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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Love Maths: Inverse Relationships  

By Misha Saul

This post is in response to “Love maths: Equations and Probabilities” by Jules Reed posted on 11/03/15

Plenty of fish. Plenty. But how many?

I was a little flummoxed by the maths in Jules’s wonderful article. What an optimistic romantic she must be to count 25 loves in a lifetime. Or just a sucker for punishment. Thank god I count fewer. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it feels like I fall in love every time I walk down the street or swipe left accidentally (No! She was the one and now she’s lost to the Tinder-verse!). If a love lifetime is between the ages of 17 and 35, generously speaking, how many loves do we experience in a period of 18 years? Sure, I loved the girl at the desk beside me in grade 2, and I’m sure there’s a Humans of New York story about love at first sight at 60. But let’s be real here.

You meet someone new, you court, discard a runner up, magic carpet into the sky and flitter away some years on high, only to find yourself sliding down Mount Doom into a sea of consolatory brunches and faux fun drunk nights out. How long did that take? Call it 3 years? So Jules and I agree on that arithmetic. So let’s say you have the energy for 6 of those in your (generous) 18 year love lifetime. You’re a trooper – you haven’t let cynicism or bitter ice cream eat away at your Peter Pan complex. Realistically it’s probably more like 3 to 4. That’s 3 to 4 opportunities to find the partner with whom you’ve dreamt of spending the rest of your life. How many lads have you nixed so far?

But there are plenty of fish in the sea! There are. Don’t believe the One Soul Mate Showtime crap. Plenty of Sallys for every Harry out there and vice versa. Thousands of them. But you have 3 to 4 windows to get it right. You’re not an invincible fishing trawler on the high seas: you’re a crazed one-eyed whaler with a handful of harpoons.

And even that hides the real story. This is where the maths really kicks in, but let’s look at it in terms of market analysis. You’re a smart, beautiful, educated, professional woman. Who are you going for? Who you’ve always gone for: smarter, older, richer, attractive men. This isn’t a jibe at society’s shallowness blah blah – it’s an evolutionary reality, which is as obvious as it is understandable. Any dissent is wishful thinking with a dollop of self-deception. So what is happening to your preference pool? It’s diminishing. You’re getting only more successful… and older. Your pool of Prince Charming candidates is rapidly shrinking.

And here is where it really gets fun. What’s happening to that ever shrinking pool of desirable men? Their target market has never been larger. See, men are less fussy. They want an awesome girl, sure. But they’re more age and career agnostic. Their floor doesn’t rise. Yours does.

Ladies, you’re pricing yourselves out of the market. This isn’t a critique – kudos to you wonderful women. It just explains the plethora of miserable lawyers and accountants and marketeers complaining to their girlfriends that there just aren’t any good guys out there.

Remember those poor doleful pimply boys of yore? What a sticky, Tantalean hell they inhabited. Remember how you scorned them? And who wouldn’t – you were top of the world and they were…well, gross. You were gorgeous, fun, 21. Remember that 28 year old you dated? You loved a man in a suit, and he loved you. Probably flung him off in a fit of youthful exuberance. You could do better, life was an ocean and you a majestic trawler, breezing through fish by the tonne. Well maybe you could have done better. And still can. But the odds have narrowed. That 30 year old hunk you’re eyeing now is eyeing the 21 year old behind you with whom you now share your pond.

What does this mean? Plot the charts of the mating market in terms of how attractive one sex is to the other and the size of their target market: Men’s prospects start low and steadily rise through their twenties, peaking around their early thirties, to plateau and slowly decline but remain more or less marketable indefinitely (or say until 40 for all intents and purposes). Women peak in their early to mid-twenties and slowly decline until a rough and tumble slide after around thirty. It’s a more or less inverse relationship. And it’s unfair: careening into your happy-ever-after-cum-vicious-jungle unarmed and with the distinct taste of anti-climax.

On this one your country and early bird sisters have a point. Lock it down young at your peak. Hindsight’s a peach though isn’t it?

It’s a funny justice of sorts. But we men didn’t make the rules.

