It is with a heavy heart that I write this update on the situation with my lovelife. Two weeks ago, I went on my first date for 8 months. I’m not sure how I managed such a long stretch, but manage it I did.
After a date in Notting Hill in September, which resulted in no more communications from that man, my allure seemed to wane. Autumn turned into winter, the leaves started falling off the trees, and the nights started drawing in. Winter came, Christmas, New Year. The days started getting longer, the evenings a little lighter. Gradually leaves crept back onto the branches of trees, the sound of leather and willow could be heard across the land, and eventually, I went on my first date for a very long time.
It wasn’t a disaster, but his post-date chat was fairly soul-destroying. The last thing you want to hear after spending an evening with someone you don’t fancy is that they didn’t fancy you. Pride dented, I decided to launch myself in a full-frontal assault on the world of online dating.
I am a veteran of this adventure, with many dates, both successful and unsuccessful, under my belt. It’s been two years since I last used these services, and in the intervening time, things have changed a lot.
I don’t know if this is more to do with the particular websites I have been flirting on, or the market as a whole, but either way, online dating is in a sorry state and I am going to illustrate this desperate plight.
The old days:
A woman writes a detailed biography on a dating website that describes their personality, interests and desired qualities in a potential mate. She tries to sound quirky and interesting but not weird - she possibly deploys a little light self-deprecation.
She finds the 5 most flattering photos of herself on Facebook in which she doesn’t look too pissed and submits to have herself judged by the internet.
And then, she waits. Like a spider: her mantrap set. The men will come, the men will come.
The first email she receives is of quite some length. It explains how he enjoys a night in cuddling on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a DVD as much as he does a night out with friends. He refers to nothing that she has said in her profile.
She reads his profile. It goes into a lot of detail about his life story - his university days, the round the world trip he took, how he looked after orphans in Rwanda, and then how he got a job in accountancy back in London. He explains in minute detail the sort of woman he’s looking for: She is up for a laugh, laid back, gets on with his mates, and likes cooking.
At first, she is depressed and slightly traumatised by the experience, but soldiers on, resolute in her quest to navigate this dating sea, and hopeful that her boat will get rocked by a handsome seaman, ready to board her.
She gets into long email conversations with men, which eventually result in dates. She goes on 25 first dates in a selection of bars throughout zone 1, and then 5 second dates in the same bars. She finds the whole process vaguely depressing and certainly soul-destroying and gives up, retreating to the comfort of celibacy.
Two years later, for a social commentary piece to be written up on a blog about 21st century dating, she tries again.
The 2013 version seems to be different, because so much more of it is done on smartphones, and the driving force behind this is the immediacy of communication. Whatsapp launched in 2009, allowing people to chat without the delay of texts. You can see when someone has seen your message, and when they are typing. The levels of delay paranoia become heightened - it’s been an hour, what’s he doing? Why did he start writing a message and then stop? And the conversations themselves descend into utter banality.
It is Whatsapp that the new wave of online dating sites has modelled itself on. If you have the Skout app on your phone, you will get a bleep every time you have a message. There is someone who wants to talk to you RIGHT NOW. There is no time delay on these messages anymore - no waiting until you’re in front of a computer, with some time to devote to reading his missive and responding with an email of decent length and attempts at humour. Instead it is a barrage of one- and two-word attempts at communication. “Hey Juliet", “Hey", “Hi", “What’s up" are the most common ones, then there are of course the ones that don’t even say anything. They just send you a picture of their face.
I can only imagine that the reasoning behind this is that the owner of the face and possessor of such a diverse and stimulating vocabulary is of such DEVASTATING attractiveness that simply by looking at him, any woman is drawn irresistibly into his web of sin. But! as Dame Shirl so rightly said, Don’t go in!
It seems that the modern-day online dating site has changed from a place where single people go to meet others for dating, relationships and sex to a place of just sex. They are trying to ape what Grindr has done for gay men: a simple location-based, fuck app. Because apparently, that’s what men want: to stick their cock in something fairly annoymously has been what the gay scene has been all about for years. Forever. And now it seems it’s also what heterosexual women want too.
I find it sad that the old-fashioned way of finding a shag through a night out in a pub or a late-night club, or through friends, or on the bus, or on a bicycle, is fading away, to be replaced by something more anonymous.
Sex is fun, it’s brilliant, it’s good for you, but I would rather do it with someone who will laugh me into bed, and not someone who believes that a picture of his cock with the words “it could of been yours, baby” is sufficient for seduction.
Read more on Single Girl on a Bicycle