A Recipe For Relationship Success

We all want to have our cake and eat it too and, as the old adage goes, if you’re going to bake a cake then you’re going to need to break some eggs.  You may be happy with a Coles-brand sponge or maybe you’re the kind of person that dreams of a multi-layered rainbow cake romance. Perhaps you’re a new-age paleo/vegan/ gluten-free  romantic and you need some kind of flourless carrot cake love. Whatever your hungry heart desires, like cake, a good relationship requires some methodical mixing of ingredients and a good pinch of patience.

We’ve all sat back and wondered why such a promising love was such a flop. You started out with a picture of a Women’s Weekly birthday cake and before you know it you’re elbows deep in a singe-crusted, oozy topping, food dyed disaster. You’re weeping on the floor of the kitchen, covered of course, in the main ingredient: flour. No relationship, no love, no cake. Just a big bloody mess and a torn up photo of a multi-layered, dinosaur cake with green butter icing and peppermint leaf spikes.  The white dust settled on every surface quietly transforms into gelatinous papier mache glue as it mingles with your cascading tears.

Such life events show us that it’s not a matter of following a simple recipe. Being human – all too human – we rush into things. We miss crucial steps, skip ahead, think we know best, ignore the oven timer and become completely distracted watching Family Feud, delivering a half-baked, lackluster love, droopy and distinctly lacking some key ingredient. So what are the essentials?

Obviously there’s got to be flour, you are trying to bake a cake after all.  I’ll call the flour (or almond meal if you’re that way inclined) love. . All you need is love, right? Love is all you need. That’s what I was told. Wrong. Whatever it is your heart desires from love, you’re going to need more than just flour. You’re also going to need a raising agent, a spark, a chemical reaction, something to turn a bowl of beige stodge into a fluffly delight. Without baking powder, you’ll end up making friendship crepes. Now, if you have flour and baking powder then you can have a crack at damper – you might even magic up some play-dough or a scone – but you’re still only half way to a relationship.

Holding the cake together is the eggs, the milk, the butter or the mashed bananas for my vegan friends. Key binders in a love cake might seem critically obvious, but they are often the most neglected component. Your eggless cake is the relationship your peers turn their nose up at. The foray that causes you to fall out with old friends. It’s trust, respect, communication, equality, understanding, acceptance, openness. Without a minimum of three of these components the partnerships skews towards ownership. Old eggs in your love meringue ruin your chances at that soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, delivering instead a disappointing dish that really should go straight in the bin.

A cake should be sweet and it needs measures of kindness, caring, thoughtfulness; all that vom-worthy couple stuff. But there’s no level of garnish that can can uncook a catastrophy. No extravagant couple holiday, kissing selfie profile pic, overtly affectionate post or tacky couple tatt that can overcome a blundered base. There is no measure of silver cashews that can convincingly bedazzle a bland bundt cake. Some of us think we want a hot partner, nice dinners, holidays, presents. While a thick layer of icing can mask a dry cake, remember that the best chocolate brownie needs no extra decoration.

In truth, you can’t make a cake without flour. You also cannot call a bag of flour a cake. It’s not enough to fight for a relationship because you’re in love. If you are missing trust, respect, dignity, honesty and communication, it’s going to be a shitshow,  not a souffle . Too many times I hear vile, unhealthy and downright repulsive behaviour condoned and defended by love. So babe, what you’re telling me Neanderthal Neil can be excused for crushing you confidence, destroying your friendships and ruining your life? “…but, but you don’t understand, we’re in love.”

Mmm. Cool story. Neil is not a masterpiece, he’s got less personality of a bag of sugar and is not a healthy or balanced addition to your diet. You may as well throw fistfuls of flour at each other to show your love, it’s roughly the same result as your dysfunctional relationship. He makes everyone around you sick, most of all you, whilst you trip-out on some kind of delusional sugar high. “Ohhhh doctor I know I have type two diabetes…. But, but you don’t understand, Neil and I are in love. Neil doesn’t mean to destroy my health. I couldn’t possibly end it with Neil, Neil, love, Sugar, love blah blah blah”

*Self-destructs in a puff of sprinkles*

In the past we’ve all hoped for a bombe alaska and instead landed a cream pie to the face. In hindsight it’s generally safe to say the measurements were a bit off. Next time if you’re thinking of baking a cake with someone check your shopping basket first before you hit the check out.

