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Monday, 3 December 2012

#8 - Expecting the expected...

And so it begins...
After yet another disastrous date with an unsuitable man (see #7 - Making and exception that leads to a date with a sex pest...) I was beginning to wonder if online dating was going to work out for me. I had persevered through bad dates, boring dates, dates that didn't happen, dates that my date didn't turn up for and dates that, though perfectly acceptable ways to spend an evening, did nothing to my lustbox to indicate that I would want to spend another four hours of coffee and cake with them. I was running out of enthusiasm for the whole dating shebang, and so decided that, after completion of my already arranged dates for the month, I would take a well deserved rest from the London dating scene (and start cruising animal shelters for particularly large, evil looking cats).

I had two dates arranged for the following week: one with a man who was taking me salsa dancing, and one with a man who was taking me to Trafalgar Square to play twister. Both dates had made first contact with me on okcupid, and were almost polar opposites in terms of personality, looks and background. Both date nights were suitably interesting and different to maintain my interest, and I was looking forward to the chance to finally play twister on a London landmark (after being cruelly disappointed when the man who offered to play twister on the underground with me never called). I was also impressed by the offer of a salsa dance lesson, as after two years of swing dancing classes I had failed to meet even one single eligible man who was taller than me. Overall the week looked fairly promising, even if the men themselves turned out to be as disappointing as previous fare (see #6 - discovering how unsatisfactory being shallow can be....)

Salsa dancer was a french engineering student on the verge of completing his Masters at London Imperial, with a penchant for asian food, cheese, chocolate and dancing. His profile also told me that he spoke French and English fluently, and was learning Mandarin with considerable enthusiasm. I could tell from first glance that he wasn't really my type, in both looks and personality. Although very attractive in all his pictures, and certainly more than a match for me intellectually (I suspected he was in fact much more intelligent than me, a slight problem for someone who plays scrabble as an extreme sport) I couldn't work out why he had contacted me? It was obvious to me that we were not very well suited, but I figured we should at least try a date before I wrote him off as yet another failure to communicate.

Twister man on the other hand was a winner from the word go - he had a creative background, and a lovely smiling bearded face. He was a little taller than me, and his profile was full to the brim with acerbic wit and snappy one liners that sold him to me from first contact. When we exchanged messages there was sparkle with every reply, and I was thoroughly excited about going on a date with him, to the point where I was considering cancelling with my date with the french man, as it was starting to look like a fruitless activity.

My manners got the better of me in the end, and I turned up to meet l'homme francais the following week outside Bar Salsa, which is less than a minutes walk from my flat (thus ensuring I wouldn't have far to walk if I wanted to bail on the date). When he turned up I was initially a little surprised at how quiet he was - from his clothing to his conversation he was very reserved, and in the 20 minutes we spent chatting before our dance class I got the impression he found me very unimpressive, boring even. When we took to the dance floor to begin I was grateful to get the chance to dance with other people for a while, as they all seemed slightly more pleased to talk to me than my date!

After being passed around the dance floor in the circle I finally made it back to my date, who seemed a lot friendlier than 20 minutes previously (possibly because he had spent 20 minutes dancing with all the other women in the room?) This rather unfair thought aside, he also seemed a lot more relaxed, and by the time we finished the dance class and were dancing by ourselves I was starting to enjoy the date. I discovered that although his English was very good, we didn't quite understand each other all the time, especially when trying to talk over the salsa music blaring out all around us. I began to appreciate how difficult it must be for him to talk to someone if he has to concentrate hard just to work out what they're saying, but I had a solution... 

We ordered a couple of cocktails (the caiprinha is one of my favourites, as it is almost impossible to fuck up...and when in Brazil...) and settled on a table to continue to attempt to get to know each other. Then it hit me, like a ton of cachaca flavoured bricks. The man in front of me was, in fact, really rather sexy. A very good dancer and extremely confident after a drink, he took me for a spontaneous spin by the bar, nearly sending me flying as I attempted to keep up with him (something I would struggle to do even with sober feet). By this point I was breaking the rule I had set myself about not getting drunk on dates, lest I lose my powers of reasoned judgement, but I was having a really good time! It was a very good date so far (one I suspect he had used on previous occasions to ensure success) and despite my initial presumptions that we would have nothing in common, and that I would not find him attractive, I found him utterly charming, from his accent, to his dancing, to his excellent kissing technique (ok, so it was an extremely good date!) When he asked if he could see my roof terrace, I found myself agreeing instinctively as I chatted about how I found the flat, and the girls I lived with, and how we were just going to see the roof terrace - nothing more - ok buddy?

When I woke up the next morning, I was initially a little concerned that upon our return to sobriety he would resume his reluctance to answer questions with full sentences. Thankfully, this was not the case. I have often argued that sex is an excellent ice breaker for the more shy and/or anxious among us (I do not include myself in this description...I'm more of an ice-breaking facilitator...) and this certainly seemed to be true of my french man. We went for a late breakfast at the coffee shop next to my flat, where I demonstrated my knowledge of the overpriced coffee machine making our drink (it's beautiful, but I have it on good authority that they are a bugger to repair) and he made himself look even more gorgeous by ordering a hot chocolate and a muffin for breakfast, while I drank my black coffee and stealthily ate the banana I had secreted in my handbag.

As he walked me to work he seemed a little uncomfortable - we were arranging to meet up later that week (YES!! Second date!! I knew sex would work eventually!) when he stopped and told me in a most matter-of-fact way that he was leaving the country in two months, and couldn't get into anything serious. I blanked for a moment, as I had not considered him to be long term dating material up until that point anyway. I told him I too was not interested in anything serious at that point, and we should just see how it goes...no pressure. He brightened up considerably, and as we said goodbye I felt for the first time in a very long time, that I met someone worth knowing.

