Things You Learn When You Date in a Small Town

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After living in Toronto for 12 years, you decide to move to Victoria, BC as a single 30-something.

With a population of about 300,000, Victoria isn’t exactly a small town yet, it manages to have a small town feel. Everyone knows everyone. After living in a city of 4 million people you find this both strange and comforting.

You spend the first year in Victoria mostly hanging out with your best friend and being an honorary senior citizen. However, you slowly start to make new friends. You start online dating. You make more friends. When you get frustrated by meeting the same 20 guys online, you ask your friends to set you up. You date a friend of a friend. You date another friend of a friend. You date another.

Although you prefer meeting people in person, you come to the conclusion that this whole “meeting people through common friends” thing has it’s drawbacks.

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownNamely, that some people don’t want to date you precisely because you have friends in common. When you ask a friend about his dating habits, he tells you that he likes to “date off the grid” – no small feat in a town like Victoria, where everyone is connected by one or two degrees of separation.  (photo credit)

You ask him, “I’m kind of off the grid though, right?”

“Simone, you know 30% of the people I know. You are the Grid.”

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownIn theory, we’d all be able to live within reasonable geographic proximity, date each other and still get along with minimal drama, like they do over at Seattle Grace Hospital. However, you quickly learn that this is a far cry from reality. In other words, life is not an ABC drama written by Shonda Rhimes. (image credit)

You have conversations that sound like this:

Ryan: “I can’t date you because you dated John.”

John: “I can’t date you because you dated my friend Ryan.”

You try and explain, “But Ryan and I never dated. He just sends me really weird photos of his penis, and I’m not sure why.”

However, it’s no use.

Meredith Grey and Olivia Pope don’t have to deal with this kind of bullshit. Why do you?

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownYou try not to let this get you down until a guy tells you that he considers you “tainted” as a romantic prospect, because you briefly dated two people that he knows.

You’re single. You like dating. You like sex. However, sometimes dating in a small town can make you feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter. You feel like a double standard is at play and you can’t help but wonder if things would be different if you were a man. Although you don’t regret leaving Toronto, you start to remember why you left this one horse town in the first place.

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownSometimes this town can feel small. Too small. This hits home when you bump into Fitness Guy at your local Thrifty Foods. You figured it would happen eventually since he lives around the corner from the store, but you still have a heart attack when you see him and almost drop an armful of groceries. Apparently, your case of sexually transmitted awkwardness is still alive and well. (photo credit)

Instead of going to the other Thrifty Foods where you’d surely bump into your high school nemesis (or that other guy you hooked up with), you buy most of your groceries at the overpriced yuppie-ster bodega in your neighbourhood. Your skin looks great, but your wallet cries every time you fork over $12 for a package of organic lunch meat and a pear.

You go out for a beer with a guy that you meet on OKCupid, only to come home to find the following message from another guy.

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small Town

This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few months ago you received a message that said, “I saw you walking through the Bay Center. Have you cut your hair? Maybe you noticed me, I was the guy in the red toque, eating an apple?” You haven’t met either of these guys in real life. Apparently, your online dating inbox has turned into Craigslist’s Missed Connections. (photo credit)

NOWHERE IS SAFE. I REPEAT, NOWHERE IS SAFE.

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownDespite it’s drawbacks, you realize that dating “off the grid” is even more terrifying than dating people in your social circle. You notice the small town vibe is getting to you when you catch yourself becoming unreasonably suspicious of anyone who doesn’t know at least one person you know (“How do you not know Ryan?! EVERYONE KNOWS RYAN! You know, the guy who sends people photos of his penis?”)

You really start to appreciate the grid when you go out on a few dates with a guy who literally has no friends – that is, except for a guy he met while buying a stereo at Best Buy who goes by the nickname “Rapey” (“He’s always telling his female coworkers that he’s going to rape them. It’s hilarious! You’re going to love this guy, Simone.”) Luckily, you never have the chance to meet “Rapey” because according to your date, he’s been missing for some time and may or may not be residing at your local mental hospital. True story. (photo credit)

Dating in Victoria BC: Things You Learn When You Date in a Small TownWith that said, you know something has to change with your love life when you find a photo on your friend’s Facebook and tell yourself, “I’ve seen far too many of these dudes penises.” (photo credit)

So, life in a small town didn’t turn out like the ABC drama of your choice, but you decide to lean into it anyways. In a moment of frustration, you contemplate channeling your inner Emily Thorne from Revenge, printing out the photo and crossing the faces out with a red marker. However, you suspect it will just incite lots of awkward questions when you have to explain to people who come over, “No, I don’t have a revenge plot in the works. These are just people I’ve banged in the past 3 years.”

Mostly though, you just laugh. You drink wine with your friends. You laugh some more.

When a girlfriend of yours drunkenly comments on how incestuous this town is (“Everyone in Victoria shares a few bedpost notches”) you don’t disagree.

Instead, you laugh and drink more wine. What else can you do?

  • Haha. I have grown up in a place with a similar population. When I was single, I remember I’d had my share of teenaged fun. I wasn’t even that promiscuous or anything. It got to me when I saw 3 guys I’d hooked up with all standing around at the bar having a chat with each other. All probably oblivious to what they had in common, but confronting for me nonetheless! It was at that point I vowed not to hook up with anyone unless they were definitely going to be relationship material!! I met my husband not long after, but even that has a ‘story’…for another time haha.

    • skinny_dip

      Haha, love it – I can totally picture that scene! (and fear that I’ll eventually encounter it myself in the not-so-distant future. AHHH!)

  • GOD, YES, THIS. I’m hardly dating, but today I did find myself sitting next to a guy at Starbucks who I matched with on Tinder but never talked to.

    • skinny_dip

      OH GOD. I haven’t tried Tinder yet, but I feel like that kind of scenario is in my future.