Saturday, July 6, 2013

The cynics guide to Online Dating

My online dating profile pic? Cat, owl PJs and fish face. Irresistible
Last year Kel and I went to at a party where we got chatting to a lovely, recently married couple. They told us all about their wedding and honeymoon, the cute story of how they met and all their plans for the future to buy a home and settle down. When we ran out of stories about their love the new bride, by this time very drunk, turned the questions to us. Were we single? Oh no, really? Did we want her to set us up with anybody? She offered Kel a vet who sounded delightful, but lived in rural Victoria. The first date would have required her to take an hours flight and then drive for several more hours before they could even meet. When our cupid acknowledged logistics were an issue, she asked had we tried online dating then? Our hosts that night had actually met online and are indeed one of the loveliest couples I know. But no, neither of us had tried online dating. Well we should, our cupid exclaimed! It works and if she weren't in a loving, committed relationship she would have been at home right that second trying online dating.

Our hosts aren't the only people I know who have found love online. Some of my closest friends have met their partners through dating sites and are now in very happy, long term relationships with people perfectly suited for them. A recent study of relationships (albeit funded by eHarmony) showed that 35% of participants met their spouses via online dating. It makes sense that in our increasingly frantic lives we are turning to what have become our lifelines (our phones and computers) to also find a mate. I mean the internet helped me out that time I accidentally lash glued a cotton bud to the crotch of my Marcus Lupfer dress, so it probably could hold the answers to finding love.

However, I'm not actually looking for love. Sure it'll be great when I find it, but after 2 serious relationships back to back across two countries, I just need some me time. Many people, like the newlywed at the party, assume that at 29 I must be ready to settle down. Those that know me best would assure you I am definitely not. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy dating and meeting new people though, which leaves me in a grey area when it comes to the online world. It just feels like there are only two options- weird hookup sites and sites for people looking for love. So since I don't want a relationship and I don't want to have casual sex with randoms, it looks as though online isn't for me.

For my friends who are looking for someone, I'll be the first to encourage them to try online dating sites. Late last year I helped a close friend set up a profile we thought was just the right mix of successful, pretty and interesting. We were both hopeful about the prospect of her dating and meeting, if not the man of her dreams, some interesting people who could become friends. After a lot of evenings online, wine in hand (at least, I imagine she had a wine, I wasn't there all the time, but I certainly would have been drinking), she found that the dating pool might be bigger, but it didn't necessarily mean she had more options.

She wasn't the only friend to discover this. Another tried multiple dating sites, going on quite a few dates without success. On screen she would have so much in common with her date, but in person not even shared interests could replace the mysterious 'spark' she was searching for. Some were lovely people who she may have considered building a friendship with, but their sense of desperation to find love meant they didn't consider a platonic relationship an option. Some were even so far removed from their profile photos they were barely recognisable. Over coffee recently she told me that men online, as far as she could see, could be broken down into four categories. Now this girl is one of the nicest people I know, so the following descriptions are all me, but the general idea is hers.

The Wannabe Jock
Excited that online dating offers him another avenue to meet women for sex or casual relationships. Generally takes selfies in the mirror with thug or fish face, very often without his shirt. Thinks he's doing you a favour because he's paid a $33 joining fee so you can enjoy photos of his gun show. He's the guy at the gym who makes awkward eye contact with you in the mirror while doing lunges. Thinks jeans and a collared shirt is fashion forward. Simply riddled with STIs.

The guy who married young
In his late 20s or early 30s and recently divorced from his first love. He's potentially about as emotionally available as Juliet moments after she's woken up beside Romeo's dead body. The last first date he went on was to see The Blair Witch Project where he 'accidentally' touched her boob while 'comforting' her. You'll never be allowed to go to his place, because he's ashamed about his tiny television (the ex got the big one in the divorce). Has baggage, who may still call late at night to tell him she loves him/hates him.

The Friend
He's lovely and caring and wants to look after you. He wants to settle down, have a house and kids and a dog. He's friends with a lot of girls because he's just so nice. You REALLY want to go out with him because he's basically perfect, except for the fact a relationship with him would be as boring and safe as a pair of Homyped sandals. He's also about as sexual as a used napkin. Respects you too much to tie you up in the bedroom. Is more disappointed than angry when you come home drunk and has to clean up your sick. Just the right guy if you were 75 with a fake hip and on the decline.

The One
He's the one you've been looking for. You share the same values, sense of humour, interests. He's open to a commitment without being desperate. His screen name was something that made you chuckle and his profile picture was just a shot of a good guy with a warm smile, in a flattering shirt. You cringed when you saw he admitted to a secret love of Creed, but he made up for it by owning a dog (it's like online dating gold guys. Your profile picture might be you looking sad on a bus, but loving your pet can give you a full second of hesitation before she clicks 'back'). He likes to travel, is a shit handyman, but he can bake a loaf of bread. When you see him in person you think 'Yes, I would shag that man.'

I can't say my friend hadn't tried to find our fourth guy. Warm and genuine, her company can make anyone feel like they are the most special person in the room. But there's only so much disappointment even the nicest human being can take. Eventually she determined she had suffered enough awkwardness (we're talking semi stalking and and even horrific reptile like kissing) and abandoned her online search.

Certainly there are amazing people online, my friends are there after all, but it's not going to work for everyone. Given my scathing account of the guys above, you're probably asking yourself if I think I'd come off that great in an online profile. Probably not. We all know I'm pretty sarcastic in text. If I did manage to get a date, I imagine the paired back cool version of me he'd read about online would dissolve around the time I orderded my second martini. He also won't know I love Taylor Swift until I start throwing pop/country cross over shapes on the dance floor. I guess my theory is, if you approach me AFTER you've seen this, well shit, you're a keeper.

I'm not saying I'll never try meeting someone online, but for now I'm thinking I'll likely fall into the remaining 65% of people who meet their partner by other means. Knowing me, it'll probably be in a cab line at 2am while I'm eating a lamb shawarma with my heels tucked under my arm. 

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