I cancelled the second date.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

#7 - Making an exception that leads to a date with a sex pest...

It may come as a surprise to some of you to discover that, despite a deep rooted appreciation of really really ridiculously good looking men, I have a fairly straightforward selection criteria for potential dates. I've shared the criteria many times with anybody bored enough to ask me about it, as I feel it's important to show that despite being terribly shallow, I'm also fairly realistic (and increasingly concerned about the prospect of getting a cat to keep me company).
An artist's impression of my love life

Up until a few weeks months ago my deal breakers for dating were the following:

1. Taller than me
2. Own teeth1

I've always felt that my criteria is both practical and inoffensive to the majority of men (and should the situation ever become really dire, women too). Moreover, it gives me a lot of raw material to work with. After several years of experimentation, including the discovery that I definitely need to run out of men with teeth before I go gay, I settled on these two specific but broad criterion in order to give myself a fighting chance of being in another serious relationship before gravity finally takes over the more entertaining parts of my body. To say I have been unlucky in love is somewhat of an understatement2, and so as I've grown older I've tried to keep an open mind about who my potential future partner could be. This does of course occasionally mean I spend too long eyeing up men on the tube wondering whether their charming woolly hat is hiding male pattern baldness, but that's my particular brand of crazy. At least I don't have a cat. Yet.

1 I don't bother specifying where they keep their teeth; as long as they know where they are I'm happy
2 see #9 - Flogging a dead cheval...

I get sent a lot of random messages on okcupid, some of which make me laugh out loud and reply immediately (these messages make up for the ones that make me feel sad to be part of the human race). I always look forward to receiving messages, as it's a nice confirmation that the profile I took great pains to make as enticing as possible is working. However, my favourite messages to receive are those asking me if I would like to go on a date. Because after my disastrous encounters with people I only liked until I saw them close up, I tried to get the awkward first meeting over before I had time to discover their interesting or otherwise personality and subsequently feel shallow for not wanting to shag them, despite their excellent culinary skills, or knowledge of Australasian bugs3. A lot of the guys I have exchanged messages with have been of the all talk-no trousers variety4, but occasionally a genuine offer comes up.

3 I dated an Entomologist once
4 I'm still waiting for Possibly Dave5 to take me to play twister in Trafalgar Square
So maybe I'm not exactly committed to the twister either...

I received a message asking me, very bluntly, whether or not I would like to go for a date with him, citing his knowledge of good pubs and anecdotes as reason to accept. I had nothing else going on that week so I said yes, and we arranged our date for the following week. I wasn't too excited about the prospect, as after checking out his profile I discovered that he was in fact a little bit shorter than me (strike one) and we didn't have a huge amount in common. Imagine then my pleasant surprise when, upon meeting him face to face I discovered he was actually quite attractive, with a very good sense of humour (including the promised anecdotes of some dates almost bad enough to make it onto this blog) and a chilled out attitude towards online dating6 that further supported the burgeoning thought in my head that maybe it was worth ignoring the fact that his hands are smaller than mine (as I suspect are his feet) and consider making an exception to my height rule, just this once. After all, he definitely had most of his teeth. And in his mouth too.

6 see # 4 - Trusting the profile picture...

We parted on a coy cheek kiss, with tentative plans to maybe arrange to see each other again. I was fairly pleased with the date overall, and very proud of myself for not being a shallow minx who rejects men out of hand for being vertically challenged. I sent him a text message the following day thanking him for a great date, and suggesting we meet up again. I then waited patiently for a reply for the next two days, whilst maintaining a calm and controlled attitude and telling myself that I didn't care either way if he replied or not. After all, he did have very small hands.

After two days of silence I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I has unrealistic expectations of the date - it wouldn't be the first time I had misinterpreted polite conversation for genuine interest in the contents of my underwear. I was visiting friends in Brighton for the weekend, and hadn't given the matter too much thought when on the Sunday, three days after our date, I finally received a reply. Up until this point I had envisaged two possible scenarios arising from a reply message:

a) he asks me out on another date, where he explains a hilarious comedy of errors that led him to ignore my message for two days, such as falling off his bike into an open manhole
b) he politely rejects my advances, citing my abnormally large hands and feet, and an aversion to women taller than him

Neither of these happened.

I was browsing a small jewellery shop at the time when my phone went off. I retrieved it from my bag as I examined a rather lovely necklace with an rather offensive price tag. I opened the message, and froze. The message outlined, in a very straight-forward, impossible to misinterpret way, that the man in question had no particular desire to go on a date with me, but would very much like to have angry, meaningless sex with me, then show his appreciation upon my bosom. 

I did not speak for nearly five minutes. I have always considered myself to be a very outgoing, open minded gal, with an adventurous attitude towards dating, sex and other extreme pursuits. Unfortunately for the gentleman in question, these qualities somehow eluded me that day. I attempted to compose a reply several times, but felt that somehow a polite 'no thank you' would not suffice. Moreover, I was very annoyed that he deemed it acceptable to send me such a crass, unimaginative message. In the quest for answers (and to give the poor man a fair trial) I showed the message to several friends, male and female. Most of the women were as baffled as I was, which rather nicely balanced out all the men who read it, chuckled and said 'lad', as if this was reason enough. One friend said he thought it was probably a genuine offer of free sex, made in the hope that I would find him charming in a vulgar sort of way. 

In case anyone is still wondering, I did not find him charming in a vulgar sort of way. I thought he was a prick. Which is why I re-saved his telephone number as 'Sex Pest' and made a concerted effort to believe that his height and freakishly small hands are not directly related to his sex pest behaviour. Because I know deep down that, despite my very short list of criteria, and my attempts to be less shallow, I keep looking for the same type of man to date, and therefore keep dating men who are not actually that nice. My friends have long despaired of my terrible man choices, and after the most recent cock-up I had to face the facts - I need some new criteria. Maybe I would benefit from being a little more choosy, or from simply thinking outside the lustbox a bit more?

