This is a question I get asked a lot, because I work from home, because I have a child, because I haven’t had a proper relationship in ages and this year I’ll be thirty. My friends mean well, but most have them are already attached and – if they’re honest, wouldn’t go within a mile of internet dating themselves. Of course, I’ve had a snoop around a few of the sites but they end up making me feel a bit like my soul’s just been torn out and stamped on and definitely not as though I want to take things any further. Here’s why:
The small issue of the child: Quite often, internet dating sites allow members to specify whether or not they’d like you to already have children. Because nobody wants to get roped into pools of shit, snot and vomit, dinner money bills and custody arrangements, most people say that no, they would not like you to have a child already. Funnily enough, I don’t take my child on dates and I’ve been raising him on my own for six years, so I am not looking to sponge off someone else. I wouldn’t let a man meet him until things were pretty serious, but most adults think he’s ace so they’d probably really like him if and when they did. Frustratingly, it’s usually the most decent, interesting types who make this stipulation. I end up feeling angry about this and a mixture of the following thoughts: “What a narrow-fucking-minded bastard, I wouldn’t want to go out with him anyway” and “actually, I completely understand why he has put that. Shit.”
The weight thing: I’m a size 14, which is not huge, but definitely not ‘slim’ or ‘athletic’. My torso’s been through the pregnancy and caesarean mill and looks like an acid smiley scrawled on a relief map of Africa. I shouldn’t be bothered about that, but I am. Most men say that they want you to be slim or athletic. Many of them have photographs of themselves in abseiling harnesses or hanging out of planes, which makes me think they won’t want to sit on their arses in the pub with me. If a man wants me to be athletic, I don’t want to walk into a bar with my big hips and meet him, never mind undress in front of him. Of course, there is such a thing as being too unfussy: if they don’t care how old you are, what you’re into, or where in the world you live and want to meet up for no strings fun, you can’t help but think they might be desperate or perverted, or are into very expensive, jet-lagged booty calls.
You see people you know: Manchester is one of the UK’s biggest cities, and yet sometimes it doesn’t feel an awful lot different to the tiny village where I grew up. Everyone knows everyone else and the degrees of separation shrink more as the years go by. You’re only ever steps away from someone’s unrequited love / psycho ex / person who has read your blog and knows that you have a child and a torso that looks like an acid smiley scrawled on a relief map of Africa.
It’s just not real: Of course, I’m just as fussy as the fussy men who I’m daunted by. And I don’t think a list of hobbies and some carefully considered photos are a way to choose a person. You need that chemistry, not to go and sit awkwardly opposite a stranger in a restaurant and say “so, you like abseiling?” whilst trying really hard not to get too drunk but maintaining an element of Dutch courage and trying not to go to the loo too much (or going to the loo as often as you can). When you meet someone who makes you laugh, who’s on the same wavelength as you, with whom you can stay up drinking all night long and laugh and talk and laugh and laugh, it doesn’t matter what they look like, whether they’re into abseiling, whether you have a child or a tummy like crepe paper. None of that matters because you know each other and you really like each other and you haven’t made a list of prerequisites before you fell. But that only happens in real life, not on a computer screen.