None of this is a secret. This is a conversation I’ve had in countless versions with single women in their late twenties – or early twenties if I’m playing a nasty Cassandra. There’s a moment when it hits, and it’s usually wrapped up with the kids thing. It prompts the pause, the decision, even if you decide to go it without the ankle biters. Certain options have an expiry date – it’s not a societal invention, it’s a biological reality. Working backwards with the number of kids you want, how long it takes to work through the love lifecycle and you realise you better get snapping…suddenly you look around and realise a bunch of the lads are taken, a bunch have degenerated to new and horrifying levels of ineligibility, and the rest…well, the rest have these big fat grins. Because they know. And you know. And the game is up. It’s maths.

Happy hunting whalers. There’s only a can of tuna at the end of this rainbow, better snap up your marlin now.

Click on the menu button to subscribe to Life in Arcadia and get notified of new posts view email, Jules x

Love Maths: Equations and Probabilities

It’s another girl. The timing is wrong. He’s just too busy with work; he’s been abducted by aliens or more likely than not he’s been recruited to the secret service and has had to cut ties with me for my own safety. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been my fault. If my calculations were correct we should’ve been holi-dating in Thailand by now and posting obnoxious couple selfies. Instead, the red carpet has been pulled out from under me and I’m left red-faced and licking my wounds after making a public spectacle of myself.  Someone must have fed me corrupted data.  How did this all go so horribly wrong? Holy shit Neo, there’s a glitch in the Matrix.

After falling flat on your face in front of a bemused crowd of onlookers, it can be hard to regain composure. In trying to make sense of our stumbles, we tend to blame everything under the sun except ourselves and get very hung up on the idea of closure. As if falling ass-over-tit for someone who doesn’t want you back isn’t embarrassing enough, people then want to pinpoint the exact moment things went astray. When people tell you not to worry because there’s plenty more fish it’s typically not very comforting. Oh wow really, what sea? What fish? Okay, there’s like 2 billion fish out there but they are probably all weird looking, undersized, bottom feeders. No thanks.  I want a Marlin, not a tin of tuna. I thought I’d hooked a big fish, if only I knew what went wrong. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?

The word itself – closure – indicates some kind of finality, as if knowing what the turning point was will make you feel instantly better and the whole saga will magically fade away into a distant memory. Keep dreaming. Of course it’s not that easy: since when could you blame one straw for paralysing a camel when there’s a whole bale underneath it? It’s never as simple or logical as “rise over run,” so analyse as long as you want but you are more likely to catch a unicorn then the mythical closure beast. Relationships don’t follow a logical, linear progression; the best you can hope for is to find some kind of trend in the chaos so you can manipulate future equations. Jules + Jerk Face = Sad Jules. Subtract the boy, carry the Jules, + gal pals x brunch = awesomeness2.

When you finally accept that you probably won’t ever be able to solve ‘x’ to uncover the exact reason for the relationship failure then you can start looking forward. Perhaps you forgot to carry the two, divide by 36 and move the decimal point; maybe you just weren’t his cup of tea and maybe he likes coffee. It doesn’t matter, post a passive aggressive quote on Instagram and move on. In fact, screw algebra. Thank you, high school maths teachers, for your years of hard work, but I don’t need a graphics calculator to tell me that love doesn’t bear resemblance to a text-book slope. It’s full of curves – positive and negative – and is generally much more of a white-knuckle roller coaster than a bell-shape or an exponential.

Don’t get so hung up on finding a logical answer for the one that got away. It’s nothing more than a necessary dot to your data set. So you put together a forecast based on an algorithm built with situational data and this time your prediction wasn’t even in the ball-park. You got it wrong… But that’s life. You’re not the first person to put all your eggs in one basket before elegantly face-planting right into them, crushing them to smithereens.  Wipe the yolk off your face, honey, and move on, because if you want to bake a cake you’re going to need to break some eggs and what’s that saying again? Oh yeah: “There are plenty more fish in the sea”…but how many exactly!? “Plenty more”’ isn’t a very compelling number– plenty more than what? Plenty more than none or plenty more than a New York City fish market?! Let’s crunch numbers.