I decided it was time for a change, and arranged a date with someone completely different from my usual fare. He seemed fairly normal and non-descript on his okcupid profile, and is a little younger and more French than I normally go for, but I was intrigued by his bold assertion that his favourite foods were chocolate and cheese...7

7 I've dated a few lactose intolerants too...well, it's a start...

Watch this space...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

#6.5 - A brief reprieve...

Hey Fanny!

Yes you!!

Guess what?

Your blog has had over 1000 hits!!

That's an interesting face you're making...with you mouth...


I said sorry!

Come back!!

 Unless, y'know, while you're down there...


That's very nice.

You're welcome Fanny.

 That's a bit much. We're not in a Richard Curtis film.

 Much better.

Thank you everyone!!


Monday, 1 October 2012

#6 - discovering how unsatisfactory being shallow can be...

I've been getting a lot of abuse recently from friends who are unsatisfied with the amount I have written on my blog in recent weeks. I was delighted to discover that they don't think I am writing enough, instead of wishing I would stop clogging their news feed with tales of my lack-lustre love life! A lot of my friends are in long term relationships, or married, or avec enfants, and have admitted enjoying living vicariously through my increasingly tragic attempts to form a lasting connection with another human being (other than my mother).

I've been a little preoccupied in recent weeks (see #8 - a French romance...) but have finally gotten around to recounting yet more wisdom acquired via the medium of online dating. So far I have taken great lengths to select only the most amusing and hilarious stories for this blog, to ensure I gain a small but dedicated following and maintain my current 8 hits per day. However, these stories alone are not a true reflection of my overall experience of online dating, and in sharing these stores I am doing some people a great disservice. I refer of course to all the men I have been on dates with who, for whatever reason, did not make a good/terrible first impression (as both work well as a springboard for comedy blogging).

My ideal man...
In the months leading up to my current period of inactivity I went on a lot of fairly nice, fairly ordinary dates, none of which made a particularly good impression on me. At the time I was frustrated by the complete lack of interesting people to pursue, or horrendous people to write about - why did they all have to be so....nice?! I've spent many years writing for shows, or for blogs, or simply for my own amusement, and have rarely (ok, never) felt even the slightest urge to tell anyone about the perfectly ordinary nice men I met for coffee/dinner/roller skating once but didn't feel a 'spark'* with. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is, deep down, I am quite shallow. My friends have long despaired of my taste in male companions, failing completely to understand why I am so driven by physical attraction. My best friend refers to some of my particularly spectacular conquests as California boys. I initially objected until she reminded me of the man whose abs are imprinted on my memory, but whose name I can't remember, and so refer to as Hercules...she may have a point...

*bugger the spark! see #3 - Buying my own drinks...

I am now approaching my 6 month online dating anniversary (we're very happy together, I'm so lucky I found the internet etc...) and thought it was about time I reflected on some of the men who, for want of a better (nicer) phrase, didn't make the cut. Because if I'm completely honest with myself, I could have been a bit friendlier to some of the guys who sent me messages, not to mention the men who took me out on nice first dates, only for me to forget to ever call them back. I make an effort from time to time to reply to people even if I have no interest in them romantically, especially if they have sent a particularly nice or thoughtful opening message. This is in theory a good thing, as it allows you to exchange pleasantries and form an idea of someones personality if their opening message though perfectly nice, didn't exactly ignite the lustbox

Unfortunately, the practical implementation of courtesy messaging often falls flat on it's arse. One of the first messages I sent after joining OkCupid was to a man whose profile made me laugh out loud so much that I had to message him and tell him so. We exchanged messages for a few days before he suggested we meet, which I was happy to do, as he turned out to be every bit as witty, charming and nice as his profile suggested. I had looked through his picture album and knew that I wasn't particularly attracted to him, but was confident that his personality was sufficiently fantastic that once we met it wouldn't matter very much at all. Unfortunately our schedules clashed for a couple of weeks, and so we continued to exchange messages for nearly a month before finally settling on a date to meet up for the first time. In was very excited before the date - of all the men I had been on dates with up until that point he was by far the most interesting and fun person to message, and I hoped that when we met we would get on as well as we did in our messages.

As with the best laid plans, things did not run entirely to plan. We spent a very nice evening drinking and chatting in a pub whilst listening to live music, followed by a wander to my favourite ice cream shop for balsamic vinegar gelato, He made me laugh a lot, and he appeared to be having a very nice time with me. I had a very nice time with him, which was all the more difficult considering I knew the second I laid eyes on him that I was not remotely attracted to him, and would not be engaging in any romantic activity with him. Ever. I felt horrendous - was I really that shallow? I've been on dates before where I haven't been that enamoured with a person, either because of their appearance or their personality, but the added pressure of liking this man's messages so much before meeting made the night all the more difficult. I really wanted to fancy him. I even had a couple of drinks to calm my nerves a little (and look at him from a slightly less judgemental angle) but it simply wasn't to be. I could not find him attractive, an as a result could not consider another date with him.

The repercussions of this date were far reaching. Firstly I realised that I didn't know how to tell him I wasn't interested. I spent nearly two weeks replying to a couple of his messages before finally ignoring the last thing he said to me. He obviously took the hint, and was kind enough not to send me a shitty message, which I expected and thoroughly deserved. How dare I treat someone like that? It was downright rude (my Father would have been ashamed!) and I should not have gotten off so lightly.

