Interview with Desert Dates – Ridiculous Relations in Remote Locations

Welcome to another in my series of interviews with other bloggers who write about dating and relationships. Desert Dates caught my eye way back when I started this blog in September 2017 and I’ve loved her stories ever since. You can read other interviews here and here, or try scrolling down the sidebar for more. If you haven’t come across DD’s blog in the past, I’m sure you’ll want to check it out after reading about her now!

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Tell me about why (and when) you started the blog, and in particular the name and subtitle – ‘ridiculous relations in remote locations’? I loved it the moment I saw it – for me it has a sense of larrikin humour as well as being a clever turn of phrase.

Larrikin – what a compliment, thanks! Yeah look I love alliteration and also have a soft spot for bush poetry so I was pretty bloody proud of that subtitle tbh, glad it struck a chord with you!

My reasons for writing change all the time. I’ve been writing semi-anonymously on the internet since I was a teenager and written in paper journals my whole life – it’s super cathartic. I write to remember ridiculously unbelievable shit, to reflect on confusing things, to remember and hope and daydream.

Desert Dates has its origins in Alice Springs where I lived for a few years in my early twenties, around the same time I started internet dating. I remember sitting around a table at the local Indian restaurant and retelling some of my disastrous dating stories to the uproarious laughter of my other single female friends. When I left Alice for the Pilbara, I had less friends, zero creative outlets and the manscape was pretty sparse.

After a failed attempt at dating a Dutch carpenter I drafted an email to a few friends to tell them what I thought was a pretty unbelievable and ridiculous story. It ended up being more than a thousand words. So Desert Dates was born out of a desire to save my mates from spam! Turns out they subscribed anyway.

I was pretty focused on my work so writing was something I could do just for me, and I could do it without needing anyone else or any infrastructure. I could also connect with a wider community of people who were also either dating or living in remote places.
It became a helpful tool for reframing my perspective. If a date was going badly, my disappointment wouldn’t last long because at least I could come home and get a good story out of it and have a small but lovely group of Dear Readers to cheer me on.
But really, I mainly just want people to laugh at my jokes.

How important is being Australian to the style and nature of your blog? As an Aussie I feel an affinity with your language and locations, and I wonder how that translates to readers in other places?

Most of my readers are Australian, then American and British. I would love to know how those random readers from Bosnia and Botswana that show up in the stats stumble across the blog and what they think of it!

I reckon rural areas are either romanticised or feared in Australia – tourists and city folk call the places I’ve lived ‘the real Australia’. I love all of the places I’ve called home and have strived to see and show their complexity and beauty. I read a lot of Australian fiction, especially writers that can capture a sense of landscape.

I don’t know about language, I just try and write the way I speak – like I’m telling the story to a friend. It seems more real that way. If I can include some of the Aussie idioms and slang that I love, so much the better!

Language is a living and breathing and changing thing – so why shouldn’t I celebrate and mix teenage textspeak with decades old slang? I mean srsly how great a word is DRONGO?

In your experience, what is different about city dating vs country dating? Is it simply the reduced numbers of contenders, or more complex than that?

Yep. Mainly numbers. All the good blokes are already shacked up, and you’re probably already friends with them and their missus. Plus in the city there’s more privacy / anonymity and more places to actually go on dates.

In the city, it’s easier to trust that it’ll happen because there are BABES EVERYWHERE. There are also ample opportunities to meet them and get to know them offline. The city is a playground. Full of philosophical discussion groups, secular churches, bushwalking clubs, storytelling nights and cooking classes. Full. Of. Babes.

Tell me about your ‘Dear DD’ tab – are you a self-styled agony aunt in the wings ready to sharpen your advice for the beginners?

Oh mate I wish! I feel like the advice I have to give is pretty niche (the demographic of single women living in rural Australia is a small target audience!) but also, who wants to take advice on how to find love from someone who is STILL LOOKING AFTER 11 YEARS? (Ed: I’m sure you could offer some great advice on dating though!)

What are some of the tensions and rewards of your blog – and the topic you blog about? I know you’ve written in the past about your discomfort with blogging about relationships as they are unfolding. How do you balance those challenges?

I value integrity, so if a story was solely focused around one bloke, I used to show them a draft of anything I’d written about them before I posted it. This meant that whatever I was hoping to have happen with them would have to be pretty dead in the water before I sent them an indepth description of our failures! But then sometimes exciting shit happens and I just want to share it!

