The truth about online dating services
Fancy meeting someone who shares the same quasi-Fascistic ideas about architecture and society? Wary that internet dating is a comparatively recent phenomenon, still marking out its political parameters, laying down an etiquette blueprint and making its own rules, I go and see Doug Haines, an ex-city banker who is a co-founder of The London School of Attraction, a Hatton Garden-based outfit that "helps men and women develop the confidence to meet the opposite sex." Do I really need his help? When online, he advises me to act quickly, not fanny around with too much email chat, cut to the chase with the proposal of a face to face meeting.
"It’s all about being impulsive and spontaneous," he says.
"Simply everyone is doing it." According to figures released by You Gov, 50 per cent of the UK’s single classes have now tried out internet dating via one of Britain’s 1,500 websites (there are an estimated 5,000 sites in Europe alone) while 20 per cent of relationships in the UK now begins online, with meeting on the internet now third in popularity only to meeting through mutual friends, or barflying it around in pubs and discos. On paper - or on an i Pad tablet screen, if you will - I appear to be a perfect candidate. In my mid-forties, suddenly single, heart-broken, emotionally wrecked, world weary, cynical, profoundly discombobulated and reduced of esteem and circumstance, maybe incapable of ever loving again. I begin an exchange with an Australian girl, living in North London. We meet in a louche, Soho dive bar and are at each other’s tongues by the second cocktail. Goodbye."Mildly devastated – I thought we’d seemed rather compatible when her tongue was down my throat - I bravely steel myself for this kind of cold and callously abrupt rejection. Doug’s school is in the social calibration business dealing with a typical male customer; very shy, awkward males, fluent in logistics and technicalities – the IT sector is a major target market - but lacking in social skills.
In the US 40 million – that’s 40 per cent of the population - are actively cyber dating. Almost 18 months of abortive attempts to "move on", of "getting back out there", of overspending on dinners and drinks and some frankly undignified late nights in establishments (the aforementioned London boite included) has wielded little except a series of regrettably large bar bills, stinking hangovers, one night stands and a very necessary skill for blocking numbers on my i Phone. A glorious interlude of blind drunk, French kissing and British fumbling in an alley way ensues when the pubs shut. Cyber dating is, I decide, a brutally Darwinian environment, where love is won and lost in seconds, at the click of a mouse, at the conveyance of a text message. These cash rich / personality poor types pay out around £850 to have the school’s team educate them in a holistic manner, coaxing out confidence, teaching (mainly) men to be charming, not just to the women they fancy, not in an exclusively predatory sense, but towards pretty much everyone they encounter…
Millions of people join (and leave) dating sites each year, looking for their long-lost love or at least new friends to spend the days with.
I learn to ignore the "suggestions" that the randomised dating site’s computer throws up – "you are a 60 per cent match with this desperate old bag from the sticks" and aim high, going for out-of-my-league beauties often with a 0 per cent match. Back in London, I click on Audrey, a delightful ex-model, single mum with a degree, a personality and thing for champagne and macaroons. (With rather too much brio and efficiency, I think.) We meet. Determined to deploy her affection she put a hand on his hip and felt something soft and squishy… Another woman I encounter has dated a successful City boy type who told her how he’d taken a rather promising sounding, web-provided woman out to dinner one night only to discover that a) she wasn’t the model-ish looking sort that her (faked) photo had suggested b) that she was five foot tall (not 5’8" as her biog had promised) and c) that she had a leg missing. I’ve become part of Internet dating’s fluid statistics – a singleton who has found love on the web.
""Get with the programme Granddad," the other cranial segment is urging. Then, the following morning, I wake up…to a text message. You are a lovely guy, but I don’t think we are compatible.
And what sort of a girl would want a date with the kind of loser who would sign himself up to an internet dating service, anyway?
Dressed in tight jeans, sheepskin ugh (sic) boots and one of those sexlessly sleeveless Puffa things so popular with butch, Home Counties stable girls, she is even more ruddy and equine than her blurry photo had suggested. I should have made my excuses and done a runner after two minutes, but being well brought up, buttoned up and British, I stand her a couple of rounds. "I am very, very good at it, too," she says, lunging a clumsy, -ish squeeze of my inner thigh. I down my final drink quickly, feel around for jacket and bag, make verbal overtures towards my imminent departure. Well, you find Groucho’s wise words about not wanting to belong to any club that would accept you as a member jangling your subconscious incessantly when you enter the strange world of internet dating. Uploading ambitiously flattering, five-year-old photos, hero shots of triathlon achievements and writing a dishonestly smooth and multihued biog that references your non-existent love of theatre and success at macho?
As soon as her horsiness walks in, I feel like bolting. She tells me rather proudly how she has decided to dedicate the rest of her life to perfecting the fine art of fellatio, practising intensively, locally, servicing all comers (pardon the pun) at her village pub. Spelled out in the wonky cipher of the prestige plates lexicon, where sevens can be Ls and eights can represent Bs, are - and I shit you not - the words "B7OW JO8". " she says., the neatly philosophical quippage that wrestles with the restlessly conflicting notions of convention, acceptance, self worth, shame, honesty, social success and personal failure?