How did I get off so lightly, I hear you ask? Because this is the nature of online dating. Five years ago I had a pay-as-you-go mobile phone with less that 30 contacts. I met people by belonging to clubs and societies at university (or by getting very drunk at a bar and waking up with a random phone number scrawled on my arm in eyeliner...). This was the beginning and end of my social networking, and I had to make an effort to stay in tough with my 30 (and some of them didn't like me very much)  friends, in case they found someone more reliable, interesting or fun. Today I have two different facebook accounts, twitter, linkedin, a smartphone, various email accounts and a plethora of 'friends' across a plethora of different social mediums, all of which serve to make me feel like I am not alone. Because there is always someone available to chat, or 'like' my thoughts, or share my stories/pictures/blog (thanks guys), I have been lulled into thinking that I can ignore a person's message to me, because there are literally hundreds of other people out there to fall back on if they decided that my behaviour indicates that I am, to put it bluntly, an asshole.

Clearly something has gone wrong here. I would never ignore someone asking me a question to my face , so why on earth do I think it's acceptable to do so over the internet? I decided to put a stop to it right away. If someone thinks I'm worth sending a message to, then dash it all, I'm going to send one back. It's a question of good manners, after all...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

#5 - Being a considerate....

Recently I was having lunch with two friends - a couple - who live in my home town, and are fans of my blog and associated antics. After the customary catch up chat about life, jobs, pets etc, we moved onto our favourite subject - men. Luckily A, the man shaped half of the partnership, is a fantastic gossip when required, and they wasted no time in sharing a story of their recent woes in their new house share. After separately inviting friends to stay for a few days the couple in question were surprised to find the friends getting...friendly in the spare room. Often. Loudly. For extended periods of time.

"And it's not like a I'm a prude Fanny" said G, the female of the couple, "but the thing is, when we have sex, we make sure other people don't have to listen to us doing it. Because we're considerate fuckers."

I choked on my chocolate cake. Considerate Fucking? What a wonderful concept! Since my teenage years I have been acutely aware of the problems associated with other people knowing your business, sex wise. At the age of 14 my older brother caught me kissing a boy who was slowly but determinedly trying to unhook my bra. I don't know what my brother said to him but I never saw him again. From that day forward I learnt to keep certain bits of information, and ALL men I was remotely interested in, away from him, lest he scare them away!

It's not just interfering siblings/parents/cinema ushers* you have to watch out for either - the general rule of thumb for any kind of sexy time is for as few people as possible to be aware that you are in fact doing it. I learnt many valuable** things at University, but one of the first really useful lessons was in the art of having sex really really quietly, because the walls in your hall of residence building might as well be made of cereal boxes, for all the sound proofing they achieve. I'm not sure I ever really got the hang of quiet sex, but after a few months my boyfriend and I had put together a fairly basic but nonetheless effective sex timetable, to limit the amount of time we spent having sex near other people. This involved finding some truly impressive sites to conduct carnal pursuits, including the back seats of his car, the front seats of his car, the breakfast bar in his kitchen (during the holidays - we weren't quite that brave) his Student Union office (a particularly proud moment for both of us) and finally, our own flat, that we did not share with other people.

*I don't see what all the fuss was about - it's not like we were missing a good movie...
**For instance, I know that Exmouth Town Centre has the highest people:pub ratio in the UK.

Clearly, the best place to have sex is somewhere where no one else is likely to hear you, walk in on you, shamelessly watch you through an open window (otherwise known as my neighbour - I've nicknamed him Merv the Perv) or otherwise prevent you from being a truly considerate fucker. There are exceptions to every rule though, and sometimes you just have to make do with what's available. Recently I was out with some friends after a gig when I got chatting to a couple of chaps who were asking me about my act (they, like so many before, were wondering where I hid the riding crop). After a while my friends came over to let me know they were heading home, and was I coming with them? Under normal circumstances I would have left with them, but as one of my girlfriends wanted to stay too I decided to stay out a bit longer and have a dance with the man who had been chatting me up for the past hour while his friend butted in every few minutes to let me know that, despite his protestations to the contrary, said friend was definitely gay. I ignored this lack of developed sense of humour and had a nice dance (and a nice kiss) with the possibly gay man. When we finally got kicked out at closing time the boys suggested we go for drinks somewhere else, as they had missed their last train anyway so would be getting a taxi home regardless. We agreed, and went in search of a humble tavern to have a nightcap before retiring home. I should mention that I had three friends staying in my room that night - this will become important later. 

Our search did not go well - every bar we found was either closed or about to close. We didn't let this get us down though, and instead enjoyed chatting to a lovely homeless man, took a ride in a rickshaw* and finally wound up standing outside a Travelodge, debating the pros and cons of paying for a room, rather than an expensive taxi home. They tried to invite themselves back to my flat, where I had just enough sense and sobriety left to point out that they would be sharing my bed with at least three other people (and I firmly believe that sex is not a spectator sport). So after some sound and logical thinking, and an in-depth discussion of options ("Shall we then? "Yeah, why not?") the boys got their wallet out and paid for a room, before inviting me and my friend in with them to share a bottle of wine. We agreed ("how civilised!", we said) and settled into the charming 'standard double' room with the boys, and started on our wine (in handy plastic glasses - Travelodge know how to throw a good party).

*I can state with absolute certainty that no one should ever attempt to have sex on a rickshaw.

By this point, my friend and her chosen gentleman had made it clear that they were planning on putting the bed to good use. This was not an ideal situation (mostly because I was kicking myself for not shotgunning the bed). I have been in this position once before, and my refusal to pull a Gavin and Stacey resulted in me never getting to shag a man with a bona fide superhero name. 

Never Again. 

We looked at each other, nodded, and proceeded to the bathroom...

I didn't hear from him again. I think this is for the best. No matter how attractive interesting or lovely he was, he would always be the man I shagged in a Travelodge bathroom. However, I did take with me the knowledge that, for one night at least, I was a considerate fucker!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

#4 - Trusting the profile picture...