The proof is in the pudding.

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Handling Dating Fluctuations: Feast or Famine

Romance is a tropical island, subject to unpredictable weather and extreme conditions. The rainy season may be overwhelming at first, but what follows is plentiful feasting. As a single twenty-something I’ve observed two states of polarity in our romantic lives: lonely as a bottom dwelling hermaphrodite from a deep-sea abyss or popular as Harry Styles at a tween-ager convention. There is rarely a middle ground, so eat while the goings good. A feast can quickly become a famine.

One day out of the blue, it really does start raining men. God bless Mother Nature! It’s thrilling when out of the blue every Tom, Dick and Harry starts trying to hit you up; suspiciously you wonder if somebody has written your contact details on a bathroom stall: “Call for a good time.” But regardless of the cause, the sudden influx of boys blowing up your phone gives you a Ke$ha-like feeling of celebrity. “Yassssss, I am queeeeen,” you hiss as you skip merrily along, tossing your hair and giggling with delight while a pied-piper trail of men follow along behind you. The drought has passed – hallelujah, you’re saved! Line up in single file Bachelors, you get a rose, you get a rose, get a rose, you all get a rose.

Once you get a grip of your intoxicating ego trip you start to realise the logistical nightmare ahead of you. How should you prioritise your options? Do you pick the guy with the nice hair, or the one with the dog? What about the PT, or maybe the businessman? What on earth have they put in the water to send all these men shooting out of the ground where there was once only barren soil and optimistic exes? Now you’re wading through oceans of devotion and tossing up whether to dip a toe in the water or dive in head first, but the question is, at what stage does interviewing multiple candidates become unethical? Because if this was a reality TV show it would be okay to start dating all twenty as long as I slowly whittle down the numbers week by week. Maybe play it safe and start with five. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Wining, dining, flirting, banter; everything is going so well, you can’t even remember what it was like to be trapped in the barren desolate wasteland of the drought days. It’s all fun and games for a few weeks then, suddenly, your show has been axed. You were basking on the beach of love until you saw your top three guys have mutual friends and they’ve all just checked in at the same event: game over. You thought in this modern age it was okay for girls to play the field? Well, apparently not. Due to your silver-tongued antics your popularity has significantly dropped and suddenly you’re alone and confused like an ousted Australian Prime Minister. Yesterday you were on top, now your swarm of suitors have disappeared, leaving you to wonder if it was ever really real or just a mirage.

You start to really regret throwing away your favourite volleyball, Wilson. Sure, he wasn’t great at conversation but he was good listener and they are getting hard to come by. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling when the sky stops raining men and all the dateable/mate-with-able guys seem to disappear from the planet. Now there’s only tumble weeds rolling across a grim social media feed. Your ovaries shudder in terror and your browser history is filled with cat memes and baby sloth videos. You’re back on that tropical island all alone, catching fish with your bare hands and washing your hair once a week – at the very most. You wonder if it was a bad idea to go on a  spree of saying “yes” and kissing babies like a sleazy politician when there was no way you were ever going to follow through.

You surrender back into your life on Single Island. This is where you live now. It seems this may be the end. Your dating show has been axed and this is the final curtain, the end of all love. Climb into your adult-sized onesie and nurse a bottle of moscato; make yourself comfortable as you settle in for a full Bridget Jones montage of sad, single moping. ‘Allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll by myself’ humming in the back of your head as you relentlessly check your phone for the buzz of a direct message or cheeky “like,” but there’s nothing except your friends tagging you in Instagram memes about insane single girls and binge drinking.

