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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....

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