A worryingly accurate portrait of my writing desk...
I think I may be getting fat. It’s no big surprise: I’ve eaten 14 Gu desserts in as many days this month, and have only made use of my brand new Gym membership twice since paying an admittedly reduced rate for access to London’s 14th best swimming pool and assorted yoga activities (when presented with standard membership fees I started laughing hysterically and screeching “Goodbye sex life, hello Muumuu!!” until they relented and gave me a discount) I don’t particularly mind being a little tubbier than normal, as all my shoes still fit, but I did wonder if anyone else had noticed? I can normally rely on my female friends to be honest with me about my appearance (one friend in particular is always the first to hand out helpful comments like 'why are you wearing that? You look like a Japanese child bride' and this is why I rarely wear knee high socks anymore) and have often had an impromptu moment of nudity with them to find out if they think I've put gained/lost weight (which I'm certain they enjoy more than they let on). Current polls suggest I look fine, and if anything have lost a bit of weight since I left my horrible job that crushed my spirit and encouraged me to eat excessive amounts of cake. So possibly I am getting a little fat, but I'm not there yet, and can continue to eat Gu desserts for at least another week worry-free.

The point of this discussion? I am both aware of, and happy with, my weight, size, shape, appearance and arse. Because of this, I am also happy to use current pictures of my face etc on my online dating profile, safe in the knowledge that when someone meets me face-to-face they will a) recognise me, and b) not feel that they have been lured on a date under false pretenses. Because as much as I would like to say that personality is the most important factor in finding a lasting and fulfilling relationship, in doing so I would become a big fat liar. As I have previously implied, my romantic pursuits are almost always driven by my lustbox, which pays almost no attention to a man's outdoor pursuits, volunteering awards, snazzy waistcoats or ability to make a mean spaghetti bolognese. After years of research into the subject - and research is essential for any woman seeking a relationship to know what they like, dislike etc, so they don't end up dating a man who has no particular appeal to them outside of his ability to put up shelves - I can tell within about 30 seconds of meeting a man whether or not I want to shag him (should the opportunity present itself of course. I don't just pin them down declaring 'I must have you now!' That would be most impolite.)

This is where online dating has been particularly hazardous for me, as I discovered early on that a profile picture is not a very good indication of what a man looks like up close, and even less whether or not I would ever want to see him naked (the obvious exception being the men who post pictures of themselves in just their ever-so-tight Calvins - thank you Uniform Dating) One of the first dates I endured* was with a man who found me on mysinglefriend and sent me a very nice opening message that led to exchanging a few messages, and then mobile numbers, text messages and even a couple of conversations. I discovered he was a menswear designer for a fairly well known company, had been single for a few years, lived in a very nice area of South London and enjoyed cycling, art galleries and good restaurants. All of which was very nice, of course, but secondary to the fact that he was tall, blonde and gorgeous. I knew this because his online dating profile featured a lovely picture of him gazing shyly into a camera, showing his big blue eyes and strong jawline, and in his details section informed me that he was 6'4" with an 'athletic' body type. My lustbox went 'kerching'.

*dating had progressed from 'stealth and extraction' to 'extreme pursuits'

It took us a while to arrange a date, as we both had fairly busy schedules, and I wanted to meet during the day to avoid the emerging pattern of heavy drinking that had begun to overshadow all my dating adventures. In the end we settled on a Sunday lunch in Richmond, around a month after first contact, coinciding with me having to either renew or cancel my subscription to mysinglefriend. I was very excited about this one - the shallow woman residing in me was very caught up in the idea of an older, successful and good looking man, and as much as I attempted not to get my hopes up I was really hopeful that it would be a good first date, that would ideally lead to a second (have you noticed that I haven't mentioned any second dates yet...) I selected an outfit very carefully, as I expected Menswear to be very well dressed and stylish, and even wore heels safe in the knowledge that he would still tower over me. I looked very good, and felt certain that I would make an excellent first impression. It was the dating equivalent of prepping for a job interview with NASA. 

Except it wasn't. As I waited outside the station for Menswear I scanned the crowd looking for the gorgeous man who I had invested so much time and energy into (let alone the train ticket and new outfit - yes, I did that. I'm not ashamed) when I spotted a man who looked vaguely familiar. I realised almost instantly that this was the man I was waiting for, only with deliberate mistakes. Although certainly tall, his face was less chiselled than I remembered and he looked a little bloated, making me wonder initially if he was hungover. He also did not appear to be at all athletic, and his denim shirt looked almost uncomfortably tight, showing that he had a bit of a beer belly. These thoughts and many more ran through my head as we started walking to the pub for our lunch, and I could sense myself being less than involved in the conversation, such was my continuing surprise at his appearance. I felt more than a little ashamed of myself for fixating on his looks so much. Though not actually as attractive as I had initially thought, he certainly wasn't horrendous, and he at least was making the effort to chat and find out about my journey. Shamefaced I tried to do the same, and we as we sat to order our food I focused my energy into finding out more about him, in the hope of remembering why I was so keen to meet him in the first place.

It hit me within a couple of minutes like a ton of bricks. I did not like this man. At all. I had barely paid attention to most of what he had said to me in the weeks leading up to our date, and had ignored a lot of comments and actions that I would never ordinarily tolerate (including asking for additional pictures of me), based solely on the fact that I thought he was attractive. I couldn't believe I had been so stupid as to think that because I fancied the man in the profile picture, that he would magically also be charming, witty and polite. He said quite a few things that I found either stupid or offensive during the meal, as well as expressing some fairly strong opinions about women that confirmed that he was not the man for me.

