Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Perils of Internet Dating...

Against my better judgement, after yet another long evening spent playing wallflower to two doe-eyed teenage daughters, snuggled up with their latest ‘hug-muffins’, I decided that my efforts of locating Mr Right down at The Dog and Duck were never going to get me anything more than a couple of hours of tedium in the dubious company of a paralytic moron with rather more mouth than trousers. So…. after being warned against it by well-meaning but happily married friends, I threw caution to the wind and joined an online dating website.

Well, to say it was ‘an education’ was an understatement! Who knew there’d be quite so much to learn about what to put on your profile – and what NOT to put? After several weeks of re-writing my biography in a vain attempt at putting off the ever-increasing amount of unsuitable responses I was acquiring on a daily basis, I’d finally got it down to a list of very specific ‘must haves’, or to be more precise,’ must not haves’. Must not have facial hair, must not be under 5 feet 10 inches tall, must not be over 30 years of age, must not smoke…..and so on. You’d be amazed at the sheer volume of apparently elderly, chain-smoking, bearded, dwarfs on internet dating sites!

I do wonder at just how desperate some men are, when they read on a ladies profile that her potential date should live no further than 30 miles away from a specific town, and yet, they still think that 300 miles away is ‘close enough’. And when someone has specifically stated that they wish to date a non-smoker, many blokes seem to assume that they are excluded from that request on the grounds that they are somehow too fabulous to reject on something as trivial as having a disgusting and smelly habit.

Then there’s the thorny issue of what photograph to upload. Any amount of exposed flesh below the chin area apparently gives the impression that you’re some sort of harlot. I like to believe that I am relatively broad minded, however, some of the messages that you receive from men on dating sites are so x-rated that you want to disinfect your computer screen after reading them. The most popular introduction seemed to be “Hello sexy, have you got a webcam?!” Erm…! I also don’t wish to know what you’d like to show me on YOUR webcam! Ewwww.

After deleting numerous begging messages from Nigerian lads wanting to be my new ‘best friend’ with a view to marriage – and presumably a British passport - and several unsolicited requests from various religious cults and swingers, I finally got chatting online to a few potential partners. And that’s where the real ‘fun’ begins.

With my personal safety always at the forefront of my plans, I chose to meet up with a chap in a pub in the centre of town, in full view of cctv cameras. I’d guessed that some men tell little white lies on their profiles, however, when I’d made it crystal clear that I wasn’t interested in dating any men under 5 feet 10 inches tall you can imagine my annoyance when my date turned up – all 5 feet 4 inches of him. The same height as me…..however, HE was the one wearing heels! I couldn’t help but comment, but his response of “I didn’t think it mattered” made me wonder how many more things on my “must not have” list he’d chosen to ignore. Within seconds he was lighting up a cigarette. Ah – so that’s another one. It was clear that there was never going to be a second date, especially after listening to him drone on for an hour about how to reupholster a leather sofa. He seemed oblivious to my yawns and the fact I was checking my watch every five minutes, and seemed genuinely shocked when I tactfully thanked him for the orange juice but informed him that I didn’t think that we were right for each other, and that I wished him every success with finding a ladyfriend.

A week later I’d set up another date, this time with a man who I’d insisted was a tall, non-smoker. I’d had some reservations regarding distance, but he’d assured me that the 50 miles he’d be travelling to see me was never going to be an issue for any potential relationship. Again, I’d ensured the meeting was taking place in public this time just outside a local park. He clearly hadn’t thought it through because he turned up and immediately presented me with a giant teddy bear, which I then had to lug around all afternoon, much to the amusement of onlookers, especially in a nearby museum where I’d hoped to seek sanctuary away from the general public. Unfortunately, his generosity was marred by the fact that it soon became apparent that he expected rather more from me in return for his gift than I was prepared to give him. I was, at times, quite glad to be able to place this huge stuffed toy between us. By the end of the afternoon he was trying to persuade me to allow him to give me a brand new computer! My own pc was on its last legs, but there was no way I was going to lower myself to that level, so I graciously declined and thankfully managed to extract myself from the situation before things got seriously out of hand.

It was a fortnight before I was prepared to meet up with another cyber date. He seemed very sweet online and I certainly hoped that he wasn’t going to be another weirdo. So, it was back to the park. He was punctual, which was a bonus, but again he was much shorter than I’d anticipated, but it was his first words which instantly sealed his fate. Not the actual words, but the voice. He spoke EXACTLY like Joe Pasquale! At first I thought he was just nervous or cracking a joke – but, no. That was the way he naturally speaks. I know I shouldn’t be so hideously shallow as to judge a man by the sound that comes out of his mouth, but I just couldn’t take him seriously. I tried very hard to focus on his positive attributes as I escorted him around the nearby museum, where the staff tactfully ignored the fact that I was plainly road-testing men, as I wandered around the tall glass cabinets and huge oil paintings for the second time that month. My companion was a bit of a hippy, quite spiritual without being religious, which I found quite endearing. Unfortunately, even without the squeaky vocals, we just didn’t seem to connect, so after a pleasant and thankfully uneventful afternoon we agreed to go our separate ways.

