It takes courage to try to connect with someone in person, rather than on Tinder or Twitter. In his funny, anti-romance play 'Beginning', David Eldridge examines the reality of starting relationships. Here, actor and writer Tara Flynn introduces us to this reality.
It’s hard to find someone in a big city. You know, someone. Although you’re guaranteed to meet half of Dublin if you’re over in Soho for an audition for the day, when you’re based in a place with over a million souls hurtling past each other, it’s almost impossible to connect.
It’s possible – probable – to spend rush hour on the DART with your nose in someone’s armpit, but it’s also highly likely you will never know their name. It’s probably not Lynx, although that’s the impression that lingers.
Putting yourself out there (if you’re open to a relationship, that is) is a risk. Before I met my husband the good old fashioned way, that is, in a bar on a bad date with someone else, I was no stranger to online dating. This was in olden times, before the frenzy of swiping right or left for casual hook-ups based on looks alone.
Instead we, the ancients, used to try to entice with tales of our prowess at long walks, pub lunches and love of cosy firesides and sunsets. Most profiles were cut-and-paste, almost identical. Though some ventured to imply what great parents they might make, should things ever get that far, to potential or existing offspring, while managing not to give off a whiff of those worst of dating scents: Vulnerability. Desperation. Neediness. By Lynx.
Loneliness messes with your brain. You tell yourself you’re strong. That nights aren’t long, or winters cold, and that exposing oneself is for losers. (Clarification: I’m talking emotional ‘exposure’ - not uninvited dick-pics. Although…) But there’s the eternal paradox: without risk, we gain nothing.
If we never show our hand, we’re the ones who lose. Why is it so bloody hard? People say there are Plenty of Fish – they said it before there was a site by that name; a site full of chancer-fish, many of them Catfish. Very few of us haven’t let ourselves get excited at the idea of something new, given in to the elation of a ping in your inbox – especially if your inbox hasn’t been pinged in some time - only to have hopes smashed like shells for a breakfast omelette. Long, embarrassing emails composed with the intention of saving face, only to end up with egg on our own. That sinking feeling: click. Send.
'Don’t ever call me again', you type, when they clearly weren’t going to. And it’s over before it began. And you’re humiliated, now, as well as alone.
Here’s something we tend to forget: online is real life. The relationships we live out there are as real, maybe more real, than the one we have with DART armpit guy. The conversation can focus on the troll aspect but on the internet we can find connection. Comfort. Exactly what (if we’re looking) we secretly hope to find at the end of a housewarming party in our own living room, without ever having to write a trying-but-not-too-hard profile.
We yearn for sincere connection, validation: you’re clever, you’re funny, you’re cool, you’re mine. But we mustn’t forget that there are people at the other end. Real ones, just like us. Dating sites aren’t some kind of virtual Argos catalogue. Remembering to humanise the connection is up to us. Like Danny says in ‘Beginning’, “It’s what you want, innit, though?… to be treated as a person.” We do, Danny. We do.
At the start of anything, there’s excitement, thrill, potential. There’s also, for some, the fear that if you take it offline and arrange a real-life date, you’re going to end up a gruesome headline. The risk we speak of isn’t solely emotional. The stakes are high.
We build ourselves up, tell ourselves to stay open, even though we know there’s the possibility of danger. But even if the new person is no headline threat at all, letting someone into your physical space is a massive, massive deal when they’ve already taken up real estate in your head. And, if you’re really honest, your heart.
In a time where we share pictures of our dinners with the world, intimacy is still one of the things that scare us most.
So I know well the world of David Eldridge’s funny, beautiful play, 'Beginning'. A world of sparsely filled fridges, over-sharing and under-shopping. One of not even considering someone in another post-code because the geographical effort will be a step too far when there’s already a strain on emotional resources (If this takes off, can I afford a taxi? Regularly? No. Sorry, Gary).
One in which the thrill of new electricity and chemistry is so often blocked, by ourselves, out of terror; blocked like the sender of an unsolicited dick-pic. A world of broken hearts and looming bitterness, and weighing up whether mismatched politics are a deal-breaker. Of wondering whether it’s really sex we want, or just to be held. We hardly dare ask for the latter. Easier to just do the former. Loneliness messes with your brain.
- 'Beginning' by David Eldridge, starring Marty Rea and Eileen Walsh and directed by Marc Atkinson, is on stage at the Gate Theatre until April 20, 2019.
- Tickets are available at www.gatetheatre.ie or 01 874 4045 .
- We have two tickets to give away to lucky IMAGE.ie readers. Check out our Facebook page for details.
More like this: