real life

Sunday Life: Dating is a mucky business*

Romantic Dinner by ilyaasm

Dating is a difficult, mucky business. I know this even though I haven’t been on a date for a quite some time due to marriage. After years of hanging out with old farty couples, suddenly a bunch of my friends are newly single and reporting back from the frontline so I’m armed with all sorts of fresh intelligence…..

And the news is surprising. Besides technology and the advent of the cougar, not much about dating has changed since I was single. It’s still awkward and exhilarating and frustrating and nerve-wracking and perplexing all at once.

Romantic meal in by Sirimo


I was not a natural at dating. Never liked it much. At one memorable point, I was forced to implement a ‘no alcohol’ rule for first dates. This is because the purpose of a date is to discover if you have chemistry with someone. And after a few drinks? You have chemistry with EVERYONE. Even the waitress. Even the waitress’s dog. Everybody is witty and sexy, especially you. And this is a problem. All that faux chemistry can make for some confusing false starts with people who should never have made it past “Thanks, nice to meet you, goodbye.”

Soon after I took alcohol off the menu, I decided to broaden my definition of date to include meals other than dinner. Like breakfast. Less temptation to drink. More natural light. And many more plausible ways to press the eject button other than “I have an early meeting so I really should head home…” Thank God I met my husband soon after commencing breakfast dates because one morning at 8am, floundering about in a big bowl of Stilted Conversation with a pleasant but socially dysfunctional guy, I found this was going to be harder than I thought myself wondering how to discreetly order a glass of Pinot to go with my banana bread. It was either that or stab myself in the hand with a fork just for something to do.

Dates are essentially auditions, aren’t they? For the role of your lover or life-partner, your boyfriend or girlfriend, the parent of your future children or the stepparent of your current ones. The judges are sitting on either side of the table and they are harsh. While madly judging each other, you’re also both judging your own reactions to your date to determine if there’s any sizzle. Pinot, anyone? A fork?

One of my newly single friends is comedian Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann. He was on radio the other day talking about a very confusing date he’d recently had. The evening had gone very well, he thought. Dinner and a comedy gig (not his, that would have been weird). Flowing banter. References to future dates. Chemistry. There had even been some brief kissing action at the end of the night. And then….afterwards….nothing. Fizzle.
Puzzled, he told the story to a female friend who nodded knowingly before declaring, “That was a Pity Pash”. In my car, listening to the radio, I nodded too. But Lehmo wasn’t nodding. He was confused.


The Pity Pash is a type of kiss that occurs at the end of a date which has been OK but not amazing. It’s sometimes used by a girl to smooth over any awkwardness before she climbs out of her date’s car and scurries back to her own life. As listeners rang in to share their Pity Pash experiences, I recalled my own from years ago. It had been a nice enough date with a very sweet guy but I just wasn’t feeling it. On paper? All good. In practice? Nothing.

As he pulled up outside my house at the end of the evening, I’d pretty much decided that was it. Still, I knew I had to negotiate that tense final moment which looms inescapably over every date. He leaned in. It was brief. A classic Pity Pash. Afterwards, he said, “That was a lovely French kiss” and unfortunately, those words completely sealed the deal (the opposite kind of deal-sealing he would have liked). There was nowhere to go but over.

It seems men are usually on the receiving end of Pity Pashes. They rarely give them. Whereas women are frequently on the receiving end of
Self-Startlers. These are men who spend your date in fast-forward mode, being quite full on and enthusiastically referring to all the future occasions on which you’ll do things together and then they never call you again ever.
Pity Pashers and Self-Startlers are the same really, both trying to be kind but inadvertently causing more confusion.
On the technology side, my friend Lehmo thinks texting, Google and online social networking have made dating more accessible but also more disposable. Romantic concentration spans are getting shorter. “You can flirt with someone via text, Twitter or Facebook while on a date with someone else,” he explains, insisting that he personally hasn’t – ahem – done such a thing but knows others who have. “You can also find out so much about someone before a date. I have a mate who cancelled a first date after checking a girl’s Facebook page and finding way too many Anthony Robbins references.”

Thank you technology! Now you don’t even need to wait for the date to start before you begin judging.

So….got any stories about Self-Startlers or Pity Pashes that you’d like to share….(make up a name on comments, you don’t have to be yourself)…GO ON!!!


The new rules of Being Single 2.0

The day I told a friend: ‘Just hurry up and get yourself some sperm, girl

The question you should never ask: So, when are you going to get married?

Over 30 and single: why do people assume you’re miserable?

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