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Written on March 15, 2010, and categorized as Living.
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I’ve been properly single for seven months now, but only in the last few weeks have I thought about doing something to change my situation. I decided to seek out some possible dates using the internet – after all, I’ve spent fifteen years helping people make sense of the internet – why not put some of my knowledge into service for myself?

I’m not going to give the game away at this point – suffice to say, it’s been very interesting. I certainly have enough material and a good plot idea for a novel, so I’m going to give you some conclusions rather than juicy details.

It had been almost twenty years since my last “date”. I just don’t do dates. Dates for me are sweet middle-eastern fruit which I Iike to eat fresh, not the strangeness of a supposedly informal chat over a coffee, drink or meal, which is actually formal as a job interview. What the hell, I thought, I’m still cute enough. I’ll just use my first name, I’ll be completely honest, and I’ll see what happens.

I had mixed emotions about the entire process. What is chemistry anyway? Ever mindful of the maxim “judge not, lest ye be judged”, nonetheless, there I was, putting myself on a plate, dressing me up to look appetising, and wondering whether I was going to pass this catering exam, whilst watching a succession of gifted, intelligent, attractive professional women pass me on a conveyor-belt food line.

I told myself I’d give it three months, and so I have. The period is over. While I experimented, I met some very nice people, and some complete crazies. All in all I assessed over 1,000 women, potential “partners”. “Partner” – I hate that word in this context – when did we become so afraid of using the word LOVER? Surely, that’s what we’re seeking.

After a few weeks, and a handful of dates, I started thinking hard about what happens to people between their teenage years and their twenties, when accidents, experiments and enthusiasm for the new are dominant modes of social expression, and what becomes of them as they grow old and spend their lives pursuing careers, caring for families, and most importantly, in relationships which ultimately end.

It’s how people react to disappointment that seems the most crucial. Do they, in Allen Ginsberg’s phrase, keep holy their highest hopes?

It’s actually been very interesting to me. I’m far too lively and positive for some people, despite all the so-called compatibility and desire for openness, kindness, etc. etc.

One woman closed the match on the basis that the distance between us was too great – we’re both in London. Another Londoner began chatting with me and it turned out she was in Rio, having the time of her life, but she would like to meet me in June when she came back.. I laughed, and explained that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be “here” (dating website) by then.. but I could come to Rio, no problem. She took me totally seriously and was suddenly very firm – I was now moving waaaay too fast….. I suspect she had a certain agenda… a beautiful woman, with serious control and status issues. Another chatted on MSN and then got drunk and abusive because I don’t have “a proper job”. Mad. I never said I was conventional!

I began to think that passion was no longer in fashion, until I put some thought into it, and started to understand what a huge risk it is for men and women both to use the internet to further their love lives.

What I noticed is how few of the women I’ve communicated with actually want what they think they want. I learned that almost all women in their thirties and forties do not hold out any genuine hope of finding a grand passion. They may think they do, but their strategies reveal an entirely different set of expectations. There are so many cautious, wounded, defensive, lonely people out there.

Even the strong ones, the determined ones, are often brittle, tough like porcelain. How are they ever going to open up to love?

What people need, I realise, is some of that youthful, throw-caution-to-the-winds positive attitude, combined with an adult sensibility and improved judgement.

It takes great courage to market yourself as some stranger’s future. Many people don’t understand how to do the online process effectively. In fact, one of the nicer women I met, who I came to like a lot as a friend, I showed how to use the system, since she asked:

First: It is a numbers game. You need to find matches that simply won’t match, probably, and clear them out regularly and quickly to avoid being distracted and to let new ones in. So look for obvious no-chances. Discard them. Waste no time.

Second: Scan all the new people with photos, and if you can’t see yourself really spending time with that face, close the match. I mean it – be swift. Yes, read what they have to say, of course, but faces tell you a lot. There has to be something there or all the words in the world will not help. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but you won’t find them via online dating.

Third: If a profile really catches your eye, tell that person without hesitation. If you’re feeling bold, email them directly and see if they respond. Do this every few days minimum. It’s the equivalent of catching someone’s eye and smiling – no more than that! It may lead nowhere but no harm in it.

Fourth: If someone starts to talk with you, follow it up asap. Don’t delay. Get to the point. You’ll soon know if they are meet-able or not that way. Try not to let it take all week. If they disappear, don’t close it immediately but then, after a a week or ten days, however patient you are, close. Move on.

Fifth: Do run through the boring routines, especially if it’s a borderline person. Study the responses. You can learn a lot about people and what they are looking for, as well as yourself. So do it for fun! Someone said she wanted a mate who didn’t take themselves too seriously about half way through which showed me it was never going to work. I’m afraid that I do sometimes take myself far too seriously, it’s one of the perils of being artistic – but without it, no art.

Six: Change your settings sometimes. For e.g. many women my age are just about into menopause, have stopped exploring life, have had all their kids – but I still feel like a younger man and would like kids with the right person. Yes that sounds awful in one way, but who are we kidding? A 48 year old woman who wants kids “maybe” ? I think not. My last two girlfriends have both been more than ten years younger, so I know it works. Shamelessly, I decided to lower the age range. Behold – many more genuinely possible matches started appearing.

Seven: Even normal people are crazy. They are! Just bear that in mind, and remember the more “matches” you see, the more likely you are to find the good one/s who are at least crazy in a good way.

My final tip – you probably know this – is to make friends. Why? Because nice people know other nice people. You may not get it together with a supposed “match” – but you might make a friend. And one of their friends might totally fall for you, and you for them. I’ve seen it happen.

After my own ups and downs, you might think that I should be settling for companionship, convenient, compatible sex, or even just someone who thinks I’m cool enough to hang out with me for a while. But, I remain for some reason a unreserved romantic. I’m looking for passion, and expecting to find it.

If anything, my ambition for love has increased, not decreased. My self-esteem is good, and rather than despair, or assume I’ve set the bar high, my attitude is to look more carefully, to be open, to cultivate in myself the correct awareness, stay positive, put on my dancing shoes, and to be ready to dance when the music starts.

London Love

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One Comment

  1. lasirena
    Posted 17 March, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    That was helpful and inspiring. I give internet dating a try every couple of years but have grown very cynical about it — for many of the reasons you stated but I can see that I'm also a bit exacting. Right now, I'm up to my elbows in other things but I think I'll take some of your advice when/ if I try again.

    There is an annoying, whining idealist in me that would just like to see things happen organically. But then I do every thing in my life on the internet, so why wouldn't internet dating be organic. Man is a complex, social animal.

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