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Navigating the Silences

I find online dating one part intriguing and two parts mystifying.

Mystifying in that I’m still not sure what the protocol is when it comes to communicating electronically.

As one young man exclaimed the other night, “You actually remember a time without the internet!” Yes, young Padawan*, I most certainly do. However, I married very young and did not “date” much in the 90s. I sort of did at university, though.

My recollection of it goes a little like this: Go to club. Drink, usually snakebite in black. Lose self on dancefloor. Catch eye of cute guy. Snog. Exchange phone numbers. Maybe shag. More likely sneak out of his room before he wakes up.

How I ended up being married — I was introduced by a matchmaker (ie his mate) at a party. Oh yeah. That was the other way of meeting someone. Of course, there were the classic classmates, housemates, workmates etc. The usual thing. Meeting someone remotely would be like striking up a relationship with a pen pal.

Anyways, we didn’t even have mobile phones then. The only way you could talk was on landlines. So no texting. I recently read a blog post in a Scottish paper about how in Britain, there is immense pressure on the first date. I couldn’t agree more – I prefer to think of these things as first meetings. Dating to me is what you do AFTER you’ve decided you’re not going keep looking. First meets I can do without breaking a sweat, it’s just a meet as far as I’m concerned. If we click, we click. If we don’t, we don’t. It’s the preamble I am discomfited by.

Here’s what’s bugging me. So I join a dating website in the hopes of meeting someone who will interest both mind and body for fun times. The implicit assumption is that my target audience is doing the same.

So far, so copacetic.

I like the frame of their profile, they like mine. Tentative messaging begins. Reciprocity! Excitement ensures – we’re communicating and it’s fun. Phone numbers are exchanged. The textversation continues furiously off dating website.

Now, I have a terrible, terrible, habit of dragging the chat down to the gutter. The tiny Catholic part of me is shaking its wimple and wagging its finger. But by heaven, it is such delicious fun. And believe me, the scorching texts (and pictures) are mutual.

And then, for no reason that I can see — no response. I send a message. Still silence. How long should one wait before hitting delete?

Alright, I put my own hand up, I have been guilty of going silent myself. Why did I do it? Because I get frozen into inaction by procrastination. I want to end things, but can’t find the right words. Then life gets in the way and before you know it two weeks have gone by. More procrastination, and then it’s just too late. But, and this part is key: I have never done it right in the middle of a hot exchange.

Isn’t it curious that pre-internet days, going days without a call would be perfectly normal, but now hours without a response from a text or IM is almost unbearable?

Hmm. OK, so what would I like?

The most polite brush off I have had was “I’m sorry, you’re lovely, but I think I’d like to leave things here.” Rejection graciously accepted, thank you for your courtesy. I think I would like the polite brush off rather than silence.

On the other hand, after the initial frustration and bewilderment, I move on. I know it’s not me or something I’ve done.

Or, maybe the status quo is the best way. Perhaps, sometimes it’s better not to know and just let it go. I guess I’m a little annoyed at the moment because three in a row is a bit much.

I am, as always, of two minds.

*OK, JJ Abrams has now neatly buried Episodes I-III with The Force Awakens but that is just too good to stop using1.
1 Yes, goddammit, I am a 40-something female geek. We are a rare, exotic species, and not a myth.

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