I have been out with two people I met online - when I say 'been out with' I mean had a relationship with. And I have dated many, many, MANY others. I have learned so much about men during this journey. So very much. It's been a beautiful and mind expanding experience and I have seen enough photos of torsos and penii to last me a gosh darn lifetime.
So I thought it was perhaps time to share the wealth, as opposed to outright taking the piss out of the weirder/creepier/stalkier ones. Although that will, of course, continue to happen. Because I can't stop, can I? As long as I occupy this place on the shelf, I have to keep trying. Keep putting myself out there. Keep up the vain hope that there is someone left who isn't attached or married AND isn't a raging egomaniac/boring bastard. Got to keep on keeping on.
From the point of view of someone who is in a relationship or marriage, internet dating must seem most peculiar. For those of you who managed to snag The One, or even an approximation of The One, before internet dating became a thing, it must seem alien as a concept. Dating itself is not something we do particularly well in Britain. It's very much an American thing. Here no one is sure of the etiquette. Do you multi-date? Is that OK? Is it alright to get narked if you've been on a few dates and then you realise they're messaging loads of other potential replacements? At what point have you crossed over from 'dating' to actually being in a thing? And why does everyone assume it's OBVIOUS?
Those who internet date fall into two camps. One group met someone very quickly and think it's a perfectly reasonable way to meet a partner. These are the friends everyone has who 'met their husband/wife/concubine online'. We've all got them and they're generally very happy and talk about internet dating in glowing terms.
And then there's the other camp. The one I'm in. The one that's increasingly disgusted, despondent and depressed by it. Even when you wade through the millions or messages from morons/freaks/perves and weirdos and find someone who seems OK, you're instantly competing with every other girl they're already talking to. In a throwaway society, internet dating makes feelings even more transient. It's an empty, soul sucking experience.
I say all this not out of bitterness but as a sober warning to you if you're considering taking up the gauntlet. Prepare yourself properly. Accept that rejection becomes a way of life - either doing the rejecting (more often if you're female) or being rejected (sadly, if a man is half way attractive they are so overwhelmed with offers from horrified women hoping that there is someone who isn't mentally defective that they become blase and tend to treat you like you're as disposable as the Kleenex they're trying to replace), accept that you're more than likely to date quite a few (thousand) frogs before you get anywhere near a vague prince, if you're in your thirties then it's important to realise quickly that men your age are almost exclusively interested in women at least a decade younger than them, and conversely, you will get a LOT of messages from 19-24 year olds who think that they're either doing you some kind of a favour so you'll be desperate to blow them or they honestly think that all women's fantasies revolve around shagging some lad in his early 20s. It wasn't that good when I was in my early 20s, there's no fricking way I'm going back to that.
So once that is out of the way, there are a few other things to look out for.
- Immediately discount anyone who describes himself as 'genuine' or 'a nice guy'. People who are these things don't announce it like it's something they've acquired. The high probability is that he is neither of these.
- If you're on OK Cupid, use the questions when screening. There are many, many sex based questions. There are questions about whether they are into rape fantasies (yes, really), questions that tell you whether they're racist, questions that tell you whether they're a creationist or anti-abortion. All of these can be a disappointment if they appear to look semi human and can write in full sentences. But are also useful.
- Do not be afraid to say that you're not interested. You'll find that some guys will just keep messaging you over and over and over. It appears that some people approach it like they're sending out marketing emails. So they copy and paste the same message and spam it out to 100 girls. A week later you get it again. And again. It's tragic.
- Do not feel flattered when you get upwards of 50 messages in one day. It's because you are a woman and they are desperate. The ones who you want to meet don't need to do that. They're off shagging someone else.
- Do not make the mistake of thinking just because you've been on a few successful dates with the same guy that it means anything. At all. Nine times out of ten they are juggling a few and the chances are that you will be stashed on the back burner sometime soon. Fuck that shit.
- Assume everyone is a player. Sorry guys, but that's the only way to survive this bullshit.
- Cut and run the instant they show they're a douchebag. It could manifest in one of several ways. They could blow hot and cold for no discernable reason. They could be lovely and keen one day and switch into distant fuckhead man the next. They could play communication games. They could suddenly reveal themselves to be an obtuse overgrown manchild. They could casually drop in the conversation that they usually go for someone thinner/younger/more beautiful. The second this happens cut and run. Do not waste your breath, time, energy or interest anymore. Not even if you really thought they were nice. They're not. You were wrong. Boo hoo. Next.
- If they demand you go to them, tell them to bog off. It might be 2014 and this might be the age of no one gives a fuck, but for a first date, if they want to meet you and they asked you out then they should come to you.
Once on the first date:
- If they show up in a shirt that's tucked in, then politely finish your drink and run away. No good comes from a man in a shirt. Mark my words.
- If the conversation appears to be flowing and he's giving good chat but you come to the end of a couple of hours and you realise that he has been talking exclusively about himself then it's a no no. These men are common in the wild. They mistake the sound of their own voice with the dulcet tones of heaven and aren't interested in anything that isn't coming out or going into their gaping, flapping maw.
- If they look askance at you because you say fuck then it's a goner. Fuck off.
- If they have a posh car that costs more than a deposit for a house, and particularly if they've given it a name, then run away. Far away. And fast.
- If they have recently split up with a spouse or long term girlfriend (and by recently I would say within the last 12 months or even two years) then no, they're not over it. What they are is desperate, scared and broken manchildren who want a nice lady with big boobs to make them feel better and safe again.
Made it to date two? Excellent. Well done. You've cleared some of the early hurdles but...
- Never relax. It might seem to be going well but men are a mystery. Often they say the diametric opposite to what is in fact happening. They do this because either they're thinking with the wrong head, temporarily, or they think that the best way to communicate with someone is by passive aggressively grunting while leaving you to guess.
- Don't show any enthusiasm. Generally at this juncture, it can be common to skip ahead a bit. Make a few 'potential' plans. Maybe a film that's coming out or some vague festival chat. Be very very careful of this. Anything you say they will hear: "I want to marry you. You're my dream come true. Can I please have your babies right now." So, if you say: "Oh, there's a gig on in a couple of months. It looks ace," they will hear: "You're irresistible and I must have you and trap you and you will never be able to go and shag other women ever again and please please marry me." BUT, and it's a big but, if THEY do something similar (mention a gig, potential future plans) it's totally A-OK fine. But don't read anything into it. Because then you'll be labelled as CLINGY and KEEN.
- Be aware that they will still be cruising the internet dating site they asked you out on. They will be messaging other women and they will be setting up other dates. Whether they go through with them will depend on whether you pass their arbitrary tests and prove yourself worthy to be in a thing with them.
After date three or four you will be given a sign of some kind. Either things will progress swimmingly or something will occur that will reveal the true colours of the shape shifting lizard man you have been dating. More often, in my case, it's the latter. However, as we learned earlier, many people meet their matches/spouses/common law partners online, so it does happen.
In Part Two we'll look at how to spot losers by their first messages. It's well funny.