The new trend in dating: Pen Pals

Its no secret that I go on a lot of first dates. Not deliberately.. I’m always hoping for a pen palsecond, third but you have to start somewhere. Since I work at home, finding first dates has largely come from the occasional IRL connection, and of course, the ubiquitous dating app. After a few atrocious experiences in 2014, I decided to take a break, assuming that my ‘dial a date’ apps would always be there as a source of ‘crap interviews with alcohol’. After a solitary few years I decided enough was enough and decided to get back in the game.

Which apparently now has new rules.

The first being that one is no longer required to go on a date. Connecting on an app now seems to largely involve texting. After all, why try and impress, pay for a drink or even put on pants? Why bother when you can just text?

What I first thought was bad luck has steadily emerged as a trend over the last few months. I kept finding myself on the receiving end of daily texts, photo shares and rambling conversations with dudes I’d never met. First I assumed the guy was busy. Then I assumed married or in a relationship. But after some thorough research, I learned that this is a new norm. The guys who show interest, have no interest in actually meeting. They just like chatting to random strangers.

When a first date didn’t happen for a few weeks, but the texts kept rolling in, it finally dawned on me that I was never going to meet this guy. After texting him to stop contacting me unless he was in Denver, ready for a date, I was met by a barrage of criticism. His main compliant? I’d “broken up with him” over text.

A man I’d never met, never had a date with, thought we were ‘in a relationship’ and he ‘couldn’t believe I’d end it without “discussion”.   I’m still trying to unstick my jaw from the floor on that one.

Next up a pilot who lives just 2 miles from my house, and as a pilot, only works 22 hrs a week. He seemed super interested, but again one week, then two weeks passed and I realized I’d landed myself another texting buddy.

Its now 8 months later and I’ve not had a single date. I’ve had 6 or 7 ‘wannabe’ texting buddies but haven’t even broken out my eyeliner, never mind my sexy pants. 

Being forced to google ‘text buddy, never wants to meet, why?’ at the age of 45 was humiliating even before I hit Search. That all the results were from teenage magazines, even more embarrassing. That I hadn’t realized guys my age want their egos stroked by as many chicks as a 13 yr old… well, I really should know better. These guys just wanted to know they were wanted. Interesting to some chick. ANY chick.

I had a pen pal as an 10 yr old.  It was boring then and its tedious now. You can’t go on a date with a text message and it sure won’t keep you warm in bed. So any guy now who wants to text me more than a few times,  gets an invitation to join ‘PenPalWorld’ right before I block his number.

Drunk media

I make no secret of the fact that you can find me at home on the sofa most Friday nights. My time for hitting happy hour, followed by nachos, fries and some frenzied thrashing on the dance floor of some club are long gone. Despite spending most of my 20s and some of my 30s jumping around to Prince, techno and even hip hop, these days I do most of my Friday night dancing with my dog. To really bad dance music. In my PJs. And retainer.

Not so for many other 40 somethings. How do I know? Because I have the drunk texts to prove it.

You’ve all done it – drunk texts, Facebook posts and emails. And if you haven’t, give it time.

Around 11-ish on a Friday when the last drink/toke has sent the room slight askew and the blood has rushed to your groin, your phone is no longer a source for restaurant reviews, work email and maps. It’s now your high tech ticket to flirting.
You are hot, you are without restraint and you have the phone number of multiple chicks/ dudes you slightly fancy in your contacts list. And since you’re not talking, they can’t hear you slur. You are feeling really really eloquent, the iPhone helps you out when you can’t spell ‘especially’ and maybe that person will hit you back. You’re not sure what you’d do with that, but you do know you really really need to send that text. And you’re quite happy to tackle multiple media if you’re feeling spicy.. Don’t have his email, hit Facebook. Not friends on Facebook? Try his work email (because that’s what everyone needs at 8.06am on a Monday – your drunk ass). And of course, there’s always the text message. Because the next morning is always better when you can scroll through the entire intoxicated banter and try to work out what you were thinking.

