‘Good luck tonight,’ twinkled the text message from a well-meaning friend. ‘Fingers crossed he doesn’t kill you!’
Welcome to 21st century dating.
Although online hubs for amor like Match.com and Tinder have gifted us with potential for romance like never before, I long for the days when I didn’t feel the need for first dates to happen in a busy, public space – where people can hear you scream.
Not that I’ve ever felt remotely at risk during any of my online dating escapades. But it’s always at the back of your mind. Will the polite and friendly sounding 35-year-old called Dave actually turn out to be a sex criminal? Could what looks like a handsome young man actually be a 73-year-old bingo enthusiast named Mildred?
‘I just assume any girl I’m talking to is actually a plumber called Steve…then I’m pleasantly surprised if that’s not the case’, one of the guys I was chatting to told me. For a lot of people, online courtship seems to involve significantly lowering expectations – so does this mean everyone floating in dating cyberspace is totally desperate, and possibly horribly jaded and bitter too? Bios starting with ‘Giving Tinder one last chance’ and ‘Let’s just match up and not talk to each other, yeah?’ point in that direction. But I’m optimistic that not everyone seeking to cure their loneliness online is at their wits end – maybe they’re just on the wrong platform.
My experience of the less serious sites and apps like Tinder, OK Cupid, Bumble etc has been less than savoury.
I was invited out for a drink at a local pub with a friendly enough looking guy…and his girlfriend. I dated a man who actively pursued me, texted me everyday only to freak out over ex-girlfriend issues and disappear off the face of the earth. Then after despairing over men who use lol, rofl and lmao in a non ironic context along came someone who used proper paragraphs and words like ‘hyperbole’. At last! A kindred spirit in grammar! Turned out he only wanted to chat, meeting up in real life was just far too much…reality. Finally there was the man I excitedly messaged for almost a month while rapidly reaching the conclusion he was in fact The One, this was It, finally…love! Only to meet up and discover he had the sex appeal of a moth. I’ve been proposed to, written off after one date, greeted with opening lines like ‘how would you describe your bum?’ and borderline harassed for my phone number after just a few minutes of messaging.
Do my unfortunate experiences reflect an online pool of 100% emotionally retarded/sexually deviant/socially inept men? I doubt it. Free sites and apps can be downloaded at the click of a mouse/swipe of a smartphone – they cost nothing in terms of financial or cognitive investment and therein lies the problem. You don’t have to be serious about dating to use them – just to have a vague inclination towards some attempt at romantic human connection and desire to see what all the online fuss is about, which could stem from loneliness, curiosity, the need to get over a recent breakup or just plain old fashioned boredom. The fact that Tinder was originally developed as a game rather than specifically a dating app speaks volumes really.
So it seems I really only have myself to blame for my conveyor belt of undateables. Free dating sites are a playground for the undecided, emotionally delicate and attention-seeking brand of partner. And I can lump myself into that bracket too as coming off the back of years of chronic illness it’s taken a long time to be ready to truly welcome the idea of being with someone again. But ready is what I am, and if I’m going to embrace the online quest for love it’s time to cough up some pennies and sign up to something a bit more serious. Watch this space.