So, as I mentioned in my last blog, I recently joined a dating website. It feels like a cross between Facebook and eBay. A Facebook which is only populated by boys who might possibly fancy me, and I have to bid against other girls to try to win them. Given that Facebook and eBay are like peanut-butter coated crack to me, you can imagine my delight.
For a long time I was quite opposed to the idea of dating websites. Not for the general public, I’m not a Nazi, people may do as they wish, but for myself, over-inflated snob that I am, I wasn’t so keen. The reasons for this were twofold: one, I am a hopeless romantic, and I want the story that gets told at my wedding to involve eyes meeting in crowded rooms or hands brushing as we both reach to pick up a fallen pen or some other such Harlequin romance novel nonsense, not that we met online, desperately clicking through pictures of the opposite sex in our underpants and praying to stop being alone. And two, I find (or think I find) talking to new people anxiety-inducing hard work, so the thought of deliberately heading out to sit opposite someone I don’t know for an hour or two seemed preposterous – I’d sooner die alone, I thought to myself, letting the cat (I don’t have a cat, but details, details) eat my face until I’m found three weeks later.
However, I started thinking about some of the things I’d quite like in a boyfriend, some of the things the fellas I keep falling for don’t ever seem to have… stuff like, you know, a job, and preferably a job they don’t hate. Enthusiasm for the things I’m enthusiastic about. Someone who challenges me. Someone who – forgive me for the hideous arrogance but - has the ability to keep up with me, mentally and physically. Don’t get me wrong, all of the boyfriends I’ve had have had some of these things, I’m not so self loathing I’d go out with people I have absolutely nothing in common with, they’ve all been delightful and lovely little devils in their own strange ways, but none of them had all of those things and so the fit was never right. I was no more right for them than they were for me. I wake up too early, I expect too much. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to find someone else who also wakes up early and who also expects a lot? There must be more people like that out there.
And when it dawned on me that if I went on a dating website, I could type these attributes in and, quite literally go shopping for boys who fit the bill, it suddenly all started to seem a lot more attractive. Yeah, it might not be the most romantic way to meet someone ever, but 90% of my friends come from the internet, so I might as well embrace that. To a large extent, I live on the internet. My online persona is the best me, the me that I long to be. Meeting someone on the internet makes a huge amount of sense for who I am. I am funnier, bolder, slicker, prettier, cooler online than in person. Of course, this runs the risk that when the poor fellas meet me, they are in for a huge disappointment, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
And while I have this image of myself in my head as someone who can’t do small talk and is rubbish with new people, that’s simply not true and I think it’s about time I got over myself and stopped making excuses. I counsel people I’ve never met before every week, and I do a good job. I interview people I’ve never met before and draw them out about really difficult things, and I’m good at that too. I don’t like meeting parents, but parents always love me. I’m a lot better at this stuff than I think I am. Everyone gets nervous, but I think, due to my own narcissim, I’ve always thought I had it worse than everyone else. I don’t. It was time to man up.
So I did a bit of research into various dating website (the upshot of my research – don’t bother with Guardian Soulmates, it seems most unfriendly and mean, don’t go on the free ones as they are full of creepy guys, don’t believe eHarmony’s nonsense about finding you the perfect match) and signed up to match.com, mostly on the premise that they say they have more relationships and marriages than any other site (which of course might just be because there are more people on there – they don’t talk percentages), but also because I read a few positive reviews, and it seemed like a good place to start.
I originally signed up without paying any money, as I just wanted to see what the deal was. This means you can look at people, and people can look at you, but you can’t send any messages or read any messages you get sent. I genuinely thought I’d be waiting a month or two until I had a bit more money before I paid the fees and joined up properly, but almost immediately I received an email telling me that ‘someone,’ that’s right, a mysterious ‘someone’ had sent me a message.
I tried not to sign over money I didn’t have, I tried to resist, but the lure of knowing that ‘someone’ had sent me a message was too, too much. What if SOME one was THE one? What if that someone was a yogic, poetry writing, vegetarian, dreadlocked boy with an excess of ponies in his back garden, just looking for the right girl to give them to? What if he was actually a prince, laden down with cash and ennui, waiting for a princess of psychology to save him from his doom by teaching him how to love again (and, just incidentally, spending all his cash for him in the mean time)?
By the time I’d got home that evening, I had convinced myself that the message was not only from a prince, but was probably from THE Prince, Prince Rogers Nelson, pint sized pop star and ruler of my heart, who had fallen on hard times in the dating world and decided to turn to British match.com to find a 35 year old who hadn’t been ruined by fame and could reconnect him to his roots, and that I was that woman and so I’d better pay the damn money and save poor Prince before he threw himself off a bridge with the remorse over my rejection.
You’ll be shocked to learn that the message wasn’t from Prince. It was from a young, fairly cute whippersnapper (far too young – one of my new rules is that I’m done with toy boys… it never ends well) asking if I was a man because my profile seemed too perfect, so he suspected it was written by a man trying to fool other men by being the perfect woman, or at least, I think that’s where he was going… maybe he just thinks I look like Victor Victoria – he had a bet going with his friend, so he claimed, as to my true gender identity.