Moving further into single hysteria, you start uploading falsely glamourous Instagram selfies (#TBT to when I wasn’t a hot mess) and Snapchat stories (I’m cute, remember!?) to test the waters. But alas, the only bites come from three creepy guys who’ve messaged you sporadically over the past six years telling you (and probably 15 others), again, how beautiful you are. *Ugh* Thank you, Creepy Greg, but puh-lease, that selfie was not meant for you. Why not try again in another six weeks when my self-worth has plummeted just a little further?

“Pull yourself together woman,” a voice inside your head says. “You can stay here rehashing history and living in your pyjamas, leading a sad half-life consisting mainly of Grey’s Anatomy repeats, desperately scavenging social media affirmations of your worth, or you can fashion a raft out of drift wood and save your sorry self. You can’t sit around your whole life praying for rain because the only thing you can rely on is this: it won’t happen when you want it to. Remind yourself that being single is a situation, not a character flaw and get on with being a girl boss!”

You’re most attractive to the opposite sex when they are the last thing on your priority list. Whether you’ve devoted yourself to travel, your career, being a better friend/ relative/ human, or you’ve completely given up on Homo Sapiens and finally bought that puppy.  The only time you find what you once wanted is when you stop looking for it, and the less you want it, the more likely you are to find it. Like a dripping naked toddler that’s escaped from the bath that refuses to be clothed, the faster you run away the harder they will try to catch you. “Let me be free,” I scream, whilst they try to wrangle me into restrictive dating patterns. That’s when you realise that, actually, things were so much easier when it was just you and Wilson.

 

It’s good to be back in Arcadia, thanks for stopping by! Jump up to the menu box in the top right hand corner of the page to subscribe by email so you never miss a post!  Jules x

Navigating Murky Waters: The First Date Dilemma, Dinner or Drinks?

Like setting sail on the high seas, casting off for a first date can be a tumultuous journey into the great unknown. Unfortunately Facebook stalking, your drunken judgement or riotous text message banter are about as reliable as a Melbourne weather forecast for predicting date success. One minute it’s sunny, the next you’re running for cover in the ladies room, sheltering from a cataclysmic storm of clashing morals, offensive narrow-mindedness or not-so-good-looking-in-the-daylight disasters.  Our inner Napoleon wants to believe that we will return the victorious conqueror of unchartered territories but sadly, mid-sail motion sickness often forces us abandon ship as we desperately try to keep our eyes on the horizon.

Alas, the waters are treacherous in a dating pool and filled with pirates, sharks and pollution. It’s no wonder that both men and women deconstruct and analyse first date semantics in order to decode the best first-date scenario. Do you go casual or formal? Who chooses the venue? Do you split the bill? Do you kiss goodbye? How do you escape if he’s a surprise vegan life-coach?

The first date is an honoured tradition and there are certain protocols and traditions that both help and hinder our romances. Typically, dinner or drinks is the standard first offer. This leaves many stressed out at the idea of a full-blown dinner or the possible sleaze associated with catching up for drinks. Whether or not you’re eating, I find that symbolically smashing a bottle of champagne between you may bestow good luck upon your voyage (or at least launch you into smooth sailing small talk).

Where I grew up, meeting someone for a drink was usually code for “I’ll meet you at the bar at 10pm when you’ve already gotten yourself white-girl drunk, buy you two vodka raspberries and try and get in your pants” so forgive my reluctant cringe when you invite me for drinks. Call it a scar from the past (first glimpse of baggage and it’s not even the first date… Check.), but I am not going to respond with “Oh why certainly, I’d love nothing more than to ditch my girlfriends and meet you in a dark bar, half-wasted, knock back a few stiff drinks before you suggest we go somewhere quieter ‘so we can talk’.” If talking was his priority, then his level of effort was as poor as his knowledge of bar-side acoustics. Enchanté, Sailor, but I must bid you adieu as I run off into the night via the nearest 24-hour bakery.

