Today at The Pink Heart Society, we're delighted to have Jennifer Rae making her debut as a columnist. The topic up for discussion is dating in the modern world. Is it still possible to find love out there?
When I was twenty two a boy rang me on the phone and asked me out on a date. But it wasn't a mobile phone. I couldn't escape to my room and giggle and flirt. Nope.
This was the 90's and I was living at home with my family. When the family only owned one phone and it was located in the kitchen.
The place where everyone congregated. The place where. Everyone. Could. Listen.
Take a moment. Let that sink in.
My mum. My dad! My older brother (I could practically see his tiny mind ticking over with the ways to humiliate me). This young man rang and asked me to a football game when they were all there. I burned red. I almost dropped the phone as my palms turned instantly slick. I didn't know what to do. So I said yes and promptly hung up.
That Saturday I dressed in my very best maxi skirt and met him at the game. Our hands accidentally touched. He bought me a sausage roll. The sparks flew so thick and fast I imagined the grass being set alight.
A few dates later I realized he was ‘the one’. Two years later we were married and all my awkward first dates were over.
But that was a looong time ago now and when I started writing romance novels, I needed to make sure I was ‘down’ with the latest dating scenes. I knew things had changed. I knew people didn't go to the footy and share a sausage roll anymore. The magical realm of the internet had changed everything – or so I’d read. ‘It Was So Much Easier Now!’ the headlines screamed. ‘We Are More Connected Than Ever!’
So in the interests of writing the most ‘real’ first date encounters I could – I started to research modern dating.
And friend, let me tell you – we ‘aint in Kansas anymore.
A lot has changed. A. Lot. We’re talking online dating, speed dating, social media, Tinder, RSVP, Grindr, Reddit… It’s a whole new language and a whole new world and today’s daters have become so used to it – it’s become a way of speaking.
“He liked my pic on Insta so I checked him out on Facey and realized he was that loser that I blocked on Tinder.”
I was lost. But determined to figure this out. I had to. The romance readers of 2014 depended on me. I had to make my books authentic. If I said he called her – like on the phone – today's readers (especially those of you under 25) would be all “That’s totes obvs not how it happened.”
So I had to totes figure it out.
First stop: Facebook. I found plenty of old school friends posting embarrassing photos. But it was way too public. Everyone could see everything and from what I could see, there wasn't a lot of dating and flirting going on.
Dating Potential: Not great, to be honest – unless you were willing to go back and date Johnny , your best friend from Year 3.
What next? Instagram. OK. Looks logical enough. You post pics only and if you have a public account people follow you and like your pics. Then you like theirs and perhaps leave comment. Then you swap Snapchat accounts and start to send private pics. I gained a few followers. Some were not bad looking…if you’re into pumped up gym junkies taking selfies. But OK…no judgement. I post a selfie. No likes. Right, I’m clearly the most unattractive girl on Insta and everyone hates me and I may as well go eat worms.
Wait. I post a selfie at the gym. Push up bra doing its job nicely. 114 likes. Great! But as I scroll through them, I find most of them have username’s such as *bigdaddylikestoplay__** who wants me to Snapchat them ‘more titty photos please.’ Ahhhh. No. These titties are staying right where they belong Big Daddy. So I switch my account to private. Now my Instagram followers include my sister, my best friend and my son’s kindergarten teacher.
Dating potential: Awesome. As long as you’re into weirdos who want to be your ‘Big Daddy’
Right. Time to bring out the big guns. Online dating sites. For this I needed wine. And an old, divorced friend. She’s tried them all. Online dating, speed dating, chat sites…But tonight, we were checking out the dating phenomenon Tinder. She explained to me how you swipe right if you’re interested in a particular person and if they swipe right as well you get access to their details. By this time I’m a few wines in so I don’t really get it but we begin.
There are a lot of people on Tinder. And I recognize some of them. The gentlemen who works at my fuel station. My son’s teacher. A young man I recognize from the gym. It all seemed a little voyeuristic and weird but we ploughed on, swiped right till our fingers hurt and started conversing with men who lived within 20 miles of us.
A bottle of wine later our stomachs are in physical pain from the laughter inducing answers some of these men give. We’d been asked if we wanted to play hide the sausage by a 24 year old man with an unusually white smile. We’d found ourselves immersed in a full on fight with a man who didn't believe in trees. True Story.
Dating potential: Time will tell. My friend arranged to meet two of the men she’d connected with the following week. They’d seemed funny and smart and equally aware of how awkward this whole situation was.
By this stage, I was feeling a little dirty. And shallow. Everything was based on looks and zingy one liners and let’s face it – not everyone is good at the zingy one liners. Except my friend and I when we’re drunk. We’re hilarious.
But how many friends did Aaron who lived 6 miles away have sitting next to him? How many beers had he had? We had no idea. I got the impression that modern dating had put so much emphasis on image and how clever and sexy you looked on your profile that it was missing something extremely important.
Chemistry. That lovely feeling of accidentally brushing hands. Or locking eyes for too long.
After all my research, I’m still not sure I’m any more enlightened about modern dating. But what I do know is that no matter how much we connect online and through computers – until we meet face to face and look into someone’s eyes we can’t know if we’re going to connect. We can’t know if we have chemistry. So I’m going to load up my next book with all sorts of modern dating techniques, but when it comes to my hero and heroine actually falling in love – they’re going to do it at the footy, sharing a sausage roll.
Did you meet your partner online or in a more 'traditional' way? Have you tried online dating? Do you think it's more difficult to find love now than it was in days gone by? How important is chemistry-does it have to be instantaneous or is it something which can grow as you get to know someone better? Let us know what you think!
Jennifer's latest book release is Sex, Lies & Her Impossible Boss.
'There's no such thing as "just sex", Cash'
When the new boss of Faith Harris's TV station, the famously ruthless and annoyingly gorgeous Cash Anderson, tells her he'll be cancelling her sex and relationships show she knows she's in for a fight. She's worked her silk-clad butt off to get her high ratings, and no man's going to take them away from her - however hot under the collar he secretly gets her...
But sugar's better than vinegar any day, so Faith decides to prove to Cash just how meaningful her show really is. The only trouble is, it's also rather... risque. And there was enough chemistry between them even before Faith set about proving just how riveting sex can be...!
To find out more about Jennifer and her books, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.