Reading Attached was a revelation. For the first time in my adult life, I felt empowered and in control of my relationship choices. As a result, I reactivated my online dating profile, keen to practise the “screening out of avoidants” I learned from reading the book, and get cracking with finally finding myself a mister. I’ve never been sold on online dating mainly because I find it an unnatural way to meet anyone. You’re missing important cues about the person like body language, eye contact, verbal intonation, carriage and manner, dental hygiene, shoe choice and smell (yes, pheromones play an important part in all this!). However, given that I don’t readily meet a lot of eligible men these days, I was prepared to park my aversion in favour of a decent social experiment. Hell, I was even going to write a book about it. Unfortunately, this social experiment was not to be because I was thwarted at every turn. How anyone meets anyone online is beyond me, and here’s why:
The algorithms are shite
I am pretty specific about the sort of man I want to meet. He needs to have an active lifestyle, be fit and healthy and while a tertiary education isn’t necessary, he should be at least well-read and informed about the world. He should be interested in travel. He should err to the left of the politic spectrum. He should be gainfully employed, or semi-retired and be local, as in live within 50kms of me. I was after someone who was aged in his mid-40s to early 50s. I didn’t mind if he didn’t have a picture, because—for me anyway—what he said in his profile and ensuing conversation was more important.
Would it surprise you to learn that men who were clearly unsuitable ended up in my match list? Overweight, unfit, old men who could hardly write three words without an LOL. Men who lied about their location. Men who had scant detail in their profile. Smokers. Football nuts. Car freaks. Non readers. Weeding out the unsuitable suitors was a time-consuming exercise, and one that I quickly got quite sick of.
Being online at the same time was a lottery
If the stars aligned and I did find someone who I thought was at least a half decent match, managing to be online at the same time to actually chat was a miracle. I quickly became quite disillusioned because while I was keen to find out more about the men who “liked” me, it was difficult to organise.
I always introduced myself with a: Hi there… I’m Diane… looking forward to chatting to you soon… and then I’d have to wait for a response. Some got back to me almost straight away and introduced themselves, and then I never heard from them again. Some organised a time to “chat” and then didn’t bother showing up at the agreed time. Some said they only had ten minutes or half an hour or whatever. Sometimes they were clearly online, but made no effort to talk to me. Sometimes they were clearly talking to other women. The point is I found getting to know someone via “chatting” was difficult to nigh on impossible. And that’s if they could even hold a conversation…!
Men generally use pictures to screen out women
I know that men tend to be visual creatures, but I quickly got quite sick of men asking me for my picture before they even bothered to get to know me as a person. I had a picture of me finishing my last half marathon as my public picture and the rest were private. They would ask: Do you have a photo? in the first exchange. I would share and then be instantly deleted, or I would share and be told: Sorry. You’re not my type. Or I would have a conversation with someone, establish rapport, share my photos and I’d promptly be deleted. And I know for a fact I’m not an unattractive person!
In the end, if anyone asked for a picture straight away, I simply deleted them. No discussion. I also put a disclaimer front and centre on my profile saying that I wouldn’t share my pics unless someone bothered to get to know me first. Funny how many men still asked for pics. They were deleted with a: Read my profile.
I got sick of saying the same things to different people
I don’t mind small talk—it’s an excellent way to skirt around the edges of a conversation as you wait to find an “in”—but when I’m saying the same things to different people, it gets quite boring. Hi there. Do you have a name? What do you do for a crust? Have you been on this site long? Have you actually met anyone in real life? How many children do you have? Do you like dogs or cats or both? Or neither? Do you like travelling? Where have you been? How often do you exercise? Urgh.
Sometimes the conversation would take an interesting turn into: You are articulate and intelligent and interesting: why are you single? (usually directed at me) or: Tell me about your marriage… what happened? Are you on good terms with your ex? (directed at them). Rarely did the conversation stray into a books or TV or music or film or politics or a discussion about personal values. Not one man wanted to explore my writing and publishing and blogging, which I thought would be an interesting conversation topic. Not one.
Some men just want to be pen-pals
More than saying the same things to different people, I got quickly sick of all the chatting I was expected to do. I went into this experiment with a plan: establish a connection with someone by chatting for a week (not once in that week, but at least three or four times in that week!) while at the same time screening for a secure attachment style, and then take it offline with a date. I was but a foolish, naive girl. Not one man asked me for my email address or phone number.
Even when I thought there was a connection (one man called me a “kindred spirit”) and I offered my mobile number and email address, not one man took me up on my offer. A few men—when I asked them what their intentions about meeting were—said they “just wanted to chat”. This “just wanting to chat” thing was probably the most frustrating and disillusioning thing about the whole exercise. In two months, I met not one man in a face-to-face situation.
All in all, I had an online dating profile for two months. It’s a time-consuming, mentally exhausting process and I met absolutely no one in real life. When I started, I was actively “liking” men, but by the end of it I was only bothering with men who “liked” me. Last week, after giving it one more go with another couple of men and not getting anywhere, I deactivated my profile. Again. I envy all those people who say: I met my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner online, I really do. There must have been some serious planet alignment that day. Unfortunately, nothing aligned for me. Do I care? Not really. It would have been nice to find myself a mister, but I have gotten used to travelling solo. Maybe that’s what’s written in the stars for me: my destiny is to be a forever single crazy cat lady…
Then how about buying me a glass of wine — or even two! — for writing such an awesome essay?