But now that I’m older and living in a bigger city, I find myself invited out for drinks more frequently. It seems to be the convention, but I still struggle to understand the meaning of it. We probably met at a bar so the assumption that I drink is fair, but meeting for a drink on a weeknight is problematic in many ways. Firstly I am a grown woman and I have a job and somewhere to be in the morning, secondly because I expect to drive to the meeting place. The two are compounded by the fact that I’m a small woman who has only had avocado and Kruskits for dinner (since I had to buy my own) and I can’t realistically have more than about 1.5 drinks without abandoning my car and taxiing home, which judging by my budget-friendly dinner is not likely. What a kerfuffle, and all because you don’t want to get stuck at a dinner date with a relationship blogger who will probably tear you to pieces in her next post.

In theory, going out for a drink with someone is a great, low pressure situation where you can have a few drinks, loosen up and get to know someone in an informal setting. I totally understand the functionality of it; it’s just like a coffee date but at night, with alcohol and the chances of getting some action are about 4000% higher. Maybe it reflects how disinterested I am in dating at the moment, but the appeal of risking a D.U.I on a first date, on a Wednesday night (when The Bachelor is on) with a guy that wasn’t confident enough in me to invite me for food isn’t a very strong draw card. Looks like Bachie Woods will be the only one keeping me warm this winter.
I can’t help but feeling that drinks are the runner up prize. It leaves uncertainty as to his intentions:  were you not worth the outlay for actual dinner date? Does he think you’re a two-rum strumpet?  Is he Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love (pre-Emma Stone entrance) with more dates this year than a calendar? Drinks tend to be deployed as a bit of a “cool guy” calling card, showing that they are easy going and confident but it doesn’t do much to reassure the chronically insecure female that whispers bitter cynicisms in the back of our mind.

Dinner seems more comforting because the likelihood they are dining out with a different girl in a different port every night is unlikely. Obviously he’s not a serial dater because taking every girl out for Teppanyaki is just not economically viable. On the other side of the coin, however, when a guy takes us out for a too-fancy-for-a-first-date dinner it can be just as concerning.  The good thing about dinner is that it shows effort, planning and that he trusts his own judgement.  Alternatively it might mean he’s desperate to impress, he has no friends of his own to dine with or he simply wants some nice eye candy to entertain him while he sets sail on a food safari across the city.

So by my calculations you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. No matter how you approach it, first dates are always going to feel like walking the plank into shark infested waters.  Slightly safer options include coffee dates, brunches or delightful strolls in the park but they occupy prime hours of daylight in the weekend. The chances of drunk driving or sleazy pick-ups are much lower, but  you are going to end up in the water either way, so you can choose whether to jump in the deep end or wade through shallower waters. Some days, dating feels like throwing yourself in an ocean of awkwardness and confusion, and wondering how can you opt out (Text “STOP” to 13 13 11, throw your phone in the ocean, quit your job and go be a pirate).

Yes m’hearties, this is what goes through our heads. Happy sailing.

Five Things That Are Making You Unhappy

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Nothing sends us fruity like trying to settle into a daily routine after returning from a vacation. After escaping from reality for a while you might come back and notice that the things you once blindly accepted start to seem a little bizarre and the values that motivated you have change. Or maybe some of you will come back and cry, simply because your suntan is fading, solariums are banned and you’re still shallow A.F. Having just returned from a short vacation I’m feeling uncharacteristically zen and wondering why so many people are so habitually unhappy? Why am I paying $400 for a juice cleanse? Why do I care who J.Lo is dating? Why do I have to wear shoes? Holidays can’t last forever but they are a good reminder of the things we do almost instinctively to suck out the enjoyment of the other 49 weeks of the year. Here’s my quick pick of serial happiness threats: please be alert, not alarmed.

1. Caring more about fashion than friendship.
Throw out your insecurities: I’ve never once judged my friend for a repeat outfit or rocking a bit of 2008 wardrobe vintage. If I ever fall in with people who are vain enough banish me for not being in new season Alice McCall then push me in front of a bus call me Regina George. Not wanting to go out with the girls because you’re embarrassed about your out of date wardrobe means you either need to rethink your priorities or your friends.