I was charmed by this, but not charmed enough to be bothered when he stopped replying to my messages… partly, I’m guessing, because I flat out told him I was way too old for him, and called him Sonny Jim. I don’t think some boys like that level of cheek.
To begin with, I was swapping messages with a few guys, but no-one I was going giddy about. I had to make my first flat out rejection right away, but this was fairly easy as the hapless guy, who still lived with his parents in his late 30s and was so seeped in desperation I could smell it through my monitor, had said he wanted kids, and I don’t, so I was able to blame it on that. Handy!
(Dating website dilemma number one: when one gets messages from someone one is really not interested in, do you reply, or ignore? Of course, a polite thanks but no thanks is the correct and Gold Standard answer. But in reality, it is not always that easy. Sometimes, people sound so offensively arrogant that you don’t want to talk to them at all. Other times, they just send such a tiny message that to send back a long, excuse filled email about not being interested seems like you are placing a great deal of importance of yourself. Of course, you could reply to that one message that then tell them later that you don’t like them, but really, where does that end? I have taken the policy of saying I’ve met someone else to the people I don’t like, but ignoring the creepy/nasty sounding ones. Oh, and the guy who told me I had a unic smile. You may judge me if you like.)
Does one ever forget the first internet dating guy one falls in love with? I would guess not. It’s so easy, when all you see is their very best photo and the very best words they have chosen to write about themselves, to imagine that this other person has no flaws, that this is the person you’ve been waiting for your whole life to meet… and of course, even at the time, a part of you knows how ridiculous it is… but the first guy I got properly hooked on, the first guy I went out with, seemed, on paper, like he’d been fashioned for me out of a piece of clay. Brainy, tall, good looking, musical, kitten-loving, Friends-quoting clay. The only thing to suggest there might be a problem was that for some reason, he used commas instead of apostrophes in his text messages. So he,d write like this, which I didn,t like very much.
(An aside… What is that, is it some bug with phones or something? I notice this happens a lot on people’s pages on match, that they used exclamation marks instead of apostrophes, so that they look really excited and yet like they can!t use grammar for toffee all at once. What is that about?)
So I went out with this dream guy, and we had a mostly lovely time (although it was a bit awkward towards the end of the evening), but he killed it somewhat by insisting we go down an unlit street to kiss. Now I genuinely think this came from a shyness around public displays of affection rather than some kind of murderous intent, but for a second, it sure felt like murderous intent, and it left me a bit floored… do I say, no, I’m quite happy here, under the streetlight, and reveal that I’m worried he might have a machete in his pocket? Because that can kill the mood, and really, when it comes to kissing, we don’t want any killing at all, neither people nor moods. By the time I realised it was too late, and the mood was already killed for me (which is better than being personally killed, so let’s look on the bright side), it was too late and I was kissing him, though it didn’t feel like a first, thrilling kiss should. We said we would see each other again, but neither of us contacted each other, and he seems to have deleted his profile now (all his messages have vanished from my inbox, as if I actually dreamed the whole thing, although I’m pretty darn sure I didn’t), so I’m guessing he was as under-whelmed by the kissing as I was. I hope he’s found someone nice. And I hope he didn’t drag her down a dark side street and kill her.
Then there was the guy who apologised for everything way too much and I had to leap away from when he lunged to kiss me. Then there was the guy who had cool hair, but was shorter than Kylie and told me that definitely wanting children actually meant he probably didn’t if I didn’t, which should have warned me he was a bit too lily livered for my blood.
(Dating website dilemma number two: What I have learnt is that often, you can tell instantly it’s a no. These are the people who, if you had met in bars, you wouldn’t look at twice. This is an interesting moral dilemma. If you have discovered some common bond online, should you make yourself give it more of a chance? In many ways, it seems like yes, this should be the thing. But in other ways… if you don’t fancy the person, the most they are ever going to be is a friend, and if you already have enough friends and are looking for a boyfriend, then it’s pretty dishonest and teasing to continue, really. Right? I’ve gone out with a boy I didn’t want to do the nasty with before, hoping that intellect would overcome, and it made both of us utterly miserable. These things are important! And yet there is no protocol for arriving on one of these blind dates and at once saying I’m sorry, but no. One must stumble through a few hours of awkward chit chat before making an excuse and leaving. Unless any of you guys can suggest a kindly alternative…)
There are three suitors on the scene right now. One of them, I’ve been talking to for a while about books and music and photography, and seems clever and funny and cool. He lives right on my doorstep and he was edging his way towards perfect when he mentioned playing Scrabble, but it turns out that was just a tease. I’m meeting him tonight. We will see. Another sings on a cruise ship and cuts hair, and called me fabulous, and so I cannot take seriously, though he seems to want to travel from Wales to meet me. Actually, I’m a bit freaked out by him as he’s awfully intense for someone who doesn’t actually know me (text messages a go-go) , so I might put him off (update... yeah, he was crazy, when I told him I was feeling a bit pressured he said I'M NOT PRESSURING YOU, you've really upset me, I was looking forward ALL WEEK to meeting you, apparently not spotting the inherent contradiction in placing these two statements side by side... zoinks!). And then there’s the guy I went out with last night, who I didn’t think was going to be the one, but who I actually talked non-stop to about writing and London and writing some more, and who I have actually arranged a second date with. I will keep you posted, blog fans…