Going back into the dating game after a long relationship feels like being released from captivity.
Suddenly I find myself in a bewildering, mystifying world; one which didn’t even exist when I was last on the ‘outside’.
A world of apps and swiping and chemistry tests and strange selfies.
I’ve been staggering along in the dark, grasping for the light switch, managing to see a little more with each tentative step.
And if I could say one thing to the ladies on these sites it would be this: please relax.
Now, I’ve heard there are a fair few oddballs and nasties on the male side. Men who post naked selfies and close ups of their todgers; men who lie about their age and even identity; men whose best friends are apparently their pets or cars; men who are just after a quick shag (shock news: there are a few women like this too); and, less humorously, men eager to make derogatory comments about someone’s weight or appearance.
But, come on: is this really the rule rather than the exception?
And does it warrant the sea of negativity and even hostility us men have to encounter as soon as we’ve logged on?
Let’s start with the profiles.
I’ve lost count of the number starting with ‘are there any decent men out there any more’, ‘so many weirdos’, ‘anyone normal?’ You get the gist.
That’s hardly a great start to any conversation and it makes you wonder, why the hell are you bothering in the first place? Now, I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine so many men begin their profiles in this way.
Then there are the shopping lists: must be at least 6”2, ripped, funny, strong, kind, sensitive, earn £80k plus, have good grammar and punctuation (often spelling grammar and punctuation incorrectly).
If you post something like that, you’d better sure as hell be perfect yourself.
I know it can be good to know what you want, especially based on the knowledge and experience gleaned from previous relationships – and, as we get older, none of us want to waste time with the wrong person - but whatever happened to spontaneity, open-mindedness and being surprised by the things life can sometimes throw up?
In fact, isn't this what makes life worth living?
Then you get the don'ts: must not be boring, over-confident, a player, clingy etc etc. Followed by the common “if you’re only going to message me ‘hi, how are you,’ I will not reply.” Charming.
So add ‘must have the wit of Stephen Fry’ to that shopping list above (presumably along with, ‘must have the body of Steven Gerrard’).
Because I’ve got something else to tell you ladies – a lot of your profiles aren’t that original or creative either.
Almost every one states you are ‘easy going’, which, sorry, is not number one on the list of traits I associate with the fairer sex.
Other favourites are ‘my kids are my world,’ ‘love a night curled up on the sofa as much as a night out clubbing,’ ‘love going to the gym,’ and ‘I’m only on here to have a look.’
And let’s talk about your profile pictures.
What’s with that weird trout pout, the one where you purse your lips while aiming your chin down to your neck?
I’ve seen lots of other strange choices of profile pic, including wedding photos, photos with kids and, strangest of all, just pictures of kids. Swipe right to that and you might be getting a knock on the door from Operation Yew Tree.
What’s struck me above all is what a callous world this can be.
If you approach a girl in a bar – even if you look like Quasimodo (be kind) – the chances are a witty one liner will still at least elicit a response.
Not so in the world of online dating. If someone doesn’t like the look of you, even a Wildean remark will be met with the cold shoulder.
I’ve done this as well and it feels rude and wrong.
And if you do clear that initial hurdle of initiating a conversation, the shopping list scenario might again present itself.
A true example:
Me: Hi, how are you? (boring, granted)
Them: Fine thanks. Can you tell me: what you want from a relationship; whether you want kids; how you would bring up your kids; what you do in your spare time; what your career aspirations are?
Me: Can I come back to you in a few months while I work this out for myself?
If conversation does continue, you often then go off into the netherworlds of WhatsApp and Snapchat.
Or, for the older among us, texting - or even a real-life conversation.
It’s a wonder you ever get out on that first date… and there’s a whole new article to write about that.