Half-Hearted: WTF Is A 'Commuter-Date'?
The Debrief: Dispatches from the dating frontline in New York...
This week, I’m filing the column from New York City. It’s got to be 100 degrees and we’re about to tip into mating season (aka summer). If you’re unfamiliar with New York’s dating culture, I will summarise it here for you: ‘everyone is fucking everyone (especially when it's warm).’
Like most things the Americans just do dating, bigger, badder, cornier and more expensively than most other cities. On average, a single American person spends just under $2000 a year on dating-related expenses. Take this new trend a few of my friends were discussing over an overpriced brunch in Bushwick earlier this week. It’s called ‘commuter dating’. It’s exactly what it sounds like. People who utilise their commute to the maximum by inviting a love interest, who has a similar route, to commute with them. If that doesn’t make your knees knock together- you’re not alone. It sounds utterly bonkers written down, but once here it makes total sense. New Yorkers are a friendly, prissy, high maintenance, focused breed of people who like nothing more than streamlining their precious time. With a population of just under 9 million, there’s no shortage of potential dates- it’s just finding the time in their busy, work-laden, gym-heavy, brunch-scheduled Google calendars that’s the problem. Honestly, London looks so chilled in comparison I think it’s going to feel like a holiday on my return. They also love to date. In fact, it’s something of a sport here.
I have it on good authority from almost all of my New York-and-Brooklyn-bred friends that New Yorkers never date one person at a time. And why would you? There are more babes and Instagram celebrities on the sidewalks here than there are civilians, dive bars were built for the sole purpose of ‘hooking up’ and in a sea of 9 million faces, it’s irresistible to not shop around a little bit.
What amazes me most, is that despite this, much like London, I get the impression everyone’s still managing to dip their quills in much the same ink pots as their exes exes and their colleague's crushes. ‘I had one friend who was dating someone for a year, while also seriously seeing one of his friends’ my pal Anna tells me without flinching. ‘What?’ I spit out my kale horrified. ‘You British are so cute!’ she chimes. If that doesn’t sound cutthroat enough, my friend Reggie assures me that ‘until you hang out with someone at least 20 times, it’s not legit.’ As an English person, that sounds like a lot of hanging out and a lot of anxiety to me. I wonder if us Brits are just more silken-covered than our American counterparts. We pub-dwelling neurotics wouldn’t be able to cope with such a lax attitude to monogamy. I think English people also complicity lie to one another to each other’s faces all day long, proffering up more and more mundane excuses about why we’re not free to ‘hang out’ when we know we’re all heading home to sit on our beds and scroll through Instagram in peace. I’m quite sure the weather has a lot to do with it New Yorker’s insatiable appetites to be out dating all the time. ‘Oh yeah, summer’s a fuckin’ free for all’ Reggie assures me as he plaits his hair. Nervous, but intrigued, I declare I want in on the free for all. ‘In the name of my column and science, I’m ready to go on an American date with an American man’ I tell my brunchy mates. ‘Just go on Instagram and pick’ says Anna as she hands me her phone. High on power, I select the single most gorgeous, baby-face half-man on her feed. I could get used to this.
Also, momentary disclaimer here. The rumours are absolutely true. Love Actually was only right about one important thing: British accents make the panties drop in America and anyone who says otherwise is bitter or Australian. While you’re speaking, American’s aren’t listening to you. They’re watching your mouth move, and they’re hearing all the right phonetics, but they’re too busy imagining meeting your toothy parents (pardon me- ‘new in laws’), moving to Blightly, being jolly, playing tennis in Hampshyre and meeting Kate Moss. They’ve basically just come in their pants while you were asking which subway to get on. You’ve basically got a green card... Welcome to America!
Caveat, this only goes so far. This city is made up of 99% organic GF V models.
Back to my imminent date. I get an Instagram follow from my chosen conquest about 12 hours after I’ve put in the request. God bless America, it’s so fucking efficient. Bling! A direct message. ‘Hey ’. I message back ‘Hey ’. What ensues is some straightforward flirting before he asks me for a drink about 4 minutes later. Wow. What are we doing wrong? I don’t know if I’d be this casual about meeting a stranger, who’s just graduated, at home, but I’m on holiday and my sixty-year-old self is willing me on- ‘Get it’ - she whispers from my future crinkly mouth- ‘On it bitch!’ I mouth back.
The agreed spot is a dive bar on the lower east side at 9pm. In the UK a boy asking you to meet at 9pm means one thing- he’s looking for one thing. I’m assured by all my friends that 9pm is very respectable time, and I agree to meet some friends before for a sharpener.
When I meet this other gang of friends they’re keen to find out about my ‘American boyfriend.’ Confident in the knowledge that they will have no idea who he is I disclose his full name. My friend, Jamie, rolls his eyes. ‘Oh honey.’ ‘What?’ I ask impatiently. ‘Oh my gawwwwwwd. Him?’. Long pause. ‘You’re like way hotter and he’s a kid, but like, make sure you’re not going to meet him and all his friends. Actually- he’s not that tall. You got this…’ etc.
Wonderful! I order another drink.
I message him saying I’m running late. He messages back instantly with a sunglasses emoji. I’m actually 2 minutes from the meet point but I kill time drunkenly applying make-up at a corner store before I realise the patron is staring at me. As I’m exiting the store, a giant rat basically kisses my big toe and I let out a yelp. ‘You ok girl?’ a big fat man barks at me from the dark. I compose myself and scuttle off into the direction of the bar which I now realise I’m stood opposite. Fuck my small British life.
I enter the bar and greet the babe in arms. The evening goes swimmingly largely because we don’t drink drinks, we just have shots. He’s fun and charming and it’s the most fun I’ve had on a date in years. We bar hop. Play pool. Have some ice cream and ‘hang out’ harder than I’ve hung out in years. Half way through the date, circa 3am, and still boiling hot outside, I realise five hours have slipped by. He doesn’t look at his phone once, pays for everything, asks questions and maintains questions. I realise I’m now very drunk. I’ve gone from feeling like a sexy, date-ready object of lust to an awkward Mary Poppins and a bid him farewell. He settles the bill, hugs me and I feel ok about it. I’m not sure I wanted to ‘make out’ with him and I’m impressed he doesn’t try, but it’s been a fun evening and I’m left with a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach. ‘Bye sweetie’ he hollas at me, as I disappear into the subway. It really doesn’t matter that he’s probably dating a trillion other people he treated me with more respect that anyone I’ve been on a date with all year and it feels great.
On the way back to my place on the Upper Eastside I feel buoyant and sassy. Maybe it’s the Tequila, maybe it’s the fact a lovely stranger entertained me all night and made me feel good- who knows. I don’t care at this point, but I’d quite like every English girl to have the same experience. I walk up the stairs to my front door and I see something out of the corner of my eye. A fat, sluggish black rat is staring at me. ‘Bye sweetie’ I tell him as I shut the door behind me.
I lie on my bed. I wonder if in the long run, my English sentimentality might get the better of me, or whether I’d fully assimilate. I am an advocate of dating multiple people simultaneously in your twenties under the proviso that it’s safe and not stepping on anyone’s toes. But, it’s usually my decision. It’s usually me who brokers that with someone new. I’ve yet to have that rude awakening- no one’s yet to tell me that they’re seeing someone else. I pass out.
I wake up to a text from Reggie. ‘Wanna go to Coney Island tomorrow? It’s gonna be hot ’. I roll over, plug my phone in and text him back. ‘Why not, eh?’.
God. Bless. America.
Like this? You might also be interested in:
Follow Nellie on Twitter @nelliefaitheden
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating