Monday, 15 June 2015

Bored? Lonely? Just log on and order up your next relationship!

*warning: contains pictures of actor Josh Holloway

So, internet dating.  Have you had any experience of it?  It's perfectly fine to admit it, these days.  It is, honestly.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Doesn't mean you're a loser.  Everyone's done it.  Or is that a claim made only by people who have?  Ah...   

My name is Terry, and I've internet dated.  Right.  I've come out.  Now you can, too.


I decided to write a post on this subject (it was always waiting in the wings) after reading Tom Angel's about same; you can read his HERE.  Because it makes you go 'hmmph' when someone writes a good post on a subject you've been toying with, doesn't it?  Go on, admit it.  Oh, all right.  You don't want to admit to that and internet dating...

I first dipped my toe in the waters of this murky pool in the mid nineties, after the break up of a long relationship.  I just thought I'd give it a whirl, for something to take my mind off the mess that had suddenly become my life.  In those days, your only choice was Dateline (remember those adverts in magazines?), dating agencies or... the 'friendship column' in the local paper.

(Talking of Dateline, wasn't it fun to fill in the form in the name of someone you didn't like, and send it off so that they'd receive their Dateline ideal partner suggestions through the post, preferably when they were having breakfast with their husband/wife?  What?  You've never done that?  Oh ~ no, no, of course, I haven't, either, I've just heard that some people have...)



In that brief period between old fashioned Lonely Hearts columns and the popularity of match.com etc, these 'friendship' columns were quite popular.  I answered a couple of ads; you actually communicated via a PO box number.  With a letter.  How quaint is that?  A friend told me, "if they don't send a photograph straight away, they're ugly."  The first one I met did send a photograph.  He looked pretty hot.  From the side of his face from which the photo was taken.  Alas, the other side made Quasimodo look like actor Josh Holloway.  I kid you not.  The next one was a nutter, and sent me long pleading missives when I said I didn't want to see him again, apologising for getting so drunk on our first date.  It wasn't the alcohol consumption that bothered me, it was the casual revelation that he'd come out without taking his anti-psychotic medication.  Okay, I'm lying about that.  But I think I might be on the right track.

Actor Josh Holloway.  Well, it's gotta be done...

Another friend suggested I might find a better class of lonely saddo in The Guardian.  I exchanged a few letters with a guy who said people often mistook him for Mark Knopfler.  Eventually I managed to get a photo out of him.  All he had in common with the Dire Straits front man was the receeding hairline.

 Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler.  Dig that crazy 1980s sweatband.

After these experiences I went back to my normal method of choosing romantic partners, ie, happening upon men in pubs/at parties and discovering two weeks later that I'd got myself into yet another relationship with a man whose serious emotional baggage/alcoholism/general loser-dom had not been apparent on the first night.  Oh well. 

When next I decided to give this sort of thing a go, it was 2008 (I'd just got rid of another from the emotional baggage/alchoholism/loserdom crew) and everyone was doing it.  My friend Hermione had recently met her new man through Dating Direct (she's still with him, incidentally) - like me, she was a veteran of much romantic folly and couldn't be bothered with starting all over again.  "It's so much easier like this," she said.  "You cut through all the crap; you know you're both on the site because you want a partner, full stop."

Obviously some people who advertise are after something other than a partner; newspapers and those ghastly 'my ex-con uncle got my lesbian grandmother pregnant' type magazines run many stories about lonely women who meet conmen online, or married men who just want a few bits on the side.  My experience, though, has only been of men who are looking for someone with whom to share their lives, or at least a girlfriend for 'now' if not for ever; call me naïve but I think this is still why most of them do it.  For every bigamist scam artist you read about in 'Real Life Scumbag' magazine there are 10,000 perfectly nice guys who are just a bit fed up with TV dinners for one.  