‘Hey’  – (you are about to be inundated by text messages so you might want to turn off your phone)
‘Its me’ – (I can’t remember my name but maybe you can tell me)
‘The British chick’ – (I know that’ll narrow it down for you. Whats my name?)
‘Except now I’m American’ – (now you’re as confused as I am. Seriously do you know my name?)
‘Yay’ – (I can’t think of anything to say but I must keep texting)
‘or is that Yee Haw now?’ -(I think I’m funny)
‘hahahahahaha’ -(really funny)
‘Whatcha doing?’- (I want to hump you)
‘Bore. ing’- (because I’m up after 9pm for once)
‘Come have a drink’ -(I really want to hump you)
‘Its not late. Its only 11.30’ – (and we can be humping in about 20 minutes)
‘Next time’ – (when I’ve had too many vodka tonics)
‘I like you’ – (did you miss the fact that I want to hump you?)
‘Byeeeeeeee’ – (time to find another victim)

I finally learned to just delete the phone numbers of anyone I fancy before I headed out for a cocktail. Its a pain in the butt but its reduced my drunk media to zero. I know one friend who brings a padded mailer in her purse and mails her phone to herself to stop drunk texting. Effective you’d think – but to be honest, I’ve had to talk her out of buying a new phone at 10pm on more than one occasion.

These days I tend to be on the receiving end of alcohol induced chattiness. Why I am the recipient for drunk texts and Facebook posts I don’t know. I don’t kid myself that its due to my latent fantastical personality or looks. These guys never call or text when they’re sober, in daylight hours or when they’re coherent enough to drive. I’ve never been on a date with any of them. But after 12 beers and a couple of shooters, these guys seem to remember I have nice boobs and reach out for a chat.
Or maybe its just because my name is easy to spell.

So to all you drunk texters, emailers and Facebookers. Let it be known that while we’re mystified, we’re slightly flattered and you make our Saturday mornings more interesting. Just don’t send photos okay?

Unsocial media

Remember when phones had dials? And long curly cords that tethered them to the wall? Before answer machines or call waiting, before cordless phones and ….breath…. before cellphones?
I wasn’t lucky enough to have a phone anywhere near my room. In fact my mother managed to put a lock on our phone (yes, a lock which prevented you from turning the dial to thereby contact friends and muster some semblance of a social life. I know, no wonder I have issues. Mother Masochist O Mine).  I do however remember the joy of holding a hot and sweaty receiver to your ear as you pondered the meaning of life, algebra homework and maybe, if you were lucky enough to date some kind of homosexual, some expression of affection). Ah the late evening phone call. The touch base. We didn’t know it back then, but it was a dying art. When to call, when to pick up, who hung up first, what was said (or not said).. phone conversations were the connection point, the building block of any fledgling relationship.
Fast forward to my 30’s and while phones were no longer tethered to the wall I still found myself sitting on the sofa in an evening, looking at the home phone and waiting for it to ring. For my boyfriend to call. For us to touch base and dissect the day, schedule our time together or just confer on the latest episode of whatever. And while the conversations were more functional, more expressive and less silence infused, the calls served the purpose of keeping us connected. Enabling us to chat to each other without being overtaken by the need to undress each other and get frisky. We talked about anything and everything, but we started to get to know each other.
I sustained relationships via the phone including a guy in Vancouver, a dude in Montana and even a fiance 60 miles away (at different times).
These days – and my how I feel old saying this – the phone is an outdated inconvenience. To most guys I know, its totally avoidable now that texting exists. They no longer have to deal with a live human or take time away from the ride, the game or the controller. A simple text message can keep things humming, prove more flirtatious and clever than a conversation, and to some, can even avoid the humiliation of someone saying no. Case in point, my girlfriend Faye.

Faye is suffering from drive by texting. A man who she’s spoken to – perhaps for 10 minutes- has been texting her now for 3 weeks. No call, no date.. just texts.

‘How you doing?’
‘How was your weekend?’
‘Did you see the election results?”

He’s single, she’s single. I think they’re probably both interested. He has arms and fingers, he could pick up the phone and ask her out. But no.. just this ad hoc pinging reminder of teasing insecurity. I am interested enough to reach out, but not quite interested enough to pick up the phone.
Men who are rolling their eyes.. I know. She could call him. She too has arms and fingers. But as a first impression, who wants to call a guy you don’t know, who’s likely (in your head), watching porn, watching the game, out with another woman or lord help me, sitting with his pants by his ankles. All times at which a guy friend of mine has ANSWERED THE PHONE. Hence we don’t call that first time. Because we don’t want to talk to you when you’re in another woman.. or fantasizing about it.
So here’s my request to that guy.. to every guy. Pick up the goddam phone and call her please. Ask her out. Its easy.

Hey Faye, I wanted to call you to see if you have plans on Tuesday? You don’t? Great? How about Joes at 9?