The next date was another long-distance effort. He’d practically begged me to meet him, then tried to back out of it by saying he had no clean clothes to wear! I replied saying that I wasn’t thinking of going anywhere posh with him, so if he genuinely wanted to see me then his clothing didn’t matter. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. My very lanky, long haired date (think of Neil from The Young Ones) climbed out of his ford fiesta in the long-stay car park wearing hugely stained and torn jeans, with a brown Starsky and Hutch wrap around cardigan, so full of holes that looked like it’d been crocheted by his nan. Trying to wipe the horrified look off my face, as he’d driven about 90 miles just to meet me, I quickly ushered him into the darkest pub I could find - one where I’d never been to before and where none of my friends were known to drink. I’d assumed that as he had very long hair he’d be into loud music, but I was wrong. After five minutes he started complaining about the juke box giving him a headache, and so it was onto Plan B - a pub that I rarely visit. It was en route to the second watering hole that he decided to be all brave and ask me for a kiss. I assumed he meant a peck and as there was nobody about I nodded cautiously.

I’d completely misjudged the situation, and before I knew it his mouth was on mine and about a gallon of his saliva was dripping down my chin. Lucky he had that big woolly cardigan for me to wipe my face on. As I pulled myself away from him he became all emotional, thanking me for agreeing to meet him as it was his birthday the next day (by this time just two hours away) and he’d had a recent family bereavement and had been deeply depressed until now. At this point I was checking the shrubbery for signs of Jeremy Beadle. As we arrived at the second pub it was clear he was going to hate it. I could hear the music from several yards away; however I hadn’t got a Plan C, so in we went. It was a challenging evening. I was trying to cheer him up while at the same time trying to avoid leading him on. I felt obliged to keep up the charade until after midnight so that I could wish him Happy Birthday before sending him back home 90 miles away. As we parted in the car park he attempted to snog me. Luckily I managed to avoid drowning in saliva and only got slightly wet. I cited unrealistic distance for my main reason for believing the relationship could never work out.

My sanity was slowly ebbing away, so it was a month before I managed to motivate myself to meet up with the next idiot. Unmistakably, substantially older than he’d been when his profile picture had been taken, he admitted that it was a good 20 years ago when he’d faced the camera for that particular shot. My “must be under 30 years old” had been deliberately misinterpreted as “must be under 30 years old when the photograph was taken”. He then spent 3 long hours ranting and raving about how his ex wife wouldn’t allow him as much access to his children as he’d like. This seemed irrelevant considering his children were by now all grown up with children of their own. I didn’t stick around long enough to discover whether he felt that he had enough access to his grandkids.

I’d almost completely given up on internet dating, and was considering deleting my account and joining a convent, when I received a message from a guy who I’d first chatted to online the previous year. He’d been off the dating circuit for several months as he’d been in a relationship, however, that was now all done and dusted and he was back on the website searching for his Miss Right. He was a musician, but wasn’t interested in dating the groupies at gigs, so was using the internet to look for a proper girlfriend. He ticked all the right boxes, non-smoker, five feet 10 inches tall, clean shaven, not drawing his pension, lived locally, so after chatting online for a couple of weeks we arranged to meet up at a nearby pub. I admit to having my fingers firmly crossed as I left home, unsure of just how many more times I could muster the strength to kiss yet another frog in the seemingly endless quest for my prince.

That relationship actually lasted 7 and a half years before it finally fizzled out, so there is hope for something 'long term' rather than endless one-offs. Yes, internet dating is fraught with potential dangers, and is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but with sensible precautions in place, and an open minded approach, the world wide web can offer you an awful lot more than just Facebook and Ebay. 


  1. Dangit! Three years too late! You sound gorgeous! Glad you found Mister Right after all though!

    I love what you write - especially your reminiscences of youthful life in Suffolk. You are an accomplished wordsmith - a very skilled author - and it's interesting that we trod similar paths in our Suffolk schooling, too.

    Can definitely relate to the Squeaky Voice Syndrome of your "Joe. Pasquale", lover-to-be #4.

    It was only after weeks of rehearsing in the mirror did I finally plucked up the courage to ask a dishy young woman out for a date.

    But before it had even started, the romance was shot in the foot.. My normally deep voice (years of heavy smoking as a SUS schoolboy, y'understand) suddenly evaporated. And as I delivered my chat-up line, the words came out like a cat miaowing! You only get one chance and I blew it! It was 20 years ago, but the pain feels like yesterday!

    Your memories of ER Holloway are especially interesting. It was such a big concern for a rural community. Horrible place, really. Very poor conditions for the staff, too. There was a death in the factory in the earlier years of its operation. A girl caught her hair in a machine and was fatally injured.

    Only last month, the planning authority agreed finally that the Station land formerly occupied by Holloway's, and more recently used by Armorex, a flooring company, can be re-developed for housing. And to their credit, the planners drove a hard bargain with the developers by insisting on affordable housing and a generous Section 106 Agreement for the local community.

    Any way, love what you write, Karen, so keep up the good work :-)

    1. Thank you for all your kind comments :)
      I didn't know about the industrial accident :(
      Hopefully something good will come from the sale of the land :)