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Run for your lives. The BAD BANTER EPIDEMIC is spreading

February 6, 2011

Please, man. Don't make a quip about your hangover.

Banter or die: that is the watchword of the single male or female.

Traditionally the weight of banter has fallen on men – women have been expected to receive male witticisms and giggle, crooning later to their friends over pink cocktails that he is just “soooo funny!” Well, now women have to pull their weight in the banter stakes – or at least those with personalities rather than, or as well as, hot bods and perfect highlights. The result, naturally, is that we’re brilliant at it, being – as studies have shown – often more verbally skilled when we put our minds to it than men. The corniest lines, the slowest understanding of innuendo, the worst jokes? Almost always the specialty of men.

Poor male-driven banter was forgivable back when the b-word was a very brief precursor to actually meeting up or, as in the distant past, nearly an irrelevance in the broader scheme of courtship and letter writing and the conveyance of sincere meaning.

Now, it is the single most important part of most nascent love affairs – from the booty call to the relationship to the micro-fling. With the advent on online dating, banter is unavoidable and essential for many couples.

Well, it must be that the weight of importance put on verbal foreplay is now is too great for the capabilities of your average male banterer (I don’t know how female banter is faring – it may also be suffering). Because banter, in the main, has become CRAP.

The bulk of it to cross my virtual thresh-hold of late has involved talk of a sandwich chosen for lunch, feelings of tiredness, boredom at work, and excitement for the weekend. None of this accompanied by any questions beyond: “Good day so far?” “Good weekend so far?” “Good lunch so far?” And so on. The minutia of the average office worker’s day is not sexy, not romantic, and certainly not banter.

Then you get your men who go all formal and dull miss ALL your jokes. They go all “Dear Zoe” and “Best, Bob”. Or, take this paragraph from someone I was set up with (and I kid you not, he DID write this): “I have launched and incorportated my business at the London Companies House in 2002. The company specialises in XX brokerage services and XX management. We also offer consultancy services within the aviation industry.” I responded the only way I could: with a minor but very clear joke: “I am a journalist and I have no companies registered at Companies House.” He missed it. No comment. No humour. NO BANTER.

So, at breaking point after a particularly long string of sandwich-oriented chat, and joke-missing, I think something serious needs to change. An alternative to banter must be born – something more people can excel at. Maybe: how many US breakfast cereals you can name in 10 seconds.

Until that becomes the norm here are some ground rules to improve matters:

1. No mention of food consumed that day unless it is hilariously in excess or ridiculous. You could say: “I ate four pigs for lunch and now look identical to one” or “I think I might eat a salad made exclusively of sprouting beans”

2. Do not write emails without questions, thereby making the recipient debase themselves by having to do all the work to respond. Must they cleave to your reference to those 6 unplanned beers the night before?

3. Get on with it- do you want to meet or not? Banter is boring very quickly when pointless. Unless, of course, it’s witty. But see above

4. Your night is boring. Your hangover is boring. Anything to do with your WILD AND CRAZY NIGHT OUT is BORING

5. Ask questions, but not crap ones. Not: “How is your day?” when it’s 11:01AM and you’ve met once. Ask: “On a scale from one to ten, how excited are you for lunch?”

Signing off now, to go get a sandwich. I could really murder a sandwich. I’m so hungry. That hangover….

3 Comments leave one →
  1. editor-in-chef permalink
    February 7, 2011 3:45 am

    Cherios, Frosties, Wheatabix, Special K, Coco Puffs, Bran Flakes, Corn Flakes, Cinamon Toast Crunch, and 100s more at

    🙂 Well now, that took me more than 10 seconds.

  2. Cov permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:27 pm

    So, I’d been dating this guy for, like, a month. I went on holiday. To St Lucia. His one point of contact for the entire week I was there? “My boss just got an OBE. x”


    I did not see him again…

  3. tom permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:34 pm

    i think to your list of acceptable food-banter should be added ‘faux-autistic dissection of crisp varieties and the like’

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