Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The joy of online dating

As a single woman in the 21st century it was inevitable that eventually I would experience internet dating. This is Part 1 of my experiences. Names have been changed to protect the guilty...

A few years ago there was a huge stigma attached to dating agencies. Newspaper dating pages were referred to as ‘lonely hearts’ conjuring up images of sad and wistful singletons, the last resort for those left on the shelf. There had to be a reason why they hadn’t managed to meet anyone in the normal way, right?
Skip forward to 2016, and not only is online dating completely acceptable, but it's becoming the most common way for people to meet their lovers, partners and spouses. Even my parents told me that I should head online to meet a man.

Circe Surfs the Web, after John William Waterhouse.
By Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr Creative Commons

Boyfriend shopping

So after some of the divorce dust had settled, I decided it was time to find out what this online dating thing was all about, and find myself a nice boyfriend. Surely it couldn’t be that hard?

The way you hear people talk about internet dating, and the way it’s advertised, it’s just like a catalogue of available people. You pick the selection of characteristics you want - which as well as things like interests can include income, height, weight, and eye colour. Are there really people out there who only want to date people with a certain eye colour?

How do you do flirting?

If you've never been on a date in your life, what do you expect? Where do you go? What do you wear? How did you keep yourself safe? How long should you chat to someone online before agreeing to meet. And what on earth do you talk about? Do you have to do flirting (how do you do that?) or could we have a nice conversation about films and books?

I decided to approach Project Boyfriend like I would anything else - with lots of research. I signed up to a couple of dating sites pretending to be a man as that was the only way I could see other women’s profiles and try and work out what kind of thing I should write about myself. I sent my profile to a friend to check I didn’t sound like a total loser. And I asked any of my friends who have been single in the past few years for their experience. Advice was contradictory:

Friend 1: “You’re the woman - you should never contact them first.”

Friend 2: “There’s no chivalry in online dating. You have to make approaches.”
OK, that’s clear then.

Getting online

So I wrote some stuff about myself, collected a few photos (not easy when you’ve just had a baby, as all the pictures either feature you heavily pregnant or brandishing an infant - not really the look I was going for). And then I waited for the invites to flood in. Nothing happened.

Two months later I managed my first date, with a nice man, who decided after meeting me that he decided that he shouldn’t date any more women. Ever (and I don’t think he was gay). This didn’t do a lot to boost my confidence. Here are some highlights:

  • Kris turned up an hour late (yes, I know, I should have gone), then lectured me about the marketing strategy for the company he worked for. I hadn’t asked.  
  • Rob told me that he shouldn’t have to put up with so much from his small female boss, in fact he should probably just headbutt her out of the way. He demonstrated with a gesture. I made my excuses...
  • Sam turned up with a huge Twits-style beard - his internet photos had shown him bald and clean shaven. He spent the evening complaining about women he’d dated who turned up looking completely different to their profile pictures. Pot. Kettle. Black.

But actually, none of them were nutters, just nice men who were probably even more nervous than me and saying the first stupid thing that came into their heads. Here are some things I learnt:

  1. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Or a husband. Or a boyfriend. Or even a nice meal out. He’s not going to fall into your lap. You have to work at online dating and put in some serious hours, refining your profile, getting nice pictures, surfing the site and sending well-crafted messages (preferably about films and books).
  2. You can’t judge a book by its cover - or tell what someone will be like from their photos. You can chat online for months and think you may be the perfect match, but within 3 seconds of meeting, you know that you are not right for each other.
  3. I have a ‘type’ (who knew?): slight, dark and a bit arty, or ‘slamatic’ as my friend is calling it (slim and dramatic). If you know any of these, then send them my way (they’re not to everyone’s taste).
  4. Get busy: the online dating sites prioritise the profiles of people who are online at the time, or very active. If you don’t log on for a week, don’t expect to find a ton of messages - you’ve fallen so far down the search rankings that none of the eligible lovelies you want to be chasing you have even seen you.
  5. You don’t know what’s going on in these people’s lives: if you think they’re perfect for you and you never hear back from them, don’t be sad. It might not be deliberate. You can’t take it personally.

Coming soon - Prince Charming and the single mother