I’m not huge into gossip so I tried to only say online what I’d comfortably say in person. Which of course impacts my writing and how honest I am about how much of a drongo a dude is. I always tried to make myself come off looking as bad as they did, or downplay descriptive or emotive language – just stick to the ‘facts’ and hope that the audience would draw their own conclusions. I don’t always try to be objective, but I try to be honest.

I also am a bit of a verbal processer – I talk and share to help me come to a conclusion about something. So whatever I say isn’t necessarily my final thoughts on the matter, because the process of sharing often helps me clarify my thinking. (Ed: I totally agree – I am like that too and it’s pretty common with women to talk in order to process and decide how they feel.)

What type of response do you like best from readers? Do you have a strong sense of who your readers are – do you know many of your readers outside of ‘the internet’ (IRL)?

My fave response from readers is when they show solidarity (comments like “OMG SAME!”) or when it reaches the right person at the right time (comments like “I really needed this”). I like having my ego stroked like everyone else, so specific feedback is also great – someone once commented that one of my sentences was ‘Wintonesque’ (Tim Winton being one of my fave Australian authors,) and someone else said the blog was ‘decidedly un-hipster’. I am storing both of these away to put on the front cover of my memoir. Jks jks no memoir in the works peeps! Maybe a one-woman storytelling show though…

I also just really like it when people laugh. Bringing joy is pretty magic.

I reckon I probably know about a third of my readers irl – I’m so stoked that people I don’t know have found it!

I’d love to know more about where your work has taken you – the ‘remote locations’ in the name of your blog? Do you give away names or just keep it general?

I lived and worked in super small towns so I was always pretty paranoid one of my colleagues or people I worked with would find it, and that it would damage the work somehow. Which is kind of overexaggerating my own influence!

Back when I started this blog I really tried to keep my life in silos – work, social, romantic, creative. Friends were separate from colleagues, family was separate again. It was a protective mechanism, dunno against what, but it kinda put walls in that didn’t really need to be there.

How does your writing (eg blogging) tie in with the rest of your life? Is there a strong link between your writing and the rest of your career?

Not really. I started the blog so that I could have a creative outlet of my own that wasn’t linked with my work, so I’ve kept them pretty separate.

What do you think are the generational challenges between people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and above who are dating or looking for love (or relationships) online?

I’m not really sure. I can only talk from my own experience. I think in my 20s I was perhaps more adventurous and thus loose with my match criteria online. Some women feel more pressure as they age to find someone and settle down and procreate, especially in their 30s. I haven’t found that. If anything, I feel LESS urgency now in my 30s than in my 20s. Maybe I give less of a shit? I haven’t given up hope that romantic love will happen for me though.

What do you differently now that you are a seasoned dater? Do you ever change your style, choices or behaviour based on other people’s blogs, experiences or advice?

I have a different perspective now for sure. I am not that much influenced by blogs or advice, but the experiences of my (now diminishing number of) single friends and the conversations that these prompt are always interesting.

I am now pretty into the ‘slow burn’ strategy. Doing things with groups of people who like doing the same things, in the hope that these activities draw together people of similar values, thus increasing your chances of meeting someone made of boyfriend material. This was the advice of my psychologist and mother a while ago, but now I’m finally doing it. It feels good. Even if you don’t meet any babes, you’ve still had a nice time, or at least a better time than swiping through profiles on your phone and having bullshit banter online.

I’ve met two top blokes this way and have spent time with them one-on-one, which haven’t had the same pressure as defined ‘dates’, we’re just going to watch a show together or get a drink. There’s less pressure to suss someone out within a short amount of time, because you know you’ll see them again anyway – at the next hike or cooking class or philosophical discussion group or open mic night. Things can develop slowly.

I think I am only into this strategy now because I’m in a pretty good place. I feel less urgency in all areas of my life including my career. I trust that good things will happen and am trying to let go a bit of control over making them happen. (Ed: I love this line!)

What is more important to you – the story or the telling of the story? Like me, you’re not big on details but you explore the narrative based on common humanity and aspects that are relatable to people anywhere.

There are so many compliments woven into this question – thank you! I’m so thrilled that the stories are relatable, that they explore common humanity and that they are philosophical. FUCK YEAH!

I love stories. I love that they have the power to connect us – for people to see bits of themselves, or bits of me.

I also love crafting a really good sentence, just like I find it really satisfying to read one. I dunno, I reckon all art should either be beautiful or say something. It should move you in some way. Ideally towards joy, understanding, or some kind of contentment from knowing that you’re not alone, that we all experience similar shit y’know?

