Like many people new to singledom and past the age of meeting people when out clubbing, after I split from my husband I did what thousands of people do and joined an online dating site.
Now everyone knows tales of a friend of a friend who met someone on one of these sites and they are together five years later, happily settled with children, or married or met “the one”, but do these people really exist if so I’ve yet to meet them, do dating sites really work? Not for me.
Being a bit of a skinflint I signed up to Plenty of Fish (now POF) because it’s free, that has it’s downfalls too I was soon to discover, every man and there dog (yes there really was an actual dog on the site) goes there it would seem, whether they are after a relationship, a one night stand or just to hurl abuse at others on the site.
So I selected my best photos, wrote what I thought was a witty profile, set my preferences, older yes, younger definitely not (maybe it’s because I’m a mum but it just felt wrong), working, non-smoker and somewhere less than an hours drive away (I broke that one but that’s for later), obviously I’m not the fussy type I had no preference to whether he was a Capricorn or Cancerian or worked in the stock market or the fruit market.
If you are looking for an instant ego boost online datings for you, hit go live and the hundreds of long time lurkers on the look out for new flesh start “liking” or “winking” at you and the messages start appearing in your inbox, and believe me I’m no supermodel it wasn’t my stunning good looks and sparkling personality that brought the messages, I’ve spoke to others who’ve tried it and all had the same result.
The messaging itself I was soon to discover could become addictive, who needs to actually meet someone when you can have witty online banter while still wearing your pj’s and scoffing down pizza in front of Holby City? It all gets a tad confusing when you are chatting to five different blokes and remembering who’ve you’ve told what story to, I’m sure some of them must of thought I had some form of amnesia as I repeated the same anecdotes several times.
Who to chat to though? Ok the profile picture might be one of the first things you judge on, c’mon who doesn’t look at the picture first? What was it with all the pictures on top of mountains, surfing , paragliding etc, does nobody just go out for nice walk these days? Even worse was pictures of them with women draped round them, I don’t care if it’s your sister or your ex but at least attempt to crop the picture, and if they had no picture it was a definite no-no (even if they claimed it was because they worked for the SAS and had to keep their identity private). Almost as important though was their profile headline, sorry guys (and girls) but captions such as “back on here again”, “no time wasters please” or “will fill this in later” (all real) just don’t do it for me.
So I chatted to a few normal sounding guys and had messages from more than a few not so normal, Mr Angora for example who liked his women to dress in wool, Leroy sent a polite enough message asking if I’d like to chat but attached a picture of his (I assume) larger than average assets which made my eyes water, and the chap who offered to pay me £50 if I nipped round to his in the next half hour for some fun and games, I told him thanks but Eastenders was on so I’d leave it this time!
Online chat can only go on for so long, soon it was time to bite the bullet and meet someone in real life. I picked an averagely attractive guy (not too good looking didn’t want to feel I was batting above my average), who sounded intelligent and sane and agreed to meet for Sunday afternoon drinks. Cut to standing outside pub in a casual look that took the best part of a week to put together, heart thump and palms sweating (remember this was my first date in over 10 years), with my mobile ready to speed dial my best friend should I need to make an emergency exit, but it went well, and we went on to date for a while (longer than we should have), before I realised he had more baggage than the luggage terminal at Heathrow, a serious chip on his shoulder about the hand the world had dealt him and also was never going to be able to keep me in the manner I would like to become accustomed, I should have known when he never had enough to buy a second round on our very first date but hindsights a wonderful thing.
So onwards and upwards except it wasn’t, I dated a few more guys, some once, some a few times but none that were going anywhere. There was a lovely chap that could have been a contender but I had broken my own rules with regards to distance and a 6 hour round trip once a fortnight was never going to work. There was the smooth talker, who knew all the patter and then disappeared quicker than you could say “commitment”, there was the ultimate bachelor with disposable cups to save on washing and a living room furnished with deckchairs (they were the reclining sort to be fair), and of course there was the ones who made you laugh till you needed to change your tena lady when chatting online but in real life had you discreetly covering your yawns and asking for the bill.
So why is online dating so hard? Maybe because people are on there for so many reasons, some to find love, some for a quick fling or is it because your dating profile doesn’t necessarily reflect the real you? Of course we all pick our best, sexiest, smiliest pictures to show to the public, just like on facebook, who ever posts a pic of their just out of bed, make up free, mad hair look? We can be the funniest, cleverest version of ourselves online when you can take time to prepare a response and delete things ten times and rewrite them before sending, but you only get to know a person properly when you actually meet.
Just when I thought all hope was lost and I was about to permanently delete my dating profile, I met Mr B in the good old fashioned way, dancing to Rick Astely at an 80’s revival festival we had both been invited to by mutual friends, had I seen his hawaiian shirt in a profile picture or he’d known I was 10 years younger than him would we have hooked up online? Well as Mr B is highly technophobic we’ll never know.
I’m glad I gave it a go, it was good fun and certainly opened my eyes a little but does it ever really work? I’d love to hear from anyone who met the man (or woman) of their dreams online.