God help me, I’m dating again. I thought about this with reverent anticipation for so long and now it’s here. Of course, I have forgotten how to speak, and what an attractive woman is supposed to wear, and how many messages a day it is legal to send to someone you fancy.
There are, unsurprisingly, several differences between dating now and dating before I spent months on end living alone, becoming eccentric and fundamentally intolerant of other people. One of them is that I have lost all interest in the traditional dating foreplay of trading cultural interests with the object of my desire.
This is a big deal. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of relying solely on our looks, flaunting a carefully curated record collection, or an extensive knowledge of BFI programming, has traditionally been a vital method of snaring a mate. I have a distinct and painful memory of trying to attract the attention of my first crush by standing near him in the newsagent and picking up a copy of NME with theatrical flourish. I stood beside him, leafing through it, occasionally making an actual, audible noise of interest. “Hmmf!” I grunted, at news of the latest Klaxons single.
It wasn’t all for show, either – it was because the books and films and songs I loved seemed to make up my most essential parts. I had no idea who I would be in their absence, so I made them stand in for a personality. To this day, there is still a bit of me that feels defined by the fact my favourite film is Harold and Maude.
Seeing, however, as I have had nothing but cultural products for company for most of a year, I’m done with them. I never want to watch prestige television again, or listen to a podcast. Music is strictly only for soundtracking sex. I’ve done nothing but regard, absorb and think for so long that I’m ready to be a mostly mute philistine who lives only for base pleasures. When I go on a date, I’m not asking who their favourite composer is, or what they think about Philip Roth. I’m going to suggest cutting right to it: seeing if we like the smell of each other and taking it from there.