Moreover, I could tell that he wasn't remotely interested in me either. Clearly my own dating profile had created an illusion that I was not living up to, and he was possibly as disappointed with me as I was with him.    When we finished our meal he went to pay, saying 'it's only fair, since you travelled this far'. Oh the romance. Frankly I couldn't wait to leave, and after saying a very brief and polite goodbye I trekked back to the station in a fairly bad mood. As much as I was disappointed that it hadn't gone well, I was also feeling a little concerned that he too had seemed so disappointed. What was wrong with me?! When I got home I immediately logged on to my profile to see if there were any misleading pieces of information, or pictures that implied I was thinner or more attractive than I actually am. In case you're wondering, I knew then as I do now that this was both pointless and a little crazy, but my pride had suffered that afternoon and I was determined to prove to myself that I was not guilty of false advertising. I had quite a few pictures uploaded, and I looked suitably like myself in all of them to confirm that my face is indeed fairly attractive and normal looking. And then it hit me. Menswear only had one picture on his profile. He had told me that he had been using the website on and off for a few years, but hadn't had much success after the first date with a lot of the women he met.

I imagine you have worked out why his dating retention was so low, as I did that Sunday afternoon. His profile picture, which was suitably impressive enough to persuade me to take the District line on a Sunday in heels, was about four years old. The cheeky git had spent over 20 minutes complaining that he never met interesting women who wanted to date him online, whilst committing what I can only describe as face fraud on his online dating profile to attract stupid, shallow women like me to go on pointless dates with him.

So if anyone out there is considering online dating, I have compiled a list of potential pitfalls that can and should be avoided by all sensible human beings:

My awesomely average arse

  • Always have a current profile picture, regardless of how fun, cute, interesting, tanned, sexy or hilarious you may look in the picture you took four years ago and would like to share with the greater single population of Great Britain. You are not 22 anymore - and that's ok.
  • Be honest. If you are not a ripped studmuffin, lithe and leggy model or other vision of physical perfection, then chances are your body type is 'average'. And 'average' is absolutely fine. I have sampled many 'average' bodies, and managed to enjoy each and every one of them considerably. 
  • Be economical with you honesty. Under no circumstance use your dating profile to vent any deep seated insecurities about your appearance. As Baz Luhrmann once said (thus improving my teenage years considerably) 'You are not as fat as you imagine'.
  • Upload a selection of pictures, yes including that four year old picture I told you you shouldn't use. It's not about making a first impression, but showing that you look attractive/interesting/normal in more than one picture, and appear to have some kind of life outside of your relentless pursuit of another human being to share your stamp collection with.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously - online dating is fun, and I know many people for whom it worked (including one of my cousins who is now engaged to the fabulous girl he met on okcupid) BUT it is not the answer to a long unanswered prayer for love or devotion. You have a personality outside of your primal mating urges, let it run free.
The last point comes not from me, but from a very funny man I went on a date with recently (see #7 - Making an exception that leads to a date with a sex pest...) who confirmed that when browsing the internet for women to date, he prefers to encounter people who appear to have a fully formed personality and happen to be looking for dates on the side, rather than the other way around.

With this in mind, I am off to read through my profile and check I've included enough quirky comments and quips to fully showcase how desirable I am as a potential instant message recipient....

Friday, 20 July 2012

#3 - Buying my own drinks...

A couple of weeks into my mysinglefriend adventure I got a message from a man whose profile I hadn't come across before. His opening line was less than romantic 'I'm not renewing my subscription - if you want to chat here's my email address', but because I'm a game sort of girl I decided to store the e-mail address until I had decided whether or not to contact him. It had been a particularly long and stressful week, and I didn't think too much about it, beyond noticing from his profile that he appeared to have a sense of humour, was quite tall and had a couple of big tattoos (which as you may have gathered from previous posts, is always a good thing).

I'm not convinced the 'spark '
has much to do with hearts...
I went on a couple of uneventful and uninteresting dates that week. The men in question were perfectly pleasant, interesting and nice, but I didn't feel the slightest inclination to see them again. I'm wary of using the phrase 'there was no spark', because I am all too aware that this mythical 'spark' is more than likely a product of my own, Disney-addled imagination... but there was no spark. I was beginning to wonder if I was setting myself up for failure, as I had agreed to go on dates with very nice, very normal people, all the while knowing that I don't lust after nice, normal men (apologies to anyone reading who I have lusted after - I'm sure you are nice and normal...I just never thought so). 

And then I remembered 'e-mail guy' (I tend to apply nicknames when discussing men with my flatmate, as she loses track unless I provide specific details to jog her memory). Sure his approach was a little brusque, and he's slightly older than most of the men I've been on dates with, but in the interest of thinking outside my lustbox, I sent him a brief introductory e-mail, making it clear that he should not feel obliged to reply, because I'm just being friendly. He replied fairly quickly, with the same brusque offbeat tone he had used in his first message to me. By this point my spidey senses were going into overdrive - he seemed like a bit of a tosser. My lustbox was intrigued. We exchanged a few more e-mails - he asked about my burlesque acts; I asked about his insane exercise regime (he does CrossFit - it's horrendous). Finally, he asked if I was up for meeting that evening, as he happened to be free. I considered the pros and cons. We had only exchanged a few emails, and I still wasn't sure if I wanted to meet him. However, I had nothing else to do that evening, and thought it might be worthwhile getting the meet and greet over with before I built up an idea in my head of what he would be like (only to be cruelly disappointed when he was none of these things: see #4 - Trusting the profile picture...)

We exchanged mobile numbers (I'd learnt my lesson) and agreed on a time and place. We even managed to fit in a five minute telephone conversation, where I got to hear his undeniably sexy Irish accent for the first time. I should have know then this was not going to be straightforward. We met in Molly Moggs, a little pub near my flat that he immediately pointed out was a gay pub (though how he had time to ask the pub its orientation was beyond me), but slight homophobic blip aside he seemed fairly normal, so I let him buy me a drink. So far, so good. He was clearly not in his element in the pub - we were the only straight couple in there - so I suggested we move on (before he embarrassed me any further) and we headed towards The French House for a bottle of very strong cider. 

