Last weekend I went on an amazing date.
We chose a bench on a bustling city street, and sat watching the world go by. A busker provided a pleasant backing track to our discourse, and between exchanging stories about our lives, we commented on the diverse array of characters flowing by.
When occasional companionable silences fell, our attentions switched comfortably to our buzzing surrounds. And inevitably, someone near us would look, say or do something a bit weird, sparking the next chapter of conversation.
We didn’t spend any cash. We didn’t go anywhere flash. Yet it was bloody great.
But from what I hear, not all dates are. And little wonder.
Most first-time meet-ups sound like alcohol-tinged job interviews. Date participants A and B sit across a table from one another, each probing for information that will determine the other’s suitability to progress to the next stage of the ‘life partner selection’ process.
It seems that somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, courting transitioned from a flirty and fun-filled adventure into a time consuming and tedious means to an end. An inconvenient chore one has to ‘push through’ simply to avoid ending up alone in a house with 17 cats for all eternity.
And so, instead of going out to enjoy the company of a companion, daters set out on a mission: sift, scrutinize and select.
It seems to me that this means-to-an-end interview-style date kind of stabs itself in the back.
Firstly, because interviews are notoriously poor indicators of a person’s suitability for a position. After all, it’s easy to project a positive self-image in an environment devoid of opportunities to substantiate claims.
But also because fixating on the future f*cks with the quality of the present moment. Interviews aren’t fun. And if a first date holds about as much appeal as lancing a pus-filled blister, it’s unlikely that either party will be hanging out for the sequel next weekend.
I’m not saying dates need to involve extreme sports or scenic helicopter rides in order to regain some allure. But they need to be more than a bilateral interrogation.
They need to include some form of shared experience; the glue that binds humans together.
Shared experience is what induces stroke survivors to exchange contact details prior to discharge from hospital. It’s the reason why actors and actresses become romantically involved after working on movies together. Why mother’s groups are so successful.
Sharing actual experiences creates commonality far better than drilling for details about a person’s tertiary qualifications or plans for procreation.
And it’s not that hard to do.
Cooking dinner collaboratively, for example, promotes a stronger bond than waiting to passively receive a restaurant meal.
Swapping observations from a park bench connects people through the shared bystander role.
And heaven knows you learn more about a person after breaking out of an escape room with them than you do sipping lattes together at a cafe.
Let’s talk worst case scenario. What if it becomes rapidly apparent that the two of you are about as compatible as an iPhone and a Samsung charger? Well, at least you’re not stuck struggling for conversation for an hour while the chef painstakingly prepares your risotto backstage.
I’m not saying that a city bench will definitely mend anyone’s broken dating life. Obviously location and occupation are not the only factors at play when it comes to love-hunting.
But if my experience is anything to go on… it’s a great place to start.