You’ve probably been married for a hundred years, but if you were thinking of going on a date, you’d have a checklist in mind. You would. Perhaps you favour women who are blonde, slim, and have a good sense of humour. You wouldn’t be shortlisted for any awards for originality, to be sure, and slim is a word I’d like to punch, but you’d be sticking to a well-trodden path.
You might fancy the idea of a fellow who shares your taste in motorcycle maintenance or trifle, say; someone who is solvent (they don’t have to be actually rich, that would be a vulgar requirement; just able to afford a goddamn cinema ticket without pulling a face). Someone without the excess baggage which usually means ranty ex-spouses, a brace or two of gormless teens, untended orifices or gout or some kind of syndrome, a snuff habit, or a crumbling house or none (requisitioned by a previous spouse), and a slobbering labrador with a propensity to prolapse for good measure.
Even if we don’t have a type, we all have certain criteria, and we hope that the person we’ve agreed to meet for a cup of coffee or a drink at least ticks some of the boxes. It is, of course, deluded to suppose that one individual could tick all, but six out of ten can be considered something of a winner.
For those who haven’t been in the dating game for years, it is of course a whole new dystopian landscape by now, with a whole new set of bylaws (or lack thereof). There are horrors these days of which those who have not had to venture into this territory remain entirely ignorant. The marvellous Dolly Alderton recently wrote a searing piece about ghosting (where you end a relationship suddenly and without explanation). Non-dating people have never heard of ghosting — they don’t want to know. This is a demographic who think contemporary dating is ‘fun’ and tell you, often, that you must be having lots. Well, I don’t wish to disillusion them here.
Instead I will ask another question: could you sleep with someone who voted the opposite way to you in the referendum?
Perhaps I should qualify that and say a new someone. I don’t mean the in-situ mate who has betrayed your principles so that you can barely bring yourself to speak to them now and managed to withhold conjugal favours from them for over two years, only recently restoring them in desperation (though they are still in jeopardy if he or she veers into Brexit conversation at breakfast).
You may think I am being frivolous but we all know emotions on the issue continue to run high. Spouses fell out. Siblings and best friends. They may have a lifetime of no-speaks ahead of them; but it’s the daters I feel sorry for. Beyond the old-fashioned and simple categories — tall or short, blond or brunette, good sense of humour or po-faced, Killing Eve or Karl Ove Knausgaard — there’s the whole new political slalom to navigate. Left or right ain’t the half of it. Could you honestly consider giving a Brexiteer a blowjob? Or: could you seriously ravish a Remainer?
A friend of mine has just joined a dating agency which thinks it’s posh so it charges £7,000 for six months even though there are only about three men on its books to every 643 women. Since she joined, there have been several additions to the client questionnaire, including: ‘How did you vote in the referendum?’ In an already depleted pool, the answer decreases your chance of a match by a further 49 per cent or 51 per cent. Jeez, do poor hapless daters need more criteria? More headaches? I think I can spot a person who didn’t vote the way that I still know to be obviously right. I’m polite to the insane lot on the other side of the fence, but do I want to sleep with them? And indeed, do they want to sleep with me? Here’s what I think. If they’re able to ask a question, bring out the bunting. Not so tight as to begrudge paying for a milkshake (yep — that happened to me once): tick. Loves Dylan Moran: tick. Hates camping: tick. All good to go.
Then again, imagine you’re a few G&Ts down and hooks and zips are being undone, and an opinion on Brexit pops up out of nowhere. I can tell you that it will have the same effect on proceedings as a last-minute admission of crabs: fun’s over.