 
I went out with four men.  Three I didn't fancy; you know, you sit down with them in the pub and think, oh dear, I don't fancy you at all, so you make the best of the night and go home as soon as is politely possible.  That's after you've been through the half hour of hoping you will start to fancy them once you start talking to them (even trying to convince yourself that you do...).  One I did quite like but didn't fancy me!  Look, when he put in his 'ideal woman' list that he liked size 10 non-smokers, I did tell him that the hand of my size 14 body held a John Player menthol king size approximately 15 times per day.  He didn't say I was a disappointment in the flesh, of course, any more than I did to the ones I didn't fancy.  But I could see that lack of interest in his eyes, not to mention the lack of conviction in the phrase 'I'll call you later in the week'.  When I went to the loo, I wondered if he'd still be there when I got back.  Happily, he was...

.... unlike the chap my friend Francesca met in the Red Lion, Cromer, who left her sitting at a table.  She came to meet me for a drink afterwards and said she suddenly realised she'd been sitting there for about ten minutes... and that he'd taken his car keys...!  Or the one who arranged a date with my friend Jemima, and said after half an hour that he was afraid this meeting would only be a drink after all, not dinner as discussed, as he needed an early night.  At eight o'clock in the evening....  thank you, ladies, for these tales, I managed to work them into my novel Nobody's Fault! (Yes, that was a cheap book plug in an article that's about something entirely different.  I promise I won't do it again.)  Both women just thought it was funny.  At least it didn't waste their time.  Says to me that women are prepared to give the man they don't fancy a chance, whereas for the man it's all about the physical.  No, really??!!  Well, who would have thought it, eh?

A few months later I met the man to whom I am now married (not via Dating Direct!) and thus ended my foray into that side of online life.  Would I ever do it again?  Well, I sincerely hope I won't ever need to, but yes, I think I would.  I prefer to be in a couple than not be (yes, I can admit that!), and I reckon I'd follow Hermione's train of thought; it's so much easier than meeting people the 'normal' way, especially when you've been round the block so many times that the pavement shows the grooves of your tread.  I'd say it's a good idea as long as you have realistic expectations; you are unlikely to find romance with a capital R.  But you might find someone nice to do stuff with, if fun outings are a bit thin on the ground.

My internet dating help list:
  • Be honest in your profile and post a recent photo of yourself; yes, flattering is good, but it should be what you really DO look like.
  • Don't punch either wildly above or wildly below your own weight.
  • The safety thing - meet in a public place, tell someone where you're going, etc etc.
  • Don't expect to meet the love of your life.
  • If you think someone seems as though they might be a bit dodgy, discuss your fears with a friend or two before getting involved.
  • Don't give away any personal details like phone number, address or the link to your facebook page until you know him/her a bit better.
  • For women ~ I know most men aren't keen on endless emailing first, but do get to know them this way as much as possible before meeting up.  My experience was that after only two or three, men would say, okay, let's meet; I suppose they just wanted to see if they were wasting their time on someone they weren't attracted to in real life!  But my extensive research (!) tells me that the meetings that turn into something more lasting are generally between two people who've taken the time to put in the groundwork, if you like.
  • If you have a bad experience (like someone doing a disappearing act), see it as an anecdote with which to amuse your friends, like Francesca did (she's in a very happy relationship now, by the way!).  Remember, it's only ONE person in the whole world.
I think the reason many people are disappointed by their internet dating experiences is simply because it lacks that thrill, the glance across the room when you see someone you really fancy, that is-it-going-to-happen excitement, the mystery, the buzz of the chase.  It's a bit like going for a job interview.  I've actually contemplated handing out my romantic CV ("Reason for leaving: Felt I was in a rut and needed more of a challenge" "Reason this position terminated ~ Temporary contract only, terminated on return of permanent employee") ~ perhaps I'll save that for another post as this one is already getting too long!

I'd love to hear about any of your internet dating successes ~ or horror stories!
 

29 comments:

  1. Never done it ..coz I'm too scared .... but Martyn and I have often wondered whether we should(for fun) submit our profiles to Elite Singles ..who are always contacting me as they have 'compatible men waiting to meet you' and see if we'd get paied off. We wouldn't because we are too different. That's the problem..these sites try to give you a gendered clone...boring! And of course, NOBODY is going to put: 'stroppy demanding diva with short attention span and fake red hair. Am I?'