By the time you’re in your early-to-mid twenties, it’s likely you’ve already caught a few fish. The newest guy/girl is the second, third – or in my case, 47th – love of your life. For the sake of the argument lets presume you’ve been casting lines into the dating pool for six years approximately. Now in that time you’ve met probably two life-changing loves, which averages out to one every three years (or every three months, if like me you fall in love like it’s going out of fashion). Therefore, conservatively, in a lifetime of dating that could be upto 25 people who could potentially turn your life into the blissful day-dream that is love. [Rough workings: 75 adult years/ 3 year love spells= 25 eligible candidates out there! Yiew!] Now, don’t give me crap about diminishing dating pools and declining probabilities, that’s not the point. I’m not a mathematician I am just a hopeless romantic trying to make an argument. So buck up, Chum, there actually are plenty more fish in the sea. Just keep on catching them and throwing them back until you find the one that’s right for you. And if nothing else, be comforted and a little grossed out by the fact that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among the elderly… So you’ve got plenty more years of love to look forward to.

Thanks for reading, if you love my posts please subscribe to email notifications. Just click the black square menu button in the top-right hand corner of the page and enter your preferred email address.

Jules x

Valentine’s Day Special: 5 Signs You’ve Settled

Happy Valentine’s Day lovers! It’s that time of the year again, the time where blissfully happy singles are made to feel like second-rate citizens due to their lack of arm-candy.

I’d like to take this opportunity to divert your attention away from those of us who are currently proud members of a one-man wolf pack, however, and highlight the real sob story here. The real losers here are neither those of us who are happily single or, heaven forbid, happily taken.  The ones I feel for are those in sub-par relationships where days like Valentine’s remind them what they are truly missing out on.

Being single is not terminal and it does not mean you’re defective. I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that King Arthur hasn’t yet arrived to pull the sword from the stone; Prince Charming must’ve had too many ales and fallen off his horse; I haven’t stumbled upon a royal amphibian looking to lock lips; and my hair – alas – is still not long or strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown man. What does concern me is the amount of people who have settled prematurely into unhappy relationships. Men and women alike, who are so desperate to stay out of the Lonely Hearts Club that they’ve jumped into a relationship with someone who barely meets their minimum standard.

Let’s take a moment of silence to commemorate those who have battled through the mundane and given up their freedom for the sake of a not being single.  Their sacrifice has been in vain, and I hardly doubt that a crappy stuffed animal on Valentine’s Day is going to offer any consolation. So, as a present to you guys out there I thought I’d put a little bit of a list together to help you identify some key indicators that you might be in a dead-end relationship.

  1. You’re embarrassed by them:

If you’ve been here then you will know the guilt and shame that comes from having a partner you’re not proud of. You will come up with reasons why they wouldn’t want to come to your friend’s event, work party or family dinner; frankly, you just don’t want them there making you look bad. When someone asks you about them you instinctively ‘white lie’… “His job in the film industry [Village cinemas] is going great and he’s really into creative arts [drawing male privates on every Snapchat he sends]. Also, when it comes to P.D.A you feel more inclined towards a public display of vomit. You don’t want anyone to know you’re together because you’re secretly hoping strangers on the street think he’s your brother or a homeless person you’re philanthropically sponsoring. For guys, maybe you’re bragging about her looks to try to distract your mates from her obvious lack of brains and ambitions.

  1. You don’t include them in future plans:

This sets off alarm bells. Better grab a bucket because your relationship is going up in flames. Your only hope now is to cling to a handsome fire fighter or sultry paramedic and get out before this whole place burns to the ground. Jokes aside, if you are planning a new life overseas, an investment property, a puppy or even a new tattoo and they haven’t crossed your mind in the process then this is a worry – particularly if they are the type of person who won’t even get a haircut without your consultation. If your life is moving at a million miles an hour and you don’t want to offer them a VIP ticket for the ride then you’ve got to ask yourself why you’re letting them hang around in the airport lounge for a plane they are never going to catch.

