on track.

Q: If you had to sum up the basic premise of Textbook Romance in 140 characters, what would they be?

A contemporary, entertaining perspective on traditional concepts of singledom, dating and full-blown relationships, by a girl and a guy.

Q: What is the biggest mistake single women make?

Making excuses for men when in fact what they deserve is an industrial-strength nipple cripple. If a guy cannot find half a minute to text you when he said he would, or call you to let you know he’s going to be running late, or repeatedly invites you out and then when you respond favorably he disappears, why would you tell yourself – and your friends – lies to ensure that halo stays perched above his head? “Oh, well, he said he might be held up….” … “I’m sure he’ll text today…”

When you value yourself and your time, you know better than to accept – and stoically defend – behavior that confuses or upsets you. If he is being a jerk, he does not deserve excuses and he certainly doesn’t deserve repeat business

Q: Can sex on the first date ever lead to a relationship?

Yes, and I’ve heard many cases where this has happened. I personally am a spectacular prude when it comes to advising people on such things, suggesting it’s better to, you know, wait (five or so dates ideally). Not because you’re meant to play Lady Chastity but because you never get those heady days of making out and heated frottage, without sex being the inevitable second course. You’ll have years of sex but sometimes only weeks of foreplay and pashing like horny little teenagers – enjoy it while you can.

Q: What about the idea of moving in together? Is “Don’t Move In Until You Get The Ring” an accurate description of your philosophy?

My philosophy on moving in together would be, ‘Keep it romantic not domestic’ – whether that’s choosing to live separately until you get married, or maintaining some mystery (bathroom door CLOSED) and independence if you do decide to live together. Complacency is a powerful romance killer, and a lot of people become (romantically especially) complacent when they move in with their partner.

Of course, a couple’s decision to move in together is entirely circumstantial, and a lot of people find it wonderfully enjoyable. Good for them.

Also, not everyone wants to get married. Having said all that, there are women out there who mistakenly believe they can inspire their boyfriend into proposing to them by initiating co-habituation as a kind of entrée to a more serious commitment. And I categorically disagree with this. In love, men respond much more favorably to absence than your 24/7 company. (Hell, so do women.)

Q: But what about just seeing if you’re domestically compatible? Isn’t it just a natural extension of your relationship to live in the same space?

I see the logic in that argument. (So did Hamish, which is why Don’t Move in Til’ You Get The Ring is the only chapter of the book in which we disagree). I think my point is more that moving in together shouldn’t be viewed as a can of relationship Red Bull to hurry along commitment, or done out of convenience. It’s a big deal moving in together, but a lot of young couples seem to treat it as though it’s par for the course. But guess what? You don’t have to live together. One day you will. For a real long time. Why not enjoy the thrill of not seeing each other’s dirty laundry on the bathroom floor/the missing-each-other part a little longer?

Q: What about those dating books that suggest you play hard to get even when you don’t want to etc. Do women have to play games and plot and plan? What about just being ourselves?

It’s less about playing games and more a screening process. The idea being that if you are wanting a genuine, quality relationship, sussing out where your potential candidate is coming from, and what they’re like as a human being first is not an entirely ridiculous suggestion. In an ideal world, we would all enter relationships on the same level of consciousness as our partner, and things would be dreamy. And sometimes it is.

But usually we both bring a host of baggage – insecurities or expectations or ex-partners still in the fray – with us when we meet someone, and I think it’s worth spending a little time keeping an eye on the speedometer so you can figure out what things are likely to be like in the long term with someone, and if the two of you are actually compatible. (As opposed to bowling in blindly, only to discover that when he lied about his whereabouts when you were dating, or spoke to waitstaff as though they were scum, guess what, he’ll still be doing that two years in.)

And yes, of course you must be yourself, of course. But surely being yourself – and being true to yourself means not losing yourself and your mind the minute a man shows you a bit of attention.

Q: How did Hamish get involved in the book? You two used to date, right?

