When I was young, I used to believe people wrote off relationships quicker than they changed underwear.
I would see my friends break up after a few dates or a few short months. And thought it sad.
Perhaps I was more invested in their relationship than they were. It was like two characters on a sitcom who broke up. A little part of me felt the heartache, too.
But then some of my friends would go on one date and kiss away any possibility of a relationship.
I used to think this was harsh; if the shoe was on the other foot, I doubt my friends would like the realisation they had a mere couple of hours to 'get it right'.
They treated the dates like an audition or a job interview, and they only had one chance to make a good first impression.
So I always felt for the poor sucker who went out with one of my friends only to be ghosted hours after it ended.
But then I started hearing about some of these dates and my sympathy went straight out the door.
Because these poor suckers weren't suckers at all. They were idiots for thinking they could behave that way on a first date and expect to get a second.
Take my friend Anna and her date with Charlie.
(And I apologise in advance for any scorned daters out there who are already feeling jaded by the single scene. This story isn't going to help your confidence in humans.)
Everything seemed perfectly normal before the first date
Anna had one dating rule; always date someone with zero mutual friends on Facebook.
That way you don't have any concerns about them knowing someone you know. Nor do you have any prejudice about the date before it begins.
And, which was the big one, finding yourself related to them in some weird, extended way.
Considering how lined Tinder was to Facebook, this made it easy to filter out the possible cross-connections. Anna thought Tinder was brilliant like that.
When Anna met Charlie on Tinder, her only ways of vetting him came up clear. No mutual friends, not even a hint of relation, no red flags.
When Charlie asked her on a casual coffee first date, middle of the day, harmless situation, she said yes. Perhaps this normal guy could buck the first date disasters and be someone she could explore romance with.
One can hope, right?
And then the first date happened
Charlie let Anna pick the cafe, a true gentleman, she thought.
She arrived early, only five minutes, hoping to scope out the spot and find a table where she felt comfortable. Despite her excitement and the way she felt like she already knew Charlie, it was clear she didn't.
And as she arrived, her nerves were working overtime.
But Charlie had beaten her there, and even kindly ordered some snacks for her to break the ice. Anna felt like a queen at that moment. How kind, how sweet, how seriously thoughtful.
He rose from his seat as she arrived. "It's so nice to meet you," he said, shaking her hand.
Ok, she thought, no forceful kiss on the cheek, no outwards signs this was a date purely for sex. Everything seemed normal.
They started talking. Anna learned Charlie was a mad football supporter but happened to barrack for the team known most famously for rivalling hers. This she could forgive.
She also learned Charlie was studying to become a lawyer before he dropped out and took up medicine instead. Smart guy.
And Anna, who didn't normally get into the details of her family on the first date, felt comfortable enough to divulge a photo of her baby niece she adored.
Charlie cooed at the snaps, commenting how much the baby could be Anna's. The likeness was uncanny.
"You really think so?" she asked, wondering how she hadn't noticed it herself.
"Oh yes," professed Charlie, "I can see it. It's because you look so much like my mother, and that's what she looked like at that age."
Excuse me? Please repeat that, thought Anna.
"I look like your mum?" Anna described the glee on Charlie's face as she asked this question. She knew before he even answered this wasn't something he was shy about.
"Oh, you sure do. I mean, not my mum now. She's obviously older than you. But my mum when she was your age." Anna sat in silence, unable to put her disgust into words.
Here was the final nail in the date's coffin. "That's why I asked you out. You look just like mum."
Charlie introduced the forbidden dating concept
Someone needed to explain a few things to poor Charlie. What he thought was a compliment was a sign of deep incestual concerns. And a complete lack of awareness about what women want to hear on first dates. Or ever.
In case you're still living in the 1800's, or you're part of some weird royal family who believes marrying your third cousin is cool, incest isn't the done thing anymore.
For people like me, it's socially unacceptable. And as we develop more modern and progressive values, those very old school traditions are out the window.
We can reach people far and wide to date them. We don't have to stick to our gene pool any longer.
Now, you might say it's a step too far by calling this situation incest. Charlie didn't say he wanted his mum, after all. But this is borderline, as well as being a legit deal breaker.
Actively looking for someone to date who physically reminds you of a parent makes everyone else think that's who you really want. You're looking for an acceptable replacement, knowing you can't be with your parent.
This might not be the case. Sucks for you if you're Charlie. But that's how a lot of others will perceive it. I know I would, and so would 99.9% of the people I know.
Could Anna have done anything to prevent this?
I'm sympathetic to my friend. I keep wracking my brain to think if there was anything she could have done to avoid this scenario, but I'm stumped. Feel free to give me any suggestions by the way.
I wouldn't say it's normal to ask someone during the get-to-know-you stage, pre-dating, if they harbour incestuous feelings. It's not polite.
But I guess it's needed. Wouldn't that be a great addition to the "looking for" section of your dating profile?
Tick yes if you want someone who looks like your grandmother.
Tick no if you're repulsed by the idea of dating someone who looks like your brother.
Could this be the latest update to online dating apps? I'll happily take credit for the idea.
If you think it, don't say it
This little hot tip between you and me is for people like Charlie. If you're going to date people based on the idea they look like your relative, please declare it out loud as soon as possible.
It gives the other person the chance to run before they get too close to you.
Sometimes, the people we're dating happen to end up looking like our relatives. I'm not talking about similar looks in that both your date and your mum are blondes. I'm talking about similar features - eyes, mouth, nose, combined features.
We're talking about doppelgängers Twitter would agree with. And you know tweeters can be savages about this.
But if you think it, you don't have to say it on a first date.
If you feel like you're unsure, or need a second opinion, don't ruin the date by opening your big mouth and figuring out the similarity between your date and your family member.
It's not a mood killer; it's a future extinguisher.
Hey, here's a thought. You don't have to say it at all.
I have a friend who married a man who could be her brother. He actually looks more like the male version of her than he does her brother.
My friend isn't related to her husband, they share zero genetic material, so why should I say something? It's not my relationship, it's not my attraction, it has nothing to do with me. And saying that would only drive a wedge between her and me.
Silence, in this situation, is golden.
Saying nothing is wise if you want to keep getting to know someone. But I would argue that most people, once they've worked the person they're dating look like a relative, probably wouldn't continue the relationship.
Once you think it could look and feel like incest, it's game over.
Shame it wasn't for Charlie.