On digital and dating

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Photograph courtesy of S De Luca

I woke at 5am to What’s app messages from my Italian (girl) friend with the latest update on her German man (- a story that continued for over a year now), Airbnb booking requests and a picture of a D*?!

This was no time for or appropriate social media status update to find out the etiquette for explicit pics (although my first instinct was to put out a group message to my closest confidants – he sent me the D*!). This story unfolds, similar to an old fashioned romance, in it’s crude form, over our weekly Sunday night family dinners at my nonno’s which are for me, what it means to go home. The dinners around the old kitchen table are almost ritual, a place of trust with no secrets and where you can be yourself – no matter what is happening in your world.

The Sunday night banter on the “kids” table is uncensored. The regulars at this table comprise my younger brother, my young gay uncle, my closest (female) cousin and myself. Others – friends we call family or those who have joined the family through marriage over the years make guest appearances in what could be a sitcom of our lives. Work dramas, family dramas, boy (or girl) dramas, love, sex (or in some cases lack of it), or who we plan to marry, music, singing or dancing.

For me, this included my unashamed love history, most of which had been disclosed around this table at some point. While I lived the most part of the past ten or so years in Sydney, Canberra and abroad, I returned to find most of my friends in Perth were married and expecting their second child. Even my younger brother seemed to be putting himself out there – “Tinder is sex for good looking people, Belinda,” he teased. “And you don’t get any because you don’t put out!” Had life in Canberra or my past relationship made me a prude? His comments suggested he was surprised, I hadn’t explored online dating, while knowing my adversity to online dating – partly because I am a natural networker and partly because I still believe in the magic of love. Even though I had met my first love in an ICQ chat room – before online dating was socially acceptable!

The game had changed since my single early twenties – completely disrupted by social media, online dating apps and sites. Did guys (in Australia) even ask girls out anymore? I recalled a post “dating past 30 is like are we doing this or not?” which despite reflecting the selective nature of our choices and knowing ourselves better as we mature, felt somewhat aggressive suggesting that fun flings that perhaps did not lead to the love of our life no longer had a place. I noticed a difference in European men confident, flattering, fun.

Seemingly from my Facebook image [no tinder or online dating sites required], I had developed a form of virtual “flirt” [to use an Italian description] with a hot guy living in Italy (of Italian origin) and found myself asking what that even means?

Of course, this had become one of the latest topics of our dinner banter.

Charming, fascinating and free for summer fun, he checked the boxes for style and smarts.

It was our weekly dinner update.

“He sent you the D*! didn’t he” my brother retorted [making sure he added that he had never shared such an image with his interests]. And of course my gay uncle wanted to see it.

I assured them that I deleted the photo – it was early hours of the morning and although I was half asleep, I tried not to look at it because I wanted to leave some mystery for when we actually spent our sultry week together in Europe. As smart and savvy as I may be professionally, I am still a romantic at heart.

It prompted me to think – he and I are both good marketers – which meant that we could pitch an idea, a concept, that identified with the needs of our consumer – in this case, each other. What if this was just a virtual fantasy and no real chemistry existed when we met? If it is a fantasy I want to keep it. (His words, yet they ring true for me too).

I felt like Carrie Bradshaw (who had captured my life in my 20s). What does sending the D represent? Does it say “I want you?” Is it a sign of trust in the other – that they will not disclose? Or is it sheer hedonism, narcissism and exhibitionism? Surely these type of exchanges are saved for post intimacy? If we start with the D, I wondered where we could go from here? What does it mean to disclose the D before our first meeting or encounter? Our first glass of wine? Or our first kiss? Or is it that our first encounters now defined by our first virtual meeting or conversation?

It may be only a D, and whatever it means, save it for me.

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