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The Demographic Shift - 23

One of the problems of the demographic shift, as I've already written, is dating. Weird things start to happen to you when at some point you run out of people to date and decide that sleeping with your friends really isn't that bad an idea, writes Gordon MacMillan, in part one of 'Dating Frenzy'.

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It's completely true and I think it has happened to all of us. You get to a point and you start to think "well really, you know X (who has been your good platonic friend for years) is really rather attractive". Usually you have got to this point because you have just run out of people to date.

You have dated all of your friends' friends and there is just no one left to hand. That's how it starts. Where it goes from there is one night you get kind of drunk and, before you know it, you have totally screwed up a friendship. OK, there are those in the odd case who claim this was the road they took to find true love, but who believes that crock? For most, it means never (ever) talking again. The embarrassment/guilt/weird feeling of choice is just too much.

I have to tell you at the outset that I'm far too bright to have engaged in this activity (OK, that's a total lie, but hey), but anyway this incident isn't all about me.

It started a little while ago when Adam rang me up and said he'd had reached an important decision. I asked him if it was about his job, his future, or something terribly important like that, but no it was much worse than that. It was about Susan.

That's right, Susan. I was immediately anxious, with good reason, because being particularly smart and attuned in these matters I knew it meant…

"You know, I really quite fancy Susan."

I pretended that I hadn't quite heard him and he repeated it slightly louder.

"No you can't. That's not allowed."

"What do you mean not allowed?"

"Well, Susan is my best female friend and so... I mean no."

"But she's single and I wouldn't mind going out with her."

"I know all of that, but you can't. I mean, not under any circumstance."

"Hang on what are you saying exactly?"

"I'm not saying anything."

"But I can't go out with Susan."

"Yeah, except that."

There was a long telephonic pause, but not a quiet pause as Adam was shuffling and huffing on the other end of the line.

"It's not just you, none of us can go out with Susan."

"None of us?"

"Absolutely, I mean think about it? We've all done it in the past. Slept with friends, it's never ended well. It was kind of OK then when the field was not so thin, but it's different now. More serious, so there is no way you can go out with Susan. Besides, you've got form in this area. It's like willingly getting on the road to disaster."

"The road to disaster, oh come on?"

"Seriously, it's like the dating equivalent of people in horror flicks saying 'let's split up'."

"I know what this is about. You fancy Susan and you're worried that if I went out with her and it went well we could end up together. You're just hedging your bets."

"I am not hedging my bets. I've told you loads of times before I don't want to go out with her and I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to go out with me. Believe me, I would have done something about it by now. Besides, if it was the case I would get jealous every time she dated someone -- and I don't. Instead, I just think 'Suze, you really can do better than this', which is clearly quite different."

"So why can't I go out with her then?"

There are so many reasons why Adam can't go out with Susan that there are simply too many to list, but really I think it would be just too icky for words. Imagine if they did go out, it would be like your (my) parents... there would be sex and everything (let's not examine that too closely). Adam, however, refused to budge.

"I'm going to ask her out."

"Adam, don't do it."

"Why? Do you know something that I don't?"

I thought about this. I thought really hard about it, but (overriding my natural predilection for flippancy) I realised that in relation to Adam and Susan I didn't know anything that he didn't.

"Sadly, not."

"So, you have no idea what she would say if I ask her?"

"None, but I can tell that you would be Mr Rebound. Susan has just been dumped after an 18-month relationship. So that's all you'll be -- Mr Rebound."

Adam laughs at this. Actually, Adam laughs loudly at this.

"Mr Rebound, that's weak."

"Hey, I don't believe any of that crap, I'm only telling you because Susan does. They all do. Surely you've worked that out by now?"

"What? You're telling me that women seriously buy into the Mr Rebound theory?"

"Of course they do. I thought it was bull until I was sitting there one day and I heard Susan and my sister Laura talking about Mr Rebound."

It's completely true, I swear. It was a couple of years ago before my sister met her perfect boyfriend and she was just about to dump some guy. It was so clinical, so matter of fact, that I could not believe they were discussing it in front of me. My sister said that she planned to dump this guy right before New Year after three or four months.

And Susan tells her that he was only Mr Rebound anyway. "Absolutely," my sister goes, "no big deal." Like Mr Rebound had absolutely no feelings at all. I think about Mr Rebound sometimes and I wonder how things worked out for him.

It was like Mr Rebound was just collateral damage, a leftover piece of carnage from the break-up of her last major serious relationship, and the two of them discussed it quite casually but made clear that this was perfectly normal female behaviour. I told Adam all of this. I told him about Mr Rebound and I told him that this is the fate that awaited him.

"Adam, Susan -- as nice is she is -- will throw you out with the trash."

"Come on, Mr Rebound has to work out sometime. I mean all Mr Rebound relationships can't be doomed to failure?"

"I'm sure there is some research on this. If not, I'm going to suggest someone do some. I think this is really important. I think it would be valuable."

"I don't care about Mr Rebound, I'm going to do it anyway."

"Adam, I really wish you wouldn't."

"Look, if she says no she says no, but if she says yes then that is what she says. And if she does you'll have to deal with it."

Next week: what Susan says and what it all leads to. Just a hint: none of it's good and it all ends in the Evening Standard.

The Demographic Shift is a regular column on Brand Republic as Gordon MacMillan charts his own demographic timebomb.

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