At this point I offered to buy a round of drinks. This is the make or break moment on any date, regardless of what the answer is. Generally I will always pay for half of a meal out, or cinema tickets, or rounds of drinks without prompting: not only is it good manners, but it's also an incentive to order within your financial means. Unfortunately my income is very low, and I often end up footing a bill I can't afford: since starting this dating lark I have found myself significantly worse off than when I was single.  With this in mind my new attitude is that I will always offer, but if this initial offer is rebuffed I will presume my date is willing to pay the entirety of the bill*. Occasionally I will force the issue, such as if I know my date to be in a similar financial position to me, but as much as I think it good manners to offer to split the bill, I think it's appalling manners to turn down a free meal.

*A friend of mine has an interesting approach to dealing with the awkward moment when the bill arrives: she excuses herself to the ladies for a few minutes, giving her date time to look at the bill, pay for the bill and remove all trace of having done so before she returns. It normally works, apart from the even more awkward moment when she returned to find her date waiting with a calculator...

Sexy Irish dude (his nickname was improved based on the accent) had already informed me that he worked in a fairly well paying job. He had in fact just returned from a month' holiday travelling around Thailand, safe in the knowledge that he could easily take a month off work and not be homeless. If I'm entirely honest, I was not expecting him to let me buy him a drink. I was entirely wrong. This in itself is often a good sign, as I have some lovely male friends who get annoyed if I buy the first round, completely missing the point that if I wanted them to buy me a drink, they would have bought it already! And so I wasn't too fussed about sharing the expense for the night, as in the grand scheme of things a few rounds of drinks wasn't going to break the bank like an expensive meal or a pair of tickets for the London Eye (I forgot to mention that #2 bought the tickets in advance...)

We drank, we flirted, I playfully pulled his t-shirt up to have a good look at his tattoos (and rock hard abs, a fun extra), he stared unashamedly at my chest and tried to guess my bar size. So far, so good. We moved on to my favourite bar LVPO, and I put the final stage of my interrogation* into action: what' your favourite cocktail? I'm a cocktail snob, and having invested several year of my life into tasting and making cocktails I feel confident in saying that I know my shit, gin-wise. Sexy Irish Dude has made a previous comment about enjoying a good Passion Fruit Mojito, which I ignored because I felt it would be rude to mock him in public. I ordered a couple of Vespers, and explained how they got their name as he fished his olive out and eyed it with deep suspicion (whilst clearly loathing me for ordering such an unashamedly manly drink). He made it halfway through before sneaking off to the bar to order the damn Passion Fruit Mojitos (which admittedly were very tasty, probably because I couldn't taste any alcohol), and at this point I realised that I was really quite drunk. From here it's a slight blur. The philosophical conundrum of not behaving like a drunk person until you realise just how drunk you are is not one I want to examine too closely today, but that moment of clarity served to remind me that the Bad News Bears** were probably nearby, having a good old chuckle at me and my now totally hammered date.

*I had begun to view dating as stealth infiltration and extraction...
** See #1 - Getting drunk on a first date...

We may have kissed in LVPO. We may also have agreed to leave LVPO and find 'somewhere else' to go. We almost certainly did not agree that this would be my flat. Under no circumstances did I wake up at 6am with a pounding headache and a naked Irish man wrapped around me in what I can only describe as a sleep grip of doom. A hypothetical sleep grip of doom.

He sprung into action at around 6.30am and informed me he was going to pop home and change, as he had to be in work in a couple of hours. I was quite relieved to see him go - I don't often sleep when I share a bed, and I had a 14 hour day at work ahead of me. I fell back to sleep, enjoying the vastness of my now man-free bed, but awoke a few hours later to a nagging feeling that something was afoot. Something was not right, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Sexy Irish Dude hadn't called, but then again I hadn't expected him too (he informed me he thought it was possible that a one night stand could turn into a meaningful relationship, but I heard that aged 19 too, and I'm still waiting for that phone call...).  I considered the possibility that I quite liked him, but thankfully I have got the lustbox under control to the point where I can differentiate between genuinely sexy men and assholes with abs...so what exactly was making me so anxious...? After exhausting all logical possibilities I decided that maybe my female intuition was having an off day, and put it to the back of my mind.

And then my bank statement arrived. If my alcohol maths is correct (and it always is, it's a very useful skill) then I actually spent more than him on the evening drinks, AND I saved him a taxi fare home at 2am. 

Note to self - do not invest more than £15.00 on a date with someone you know will not call back. Invest in something more durable. Like a day planner, or a big bottle of gin.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

#2 - Standing myself up in public...

I'm a fairly sensible person most of the time. I like watching Cash in the Attic, and own several pairs of flat lace up shoes for a variety of eventualities and occasions. Most importantly, I have a private facebook page and don't give out my phone number without good reason. This means that for the majority of the time I behave at least moderately well, and even when I do do something naughty I don't get caught. I've protected my social media privacy for a long time, as I was lucky enough to grow up without facebook, twitter et al encouraging me to spew every thought that dropped into my head on the internet. By the time I was technically savvy enough to do so, I had worked out that no one cared.

And so when I joined my first (yes, there are more to come) dating website, I was adamant that I would only meet up with people if I was absolutely convinced that they were a) normal, and b) likely to turn up. This did limit my options slightly, as my predilection is for sexually aggressive commitment-phobic men with tattoos and an angry glare. Once I had ascertained that very few of these were available to me on  mysinglefriend  I began to broaden my search, hoping against hope that I would meet at least one reasonably sane, reasonably attractive man.