In the city I’ve really got into live storytelling in front of an audience. In those instances, I really enjoy telling the story. I get a real kick out of making people laugh, or making them really listen.

I feel like a fucking magician when people laugh – like it’s almost an unbelievable power. Writing is more intimate, and I have less deadlines, like there’s no audience in an hour’s time!

In terms of process or product: do I like the process of crafting a story, or do I think the final story is more important? Definitely for me, the end story is the most important thing. Sure, I get a kick out of expressing myself and then editing it to get the rhythm and the flow right and maybe craft one good sentence out of 46. But I have a paper journal for personal writing, that is just for me.

With Desert Dates I like being accountable to an audience – it takes you out of yourself, and often out of my introspective spiralling. It feels less self-involved. When I write for DD, I write for other people to read it. I write the first draft for myself then I edit for the audience. It’s not pointless navel-gazing. I want them to get joy out of reading it.

So it’s like a small gift in a way, that I’m super grateful that people actually receive and continue patiently waiting to receive. I bloody love my readers. So I put time into making it good. It also means I put more effort into finding something positive out of what are often negative experiences. What’s the gold nugget within this pile of crap date? What can I be grateful for out of this dull 50 minutes in this dumb bar?

For me, what I enjoy most about your blog is the quality of your writing and your unique voice. I like the way you aren’t afraid to dig deep and to get philosophical. What are some of the qualities you look for in the blogs you follow, particularly those that share our topic?

I’m stoked my voice is coming through. I want reading the blog to feel like a conversation with an old mate. That’s what I look for in other blogs. Do they have a voice that is strong and vulnerable, conversational and insightful, real but not too earnest, not trying to teach me things too obviously all the time?

I seek out people who are having similar experiences but have different perspectives because I’m aware of the filter bubbles we can create online when we curate our newsfeeds with opinions similar to our own. Finding solidarity with others is good, sure, but so is learning about other ways of living.

In a recent post, you say: “Wrong place. Wrong time. Not enough time. Not ready. And so it goes. It wasn’t our season.” Poetic, personal and yet universal, deep and yet simple – these are the qualities that charm and fascinate me about your writing.

I find myself strongly relating to your experiences and your thoughts, which I guess is one of the appeals of why we share our feelings and experiences in this domain. You may have already answered this, but just in case – why do you feel compelled to share?

Again, thank you for these lovely words about my writing!

I’m not really sure I know how to answer this question except with more questions. Why does anyone make art? Is all creative self-expression inherently a selfish pursuit for validation? Is the compulsion to create driven by a very human desire to connect? Is it to contribute to a small community of people who share similar experiences, to create something to belong to? Do we share so that we are less alone? (Ed: So true, and all good questions!)

Is it to try and put words to experiences in order to understand them? To try to capture abstract ideas, fleeting feelings, precious moments and hold them for a little longer, to name them and own them and roll around in them? Is it yearning to leave something that will outlast us?

I dunno. I have written stories since I could put a lead pencil to a pre-lined exercise book. I didn’t think about why I was doing it, I just kept doing it.

A lot of the time I am thinking “How would I describe this moment?” Like if I am feeling awe at nature and blissing out by a waterfall in Tassie, or if I’m feeling joy rise up my spine listening to music. Sometimes I think that pulls me out of just experiencing things with my body and soul and whatever, by shifting it to the intellect. Or maybe it makes me more present.

I just really like making people laugh. Or feel things. But mainly laugh.

Thanks to Desert Dates for her candour and willingness to dig deep!

The Unrequited Love Life

Unrequited love is one of the most painful experiences of our lives. We’ve all agonised over it, and some of us have developed the types of patterns described in this wise and eloquent post by Girl Rebuilt. Read on if you dare!

Girl Rebuilt

“But that afternoon he asked himself, with his infinite capacité for illusion, if such pitiless indifference might not be a subterfuge for hiding the torments of love.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

With Valentine’s day approaching, I was recently challenged to answer the following writing prompt in one of my writing groups:

Did you ever experience unrequited love, where you really felt you loved someone and they simply didn’t love you back? What were the circumstances? Did it last for a long time?

Whoa. Did they know who they were dealing with? I was the queen of unrequited love.

Unrequited love was probably my only version of love until D. I don’t say that lightly. In fact, my very first unrequited love was most definitely my dad. I loved him with all my heart and he wanted very little to do with me. My…

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