Part the XVII: On the Travails of Internet Dating

I am overworked. Between now and the end of November (self-imposed thesis submission deadline) I have three weekends off: one in a castle, one at Edinburgh and one in Paris. The rest of the time I’ll be working non-stop on my thesis and on my research project.

Today I am ill, my body having chucked the towel in and acquired the flu, thereby forcing me to take the day off work. However, it does mean that I’ve had time to write a blog entry. I have decided to write about my internet dating adventures, as they have come to a close for the time being. Not because I have found a bloke (it could never be that easy), but because I no longer have time to chase boys.

With gentle pushing from BrotherH, and the extraction of £20 (because I needed all my money for shoes, naturally), I signed up to mysinglefriend.com. I liked the rationale behind the site, which is that a friend introduces you to the single masses, rather than you introducing yourself. It’s a bit like being in a bar where your friend would introduce you to someone. Since it is too amusing to remain on the site, I thought I would share with you the profile that H wrote:

Well this is just plain weird. I mean, it’s called ‘my single friend’ for a reason; ‘my single sister’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. It conjures up images of straw-chewing Mary Lou marrying club-footed cousin Seamus down by the red barn, and that can’t be good for the dating business. That said, no one knows Jess like I do so I guess I’m qualified to fill this space.

Let’s get the easy wins out of the way first. She’s a super-smart girl who sets her sights on something and works like a demon until she gets it. This means she’s already tucked her first published novel under her belt and will be a Doctor before the year is out… not the chop-you-up-and-sew-the-bits-back-together type, but the how-the-f*ck-can-you-write-ninety-thousand-words-on-one-topic type. I am constantly left feeling like the dumbass of the family.

Oddly this doesn’t mean Jess sits around talking about dead German philosophers all day because she’s far more interested in telling silly stories about the little things that happen every day; the man who talked to her tits at work, the Porsche driver who she crooked her little finger at at the lights. She’s also very good at listening and finding out what other people are interested in, and loves it when people make her laugh; laughing, giggling, snickering, chortling, whizgigging – she’s got them all covered (by the way, I have no idea what ‘whizgigging’ is but what a brilliant word).

Once you get to the squishy emotions on the inside you find that Jess is tremendously loyal and protective of her friends. She’s also a bit of an old romantic, which is why she’s none too impressed about being bullied into internet dating. She seems to think it’s full of trench-coated deviants rather than Mister Darcys which, let’s be honest, it probably is.

Oh, and finally, she’s a hottie. That’s all I have to say on the matter because I’m feeling bloody weird about this again. Just take my word for it, and have a perv in the photos section.

Well, I thought it was very funny.

Having said that, there are times when H is telling a story and I am the only one in the room laughing, and vice versa, so perhaps we are both just sad.

Enthused about the wealth of men now at my fingertips, I started favouriting and emailing. After a few days, however, my enthusiasm wilted in the face of a deathly silence.

I said to H, ‘Uhm, I don’t think I’m doing it quite right. No one’s written back to me.’
‘Well, what are you saying?’
‘I’m just writing a few paragraphs about myself.’
‘Paragraphs? How many?’
‘About four.’
‘Four paragraphs? Try four lines!’
‘But why? If I wanted to get to know someone I’d want to have four paragraphs.’

H explained to me that, although I might be an excellent writer, most people were not very good with words and would be intimidated by four paragraphs. Ahem. This is what happens when you grow up never overhearing conversations: you never quite get a grip on what you’re supposed to say to people.

I felt a little ashamed after that, but of all the men I’d emailed, there were only two I was interested in: a fireman (it said he could hold a decent conversation, ok?) and a lecturer in political philosophy. I was contemplating emailing them again, when who should walk into the queue at the library that week but the political philosopher. I looked at him and thought, ‘You look familiar.’ As he came closer I thought, ‘Yes, you look a lot like the bloke from My Single Friend,’ and then he gave me his card, I checked his name and, sure enough, it was him. I wanted to crawl under the desk and die.

Instead I politely returned his books and told him about a fine on his account, waiting to see if he recognised me, but he didn’t seem to. I wrote to him that night because I was burning up in mortification, and he replied and said that no, he hadn’t recognised me but he was unfortunately booked up with dates and that it was perhaps bad timing.

After that I kept it short, sweet and sexy, but I still didn’t get many responses. By this stage I had figured out that internet dating was pretty much like trying to find someone in a bar and that the majority of boys would remain overwhelmed and intimidated by a woman who was good-looking and highly intelligent. Readers of my previous post may also be forgiven for thinking me slightly unhinged as well, but this side only shows itself when I am threatened. The rest of the time I am perfectly well-behaved and polite. No, really.

I didn’t mind so much, and kept on favouriting blokes, one of whom was Asian (the boy I loved in Sydney was Vietnamese and consequently I have a predilection for Asian men) and had an interesting profile. I was getting around to writing to him, and would have eventually, except that the next day he wrote a perfectly-phrased, grammatically correct note to me. I was hugely impressed, since most of the men on the site had been far from pro-active.

I replied, and it transpired that he was from Sydney. Not only that, but he made me laugh and he was smart. After a week I asked him out for a drink. He agreed, and in panic I texted M, ‘I have a DATE and I need HELP.’ She recommended a bar in Hoxton Square that wouldn’t be too noisy.

Never had I been so nervous, I thought as I waited in the bar, since I played in the Gunnedah Eisteddfod when I was 8. A girl sat next to me, a bunch of Oriental lilies lying on the table before her. Their pink stains matched the colour of my cashmere dress. The TV was on. Traffic passed outside. He walked through the door carrying his motorcycle helmet. I rose and he kissed me on both cheeks. Beautiful manners, I thought. Then I said, ‘I need a drink.’

I found a quiet part of the bar and he turned out to be everything he promised in cyberspace – a great conversationalist, well-travelled, intelligent and engaging. Then it became too noisy because the footy was on and people were clustered like flies before the telly. He asked if I was hungry and we went out for dinner. By the end of the evening we laughing. That boded well, I thought. He was busy with work though, and it was a fortnight before the second date, a play at the Barbican. I rang the Barbican and asked if I could get a copy of the script emailed to me, my usual practice before watching theatre. Before the play, I asked for the hearing equipment and we got to go through  first so I could collect it and I think he may have been flummoxed by this, which is fair enough as most people don’t deal with deafness and hearing equipment (it didn’t work anyway, as usual) in the daily run of their lives.  It was a good play, and in the middle of it the actor was talking to the audience and someone cracked a joke I couldn’t hear, until he repeated it for me.  Again, I was impressed; most people don’t pick up that habit until they’ve known me for a while.  He’d known me for a few hours.  Afterwards we had another drink, and more excellent conversation. When they closed the bar and we were shunted out, he walked me to the bus stop. I thought I heard him say, ‘See you soon,’ but it was dark and I couldn’t be sure if I had lipread him properly. I was happy; enough, even, for H to comment on the rare appearance of this condition.

A week later he emailed rather brusquely to say that he had too much going on and didn’t want to hold me up in my search for a suitable partner. I lost my foothold, slipping immediately into gloom. ‘Don’t take it so personally,’ M said. I couldn’t help but take it personally; I had liked him. I had bothered to disarm myself for him. The internet, I thought, made everyone much more callous.

Now I am re-engaged in my torrid love affair with my thesis, and I have no more time to look for boys, nor can I afford the strain.

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