One of my single friends used to keep a bible by the side of her bed.
She would consult it most nights, paying great attention to what she believed were sage words of advice.
It wasn’t the New Testament, but a book called The Rules - the 1996 seminal guide to dating.
It offered women a step by step technique to ensure Mr Right. And as, by her early 30s, “he” had so far eluded her, she believed that all the men she had fancied who had either looked straight through her, or dated then dumped her unceremoniously, had done so because of the way she behaved. That it was HER fault, not theirs.
Figuring I needed help too, she loaned me her book of “Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right”, a best-seller in America (well, wouldn’t you know).
It was full of dos and don’ts: no more than casual kissing on the first date.
Wait at least three dates before you have sex. Don’t meet him halfway or go Dutch on a date. Don’t call him and rarely return his calls. Don’t accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday...
The theory behind the strategy was clear; the harder a man has to work to get you into bed, the more he will respect, value and, eventually, love and marry you.
It all sounded like A. Something too terribly 18th century and B. Incredibly hard work, having to be a total fake for months on end.
Not to mention C. A mandate to beat yourself up when a relationship goes wrong and E. A chilling indictment of men as muppets entirely controlled by their sex drive.
For a time, she tried to live by as many of these as she could.
I steadfastly ignored them and neither of us found lasting love and happiness for years, so clearly it was all a load of psycho-babble.
But now, though, relationship experts have gone all 21st century. They are saying the exact opposite of the most important “rule”.
Now sex on a first date is fine as long as you’re both partaking for the same reasons.
I find that worrying. It’s basically telling the young and impressionable that casual sex is no big deal; that sleeping around is fine as long as you’re open about it.
Clearly, it’s bonkers to say you can’t bonk for a specific number of dates, but shouldn’t we also be supporting the view that sex is far safer and more enjoyable with someone you have got to know and care about?
Sleeping with a virtually stranger could get you hurt in so many ways and that is a fact. If you don’t pick up an STD, if you avoided getting pregnant or coerced into things you didn’t feel comfortable with, you could still have mashed up emotions to live with if, after such total intimacy, you like him and he doesn’t like you.
Far more important than whether he respects you in the morning is whether you still respect yourself.