I think we’ve all been there before. You’ve finally managed to bag a hot date. You approach the whole operation with scientific precision and military discipline. You pick the best time for both of you, scour Yelp for the cheapest restaurants with a minimum hygiene rating of 4/5 and proceed to send your location to the group chat so your friends know where to find your lifeless body in case your date turns out to be the millennial Ted Bundy/Aileen Wuornos. Everything is ready, planned to the last detail. But then the big day comes and, oh shit… you have nothing to wear.
You lean into your closet and ouch, all you can see is a blurry cluster of old, faded, Salvation Army-ish items that all of your friends will promptly veto and report to the authorities (wearing them in public would indeed qualify as a lewd act) the moment they receive your panicked snaps. It’s like Primark’s reduced section on steroids. A felt jacket? Too shabby. A funky silk shirt with oriental patterns? too hipster. The latest pair of Nike Air Max? Boy, I can guarantee with mathematical certainty that there is no way in the world you’re getting that second date.
So what do you do? Check your bank account, grab your debit card and head to the mall, unafraid to dip into your rent money to please the aggressive shop assistants who would sell you their grandma if they could. On that note: what’s their deal? Do they spike their water with coke? Where do they find the energy and dedication required to bully every customer into buying things that even Oxfam wouldn’t take? (I know this is just the by-product of an aggressive capitalist culture that forces blameless individuals to enforce its rules but I also do not want to upset them so I just buy everything they tell me to.)
Anyway! You head to the shops, armed with determination and limited funds. You just need a new shirt but end up buying five pairs of socks, a Dia De Los Muertos-themed jacket on sale, a tube of incense sticks and a watermelon face mask. You go home looking like Celia Cruz after a sold-out concert in Mexico City. The truth is… my wardrobe is not that bad. I definitely don’t need another flannel shirt I can’t afford but still, I end up biting the bullet (forgive the pun) and buy it anyway. Sometimes I think I agree to go on dates just so I have an excuse to purchase a new outfit. There, I said it. As if going on dates wasn’t expensive enough as it is.
But the question is, how much time and money should we invest in dating? And I’m not talking about the dates themselves but all the fuss that surrounds them. The money spent to buy the fancy perfume to lure the person sitting in front of you into your honey trap. And of course, the cash you need to buy antidepressants on the dark web when you realise you’ve wasted another two hours of your life arguing with someone who thinks that the Fast and Furious franchise is the best cinematic product of the 21st century.
But still, next time you’ll do it all over again. You will agree to meet for drinks and you will spend five hours trying to find the right shoes to go with that experimental vintage coat you bought in Broadway Market while drunk on whiskey sours from the night before. You spend more time in front of the mirror than getting to know the person sitting in front of you sipping warm espresso martinis while showing excessive interest in the wall clock.
I just can’t afford this lifestyle. And most importantly, I don’t have the time for it. I live in London, for God’s sake: in this city, time really is the main currency. You should spend most of it trying to figure out creative (also code for illegal) ways to make more money and afford your zone 2 flat with central heating and partial (very partial) view of the financial district. Also, have you ever heard of council tax? It’s really bad (and the most effective argument against adulthood I can think of).
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is… I do understand why you would spend an appropriate amount of time and yes, dinero, trying to portray yourself in the best possible light to the eyes of another Hinge rando. And let’s face, it is so disrespectful to show up on a date to find out that the other person has made zero effort (at least a shower? With soap? Is that too much too ask? And no, a generous splash of Lynx Africa/Lynx Attract for Her won’t cut it)
I feel like that’s where I go wrong. It’s not my refusal to acknowledge the red flags and my propensity to transfer too much meaning and importance to disappointing people I’ve been seeing for a couple of weeks. The problem is, I do that even before I meet them! It starts with the clothes and the haircuts and the perfumes and then, before you know it, you sign up for a cross-fit class and dye your hair blonde to impress someone who sniffs glue before dates. If I didn’t know better I’d think I have some self-esteem issues (no) and pre-emptive separation anxiety/fear of abandonment (yes).
So the bottom line is, the key is… moderation. Of course under no circumstance would I ever pass as a credible advocate for any form of restraint but just trust me on this one. I know the theory. Whether I follow my own advice, well, that’s another story. One of the most enjoyable parts of dating is that you get to dress up and feel pretty, but don’t overdo it. It’s not an audition and you’re not auctioning yourself to the highest (or only) bidder. If you’re good, it will show. But if you’re a fraud (and at some point or another we all are) trust that, most of the time, your date will see through the Zara jackets and the makeup and the fresh haircuts and call your bullshit. I know I would!