An acoustic guitar and the first chords of Wonderwall aka every girl’s worst dating nightmare

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Mar 24, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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“Wow, I love ‘Wonderwall’, what other songs can you play?” uttered no woman… ever. As someone who has navigated both their late teens and early twenties as a single girlie, I’ve had my fair share of dodgy dating stories. I’ve concussed myself, fallen down flights of stairs (both on separate occasions), had a City boy mansplain my own Master’s degree to me, and have even been at the receiving end of what I can only describe as a marijuana-induced two-hour lecture on what the government are hiding in Area 51. Let’s just say, I’m no stranger to awkward intimacy.

And while I’d like to think that I’m wholeheartedly open-minded when it comes to love, there is one element of the courting process that I truly struggle to get behind: men playing guitars at—emphasis on at—women during romantic moments.

Let me preface this by saying that while this is, on the surface, an entirely heteronormative discussion, I would also be equally horrified if a woman I was on a date with pulled out a ukulele. That being said, men are typically the culprits.

This, however, is no hate piece. I’m not here to shame, I’m here to understand. How did we get to this point? Why do men feel the need to whip out a musical instrument the minute things become romantic? And why is it that while the thought of a grand gesture makes me swell inside, the idea of a serenade makes me want to crawl into a very small dark hole and hibernate?

We all watched Barbie last summer. And I think it’s fair to say that every woman across the globe felt incredibly seen when we witnessed Ken sing to Barbie. It was validating to know that Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig understood and wanted to showcase the ‘guitar romance’ complex.

@darthj0rdy

#greenscreen 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️ #barbie #barbenheimer #fyp #ken #wonderwall #margotrobbie #ryangosling

♬ Push - Ryan Gosling

And it’s not just in pop culture, you only have to spend a quick five minutes on TikTok and you’ll stumble across a wealth of videos of girls meme-ing and giggling to themselves about that ‘one time’ they were at the receiving end of a serenade:

@chrissybruzek

You’ve never heard poetry like this before

♬ original sound - Chrissy Bruzek
@classycassie30

#duet with @Nick Lachey #musicmonday #funny #firstdates #nontraditionalhomemaker #womenover30 #awkwarddatingsituation

♬ original sound - Nick Lachey
@_lindsayrae

Weird way to propose but yes

♬ original sound - Moe

And, of course, there’s also my personal favourite dating disaster: the amateur DJ.

@gnadsnaeb

he gave me tickets to his live show next week😅 #dj #tinder #djfromtinder

♬ original sound - gnadsnaeb
https://www.tiktok.com/@essieestherr/video/7341546617201364266?lang=en&q=guy%20dj%20on%20date&t=1711033338632

In order to try and understand the thought process of these daters, and indeed why they might be deciding to flex their vocal cords mid-small talk, I reached out to dating coach Hayley Quinn.

We’ve all had a crush on a musician at one point or another—for me, it was always Dougie from McFly. And there are a lot of studies to prove that music and musicians are real aphrodisiacs, in the right setting of course.

Quinn shared: “It’s not hard to see why musicians are considered so attractive. Having a strong purpose in life, especially one that’s communicated via an obvious talent, is unilaterally considered attractive. And, music in itself is also, of course, an aphrodisiac: there’s a reason why people put a playlist on when they’re making a move! Even if you’re not a famous musician, a shared taste in music can be an easy way to connect to someone. Liking a certain kind of music also says something about your values, tastes and fashion: it helps to let others know which social group you generally slot into. So, if you find out you both have the same favourite band, then you both may well feel more attraction to one another.”

This makes sense, if a prospective partner made me a Spotify playlist or even sent me the link to a song he thought I’d like, I’d swoon—no doubt about it. Moreover, if a global superstar tickled the keyboards in front of me, I probably wouldn’t dash for the door.

The problem is, it’s not Harry Styles sat across the way, it’s typically a 25-year-old marketing executive who has crusty dusty bed sheets—it doesn’t exactly hit the same. That being said, maybe I truly am being too cynical, maybe I should be celebrating the fact that men are becoming more emotionally vulnerable and willing to put themselves out there.

According to insights from dating app Bumble, 2023 has been filled with global conversations about masculinity and gender roles—Kenergy, am I right? When it comes to relationships, 25 per cent of men state that they are more vulnerable and open with people they are dating than ever before.

But still, there’s a question nagging in my head: are they playing me a song because they truly believe I’ll enjoy it, or are they doing it to satisfy some kind of self-indulgent fantasy?

For this investigation, I naturally also wanted to reach out to the internet’s true core focus group: Reddit. I posed the question: “What are people’s thoughts about men playing the guitar during a first date?” and ended up with a couple of different responses. Some immediately criticised the notion, commenting “dumb” and “sounds horrible.” However, I did have one user share: “Panty dropper, I know from experience.” So, clearly the tactic works for some people.

A few of my other favourite responses included:

“Honestly really cool idea on paper, but execution needs to be pretty damn good to work in practice.”

“I’m a dude, but it would at least be a major eye-roll for me. I would also be curious as to how ‘original’ it actually is. Is one of the lines ‘You’re the most beautiful girl in the world, InsertNameHere’?”

“It would be romantic. I don’t even know a guy who can play the guitar let alone who would want to learn.”

From what I can tell, people have mixed feelings about guitar romance—some love it, some would rather gnaw off their own arm 127 Hours style. I don’t want to discourage men from following their romantic instincts, but I’d like to stress that reading the room is a romantic requirement for 21st-century dating. Grand gestures are in, but forcing someone to take part in a fantasy where you’re the only one receiving pleasure or satisfaction, now that’s just not it.

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