  1. The attraction is gone:

He used to get your heart pumping like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. Now, the only place you’re likely to experience an elevated heart rate is in spin class, or when you see your food coming at the restaurant. Somewhere along the way all of his or her endearing charm has disintegrated; suddenly you’re left with an over-grown teenager whose general approach to life is so different to yours that it has overshadowed their magnificent cheekbones and you can no longer see the beauty through the bullshit. I’m talking about that feeling you get when you look at your partner some days and wonder if you are actually dating the most disgusting creature ever to walk the earth. The magic has gone and you feel like you’d rather make out with a Saint Bernard than kiss him for the 4 millionth time; Or when her triple chin selfies are no longer cute but more resemblant of Jabba the Hut. It feels like whatever hallucinogenic drugs you must have taken have worn off and you wonder why you ever found them attractive in the first place.

  1. Your friends think you can do better (and you agree)

From the start your friends have been saying you deserve better and their friends have been applauding them for batting above their average. At first you thought your friends were just being negative old spinsters but as the relationship has progressed, the cracks have started to show. For fear of hearing “I told you so,”’ you’ve started to avoid any talk of your relationship in front of your friends. Deep down you know you could aim higher but it’s easier to be with him/her … you’ve let yourself go a bit and you’ve been avoiding manscaping or waxing for so long that you’re hairier than a wildebeest. You’re not ready to get back out there and you’re pretty sure your muffin-top isn’t going to bring anybody to the yard.

  1. You treat them more like a pet than a person:

Come here. Sit. Stay. Behave. Eat. Lie down. Good Boy! Thatta a girl!! Don’t laugh; I know I have definitely been in the situation where I was treating my significant other more like a Labrador than a lover. You shouldn’t have to scold them for stupid things, train them how to behave in public or tie them up outside when you go into a shop. Chances are you’re already day-dream about what your next relationship will be like because you know this one is not your last. If you’re treating your man like man’s-best-friend or using your lady as a show pony then it’s time to take stock.

For any of you empowered singles – meet me at the ticket box, because we are going to the movies this V-Tines day. Thank God we have 50 Shades of Grey to remind us that even most fictitious relationships are screwed up and borderline abusive. Just remember ladies and gents, it doesn’t matter how strong his Christian Gray game is, or if she’s the hottest girl you’ve ever touched. If they are a secret from your friends and a massive tool, what’s the point? Take a little look at your relationship – maybe the best present you could have this Valentine’s Day is a little bit of Candy Heart advice: life’s too short to settle.

(Photo Credit: theinvictusgroupinc.wordpress.com)

We Can Dish It Out, But We Can’t Take It

This week I’ve been wondering: why do women handle rejection so badly? Of course I’m not implying that guys are immune to rejection, it’s something we all suffer from occasionally, like bad breath or a terrible haircut. But, compared to us they do seem to take it with a grain of salt. I’m not sure anyone likes being rejected, but I have found that females get terribly dramatic about the whole thing. “My life is OVER – I can’t cope – I’m going to post passive aggressive quotes and adorable selfies on Instagram until he realises what he’s lost.” (Ladies, it’s a bit sad, stop it). All I can say is that we’ve become used dishing out the rejection but we don’t like the bitter taste of our own medicine.

Let me break it down for you: girls reject guys every week. We avoid your glances, we don’t reply to your texts/direct messages/ snap chats, we decline your ‘friend requests’ and we laugh in your faces at the bar. We can start to get a bit of a big head and become very picky about who we our spend energy on. We get so used to shutting down male advances that we forget what it’s like to be shut down ourselves. For us, getting rejected is a lot like spending hours online searching for the perfect dress only to find your size has suddenly gone out of stock at the checkout. We spend so long scrolling past the ugly sweaters and ill-fitting bum shorts that life throws at us, that we get pretty disheartened when we finally find the garment of our dreams and its ‘currently unavailable’.

