I’M 50 years of age, which means I am entitled to use the phrase ‘back in my day’ without fear of criticism.
So, back in my day, the ’80s, dating was a very simple affair in rural Ireland. Back then my home town of Kinsale was still considered the sticks.
You went to the local disco, normally the GAA hall or some other sweat-smelling establishment and eyed up your prey. You stood in a group with other young wans with back brushed hair and plastic hoop earrings and made eyes at your chosen male for the evening.
Having made your choice, you chatted among yourselves or watched the breakdancing or yoyo spinning, or indeed danced around the mound of jackets to Rick Ashley.
Finally, the slow set would start and a flurry of hormones would hit the dance floor. Any DJ worth his salt played three songs for the first set so you could get familiar with a boy or two and the second set was reduced to two songs only.
This was so that the establishment wouldn’t get into trouble with the parish priest for aiding and abetting ‘unwholesome behaviour’.
Let us be honest about it. There was the local ‘catch’. For a boy it was the daughter of the law-abiding and well-heeled family your mother would approve of, or for a girl it was the one good looking son of the biggest tillage farmer in the area.
Don’t ask me why, but there was always one good looking son out of the half dozen or so in the family. He had sallow skin and straight teeth and everyone joked that they brought the wrong baby home from the hospital. The less diplomatic made references to the handsome foreign lad there for the silage season the year before, but we’ll ignore that for now.
For most of us, these people were out of our league so we chose from the plentiful pool of mediocrity.
Our friends would set up a meeting for the next day at the park and a romance was in the making. If it didn’t work out, you just went back to the aforementioned disco the following Friday night and chose someone else.
Eventually, you would come across someone you thought was grand. Maybe he had land, or even better he had road frontage, but the most important thing was your friends liked him and your mother didn’t.
And to think we thought we had it hard.
A friend of mine recently said to me that back then, you swayed to the left or to the right along the dance floor to find someone, whereas now you swipe to the left and right on a screen and dismiss potential partners based on their picture alone. That to me sounds woeful.
As a younger woman, I partook in the pursuit of glory when it came to men. I enjoyed the game immensely, as did my peers, and even made the ultimate sacrifice by agreeing to marry one or two of them.
As the years go on, however, and you find yourself single, be that through divorce, abandonment, mutual agreement or just plain common sense, you find yourself either choosing to do the right and left swipe game, trying to find someone that will cut the mustard, or you stay single.
For some, they will tolerate a bad match just in order to have a significant other, to have ‘himself’ somewhere in the background, or ‘her indoors’ to talk about.
For many, the idea of online dating fills them with horror, and an arranged date or two later with complete strangers that are miles away from their profile details, they pull back from the whole procedure as it’s damaging to their self-esteem. It is akin to ordering a test drive in a car and afterwards pointing out the 101 things you found wrong with it. It can be a very cold process.
For others, swiping left and right is a fun game and they will go out regularly and eagerly, full of optimism. Whichever way you look at it, the closer internet dating sites are bringing us to one another in the virtual world, the farther apart we seem to be moving in reality.
There is no substitute for eyes meeting across a room, or for a fella to take his cap in hand, straighten his back and risk the ridicule by asking a girl he likes to dance. Or for a girl to make eyes at someone she likes and tell his best friend that if he asks her to dance, she might just say yes.
Simply put, the dating scene in Ireland has gone to hell in a handcart since they did away with the slow set.
There is no substitute for eyes meeting across a room, or for a fella to take his cap in hand, straighten his back and risk the ridicule by asking a girl he likes to dance.