Um, so, are you seeing anyone else?

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 10:43 31/10/2012
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ARE YOU THE ONE?: Is the young squire seeing anyone else?

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When should you ask if your new flame is seeing anyone else? (And if you're asked, should you tell?)

We just can't seem to figure out this business of casual romancing. And no, I don't mean casual sex, I mean the gentle art of conversation that comes in between.

But then our mainstream isn't exactly known for grace. And while there's a particular charm to this national screwing of class systems - equality is rather nice for one - it's a damn shame we so thoroughly rooted the elegant ideal atop the heap. That ideal being a culture of eloquence whereby questions, even those of a personal nature, may be delicately put and cleverly answered. Questions pertaining to someone's eligibility included. 

Is the young squire seeing anyone else? How many peachy debutantes are competing for his attention this season? Which hand in marriage will the little lady accept? Such inquiries were essential to the smooth movement of social circles. Without the vital information, good matches could not be made, and desires would be thwarted.

Certainly things have improved since then - marriage isn't the only means of social mobility for females, for example. But there's still a lot to be said for a culture that puts open discussion of eligibility so firmly on the public agenda. Indeed, traces of such cultivated courtship prevail today.

Singles in the United States, for example, have no qualms questioning their prospective partners about whether there is another courter on the cards. Unlike the Down Under dating culture, the rules of engagement are clear and there's little room for doubt. You'll know if you're 'exclusive' because you've said so, more than a few dinner-dates after your first cocktail catch-up.

Singles here, however, are more likely to mumble and moan about the ambiguity of a lover's relationship status and intentions. Or worse, they'll assume they are the only one in the ring. In doing so, they leave their hearts wide open to mortal wounding.

But as the winds of social change fan competition in the local meet-market, the status quo is altering. As women want, and achieve, more for their careers, so too do they want more from their relationships. As men wake up to the bromantic idea that emotional satisfaction can come from mates, they review what they want in a wife. And as the wonderful dynamic we know as 'friends with benefits' continues to upend the idea we must marry at all to satisfy our need for sex and affection, we realise that someone special must be very special indeed. 

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Yet when it comes down to dating - that process by which we filter through our prospects - conditions remain confused.  When it comes to negotiating the new boundaries of contemporary courtship most of us struggle. Yes, we're thinking we should ask those tough questions the Yanks on our tellies ask all the time - 'Are you seeing anyone else?' for example. But so often we fall short of the task. We don't want to appear up ourselves. 

This is a problem. One, because we should date and date robustly. That doesn't mean sleeping around. It does mean making the effort to make an effort getting to know people you're interested in. Making the effort to ask the awkward questions. And making the effort to be prepared for the answers.

But here's the sticking point. Give unfamiliarity with the idea 'dating' can mean 'dating a few people at once', chances are someone who admits as much might injure the pride of the person inquiring. So, should you tell the truth?

 

- Sydney Morning Herald

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