We have never dated, no. We met at a function about six years ago and bonded because we share a love of absurdist humour and a talent for nonsensical waffle. Years ago Hame and I wrote dating pieces together in Cosmo, which The Public seemed to enjoy.

We spoke frivolously about doing it on a bigger scale one day and when I mentioned I was thinking of this to Penguin, they got excited and started throwing book contracts around, and all that was left for me to do was convince Hame he should definitely be involved, despite the fact he is one of the busiest human beings on the planet. (Burritos may have been used as incentive.)

Q: What is his book-purpose? Besides, you know, flexing his six-pack.

Hame’s chief purpose is to inject humour into what could’ve been a very laborious, evangelical lecture on relationships. I think the combination of my bossy, traditionalist viewpoint with his witty ramblings is a lovely balance, although I think to limit his input to ‘witty ramblings’ is doing him a great disservice because he is actually very emotionally evolved and his understanding of men and the male female dynamic is incredibly insightful.

Q: What’s Hamish really like? Come on. REALLY.

What’s Hame “really” like? So stinkin’ awesome. He is a magnificent friend and genuinely the funniest, wittiest, sharpest human I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. What you hear on the radio or see on the TV is what you get; his effervescence and wit doesn’t have an off switch. To have had him scribble on my book fills me with pride and glee.

Q: What’s the best way to enjoy being single?

Saying yes. Go everywhere, do everything, get dressed and go out even when you can’t be arsed. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Embrace the delicious spontaneity and selfishness being single brings with it – chew the bone and suck the marrow. (Or aggressively nibble on the tofu if you’re vegetarian.)

Q: How are you different when you’re single vs when you’re in a relationship?

I cook more when I’m in a relationship, and drink more when I’m single. Day to day there’s not a huge difference in how I live, I’ve always maintained that the ideal boyfriend for me is equally busy, because my life at this point is set to ‘Turbo,’ and I don’t think it works when one has a lot more free time than the other. (Also, it means the time we spend together is quality over quantity.)

Single or double, I’m very social because my job demands it and also because I have a herd of exceptional girlfriends and a huge family, and I of course make time for them. I write my books on the weekends because it’s the only time I have to do it and if sans boyfriend, I use whatever time is left (roughly 12 minutes) to sit in a rocking chair on my porch and whittle small animals out of wood. Ha! As if. I obviously whittle small boats.

Q: What’s a the top of your personal Smug and Crap lists at the moment?

Smug: Being reminded by an interviewer the other day that I’d have three books published by the age of thirty. It’s not often I stop and allow myself to reflect on my accomplishments, but that simple statement reminded me of how hard I’ve worked and that I was allowed to stop being all boring and self-deprecating and bask in some self love. (I gave myself a bit of a ‘well done’ pinch on the bum too.)

Crap: Not returning correspondence to a long list of very awesome people who definitely deserve a response. I never wanted to be a person who didn’t reply, or who took four million years to reply, citing “busyness” as the lame and paltry excuse. And yet, here I am. Perhaps I can use this interview to tick some off…

Kath: Hello darling! Let’s catch up. Would love to hear about your trip. Sheaf next Friday? x

Mum: Hi Mumooshka.I did water the plant like you said too, every few days, but it still looks a bit… dead-ish. Also, is the wireless working at home yet? Xx

Marc: Congratulations on the engagement, Cuz. I am SO HAPPY FOR YOU BOTH.X

Mia: My sister – who is pregnant with first baby – just read your wonderful book and loved the SHIT out of it. Is now very scared of whole “birth” business but feels confident she can just keep baby in there until she’s ready for that whole “labour” thing.

You can buy Textbook Romance from any bookstore or online here, you can visit Zoe’s website here or follow her on Twitter here. Or you can do all three. I did.

Now. Single or not, here is a question for YOU to answer so we can open up the discussion a little further: Did you move in before the ring? Why or why not?

ALSO TODAY ON MAMAMIA: Fascinating short video about a very cool experiment with perception…. Don’t miss last week’s Best and Worst Dressed Frockwatch…


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