Because society is obsessed with promoting the idea that being in a couple is the optimum way to live your life, being a singleton can be tough at times. Luckily, people who are probably already in relationships have invented lots of ways to make sure life's soloists are never short of an opportunity to form a duet.
Online dating, awkward introductions to friends and getting drunk at Christmas parties are just three ways of launching into a love match. There are also reams and reams of über-helpful handy hints to steer the poor stumbling unattached fawns through their dating forays -- books full of 'rules', well-meaning blogs (Just like this very one. Ooh, META.) and boss-eyed dating experts on the television all earnestly put forward their guide to surviving singledom. And in many, many cases (and I'm not excluding myself here) they're peddling a right load of old balls. Sick of reading about the 'no-nos' of a first date? Doing everything 'right' but still coming away empty-handed and hearted? Let's rip up the rulebooks, unfavourite those well-meaning bloggers (Except me; I NEED you. Don't leave me.) and do whatever the hell you like.
Let's deconstruct some of these dating myths for ever.
Just be yourself
This is one you'll see everywhere. It's not terrible advice, of course, as nobody wants a consummate liar sitting opposite them, spinning tall tales of exciting expeditions to the Sahara and a minor involvement in a multi million dollar jewel heist, but the problem with being yourself is that sometimes our good selves aren't really first-date material. Better to be whatever version of yourself you think is appropriate. There's nothing wrong with talking yourself up a bit or laughing a bit louder than usual or toning down your dirty jokes for the first date. If you lay all your cards on the table from day one what's going to be left to get to know?
You're not being duplicitous if you lay on the charm a little or suppress any of the more bonkers aspects of your personality. What is the true 'yourself' anyway? We're all shapeshifters to a degree, changing our personality to suit our surroundings, and a date is no different.
Silence is bad
You can't talk all the time. You really can't. If you're that frightened of dead air and feel compelled to fill it, you're probably going to say something a bit stupid. Not all silences are awkward; there can be comfort in a bit of downtime from chatter. If the conversation drops and it really is making your brain want to implode, make a joke about the silence. And if your date doesn't get the joke? Who gives a shit?
You can stop a date going bad
Bad dates are essential to the love-seeking process. If you don't have any godawful, arse-twisting clangers of dates then how are you going to get enough experience to realise when it's going well. Unless you're lucky, you're probably going to end up going on loads of dates. Don't be frightened if your date is a stinker; just notch it up to bad luck (or usually being seduced by a sexy photo without realising the personality vacuum beneath) and add it to the pile of 'never agains'. You can try to turn things around if you like and you may well succeed, but if it's going wrong, maybe it's just meant to be that way. No loss. Except your train fare and that expensive cocktail you ordered. Make sure you get an equally expensive drink in return.
Don't have sex on the first date
This is the most heinous date myth at all. I hate it so much I want to grab it by its sanctimonious throat and throttle it in the middle of Trafalgar Square for all to see. I don't always have sex on a first date - not even when it's offered to me - but don't see anything wrong in doing so. There is some warped idea, which really should be euthanised as soon as possible, that withholding sex from a date, or not having it even though you really want to, will lead to you 'being respected'.
Yes, everyone, you can be as rude as you like to other people and generally a dreadful nightmare to be around, but not having it away on a first date will somehow elevate you to a higher status. The concept that being strong-willed enough to keep your trousers on makes you in any way more honourable is horribly outdated and unfair.
Sex isn't bad, or wrong, and it doesn't make any difference whether you put out on the first date or the fiftieth - you're still going to do it eventually, with someone. It may turn out that after having sex with someone, you don't like them that much after all. Oh well, eh? Never mind. At least you know now. There are much more beneficial ways of earning respect than keeping your knees together. Some people are only interested in one thing, yes, and that can be pretty unsexy, but if you're having a good time and there's something in the air, go for it. You don't have to get married and nobody is going to alert the village elders. You decide. Let society go to bed by itself and read a book - you're getting some.
There's a soulmate out there for everyone
Oh, COME ON.
If anyone has any other suggestions for dating myths which really should go the way of the dodo, tweet me.