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would imagine the main reason you've never done it is because you've been married to Martin all your life, Carol!!! Actually, online dating doesn't work like that, it's rather fun. You're not given choices, you can browse, like in a catalogue, and 'wink' at anyone you think looks possible. Then it's up to them to take you up on the wink. I never winked at anyone, of course, because I knew that even in the depressing world of internet lurrrrve, it's best to be cool :^D So I sat back and drank a Martini whilst waiting for the winks. Then laughed cruelly at them :^D :^D

      Delete
    2. I gather there's a site called Tindr(?) where you go and meet people for just sex. I'd go to a site where you could just have dinner ....

      Delete
    3. Ah - I know a chap who once tried the contact mag thing (before websites). He said it was awful because, again, there was no thrill of the chase and will-it-won't-it-happen. Probably like the sex-based version of internet dating, except you don't even have the small talk over drinks first....

      Delete
  2. I’ve never done it myself but my friend is marrying the man she met via a dating site (after a couple of false starts with idiots who were just after money)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that's nice that it worked out for her in the end - I think as it becomes more 'normal' more and more people see it as the way forward. So she met some con artist types???? I've never known of anyone who that has happened to - how awful!

      Delete
  3. Great post as always, Terry. I once submitted my profile to a dating site along with my friend whose marriage had broken down as she wanted to get back out there. I never got picked - turns out I wasn't compatible with anybody. My friend on the other hand got lots of dates and is now in another relationship so it all worked out well in the end :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Knowing you, I expect you deliberately made yours as unappealing as possible!!!! "EL. Not in first flush of youth. VERY Independent. Loathes domesticity. Not that keen on men, either."

      Hope today went okay.... :)

      Delete
    2. I was actually very truthful. Went speed dating once as well and had pretty much the same outcome :D

      Delete
    3. I imagine you walked in with a sign on you saying "I don't really want to be doing this", which is probably what your online dating profile was saying, too... hey, what the hell, self-knowledge is a good thing!!!

      Delete
  4. It's nearly 20 years since my husband died - to begin with I was just too knackered keeping the show on the road. And then I got the hang of being on my own - so no, I've no hankering for a partner (which isn't to say I'm a nun or the occasional visitor hasn't been made welcome - mostly met at work, friends of friends, etc).

    But a daughter found a husband through internet dating - I can't see how else a single mum is going to manage all the preamble to getting into a relationship other than meeting online.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Jo, so many people see it as so much easier, if they're too busy or preoccupied to go out and about and hope they meet people the 'normal' way!

      Marriage/cohabiting isn't a necessity for some people, no. I think it can be more so if you're childless, as I am (childfree, sorry!), as you have more to time to think about yourself, I suppose! I've been single for long periods, lived alone, with friends, etc, but I'm happiest when I'm in a steady relationship with someone, so I will always look for that if I haven't got it! Though when I did have a try at the online thing it was mostly just for a bit of fun. Honest !!!! :^D

      Delete
  5. I have done the internet dating thing a couple of times in my life, (albeit half-heartedly, wasn't really looking for someone but thought I ought to!) and found that the best thing about it is that you get a few good stories to tell your girlfriends!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. Please see Jemima, above. I thought I'd hidden you quite well :)

      That's the thing, isn't it; I only ever did it half-heartedly, too, just for another string to my bow, or because I hadn't got much else to do at the time; I wonder what it would be like to do it properly. You only have to look at the comments from people above, I suppose!!!

      Delete
  6. I have dabbled off and on for almost two years. The key is taking some breaks, because it can get tiring -- and discouraging. I recently started dating a great guy, and believe it or not... we met through Tinder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, glad you've found a decent one, anyway! I'd never heard of Tinder until I wrote this. It must be interesting to do it seriously - as per my comments with my sister Julia, above, we only ever did it for a bit of a laugh! I think it's great that it's so accepted now, though.

