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Time to go to dating school

Date
“Sophia Loren, she is a real woman.”

“Sophia Loren, she is a real woman.” Photo: Supplied

Teenagers in America have been told to define whether they were "just texting, casually hooking up, friends with benefits or monogamous" as part of a new schools program that aims to minimise the harm caused by bad dating habits.

They are also advised on why ending things face-to-face is better than simply changing Facebook statuses to 'single', and how to read signs a relationship may become abusive.

OK.

Such wisdom should not be restricted to American teenagers. Such hot tips could help matters here too.

And when I say help, I’m not just talking horny teens.

Australian adults, by and large, are terrible at ending relationships. Almost as terribly handled? Getting one going in the first place.

In other words, Aussies need help.

I suppose I should explain myself.

Problem one. There is no mature, mainstream dating culture in this country.

Yes, there are plenty of businesses devoted to helping us all each find The One. Yes, there is a nightclub scene where pants-parties are frequently found at the bottom of beer glasses. But it’s not really a culture inasmuch as the status quo.

And fair enough – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Western singles have only had a few generations to go from tight-laced English match-making sensibilities, to today’s ‘wanna get a beer?’ ‘Orright then’. ‘Wanna shag?’ ‘Sure, no worries’.

Or, in the words of my Italian-stallion friend, "Aussies don’t date, they just mate".

“Australian men are not elegant with women – they are brutish, like boys – and they don’t take charge,” he said in response to questions about why he was more successful with local ladies than fellows born and bred.

And while he was less ready to criticise Australian women (“but I love the ladies!”), he did say that, compared to the bella signorine of his homeland, dames from Down Under weren’t “real” women.

“Sophia Loren, she is a real woman,” he said, by way of example. “Australian women – they are less... sophisticated.”

Gross generalisations aside, his insight raises another reason as to why we struggle when it comes to the arts of seduction and swashbuckling. We lack a culture of romance.

In Australia, unlike Italy for example, the cultural credo otherwise vested in legendary lovers, artists and poets is lavished on murderous bushrangers, boozy larrikins, or some such scoundrel battler.

Oh worse, we roll the ideals into one, big, great, reef-n-beef-style monster notion (how else do you explain Shane Warne?).

Which brings me to my final reason we need help: Shane Warne.

But what's to be done?

We can’t exactly mandate every grown person capable of engaging in a romantic relationship, or ending one, first complete a certificate in best practice.

We could have better sex and relationships education programs at schools, but that would require strong government unafraid of backlash from the chastity police who fear condoms and believe homosexuality is contagious.

We can try and be better on a personal level. And thanks to organisations like Relationships Australia (OK, OK, federally funded), various Family Planning sites, and – hey – even the Australian Sex Party, there’s plenty of material out there which might be helpful.

But not everyone thinks there’s a problem with how we are doing it down here.

“What’s wrong with Australia? Nothing,” says my girlfriend, a long-term, happy single-sort-of-looking, emphatically.

“Yes, men don’t ask you out on the street, but who wants that? Yes, online dating is not all it’s cracked up to be, but that’s hardly unique to Australia.

“And sure, most people are asked out through friends of friends, which does create problems for when you break-up. But that’s just the way it is, why should it change?”

Why indeed.

What do you think – do Australians know how to start, or finish, relationships? Are we clumsy maters or elegant daters? How do we compare on a world stage? And what are your pet loves/loathes about how we say 'yes' or 'no' to love?

 

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

 

237 comments

  • G'day Kate

    One size fits all, eh?

    From the way you describe the 'Australian dating' process, it would appear your view of the world is bogan!

    I suggest dating 'styles' reflect subcultural norms.

    If one dresses like a bogan / westie / skeg / etc., then that in itself is a portrayal of themselves. And, in so doing, they infer to themself subcultural nuances applicable to that presentation. And, if they also frequent social meeting venues applicable to that style, most likely they will give/get the dating style of that subcultural genre.

    Dress as a corporate high flyer, attend functions where corporate high flyers frequent, and one will experience a quite different dating approach than (say) between pub party animals.

    Wear a hijab, or a bindi, and not only will the place of social gathering be different to the pub party scene, but those 'symbols' convey a meaning that invokes strong gender communication messages.

    - - -

    With a vast landmass, and 21 million people with a varied heritage, I do find it disturbing that the media continues to portray us as some homogenous (typically okker) group.

    Rather than seeking out some media generated image for the 'norm', maybe we should focus on our differences as a celebration of the possibilities.

    Cheers

    Commenter
    Dalliance
    Date and time
    August 01, 2012, 7:44AM
    • Completely agree that we're not monocultural. Indeed, one of our core strengths - perhaps one we've not come to fully realise - is just how multicultural we are.

      But I feel that, in the main, our dating culture is lacklustre.