If you cross over the border into dating territory and it doesn’t work out that’s where things can start to get complicated. If you realise one day that Mr. Right is actually Mr. SO SO Wrong it can be harder than you expect to get the message across. Women often bank on the silent treatment; which is counterintuitive considering a lot of guys are deaf. Men are not so obsessed with decoding subtle messages, they want to be told in simple terms is this a ‘go’ or a ‘no’. Even if you think you have been placing glaring stop signs at every intersection, unless you are upfront with a guy, you are not going to get your message through. We assume that after six unanswered texts our lack of interest would be glaringly obvious, but I’ve had pet rocks that understand me better. “Hey, how are you?” “Out tonight?” “How was your weekend?” “Nice Selfie 😉 xx” “Wanna hang out?” “Happy /birthday/ Xmas/ Chinese New Year” “Hey Stranger”*cringe*

I’ve spoken to a few guys and they’ve told me they would much rather be told straight out “Sorry buddy, you’re just not my type,” than try and play the guessing game. Understanding women is like playing Scrabble in the dark – unless you lady-friend is willing to shed some light on the situation there’s not much point trying, so just pack up and go home. Believe me, we think we’re being obvious, but in reality there can be a pretty fine line between the behaviour of a woman brushing you off (because she’s not interested) and one playing hard to get (because she’s already planning your wedding). Maybe as women we could be a little more considerate about announcing our intended journey, so that we are not taking anyone on an uncomfortable ride… “Attention passengers: This train is running express to friend-zone station, this is a one-way service.”

If you’re a guy and the girl you’ve been dating has gradually changed from Amazing Amy to Psycho Sally then you’re in trouble. When it comes to letting a girl down easy, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Giving a girl the silent treatment will open up an extensive investigation into your online activities as she tries to triangulate your movements. As she uncovers you activities she’ll turn from Sherlock Holmes into an hysterical mess as she calls her BBF to ask “Why the heck hasn’t he replied to my message from 7 hours ago?! I can see that in the past hour he has liked some skank’s Instagram photo and uploaded a new Snapchat story. Hang on, WTF…I’ve just seen that he was active on Facebook 2 minutes ago! What’s going on!?” …. “I dunno babe, I’m sure there’s a good reason he’s not replying to you… maybe he’s been kidnapped or he’s on a bad acid trip.” (Or maybe he’s hoping if he ignores you long enough you’ll go away…. He’s wrong.)

If he doesn’t offer up a good enough reason for his lack of interest we are probably going to squeeze it out of him by force, like the last ounce of toothpaste. The problem is that women really don’t want to know the truth – but they will ask for it anyway. Gentlemen, proceed with caution. Explaining your point of view requires the same tact used to handle the age old question “does my butt look big in this?” Even if our butt looks like a misshapen cantaloupe we don’t want to know; in the same respect we don’t actually want to know which of our weird/psychotic/annoying traits turned you off us. We don’t want to know that you are just not that keen, we’re not your type or you’re still getting over you’re ex-girlfriend from five years ago (seriously…who was she?! Flipping Adriana Lima – get over it already). In fact, we would much rather attribute it to your immaturity, poor self-esteem, fear of commitment or any other fabricated flaw we can make up to put the blame back onto you so we can sleep better at night.

Like I said, we tend to take rejection very, very personally. We see it as some kind of failure or inadequacy on our behalf. We get crazy over it and we beat ourselves up about it relentlessly. Then we buy the latest Taylor Swift album and listen to it on repeat as we cry into a pillow, wondering why we are so repulsive to the opposite sex. I can’t speak for guys, but outwardly they seem to take it on the chin when they get knocked back. I think we could learn a thing or two from them about just brushing ourselves off and getting on with it. Sorry babe, cancel the pity party.

For the record if you get turned down, it’s not the end of the world. That person isn’t telling you’re worthless, what they are trying to say is you’re not their favourite ice-cream flavour – and that’s okay, because you’re still delicious. Don’t sit at home crying over them, because I can guarantee they are not wasting any time sitting at home thinking about you. Maybe they prefer Fro-yo, maybe they just don’t feel like ice-cream at the moment … or maybe they are just secretly gay. It doesn’t matter. Just keep doing your thing, and don’t ever let a Bubble O’Bill make you feel like you’re not a Magnum.

(image via fyicecream.tumblr.com)

The dating game

I used to think dating was simple: I would leave the palace one day, disguised as a commoner, accidentally shop-lift in a market place and get saved by a dashing young man and his monkey. We would fall madly in love with each other and he would tell me I’m the most amazing girl in the world and he would truly mean it.  Blah blah blah, magic carpet, evil villain, he saves the day, we all live happily ever after. The end.

