In October 2014 Jenny Stallard pitched a column to Metro newspaper charting the ups and downs of her dating life. And so the column, Boyfriend by Christmas, was born. Then the column became a novel and Jenny was tasked with turning her real life dating adventures into fiction. Thing is, fiction is very much like fact…
Here's Jenny to explain why dating is like fiction:
1) It's slapstick. You do actually fall over/get too drunk etc on real dates, not just in rom coms! I've been on dates where I've tried to stay upright on ice skates (not romantic!) and attempted group dancing (ditto). You do say things without thinking (eg: 'Marry me!' to a man who said he liked dogs as much as I do – doh!) and you go in for a kiss when you're not sure and end up lamely glossing over his beard (also often in Movember) instead.
2) Friends do say things like 'You don't know how lucky you are!'/'You're so brave!'/'I wish I had a Friday night to myself!'. These are always friends who've been married for several years, who seem to have lost a grip on the idea that one night in on your own is nice but many is kinda lonely. Single women (and men) will find they are diary-bookers, that they plan ahead more than perhaps a person in a relationship will do. This all makes for some fun nights out that, of course, give way to even more moments in single life where the lines between fiction and fact are blurred! (eg pulling/being chatted up!)
3) Dating apps are the best way to date in my opinion – they feature a lot in my book and they work. I've had lots of good dates on Tinder and Bumble in particular. I have no qualms in saying I've used dating apps – I can understand why some people don't want to. After all, it's very private for some, dating.
4) Single girls stick together. Like new mums find the NCT, single ladies grow into new social groups with like minded women as they get older. Only we know the true trials of looking for romance, and while married or coupled-up friends can try to empathise, it's hard to believe that they understand the endless search for Mr or Miss right in the face of left-swipes and cancellations.
5) Dating events really are super odd as if they've been made up. Eg Pheromone Dating, Pizza Making, or life drawing for singles (yep, really!).
6) The what's app double blue tick is torture – this is not a myth! For the uninitiated, the what's app double blue tick is what shows on the messaging app to let you know someone's received and, most importantly, read a message. You can see the time they read it. And when they were last online. When you're dating someone who is reliable, this is simply helpful. When it's someone unreliable, it's a nightmare. Why? Because often you can see a message has been read and they were online, say, 5 mins ago. So why no reply?! You begin to text friends a screen grab of the messages – what did you say wrong? Should you follow up? Is someone dead, perhaps that's why no reply. Only once in my life – perhaps like in fiction, too – has someone texted to say they didn't reply due to bereavement.
7) Your ex will always pop up unexpectedly. It does in my book and it's happened everywhere from a late night text to a Facebook 'people you should be friends with' moment. Look at your peril when that happens – as one friend once said, you're better off just punching yourself in the face, it's quicker way to feel the pain.
8) First date nerves never go away. Ever! I think this is a good thing, keeps the brain ticking and the heart ready. and it's good for fiction otherwise there'd be no pace to the story. While I have often bemoaned the comments of those who are coupled up, I confess there are times I have loved regaling friends with first date stories and without these stories I'd have had a lot less material for my book. First dates are something of a rite of passage in my opinion, and to have the nerves that come with them is to feel alive. The prospect of a new suitor, that you could be off to meet someone who'll change your life, or the course of your life at least, is empowering. I think everyone should have first date nerves at least once in their life.
9) There can be a happy ending – if you believe. I've hit emotional lows while single, and highs. I know deep down if you want a plus one you just have to keep hoping, keep dating, keep believing (even if you take a break from an app once in a while which is never a bad thing!)
10) Christmas is truly a lovely time to date. You can meet someone for things like winter wonderland, or a cosy wine/roast – holding hands is a given if you get on, gloves optional! Winter's known as cuffing season in the states – nobody's sure if it's about holding hands so your cuffs 'meet' or something a bit more 'Fifty Shades'. But with summer over, the season where we're ok to be single because it's holidays and drinks in the pub garden with friends, now it's winter it's lovely to try and find someone to hunker down with, to hibernate with. And if you don't, then there's always the sherry.
Jenny's book Boyfriend by Christmas is out now.