      Maybe because we're still dominated by the idea of the Sentimental Bloke, if not the bloke himself(s)...

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 9:31AM
    • Completely agree that we're not monocultural. Indeed, one of our core strengths - perhaps one we've not come to fully realise - is just how multicultural we are.

      But I feel that, in the main, our dating culture is lacklustre.

      Maybe because we're still dominated by the idea of the Sentimental Bloke, if not the bloke himself(s)...

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 9:31AM
    • ????

      The Intro

      'Er name's Doreen… Well, spare me bloomin' days!
      You could 'a' knocked me down wiv 'arf a brick!
      Yes, me, that kids me self I know their ways,
      An' 'as a name fer smoogin' in our click!
      I jist lines up an' tips the saucy wink.
      But strike! The way she piled on dawg! Yeh'd think
      A bloke wus givin' back-chat to the Queen….
      'Er name's Doreen.

      I seen 'er in the markit first uv all,
      Inspectin' brums at Steeny Isaacs' stall.
      I backs me barrer in—the same ole way—
      An' sez, "Wot O! It's been a bonzer day.
      'Ow is it fer a walk?"… Oh, 'oly wars!
      The sort o' look she gimme! Jest becors
      I tried to chat 'er, like yeh'd make a start
      Wiv any tart.

      An' I kin take me oaf I wus perlite,
      An' never said no word that wasn't right,
      An' never tried to maul 'er, or to do
      A thing yeh might call crook. To tell yeh true,
      I didn't seem to 'ave the nerve—wiv 'er.
      I felt as if I couldn't go that fur,
      An' start to sling off chiack like I used…
      Not intrajuiced!

      Nex' time I sighted 'er in Little Bourke,
      Where she wus in a job. I found 'er lurk
      Wus pastin' labels in a pickle joint,
      A game that—any'ow, that ain't the point,
      Once more I tried to chat 'er in the street,
      But, bli'me! Did she turn me down a treat!
      The way she tossed 'er 'ead an' swished 'er skirt!
      Oh, it wus dirt!

      So, this is THE dating image to which you refer?

      Mmmmm!

      Commenter
      Dalliance in reply
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 9:58AM
    • Whilst I enjoy the fruits of multiculturalism, i.e. greater diversity and being allowed to see the foibles of each culture by way of comparison (a real life Gulliver's Travels) which in turn hopefully leads to the improvement of one's own personal values, there are negatives which come with such a social structure, such as one culture taking elements from another culture selectively and applying it in a harmful manner.

      For example, there is a belief held by some (but not all of course) Asian and Indian men that all women of a Westernised persuasion are 'sluts' and therefore cheap, accessible and disposable. This leads to the mistreatment of 'white' women due to a mistaken belief that they are not valuable. Sometimes these men will also walk out on their families under the belief that 'white men' do it all the time, therefore they too, should be entitled to the same freedom from their family if they so will it. Sometimes Westernised men will prey on non-Westernised women believing that they are more likely to accept domestic abuse. These are not the only examples available but it suffices in illustrating how problems occur when something is 'lost in translation'.

      Commenter
      X
      Location
      X
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 10:30AM
    • @ Dalliance:

      Great poem! Where did you get it? Or did you write it yourself?

      Commenter
      MO4
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 12:36PM
    • M04, that's the immortal CJ Dennis, The Sentimental Bloke. Look it up.

      Commenter
      rudy
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 3:13PM
    • @ X - yes, that's true. However, the courts in Sydney dealt quite harshly with that approach a few years back.

      MO4

      Go look 1st at:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Songs_of_a_Sentimental_Bloke

      then

      http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Songs_of_a_Sentimental_Bloke/II._The_Intro

      Cheers

      Commenter
      Dalliance in reply
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 3:33PM
    • @ rudy:

      Ahh, that explains it then. I had a laugh at that poem, but I'd never think to emulate it in real life. If it's true, as CK says, that "maybe we're still dominated by the idea of the Sentimental Bloke" then that explains the problem. The bloke comes across (to me) as probably uneducated, but not "bad", just trying to get to know this girl, but the girl in the poem comes across as arrogant and rude. She could have turned him down a lot more politely. (I would have just said no thank you to a walk if I wasn't interested). So if Australia has a long history of women behaving that way towards men then maybe that explains it. Maybe I was never rude to guys trying to chat me up (unless they were rude and crude first) due to coming from a European background? I wonder if the woman's attitude to the man as portrayed in that poem dates back to the convict era and has something to do with Australia's convict beginnings?

      Commenter
      MO4
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 4:03PM
    • Yes Dalliance,
      CK should look at the other half of the cultural equation.
      For every bloke there is a shelia, and FMD can they talk.

      Commenter
      Dino not to be confused with
      Location
      Tempered Rage fists clenching
      Date and time
      August 01, 2012, 5:51PM

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