Sadly, I was wrong. Since the plot of Aladdin didn’t directly translate into reality I have been forced to wing it.

This is what I’ve been able to deduce so far: You meet someone by chance through work, friends or a strategic right-swipe. Following that there are numerous keen (but not too keen) text messages and ultimately you agree to interview each other for the position of ‘significant other’. There is food, usually a few solid sav blancs and about 40,000 screening questions. If someone makes it past the first date the process repeats until one person loses interest or finds someone cuter to text. Long story short: you meet, you eat, you battle it out to see who can act like a normal well-adjusted human for the longest, then someone gets burnt and you start all over again. Got it? Simple.

After an interesting conversation with a male friend this week I have started to question some of the assumptions I’ve made about the sometimes bizarre circus that is dating. Sure it can be full of freaks, we all know that. To my credit sometimes my dating life is like Cirque du Soleil: mesmerising, high-brow, and utterly brag-worthy. Other times though it’s a nightmarish fiasco with more sad clowns than strong men. [Note: I am not referring to those of extreme physical strength like body builders or weight lifters (who are NOT in short supply); I’m talking about the rare breed of men who do not suffer from emotional paraplegia]

Reflecting over my past experiences I realise I have been inadvertently providing a community service all these years – the ‘catch and release’ program I’ve been running ever since I hit puberty has had a striking success rate. More than once I have generously rescued a disheveled young man and through months of nurturing, spoon feeding, toilet training and general life-skills coaching I have released him back into the wilderness, a much snappier dresser and all-round more considerate guy. Rest assured I am not the first girl to experience the bitter pang of disappointment as my charge successfully integrates into the wild and uses his hard-learned skills to attract a new mate. At this stage if you’re having trouble following my train of thought just think of me as Demi Moore, wasting years of my prime training Ashton Kutcher how to be boyfriend of the year, only to watch him run off with that bitch Mila Kunis. *BURN*

Sadly, more often than not any significant emotional investment on my behalf has left me feeling like one of the contestants on The Block; back in that dreadful season where no-one sold their property above reserve. Like the poor tormented block-heads I too have wasted months of my life only to deliver some lucky stranger a structurally sound investment at well under the asking price. Lucky for me my ordeals have never involved a film crew or Scott Cam so perhaps at least, there is a god.

What haunts me about these failed relationships is not the fact that the other person changed their mind. I am not a desperado and if it’s not working for the other person then I kindly invite them to GTFO and stop wasting my time. What in fact makes me livid is the way in which I have been completely and utterly mislead by these bozos. Sorry guys, this may sound a bit harsh but let me elaborate. I think I speak on behalf of single women when I say we are sick of being told we’re the most amazing person ever and the best thing since sliced bread only to be dumped the following day, usually via a text message. This massive truth sandwich is usually filled with *sorry it’s just not working out…* and buttered heavily with  *I’m a douche bag/ I’m a commitmentphobe/ I never actually liked you that much anyway/ thanks for the memories/ everything I said was BS*. I honestly don’t think it’s too much to ask that in future you refrain from using your fake romantic one-liners on us, because I’m ashamed to admit that we fall for it everytime… and then you have the nerve to call us CRAZY for hacking your facebook and slashing your tyres. Sheesh. At least we when we say ‘we hate your guts’ you can trust that we mean it.

In a state of unequivocal paranoia I started to wonder if there was a dating-specific code of conduct men kept a secret. Being a painfully honest person, I have always assumed that when people say things they actually mean them. I have started to wonder if I have been operating under a false assumption this whole time. When I jovially joked that in the past 12 months I have had free stuff and heart break in equal measures not only did I hear the resounding cackle of Karma, but I started to question the correlation. I realised in fact, that men have been trading their economic investment for my emotional one this whole time.  Willing to pour in money and hollow compliments whilst I fell head over heels for what I though was genuine sentiment. At this point in my revelation I felt like I had just been punched in the face by an ice addict, whilst waiting at a bus stop.