2. Letting people that don’t care about you control your happiness.
Six words: He’s just not that into you. He may be nice as pie when you see him but if that is only ever on his schedule, if either of you are drunk or you’re both naked then chances are you’re not the Bey to his Jay-Z. It’s disappointing if your affections aren’t returned, even more confusing when they try to keep you on standby. But instead of trying to play the player move on. These hoes ain’t loyal? Why the eff would we be when you can’t even write back to a text message in a timely fashion.

3. Complicating the uncomplicated.
If you don’t like where you live, move. If you don’t like where you work, find a new job. If you don’t like who you’re dating then break up. Don’t all stand up and heckle me screaming “It’s not that easy!”, because often it is. In a modern, affluent society we are lucky enough to actually have choice and control over these things. You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. Live life simply by prioritising your happiness and quality of life over BS problems like housemates that steal your food or corporations that suck joy out of you for 50+ hours per week. You’re not a turtle: move out and quit your job. You could probably use a holiday.

4. Comparing yourself to others.
Comparison is the thief of joy. I was happy as Larry playing Uno with my imaginary friend until Jo Bloggs next door throws in a wild card with his new Tamagotchi. Suddenly all of my unembittered joy turned into sadness and longing because an imaginary Tamagotchi with imaginary digital poos just wouldn’t cut it. As we get older we get better and better breeding inadequacy and self-doubt. Treasuring items is not a crime but when obsessing about what you don’t have steals enjoyment away from what you do have and that’s where the problem lies. Rest assured, kids across the world with no clue of what they are missing are still screaming with delight and hitting each other with sticks like the good old days.

5. Wanting more stuff than you need.
The desire to accumulate possessions is strong but for most of us sitting on a big pile of shiny junk doesn’t make you feel like queen magpie. Vast piles of pointless, obsolete and out of season but “too good to throw away items” start to clog your living space like cholesterol in arteries. Accumulating lots of unnecessary stuff is not just bad for the environment but it will also mess up your Feng Shui and take away the peace and sanctity of you home. Like a questionable boyfriend, if in doubt, chuck it out. Re-gift it, recycle it or sell it and move on. You don’t need that useless crap in your life.

Running around shoeless in the sunshine maybe is one of the simplest joys there is, along with sharing good food and good company. The key is simplicity and enjoying what you have instead of pining for what you don’t have. You don’t need to take a holiday to escape from negativity, squash it at first sight like ants in your kitchen. Don’t covet thy neighbour’s wife, no use crying over spilt milk and mo’ money, mo’ problems, am I right?

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Five Sure Signs You’ve Settled into Singledom

Single and ready to mingle is a thing of the past. Single and ready to get comfortable in my own company, pay for my own meals and by-pass the dating dilemmas is in for the foreseeable future. If you’ve found yourself using your time to pursue interests and activities instead of decoding pseudo-cryptic text messages or worrying more about the quality of your coffee than the cuteness of your barista then there’s a chance you’ve transcended into the comfort zone. This is a magical world where you’ve overcome the stigma of being “alone” and stopped searching for a Twilight-esque fictitious love, only ever uncovering creeps and never Edward Cullens. If you’ve put up a no vacancy sign in the window whilst you revel in your independence (and polar fleece track pants), there’s a good chance you have settled into singledom. Here are a few more signs you might be there or well on your way:

  1. Not taming the hairy beast:

Shaving your legs is a weekly or bi- weekly event. Often you inadvertently flash your yoga class your hairy armpits and are reminded to shave because of supportive pro-feminist remarks from the androgynous hippie up the back that smells like weed and incense. Who can blame you? It’s the middle of winter, razors don’t grow on trees and in all fairness a little extra insulation can’t be a bad thing.

  1. Sleeping like a (sloth) queen:

You do not think of your bed as a love haven or a work bench. It is a hibernation-zone-meets-pillow-fort designed to encapsulate you in complete isolation while you binge-watch Game of Thrones. These days, the most compelling reason you have to wash your sheets regularly is the smearing of fake tan that have turned them orangey brown; that and the crusty drool on your pillow case that accumulates when sprawling out like a starfish in an attempt to cover as much surface area as possible on your queen-sized bed. Bliss.

