Posted by: J M | May 19, 2010

D is for dating

Having just come out of an eight-year relationship in the New Year, I am a stranger to dating. In fact, it is a land I have never conquered: before my last relationship, my couplings were mainly made up of friends of friends or colleagues or fellow students or, after a long night in the uni bar, whoever was within arm’s reach. Behaving like a red-faced tourist from Ibiza Uncovered is all very well in your teens and twenties, but when your mid-thirties are standing over you with their arms folded ready to take hold, you have to be a little more civilised.

I’m constantly being told by smug articles in even smugger magazines that the best way to meet new people is through friends. That’s all very well, but when you share a lot of friends with your ex and have known most of them a very long time, it doesn’t somehow seem appropriate for you to expose yourself as some kind of sexual predator, hopping up onto a friend’s breakfast bar brandishing a cava cocktail and demanding to be ‘hooked up’ with some ‘hot friends’.

So, it’s down to the internet, then. When I told my mother that I was going to try online dating, she immediately revealed an intimate knowledge of the subject, gleaned from those weekly magazines that cost 50p and feature stories about people giving birth to their own eyes. Apparently, my mother said, it could be ‘anyone’ at the other end of the ISDN line: a murderer, a rapist or — even worse — a dirty old man lying about his age. I did explain that most people have to put photos up and that you don’t blindly wander off to meet them in a bar before even speaking to them, but she wasn’t to be convinced.

The key was which online dating service to use. One leading brand had been described to me as ‘being full of married men’. I always hate those soap storylines where someone who is happily married on the surface turns out to be having a gay love affair so thought it would be best not to live it for real. Another one I flirted with briefly was one that was totally free, for reasons that soon became obvious. I suppose having a pay wall means that only people who really ‘mean it’ get to meet up with you. On this free-for-all site I was getting attention from areas that I probably wouldn’t normally venture into the real world.  Even Gaydar looked like a site for true romantics compared to this seedy pick-up joint. The virtual me sighed deeply and realised I was going to have to take this seriously if I was going to get anywhere. With a heavy heart, I joined a dating website affiliated to a more liberal-leaning newspaper.

Preparing your profile for these things is quite a sobering experience. I lost count of how many profiles I read which started: ‘Oh I am useless at these things’ or ‘I’m not really sure what to write’. I was determined not to fall into that category.Why start with a negative? ‘I’m useless at this’ usually means ‘I can’t be arsed’ or ‘I have no social skills’ or ‘I just want sex’. I drafted my summary. And re-read it. I sounded a bit smug. I didn’t want to sound smug; I wanted to sound clever, but not stuffy or snotty. I threw it all in the bin. I tried again, this time lighter in tone and with a couple of one-liners here and there. Now I sounded like Chandler from Friends. Good grief.

And then I saw the light. I simply stopped ‘trying’. I just wrote whatever came into my head, tried to be clear yet still funny and, most of all, tried to sound attractive and that I’d be a good person to go on a date with. And now I had to write about who I was looking for, and choose from a series of options about physical attributes. OK well, hair colour was pretty easy. Eyes? Does anyone care about that? Er, height. Hmmm. How tall am I? How tall can I get away with? Ok, done. Age. Ah, age. A difficult one. I’m 34 but don’t *really* look it and I don’t think I’d really have anything to say to a 40-year-old that wasn’t a relative, and older gentlemen might want something a bit more serious than I was probably ready for. After careful thought, I set my upper limit to 37. And what about lower age limit? I decided it would be frankly ridiculous to say anything younger than 26, or I would feel like an old man, perhaps even one of those dirty ones my mother warned me about. After setting my preferences as if I were choosing a new puppy in a pet shop, I then moved onto the most difficult part: the photos.

I’m not particularly photogenic and I always seem to blink or pull a face at the wrong moment so candid photos of me are never a winner. About three hours later, I managed to find a deck of photos where I at least looked semi-normal, with a mixture of ‘moody’ (straight-faced) and ‘happy’ (straight-faced with slight twitch of eyebrow) and uploaded them.

I won’t say how it’s been going because this is not for public discussion but there have been some truly lovely guys who’ve been in touch. Sadly, the majority of the hopefuls who added me as a ‘favourite’ elicited many emotions other than elation, the primary ones being wide-eyed, hysterical laughter and the urge to throw myself under the 18.24 to Teddington.



  1. When I were a lad you went to a gay bar and maybe met someone there. Does that not happen now? There’s no side to that question – I’m genuinely curious, for I’m even longer out of the dating game than you are.


    • It happens, Paul, but I don’t think I’m going to meet the kind of guy I want to meet in a bar. Not now. Never say never, though.

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