Single Men: A User's Guide
Like everyone else, I’ve been single and I’ve been in relationships. As break-ups go, mine wasn’t particularly dramatic. After three fairly happy years with my ex, I’d realised she wasn’t the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So far, so normal. But the next day, my friend Giles ordered me not to get a girlfriend for the next year. I was 30 years old and had been single for a total of sixth months in the space of eight years. During the next 12 months I would be allowed to date as many girls as I wanted, but commitment was out of the question. Immediately, dating felt different. I started analysing the women I met in a new way and, more importantly, analyse the way men like me behave. Then, in a stroke of luck, I went professional. That is to say, I was asked to write a newspaper dating column. A year turned into two and it gave me the opportunity to poke my nose into other people’s romantic business. I spent two years being told hundreds of different dating stories by people who wanted my advice. There were short questions with short answers, like ‘Should I call him?’ (no) and ‘Why won’t he commit?’ (he doesn’t want to) and then there were bigger questions that deserved long answers. Brace yourself for some tough home truths...
Beware the New Lone Wolf
Becoming single again after years off the scene felt like driving back into a town I used to know like the back of my hand, only to find an intricate new one-way system that conspired to get me utterly lost. Which goes to show that when a man comes out of a long-term relationship, he’s a mess. He might look okay on the outside, he might even sound okay – but inside he’s a seething mass of contradictory urges and impulses. There’s a huge gap in his life where the person closest to him used to be. Some men love being lone wolves, but others feel rudderless.
For women meeting men who are freshly out of relationships, the situation is far more straightforward: these men should be avoided 99.9 per cent of the time. Why? Well, dating for these men is an exciting step into the unknown, and that sense of anticipation makes them potentially dangerous. Chances are you’ll nurse him back to emotional health, boost his confidence and then he’ll look at you and think, ‘Thanks for that, I feel better now. I’m off to try my luck with some supermodels. Bye.’ However, if you really can’t drag yourself away from him, ask him honestly if he’s ready for a relationship. If he convinces you he is – I mean really convinces you, not just says what’s needed to get you into bed – then go for it. You have to gamble sometimes.
If He’s Keen, He'll be in Touch
The period between meeting a guy and him asking you out is horrible – a combination of no man’s land, limbo and purgatory. And you think a guy doesn’t feel the same, right? Wrong. When a guy meets a girl he really likes, he’ll want to get a date in the diary before anyone else does. If he texts you, reply an hour later at first and then more quickly according to how quickly he does.
If you don’t hear from him after that first encounter, either assume he’s not bothered and move on, or text him once and if he doesn’t reply within two hours, give up. If he’s not trying to see you, he’s not interested. Don’t let the length of time he takes to reply make you want him more. Guys use clever text message tactics with girls who’re just one of a few they’re dating and/or trying to date, as well as with girls they’re not that keen on – but not with girls they’re desperate to see.
Keep it Light on a First Date
Don’t be early, but don’t be on time. Ten minutes late is ideal. ‘Hello’ should be a kiss on the cheek – the start of a date is too early for a hug. There are only two things you should focus on: being yourself and having fun. Be positive about life and don’t spend your whole time moaning about work, your body, the weather, etc.
From his point of view, he’d like you to be good company, which means a bit of fl irtatious banter, a bit of fun teasing and being nice to him. That’s it. Don’t talk about your exes or ask about his – this will extinguish any romantic spark.
Try as hard as you can to not think beyond this one evening. For example, when he tells you where he lives, don’t plan your journey to work from his house. It’s the only way to take the pressure off. (Here’s a secret: men are prone to this, too. At the fi rst-date stage we also daydream about how a potential relationship might work out. We imagine the girl meeting our friends, our family, weekends together. Obviously, we think about what she’s going to look like naked as well, but one surefi re way of knowing you really like a girl is if you don’t think just about that. And it does happen far more than we like to admit.) Kiss him goodbye if you do like him, but do not go home with him. I repeat: IF YOU LIKE THE GUY, DO NOT GO HOME WITH HIM. Leave him wanting more. If it’s late and you’re having a great time, don’t be afraid to cut things off then and there.
Men Like it When You Eat
On a fi rst date you should eat whatever you want. You see, men don’t mind if you eat in a restaurant. In fact, we like it. Girls who love their food tend to like other sensory pleasures as well. Hearing a woman say ‘no starter’ or ‘just a salad’ is not attractive.
As for going Dutch, I can’t do it – especially not on a fi rst date. If a guy has asked a girl out, he should pay for dinner. A few dates later, you may want to pay, in which case that’s great. But on a first date? No way. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put up a fight. Just make sure it’s a pretty weak one because the purpose of this is to make him think you’re not assuming that he’ll pay. That’s not attractive.
Don’t Admit You Facebooked Him…
I once went on a date with Annie, a woman I met in a bar and asked out because, through my drunken eyes, she looked gorgeous. A couple of days before our date, Annie tracked me down and poked me on Facebook – a mildly flirtatious gesture that made me smile. I poked her back and that was that. Or at least I thought it was.
When we mentioned Facebook on our date, Annie (who incidentally was not that gorgeous) unleashed a detailed critique on what my profile said about me, including thoughts on all my photos.
I’d advise keeping any pre-date research under your hat, at least until you’ve been seeing him long enough for revelations of your stalker-like inclinations not to matter.
To Call or Not to Call...
There was one question that girls asked me more than any other when I was researching my column: "Why hasn’t he called me?" The one thing you can know for sure is that when a guy hasn’t called you, he can’t be that interested in you. If he isn’t making the effort, then you shouldn’t have to. Rightly or wrongly, it’s a man’s job to do the chasing. Men expect, consciously or not, to do the running. We value things we have to work for, and if you call or text a guy you haven’t heard from, you make it too easy for him.
When I met Charlotte, I knew I wanted to see her again. I got in touch straight away because I liked her a lot – all the conventions about playing it cool went out of the window. With the date arranged, I had six days to wait. Charlotte didn’t do anything proactive other than reply to my messages. The result was me spending all week thinking about her, by the end of which I couldn’t wait to see her.
You want a man who can’t help getting in touch with you and who wants to see you whenever he can; someone who would never dream of being deliberately aloof and distant because he wants you to know how he feels about you. They do exist. I know because despite my cynicism and occasional bad-boy behaviour, I eventually became one.
INFO: The Men Files by Humfrey Hunter (Headline, Dhs76) is available from www.amazon.com.