I remember watching Neighbours as a child and being envious of the kids who inhabited Ramsey Street. Their lives seemed so exciting and so easy. Adventure after adventure unfolding on a daily and weekly basis that eclipsed the mundane suburban Home County English life. They would fall into petty crime, rise to small time local rock band supremacy then back to peripheral character in the space of a few weeks. On the off-chance of things getting boring, Helen Daniels would fall down and break her hip and Bouncer, the ever reliable canine would save the day (what ever happened to household pets saving the day?).
OK, so what does this have to do with dating? Well the most impressive law bestowed to our Erinsborough captives was the Ramsey Street Rule of dating. Namely, when someone new arrived on the street and if you was single, opposite sex and roughly the same age. You go out. Period.
I’m sure a few relationship blossomed outside of the cul-de-sac, but they never lasted and everyone succumbed to their fate of love thy neighbour. For the most part, they lived happily ever after. Certainly better than national averages anyway.
It’s not dissimilar to life in primary school. You only ever know your schoolmates plus the kids on your street and your faux trainee relationships are formed from that selection. By the time you have hair on your balls and your innocence has long been shattered by society and hormones, your life becomes a mess.
The Ramsey Street Rule is a binding for most, but as age grows so does the complexity of life and love. Namely the +/- 2 rule takes effect rears is its occasionally ugly head. Namely you can’t go out with someone over 2 or below 2 levels of your attractiveness. If you are a 6/10 and you are dating a scorcher of an 8. Then well done, you have reached your glass ceiling. Don’t get ambitious and aim higher. It will end the second a 7 male with a provisional driver licence comes along. You can always play it safe with a 5. You mates wont be calling her a hag behind your back, because the by some strange reason you mates will all be 5-7s anyway. Bask back and have loyalty, your initials carved on trees and an above average change you may get to touch a newly bloomed boob, but then you have to deal with the niggling feeling you could do better.
That’s as tough as it gets.
For those who go away to university and get away from home and peer pressure that infects your local town are rewarded overnight with freedom from 18 years of incremental peer pressure and regional social dogma. You get a new-found independence. You make mistakes. Fun fun mistakes. The opposite sex (and for many for the first time, the same-sex) become a source of adventure and sexual exploration.
They say university is the best days of your life. That is not because you finally experience social independence or the chance to explore your academic potential. Nor cheap booze and general acceptance that Monday is the perfect night to go out and get blind drunk before eating a tinned all day breakfast at midnight. NO! It is because the thing that will ultimately ruin your life is your primary enjoyment. Freedom of choice.
It’s highly overrated.
I have (just) entered my fourth decade on planet Earth and living in a great city with a decent, but not expansive disposable income. So I fill the empty time that ‘normal’ people spend with their newly acquired family with a never-ending collection of hobbies and fads then lead to nothing. Just like my dates.
In theory it should be so easy. I have escape the limitations and imaginary boundaries of streets, schools, campuses and class structures that help me prisoner of mobility. To these basic foundations I now have my place or work, overpriced gyms, coffee shops, new acquaintances and those previous price prohibitive bars and clubs I long aspired too. In the advent of low price airlines, whole nations and far away continents are a credit card swipe away. In essence I have gone from a couple of people on my street to access of almost 3 billion people! How on Earth am I supposed to make a decision with all that to choose from? Give me the choice of more than three desserts on a menu and I’m stuck for half an hour.
As a single white male aged 21-40, I am in the prime demographic of choice for marketers and consumer product peddlers. I am told on a daily basis that my washing powder is no longer good enough to enough to clean my 3 month old T-shirt that is no longer in acceptably fashionable, in my house which is no longer trendy compared to the former ghetto that I told is where I should be living. In the mean time, I have to spend more time at work to keep my career options expanding and whilst I drive to the gym in historical car to pummel my ever fading physique from falling further against ever improving standards of male perfection set by a fresh set of Hollywood heart-throbs that extend the 1-10 scale to 20 moving me from a respectable (hopefully just above) average to well below mediocre.
As the Rolling Stones told us all 50 years ago in a parabolic warning, ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
Relationships become like commodities and products. Just like our houses and possessions, we must keep upgrading and progressing. Unfortunately in the game of life and love there is no finish line and like mathematical puzzles small increases in the complexity make the solution exponentially difficult. Soon the reward out ways the effort, but by this time you underline your solution there is another beautiful, soft skinned riddle with glistening eyes that makes your apparent genius more akin to Stephen Hawkins’s beauty rather his brain.
Arranged marriages suddenly make sense. Just before you discover choice, people old enough to see the misery and confusion age, love and options bring things suddenly take it back to what works and match you with your -/+2 attractiveness and socio-economical mate. With the added bonus that you and your partners parents are unlikely to ruin Christmas (or more likely other religiously combustible crucible of a social gathering) due to their parental equivalent of the Ramsey Street rule I’m yet to fully comprehend.
Now whos parents want to marry off their 5 to 8 out of 10 lower middle class/upper working class daughter to a 30-year-old boy confused at his place in this big bad world?