  1. Underwear? Just don’t care:

Your prime reason for choosing underwear is their function. Your colour co-ordinated, frilly, skimpy, bedazzled underwear is shoved to the back of you intimates drawer and is not likely to see the light of day any time soon. Your go to underwear are your mismatching, comfy boy-legs and that 3-year old bra with a tear in the lace because they are the most comfortable ones you own. Let’s face it, no-one’s going to see them anyway. Where’s the reward in wearing unsupportive shoe string straps, bralettes with sparse nipple coverage and enduring lacey g-strings riding up your butt all day? Bridget Jonesin’ it erry day. No regrets.

  1. (Unat)tending nest:

You used to clean your room every time you had a cute boy coming over, now you just clean your room when you’ve lost something of major importance like your Girls boxed set or your buy-10-get one-free ice-cream coupon. Your complex filing system has outgrown the designated storage areas in your room and evolved into a meticulously managed floordrobe. No pressure to overstuff cupboards to bursting point three times a week when boyfie comes around to maintain the illusion of orderliness. Your room is perfectly chaotic and free, just like you, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

  1. Sorry, I’m busy:

Your Tinder profile is gathering dust. Your Facebook inbox: crickets. Those “Hey how’ve you been?” texts are going unanswered and you’ve stopped searching through your Instagram likes for regular offenders. Long gone are the days that every half decent guy you meet sparks your imagination “(I wonder what suburb we would live in, I love that he’s passionate about his career. I wonder what kind of dog we should get? I think he would be great with children. Oh and he’s so tall.” Puke.) Far from the doe-eyed day dreamer you might have once been, you now use a strict allocation system where new males are automatically filtered into one of two buckets: f-wit or friend zone. Dating is fine for people who like that sort of thing but if you’re going to drink wine on a week night you’re going to miss Masterchef and spending your Saturday mornings at brunch is a non-neg girl bff commitment so there just really isn’t a convenient time, ever. Sorry.

If this sounds like you and the thought of having to regularly shave, dig out uncomfortable underwear and disassemble your pillow fort sounds like waaaaaaaaaay more effort than it’s worth then you’ve reached the ultimate comfort zone. Congratulations on being successfully single. Not everyone can do it. If your single status is making you feel uneasy, just remember the new Magic Mike movie is about to be released and Channing has enough love (and abs) for all of us to enjoy.

Thanks for reading. If you love Life in Arcadia why not follow us on Instagram to get you weekly lols at @lifeinarcadia and don’t forget to sign up for email notifications in the menu tab at the top right of the page. Love x</p

The Curse of the Distracted Man

As I sit down to write the fourth introduction to this post, I am painfully aware of how highly distractible I have become. Today I’m running off about four hours of sleep and three lattes but that’s pretty much my usual state. I currently have four-zillion-and-fifty-one things running through my head or buzzing through my phone, hurtling into my consciousness and bumping me off track like some obnoxious fat kid in a dodgem car. Boom. I’m halted. Productivity at a standstill once again as over-weight Bobby cackles maniacally and rears up for the next assault. Right, where was I? Oh yes, blog post: I was going to write about  being distracted or something like that but I can’t seem to sit still long enough to get anything out on the page.

With push notifications and unlimited Wi-Fi connections it’s bloody hard to focus our attention long enough to cook a piece of toast without losing interest, calling three friends and organising brunch instead. We are so overloaded with commitments and responsibilities that we can’t sit still for more than a minute without with churning through more unique thoughts than a nun on LSD. I like to call it the Curse of the Distracted Man (or Woman) and it’s a modern day epidemic that has us constantly disconnecting from the people around us. Example: I find it hard to take phone call in my own home without switching to speaker phone so I can trawl my Instagram feed, catch up on my emails and start a beginner’s course in Mandarin. Is it because I’m not interested in what my family/ BFF/Bae has to say? Not at all, I’m just so pressed for time and overcommitted than any unused opportunity to multitask seems like a careless waste. Sorry, Mum.