After a few non-starters, and one exceptionally rude Irish man (see #3 - Buying my own drinks...) I had begun to lose patience. After all, I'd been on this website for a week, and hadn't met the man of my dreams yet! I'd certainly met men who fitted my former idea of male perfection (again, see #3), but I was determined that somewhere there was a lovely bloke who would change my mind for the better (whilst ideally still having either a beard or some tattoos. Old habits die hard) Then out of the blue, I got a really, really great message. The man in question had a hilarious profile (all the profiles on mysinglefriend are written by the dater in question's friend(s)) and in his picture looked both happy and interesting, as well as being rather attractive...in a beardless sort of way...

We exchanged messages for a week or so, and discovered we had a lot of shared interests: the same films, books and even a passion for sightseeing, which we planned to put to full use on our first date. Despite my slight (severe) fear of heights (and all overly large things) I agreed to go up in the London Eye for our date, and agreed to supply a picnic for two with blanket and plastic wine glasses in return for him buying our tickets (I know - what a gentleman) We agreed a rendez-vous point on Millenium Pier at 11am, and agreed that it was going to be an amazing day.

It's at this point I should remind you that I don't give out my personal details to random men I meet on the internet (and again I refer to #3, who is really not coming across well so far...), and because he seemed like such a nice man it didn't occur to me for a second that he would not meet me at the designated time and location.

This was, in hindsight, an oversight on my part. 

I don't know if any of you have ever stood at Millenium Pier before? It's fairly big. And full of people. And boats. And after about 20 minutes of waiting around wearing a very gaudy unicorn rucksack that you were assured would make you stand out from the crowd, it's only natural to wonder if there are TWO Millenium Piers, and that maybe you're standing at the wrong one? I ended up waiting for nearly an hour. I was not impressed. I went home to send a very angry message about how incredibly rude it is to stand anyone up, let alone someone who went to the trouble of making you a picnic, only to discover a message waiting for me. Telling me off, for standing him up. 

There is definitely only one Millenium Pier. And I was standing on the other side of the river to it.

Lesson learned. Ask for a contact number before agreeing to meet anyone at a large monument with limited access to maps.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

#1 - Getting drunk on a first date...

After deciding that my love life was a little lacking in the...well, life department, I registered with an online dating website in an attempt to meet people outside my current circle of men. I say circle, but realistically they're more of a huddle these days (times are hard and they fear the lone female hunter). One of the reasons for packing up and leaving my hometown was that I had run out of men to date - after introducing my last boyfriend to my best friend she had to take me to one side and inform me that the young man in question took her to our year 11 prom...I knew he looked familiar...

Initially I was a little sceptical about online dating, as I don't know many people for whom online dating has worked. Moreover, I was concerned by the sheer amount of men on the site in question - I've never noticed this many men in my immediate vicinity before...where do they go when they're not internet dating? Do they all live in a complex surrounded by an electric fence, only granted freedom if they can prove someone wants them? Why are they all single!?

However, after receiving  a few fun and sparky messages on mysinglefriend I dropped my guard enough to arrange a few dates with some normal looking people, the first of which was with a fairly cute (though slightly shorter than average) man from East London. I would never voluntarily travel to East London unless I was being paid to do so (I find all the skinny people in identical clothing very unsettling), so we settled on Kings Cross, and I discovered I'm being taken to a cafe that specialises in cakes and cocktails, called Drink Shop and Do. I am very impressed: this stranger had managed to find a venue that would instantly put me in a good mood! I don't hesitate to order a big slice of Red Velvet and an Espresso Martini (spiced rum version, it's far superior). 

From here it's very easy to relax and enjoy getting to know my date, who proves charming, witty and, as far as I can tell, genuine. It helps that despite his less than sizeable height he is very attractive with a lovely smile and excellent teeth (I'm fussy about teeth). We finish our cocktails and cake, and decided that the date is going well enough to venture to a new watering hole, and have 'one more' drink. This was, in hindsight, a less than excellent idea. We end up in a wood panelled pub showing Sky Sports news, drinking pints of beer and telling stories of stupid things we have done, places we've been and would like to go, and for a while it all seems very straightforward and fun, with no pressure to make decisions or get frisky. 

Then it happens.

My date puts his hand on my knee. An innocuous, barely noticeable shift has occurred. A move has been made, and I now have to consider my options. Should I acknowledge the hand, and if so should it be a positive or negative response? Do I like the hand being there? Maybe I should put MY hand on HIS knee? At this point, I go to the ladies room to clear my head and take a moment to make a decision. It's too late. The Bad Idea Bears* are waiting for me, and they have a round of drinks in their paws.

*The Bad Idea Bears lurk in the background of potentially dangerous, naughty or otherwise deviant situations, making inappropriate remarks, ordering shots and handing out condoms.

One hour later, we're still in the pub. Hands are on knees. Noses are dangerously close to touching. Eyes are not entirely focused. He leans in for what is undoubtedly going to be a very nice, albeit drunken, kiss....and I shush him. For a split second, the only thing separating his lips from mine is my index finger, which by this point is pushing him away while I begin to babble that I don't think it would be a very good idea, because we're both a bit drunk, and we've only just met, and there are these Bears following me around telling me to tickle his kneecaps, has he seen them too?

The moment passes. We continue our conversation, and I think I may have gotten away with my rather bold rejection of his advances. I'm very annoyed at myself. Now that the kiss is off the table I want it back. He really is very good looking, and has lovely teeth, and why did I shush him? We finish our drinks and decide that, as we've missed the last tube, that it's probably time we head home, to get a few hours sleep in before work. But maybe it's not too late? He offers to walk me to the bus stop, and we continue to chat about our plans for the rest of the week. I throw a couple of sultry glances his way to show him I'm available for some kissing now thank you, but he's not playing ball. I've hurt his feelings, or possibly his pride. Either way, it's obvious what I need to do. I sacrifice my own pride and lean in for a kiss. He backs away, smiles, and tells me I was probably right to push him away . My bus arrives. I get on and wave goodbye.

The next day I send him a message thanking him for a lovely evening. I don't get a reply. 

Bloody Bears.