Please pick up the phone dudes. Because I’m too old to be deciphering ‘what did he mean by..’ text messages with her at 9pm. After all, I’m expecting a call.


Once upon a time girls and boys used to hold hands, snog in the bike sheds and send each other cryptic notes during class.When the girls and boys got older, they spent hours on the phone whispering and giggling with each other, fondled each other on park benches and trying to get away with an illicit hand down the pants.

These days, they sext.

For the uninitiated (or those trapped under a large rock in Utah), sexting is the sending of lurid photos of your body parts (or your entire self) and suggestive comments via your phone to your boyfriend, lover or these days, apparently anyone who might be interested. Boobs and full body underwear shots seem to be popular, along with suggestive poses, gynecological shots and even guys are muscling in with ..ahem… a firm grasp on themselves. Looking at it objectively, sexting echos the schoolyard with a ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ theme, but with the daring possibility that your photo could end up on his (or her) Facebook, Twitter or simply stored in a secret folder on his (or her) laptop until his IT department finds it during laptop replacement time (yes it happens, I know the IT guy at work).

 If you’ve not tried it and you’re a consenting adult (teenagers doing this makes me shudder), I highly recommend everyone try it it. It’s simultaneously liberating and terrifying. On a good note, you can take as many photos of yourself and select the best one, thereby avoiding shots of the cellulite on your thighs, your varicose veins and stretch marks.  Its titillating, and suggestive texts back and forth can really ramp things up for later. On a bad note, you are sharing something extremely private which may or may not be treated as you think. It really tests the level of trust you have in your partner (‘no honey, you can’t use it as your screen saver’). You also might open the floodgates for random photos of groin shots from your lover during your conference call (not everyone’s ideal morning wake up call). If that’s your bag, great, just make sure you don’t leave your phone on your desk during any meetings. Your boss or coworkers do not need to meet your partner’s … bits. It makes the company holiday party so much more fraught for everyone.

WARNING: Do not sext someone who you have not yet been …intimate..with.  People who have just started dating have enough excitement going on without sexting and to use the phone as your primary method for seduction… well, its trashy and I don’t think its terribly effective for anyone over the age of 21. Its the equivalent of someone flashing you and hoping for a positive reaction. High risk, low chance of success.

But if you know this person, you’ve already been intimate and you trust them… .. a few tips to help maximize your experience.

Check what actually appears on the screen before sending it. Smart phones love to suggest alternate words for your misspellings which can result in you asking your partner to ‘flare me senileless’

Exclude your face: Unless you’re legally bound to this person or possess suitable blackmail material, avoid including your face in any photos. Not that every man isn’t a trustworthy petal of joy, but if the love of your life should happen to dump your ass, your face isn’t going to be plastered all over Twitter. Yes, its weird, but do you really want people connecting your face to those nipples?

Sexting while drunk. One word – don’t. Sure, after a drink, suggestive comments or photos are flirty and fun. After 5 martinis, not so much. And yes, people can tell you’re drunk if the text says ‘I wan Ur pie us’. The walk of shame is nothing compared to the ‘scan of shame’ when you realize that you conducted  40 minute sexting session with an albino guy you dated two years ago, including a flurry photos of what may be your butt, your foot or the corner of your leather sofa.

The setting. For the sake of all that is rational and holy, consider your setting. Things which should not be included in your sexy photo-shoot include; your dog, the Christmas tree, dirty dishes, your toilet, your kids (unless you actively like visits from CPS), stained clothing (a different kind of ‘dirty’), fluorescent lighting, the book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ or family pictures.  Appropriate places include your bedroom, a bubble bath, your garden (as long as its not communal) or a fur rug (if you happen to live with a hunter or a former porn star). And no matter how proud you are of your granite, the kitchen ain’t sexy. And for the love of christ, do not take a photo of yourself in front of the bathroom mirror…that’s for guys on Craigslist and reality tv stars.

But how do I take a photo of myself? Well you have two choices. Grab an understanding friend or get creative. Prop the phone on a pillow, use the swivel function on the iPhone or Google it. Someone out there (actually over 1,354,782 people) have ideas on how to photograph yourself using your phone.
But maybe just start small, go traditional.  Text a flirt. Text a suggestive comment. Describe what you have in mind for tonight that doesn’t involve the Real Housewives of Atlanta. It won’t end up on Facebook and no-one can see you blushing.