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Why Casual Dating Is So Hard in 2017

The New Casual (It Feels Decidedly Not Casual)

Jessica Martin is a features writer and columnist with a keen interest in human behaviour. She likes: staring contemplatively out windows. She dislikes: the patriarchy.

I am good at quite a few things: I make perfect Vegemite toast; I whistle really well; I can fall asleep almost anywhere, any time; and I have an uncanny ability to accurately predict a person's breakup via their Instagram feed.

I am, however, no good at casual dating, which can be problematic given its prevalence in our Tinder-driven society.

My gripe with casual dating — defined herein as non-committed relationships — is multi-faceted, but basically boils down to this: it's rarely casual. Oh sure, you can go on a few dates with someone, have a laugh and call it a day — no harm done. But anything more substantial than that . . . well. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a relationship (pretty sure that's how the saying goes).

Admittedly, my poor casual dating track record has more to do with me than the actual concept. I'm not saying low-key trysts can't work, just that they don't work for me.

For one, I am not a particularly casual person. I loathe small talk, preferring instead to jump straight to musings on inter-generational trauma and the probable existence of aliens. And the last time I set up multiple dates with different people in the space of a week was never.

Second, I suppose I can get a little jealous. If I'm sleeping with you, being seen in public with you, and texting you more days than not — as opposed to a casual sex arrangement in which we only message each other if we want to meet up — my left eyebrow (and latent insecurity) is going to rise if I see another romantic interest tagging you in Facebook memes.

And third, as the weeks "just chilling" roll by, I've found "not wanting anything serious" often becomes synonymous with "not wanting to take any emotional responsibility for a situation in which emotions are most definitely present."

I've dated men who want all the trimmings that come with a serious relationship, without the serious relationship part. They give themselves physically, and build bonds through shared personal histories and trips to the supermarket, but they don't want to be locked down to one person. They want to show you off to their friends on nights out, and impress you with their culinary skills the next morning, but that's more about them than it is about you. They expect your emotional support and labour but refuse to be held accountable for your feelings, particularly if your feelings have anything to do with how they're treating you.

Because, this is just causal, remember?

I once met a friend of a friend who had been seeing a woman for a year. They'd spend a couple of nights a week together and would hang out on weekends when they were both in town. They'd socialise with each other's friends, go on the occasional mini-getaway, and watch TV series together in bed (the biggest indicator of a relationship, IMO).

Despite all this, when asked if he had a girlfriend, his answer was no.

"Ha, no! She's not my girlfriend! Lololol, definitely not."

Now, I don't know how his not-girlfriend felt about their arrangement, but given that she's still "hanging out" with him two years down the track, I imagine she has some vested interest in the guy and wouldn't say no to a declaration of commitment.

As for me, I've learned the bruised-heart way that casual dating is no good for my soul. I get too attached to people I like and spend time with, and now keep things purely physical or date with the intention of getting into a duck pond. No wait, a relationship. I concede that I'm a bit old-fashioned like this, and may end up alone because of my inability to take things sloooow, but that's OK. I've found the relationships that are meant to work out always do.

Image Source: iStock
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