My mind started racing. Do guys really think it’s okay to break our hearts because they’ve supplied adequate free meals and entertainment? Is there some kind of secret loyalty programme where you buy a girl 10 meals and then you get to stab her in the heart for free?  I’m sure by now a lot of guys will be violently objecting to this notion, but I’m also sure many men would never even realise if they were participants in this movement. Arguments aside, I still strongly feel that guys have let me get far more attached than they should because of some cave-man presumption that as long of they have provided for the fairer sex their obligation is fulfilled, and any white lies or exaggerations that occurr are simply part of the natural process. I’m here to clarify that free food is NEVER a mitigating factor in rejection and by no means is it a free pass to mislead naïve young girls, who still believe one day Superman will save them if they jump off enough tall buildings (figuratively speaking, of course).

Although I may have said in jest (more than once) ‘Ah well, it didn’t work out but hey – I got a lot of free food’, it is in no way a relief to my heartache. Quite contrarily, the abundance of inflight meals you provided may have increased my overall padding, but it in no way cushions my fall when you suddenly rip open the emergency exit and push me out of the cabin mid-flight. To add insult to injury, as I hurtle screaming towards to earth, I suddenly realise that maybe I didn’t have “the most adorable face EVER”, “an awesome figure” or “the most beautiful smile”. Shit, you got me good.

Come on Baby, Light My Fire

Have you ever heard the expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, yet found yourself staring blankly at a display of books looking for the one with the most enticing visuals? Yeah, me too, so let’s get one thing straight: your Tinder profile picture is your book cover. If it’s crap, no one’s going to read it, let alone open up a dialogue. I don’t know about you, ladies, but I spend hours online swiping left to anybody and everybody who comes up on my Tinder feed. Maybe it’s my sick ego or maybe I’m actually not shallow enough to rate someone based on five blurry pictures and a one sentence bio, often made up of emojis. Call me old fashioned, because sometimes I am, but I find that attractiveness is not always captured in photographs. Presence and personality has a lot to do with it. Plus, in real life it’s a lot easier to tell if you’re funny or just plain creepy.

No, I can’t tell what you look like if you’re wearing sunnies in all your pictures; no, I won’t accept you if all you have are awkward selfies with no evidence of actually having friends or a life; and no, I do not want to accept a headless body with abs. Congrats to the gents on Tinder who have actually had a girlfriend before, I salute you. Well done on finding one the old fashioned way (although, obviously, it didn’t work out – enter Tinder), but let’s set one thing straight: I don’t even care if you have cropped her out – there is no room for pictures of you and your ex-girlfriend on Tinder, period. No matter how cute you look or how sparse your photo album is, having your ex in your Tinder photos is like having a ghost peering over your shoulder, haunting away any potential new flame. What’s more is that it makes you seem like a newly single desperado looking to fill the gaping chasm she left in your heart. Rest assured your ex-significant-other is unlikely to want to be part of your quest for a new mate. It’s disrespectful, gross and just downright stupid. I am not impressed by the evidence that you had a girlfriend before Tinder, and undoubtedly it will make me swipe left for two reasons. One: because you’re a absolutely rookie and two: because I will probably think I’m hotter than her, so obvi I’m outta your league. [Note: for any guys who think girls can’t tell the difference between a photo of you and a female friend vs a photo of you and an ex-girlfriend we can. Call it spider-senses.] Sorry buddy. May the legend of your ex-girlfriend live on – but not on Tinder… at least, not if you plan on finding a new one any time soon.

But hey, that’s just me. I have developed a pretty cynical view of Tinder, to the point where I actively deny any really hot guys because, it seems to me, they are taking the piss. Surely they could have a girlfriend/wife/band of groupies/ casual arrangement if they wanted one; it seems like they have just gotten so bored of the nightclub one-night-stand routine that they don’t want to even bother leaving the house now, preferring their women delivered straight to their door like a pizza… but sleazier.

Oh, Prince Charming where are you? All I can seem to find is ‘Prince Alarming’ and ‘Prince Much Shorter In Real Life’. Poor Tinderella. Looks like all the good ones are taken or have more dignity than to hopelessly trawl social media in a last ditch effort to find their perfect princess. Help me, Fairy Godmother, I think I’m turning into a pumpkin… *sigh*.