      Delete
    2. Well I've tried it, I've found allsorts of people! In the beginning I tried those text things until they got greedy and £1.50 a text was getting a bit expensive like! I tried contact mags and had a lot of fun! Now i find that the idiots have killed it off by generating mistrust etc and the simple reason people have unrealistic expectations! You know! "65 year old size 24 female will only date men 18-25 who look like Josh Harnett"" Me I'm an early retiree from the rat race a few missing teeth and chubby! Who would even consider even talking to me?........ Well no one actually LOL

      Delete
  7. I did my first Internet dating on a strange site called DharmaMatch. And he was the only person I met there. When my daughter found out I was dating someone I'd met there - she was teaching English in Korea at the time - she started referring to him as "the dharma dude." We both thought that was kindof funny. That relationship lasted quite a while, and we're still friends. But when I began going to more active sites - first match.com, and later okcupid - the whole shopping experience, on both sides, began to be a little wearing. I still remember the guy whose profile stipulated that any woman he dated must be "solvent and streetable." As in, he could not be ashamed to appear on the street with her. Yeah. That's really attractive, buddy. And you look really nice standing next to your BMW. Don't worry about me wanting to mess up that picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha! Well, that's men for you.... I believe I made a similar point above, ie, that women would give a man they didn't find attractive the benefit of the doubt, to see if it developed, whereas a man would just bolt! The thing that gets me about guys like that is that they're not usually very 'streetable' themselves. Aside from being total wankers, of course. Thanks for making me laugh, Paula! x

      Delete
  8. Laughed out loud at this post, Terry. When I first separated from my ex-husband my sister-in-law signed me up for Dating Direct! OMG, I learned the phrases 'bald as a coot' and 'game player' during that experience. I went on a few dates - one chap took me to see a newly released horror at the cinema (!!??!), he leapt from his chair screaming at one of the scary scenes so that was the one and only date I had with that wuss! I then dated a doctor - hmmmm promising you may think - OH NO! he SMELT MY HAIR in the pub! Consequently I gave up on the dating sites - in fact I gave up on dating full stop. I've been happily single for the past 10 years now. My brother and sister-in-law however, met on Dating Direct and celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary this year - so it must work for some people eh!

    ReplyDelete
  9. ha ha - that was exactly what my sister did - I'd finished with my chap about four months before, and was a bit down in the dumps, so she signed me up for a month's trial! I suspect that, like me, you didn't take it that seriously...!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've never done internet dating, but my boyfriend and I only knew each other slightly at high school, chatted on good old Myspace for ages years later and the rest is history! I think I would give it a go if I was single now though. I don't think I have the patience for meeting people at pubs and clubs anymore!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too - if anything ever happened to us, or if he dies before me, I am straight on those sites, not mucking about!!

      Delete
  11. Loved this post Terry! Mr JH and I have been married since I was 21 (a few years ago now) so I've never been down that road. However a friend of mine had a date with a chap who, within ten minutes of meeting, told her that he had his toothbrush in his pocket. I suspect that's called 'cutting to the chase'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's hilarious!!! Now, did she take him up on it???

      Delete
    2. She did and the next morning he left promising to get in touch; then she got a brief text saying that he thought she was 'too wrapped up in her family' for a relationship. Of course, she then wished she'd shoved the toothbrush into a place where its removal would have necessitated surgical intervention. The moral of the tale I think should be if you go out with a landscape gardener, it might be more than your lawn that gets laid.

      Delete
    3. Or that if you should learn to identify the 'shag only' men before you sleep with them, if what you want is a relationship. Or don't talk about your kids all night. Or both :)

      Delete
  12. Fab post, I enjoyed reading this and although it sounds fun/exciting/terrifying I'm unlikely to ever give it a go having been with my hubby since I was 16. But you never know it might not work out so never say never...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's fun and terrifying, mostly, rather than exciting. It's also boring, when you meet them, quite often!

      Delete