Guest blog: Paula Varjack on dating

My relationship with dating apps, sites and (gosh this is going to make me sound ancient) personal ads (!!! cue millennials making confused expressions, Google it kids!) has always been entertaining, if not always romantically successful.

I remember having an ad in the pink paper something like 20 years ago. It felt fun to reduce yourself into what would now be the length of a tweet, and see who responded, only no one responded to my ad… and I maybe even had to pay for it? I remember my ad being pretty awful. It was something like:

Chocolate coloured kitten craves feminine feline for bar prowling and whatever else makes you purr.

I thought this was cheesy in a tongue in cheek way. Unfortunately it was just cheesy. I had to psyche myself to include it in this post as it still makes me shudder. In my defence I had just turned 18 and had no idea how to present myself, unlike now when twitter makes many of us adept at transforming ourselves into sound bites.

Anyway, arguably now I know how to write a good dating profile. I seem to get a lot of responses. I guess that’s what that masters was for. But then again as much as I would like to think it’s my clever engaging text, that I am sure *everyone* reads right? It may be that I changed my main profile photo to one with me in a glitter lycra unitard.

I very clearly remember when no one “dated” in London. When you just kind of met someone at college or work or at a bar or club and then hooked up and hung out and 7 months later someone at a party would be like so who’s your girlfriend and you’d be like oh… my girlfriend? Yeah this is… and then you’d be together

At some point during the rise of the internet, online dating emerged and in my mind it took off in the gay and lesbian scene (not so queer then) much earlier. It was hard enough to meet someone, it was much harder for most people to be open about their sexuality, so it made sense that you had to find other ways to meet and make yourself known.

Then finally more straight people I knew were online dating but it had this massive stigma attached to it. There was this big OmG you met on the *internet*. There is a couple I am friends with who met on OkCupid; they have been together for years. I don’t know if they are open about how they met now, but I remember they used to say the met “through a mutual friend” as I had convinced my friend to go on OkCupid in the first place.

When I turned 30 I started dating boys again and fully embraced online dating because by that point all my friends were committed couples or lesbians. Online I could meet any one I wanted. I could more or less choose a date to order.  I went a bit overboard. I remember going on a date almost every day out of a week, just because I could, and that’s when I discovered something, my co-workers at the time, were very curious about the experiences I was having. They wanted to see the pictures of the men and women before the dates but mostly, the next day, they really wanted to hear the stories. And the best stories were not the

Oh my god it was the nicest dinner and she picked the best wine and the exhibition was incredible stories

No, the stories they really wanted to hear, where the stories where the dates were awkward or went very wrong. And I wasn’t a performer then, but I liked telling stories, and maybe that is how my performing began. In a kitchen of an animation company in Holborn, breaking down the nights before in hilarious and painful detail everything that had gone wrong.

So there was the woman who looked so unlike her photo I didn’t get why she came up and spoke to me at the tube station even though I was there to meet her.

The many men who talked at me for an hour without asking me a single question, and then ended the date saying how wonderful it had been and were keen to keep seeing me again (and kept calling)

The guy who didn’t tell me about his girlfriend (no it wasn’t an open relationship) until after we had the second drink at the pub.

The guy who didn’t tell me about his girlfriend (still not in an open relationship) until after dinner, and then admitted he was only on the site to get attention but with me he really wanted to meet and maybe he could “arrange something” to make it work.

The woman who was easily one of the sexiest people I have ever been on a date with (the thought of her still makes me want to bite my hand) who after the second date spent large amounts of third and fourth date talking about her recent breakup with her cheating boyfriend.

The boy I went to see Blue is the Warmest Colour with, with two of my friends, not realising quite how graphic the sex scenes were

And the more I told the stories in those mornings after in the staff kitchen, the more my friends at work wanted to hear them, the more I wanted to tell them, the more Material I Needed in order to tell.

And so from this point I realised that no date was a bad date, because a date was just a way to encounter a new person and even if there wasn’t a spark, there would at least be a story out of it.  So I say there is nothing wrong with having a bad date. Celebrate the bad dates with the good, because afterwards they are hilarious. It’s the meh dates, the boring dates that are really annoying. But then you can always use them to experiment with creative ways to escape (and those escapes can make for great stories as well)

My next chapter with dating was 2 and half years ago, when I jumped onto tinder with so much enthusiasm I “broke” the app within weeks. As in I had done so much scrolling there was no one left to scroll, even with my settings set to men and women, from a wider and wider radius. But hey, I will say this; I really had a good time. I met a lot of people, some who I dated, and some who became good friends, some I collaborate with artistically to this day. For two of my shows tinder was responsible for at least two members of my artistic team. I guess I really never stop working.

I really remember one morning being so excited by becoming aware of how many people were single that I could possibly date, and walking out on the street and noticing everyone in a whole new way. Live swiping in my head. All of these people could be available I thought.

I feel like now everyone I know is kind of getting over dating apps and keen to meet people in other ways.  I was at a girl only party recently and when I asked people how they found people to date they mentioned a couple apps, but admitted they didn’t really enjoy meeting people that way. So maybe swiping is over? Or at least needs some alternatives?

Nowadays I think it’s better to forget about dating and just meet people in as many ways as you can. The more people you know, the more people you could meet that could lead to something. Or at least, the more people you can get in a pub with and commiserate with about how much you hate to “date”.

A very special anti-Valentine’s edition of WORST.DATE.EVER is at CPT on Tue 14 Feb for one night only. Find out more.