So, Sexy Singles, maybe Mum will put up with your constant distraction and your repetitious “uh, what, sorry… pardon?” but what about Mr. Distract-a-babe or Little Miss Disinterested? How can you capture someone else’s attention when you can’t even manage your own? Now that is a challenge. No matter how happy you are being single, you still want to know that all that hard work and glamour isn’t going unnoticed. Thank God for the constant buzz of our smartphones reminding us that we are still hot and still relevant. Naturally it makes sense that the majority of dates no are organised online nowadays. It’s easy, accessible and not to mention it softens the blow of rejection and allows for calculated flirty banter. Just one problem, when we finally make it down to dating town sometimes we can’t remember how to communicate without the aid of emoji’s.

For us, the distraction-afflicted phone addicts, how do our over-loaded minds affect our dating prospects? It feels like everyday life is a juggling act with 100 applications running and it gets harder and harder to prioritise them as we take on more and more responsibilities, let alone write back to text messages. I saw a great quote the other day, it read: “my brain has too many tabs open.” It was like a one-line description of this whole generation. As a group we often do a bloody terrible job at dating because we can’t follow a single train of thought for more than about 30 seconds. In theory, dating is pretty straight forward concept, just like going to the supermarket. Unfortunately, when I try and go to the supermarket I set off looking for some wholesome skinless chicken fillets and come home with 2 Curly-Whirlies, a tub of yogurt and a trashy mag (then wonder why my cupboards are bare and my stomach is growling).

Has anyone else struggled to get through even the simplest coffee date without an attack of the Gen Y phone-checking interlude? A few years ago it was downright rude to text or call in the company of someone else but now it’s become common place. Trying not to look at your phone on a date is the new generation blinking contest, both parties dying to moisten their eyeballs in the sweet pool of notifications that have gathered during the time it took to cover-off small and place your order. What is the meaning of those five loud vibrations my phone has emitted throughout dinner… maybe I should excuse myself for a “bathroom/selfie/Snapchat/Instragram/e-mail/Whatsapp break”. Maybe I can get away with sneakily checking my messages whilst photographing my dinner (thank god that’s also widely accepted these days… Phewww).

I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to telling my date to put his phone away. If anything, I jump at the opportunity to whip out mine for a quick sweep. We are so over stimulated it’s hard to sit still and have a regular conversation with someone without compulsively checking for messages or sharing inane memes from our endless collection of screenshots.  The cat doing yoga and pictures of my past brunches may have shown how worldly and hilarious I am, but more likely they pointed out that I’m just as distracted and self-involved as everyone else. And so the curse claims another victim. But wait, no it’s okay, he didn’t even notice my self-indulgent rampage because he was too busy sending urgent emails. Alas, it’s no fun playing hard to get when the other party has resigned themselves to a liking-spree on Instagram during dessert, before I’ve even had a chance to flash my catch-me-if-you-can smile.  *winky face, blowing a kiss emoji*

The guys that can leave their phone in the car while they’re at dinner and the girls who can mute their notifications for two hours without collapsing from FOMO are becoming a rare breed. So – if you’re trying to work out how to keep a date’s attention while you’re out eating (short of finding someone different to eat with) all I can suggest is that you try texting them.

Breaking the Bro Code

Article 150. No sex with your bro’s ex. It is never, EVER permissible for a bro to sleep with his bro’s ex. Violating this code is worse than killing a bro.

Amendment: A bro is entitled to have sex with his bro’s ex if she initiates it, is really hot, or his bro is out of town or in a different room.

The Bro Code: an age old set of rules and expectations between one friend and another that stipulates “bros before hoes” or “sisters before misters”. The basic premise is that you don’t screw your friends over for the opportunity to get your kit off with someone of the opposite sex. Also included in what I thought was a universal set of rules is the notion that you generally do not try and consort with one of your best mate’s exes, especially behind their back. In a tough dating landscape where the upper quartile of candidates is not always readily accessible there will be times when you want to cross over dating pools with significant friends, but these should always be navigated with honesty and communication: “so babe, you know that smoking hot babe of a guy that you chewed up and spat out for no good reason at all, apart from some flimsy reasoning like “he had a funny walk” or, “I dunno really, just wasn’t feeling it?”… Can we talk about that?”

