How to Deal with Mobile Misuse on a Date

Adrian Fernand – Australia’s seriously stylish agony uncle and creator of idobelieveicamewithahat.com – answers your questions on life, the universe and everything. This week, Adrian has advice on how to deal with a date surgically attached to their phone.

Dear Agony Uncle,

I have recently started dating again after coming out of a long-term relationship and am completely alien to the protocol for dating these days. I’ve been on two dates now with a guy who leaves his mobile phone on the table and will occasionally respond to text messages and take calls when it rings. Is this rude or should I accept this and get over it?

Back on the Market, Camden

Dear Back on the Market,

Maybe it’s the bitter-and-twisted cynic in me that prevails or my ruling Virgo star sign that is responsible for my pedantry; however, on any date I always manage to pick fault. Too many times I have been on the other side of the table conducting my date as if it were a job interview, ticking off an imaginary checklist in my head (despite the fact an actual checklist exists under a pile of unfiled receipts in my desk drawer) of whether my suitor is indeed suitable. Current driver’s license? Check. Financially independent? Check. Wearing boat shoes? Fail. “Check, please!” We are instantly critical of the other party based on how they present themselves: the way they hold their cutlery; whether they chew with their mouth open; and if they know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ (a complete deal breaker). Dates are like an audition and if one doesn’t make a lasting impression in the first five seconds, you’re either out the door, or worse: the casting couch. No wonder I am still single.

That said, certain manners and common courtesy should never be overlooked and the minute one is, it’s game over, sunshine. Take, for instance, the mobile phone – the seventy-fifth wonder of the world (next to Murder, She Wrote and microwave popcorn) – and the implications of its misuse. The portable device can simultaneously build and destroy relationships with a flourish of the keypad. In face-to-face contact, their mere presence can change the dynamic of the interaction and alienate those present. That tiny fabrication of injection-moulded plastic, circuitry and LED is responsible for the worst date in HISTORY; and here’s why.

Back in the ‘Bronze Age’ of social networking – referred to as BFb (before Facebook) – MySpace was the status quo for the voyeuristic, exhibitionists and the stalker-ish. Before the unwarranted privacy settings of the current era, it was possible to trawl the far reaches of the globe for hotties whose profile pictures (taken from elevated perspectives) appealed. It was internet dating for the uninitiated without the stigma of having a subscription appearing on your credit card statement, reminding you that you had resorted to technology in the hope of finding a mate. I wasn’t any different – hovering from hottie to hottie like a rubber bouncy ball in hallway. The inevitable occurred: I began meeting people in real life. One such example being someone who we shall refer to as the ‘Madonna Fan’.

I met the Madonna Fan at a sophisticated-yet-comfortable rooftop bar for our date (good venue choice – take note, people!) and there was an immediate mutual chemistry. Everything was going to plan – witty banter, similar interests, eye contact – until the Madonna Fan’s mobile phone appeared on the table. At first I glared at it sitting beside the Madonna Fan’s glass of rosé, yet decided that I would choose to overlook it given the progress we were making. We resumed our discussion and continued smiling, cajoling and laughing until the offending phone whirred into action disrupting us both. The Madonna Fan picked up the phone, read the message then replied furiously; dextrously thumbing away like a crazed Guitar Hero player working their way through the main riff of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’. I frowned.

We continued along the same course for at least half an hour: five minutes of conversation interjected by an occasional incoming text message and a hurried reply. It was really beginning to grate on me; surely, my time was more valuable and I more engaging than 160-characters-or-less on an electronic device. The Madonna Fan looked up from the phone and said, “’The Convict’ is going to join us.” Bemused, I replied, “Who?” Oddly, as it turned out, the Madonna Fan and I had the Convict in common: someone I had been on one date with earlier in the year, who similarly was attached to the phone, put their feet on the furniture in an upmarket cocktail bar and boasted about their serial freeloading – delightful! Each time the Convict would shift their Dunlop Volleys on the brocade upholstery I could hear my mother scream, “Not on the good furniture!” (implying that there was evil furniture that was likely to swallow me whole) and I would wince with shame. Needless to say there wasn’t a second date and since, we’d awkwardly encountered one another at various art exhibition openings, nightclubs and generally anywhere where free booze could be acquired. We had always greeted one another with the required pleasantries then each retreated to their respective cliques urgently.

As it turned out the Madonna Fan and the Convict had been having an on-off sexual relationship for the past year, which the Madonna Fan felt completely at ease revealing to me. I had to get out; and fast. Before I had the opportunity to make a quick escape, the Convict appeared and my heart sank. What’s more, the convict had brought a friend – there were now two additional parties on my intimate date for two that I was subsidising. I was livid. Bewildered, I sat as the three parties interacted, completely ignoring me and drinking the bottle of wine for which I had paid. I was too upset to think logically and instead analysed the dodgy paintjob on the wall behind us – anything in order to pass the time. No longer able to handle the indifference, I stood up and bid my farewells, thankful that I had settled the account when I had ordered it. Storming toward the elevator, I frantically ran through the doors as they were closing.

I let out a sharp yelp of despair as I entered the full carriage, shocking each of the passengers and causing them to look at each other nervously. “I’m sorry,” I announced, “but I’ve just been on the worst date of my entire life!” A lovely larger lady stepped forward and put her arm around me and said, “Tell me what happened.” I regaled my tale of woe and she walked me to the top of the street, listening intently. She gave me a hug and told me that everything was going to be alright then put me in a taxi. Lovely larger lady, wherever you are – thank you.

My point is this: leaving a mobile phone on the table is rude and gives the impression that the other party would rather be somewhere else. Unless there is an emergency, an imminent baby delivery or an ailing relative the phone should not be on the table; in which case, they shouldn’t even be on a date. Tell your beau that the phone is yet another thing he should be keeping in his trousers (or clipped to the waistband if he works in I.T.).

Image reproduced from idobelieveicamewithahat.com

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About Adrian Fernand

Adrian Fernand is a writer specialising in screen, television and fiction. As the Agony Uncle for etiquette and social protocol site, I Do Believe I Came with a Hat, he responds to the quandaries facing polite society in a modern world. He has in excess of 90 pairs of shoes. Follow Adrian on Twitter @AdrianFernand

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