Obviously you don’t want to be some sad homeless person cashing in people’s discarded exes for a 5c refund at the collection depot, but sometimes one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This means that it’s always going to need assessment on a case by case basis. I have witnessed desperate girls throw away year-long friendships for a guy that they know full well was an absolute jerk. Yet still they ruin a friendship by trying to date this guy against their behind their best friend’s back or against their wishes. When karma comes around and he ditches you in a few months you’ll be left in friendless, boy-less limbo. Didn’t you get the memo, sister? Unauthorised bro breaches will get you banished.

So in the world of mates-before-dates what is acceptable and what is not? I am not going to try to write a set of rules about waiting periods or measures of loyalty or subsequent strategies for tackling a hoe vs bro situation but I’m more than happy to give you a few instances of what is not cool and you can work out the rest for yourselves. Recently, whilst I’ve been minding my own business and going about my life in the usual haphazard manner, I have encountered some rather disconcerting advances from bros who are painfully oblivious and – frankly – totally unconcerned with the code.

I have found myself being engaged on just about every platform you can imagine by guys who have been romantically associated with my friends or are chums with guys I’ve dated. I am not exaggerating when I say face-to-face, Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn (believe it or not) have all been hunting grounds for these avid recyclers. So far, pretty much the only medium I haven’t been contacted on is Twitter… but please feel free to tweet your date invites to @_JulesReed with the hash tags #brofail and #shitbloke2015.

If you can sense a little bit of harboured resentment then you are not wrong. The fact that a guy would try to chat me up without his mate’s knowledge is incredibly insulting because it implies that he thinks I’m the kind of girl that might want to be a party to that. Dude, I am far from a hoe and I have no intention of creeping around in the shadows with you, which would only cheapen us both. You obviously have incredibly low Bro Code standards and if you don’t take me seriously enough to inform the relevant parties then kindly jog on, mate. I am not an easy target and I certainly am not a group project for you and all your friends to contribute to. I have zero interest in your poor morals and terrible judgement and I have half a mind to issue a public warning to your friends and all their exes: watch out, snakes on the loose.

I know it can be really hard meeting people – especially if your friend is some kind of lady killer or serial dater. When you keep company with people who have excellent taste but unrealistically high standards, there are likely to be a lot of high-quality factory seconds that never make it to market. What a waste. If your friends go through candidates with potential talent like a man-flu victim goes through tissues then you need to weigh up the situation and decide if the risk is really worth the reward.

You’re entering dangerous territory so you need to be sure that they are a high quality pre-loved garment and not a shiny piece of trash. I am sure there are a lot of potentially amazing relationships that haven’t happened because everyone was trying too hard so uphold the bro rules that they never risked asking for permission. Categorically, the appropriateness of pursuing something like this is going to be very different if there is a two Tinder date history compared to a two-year relationship (proceed at your own risk).

In all parts of life you have to remember that if you never ask the hard questions then answer is always no. Even if you do ask and the answer is no then at least you won’t die wondering, but with a sensitive topic like this you really need to pick your battles. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be dogging your mate for an easy target; if all you’re looking for is a bit of fun then don’t shit where you eat. Go get a dating app, go to a night club or try some good old-fashioned Facebook stalking rather than trawling your bro’s dating archives for inspiration.

To summarise, it should be overwhelmingly obvious that if you are not willing to have a conversation with your mate about your intentions but you are willing to bang their ex then you are being a selfish, disrespectful tosser to everyone involved. For instance, if the situation was reversed and you would feel inclined to smack your mate for trying to mess around with your ex then you are in serious violation of the Bro Code. So please, save us all the hassle and just punch yourself in the face.

Cheers bro.

[Thanks for reading, remember to subscribe to email notifications via the link in the menu tool bar so you never miss a post, Jules x]