Why don’t you try internet dating?

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.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “Why don’t you try internet dating?

  1. I dunno… then again I don’t have a child so in some ways, it’s easier for me to find the time to date. That being said, I’ve met some really wonderful people through online dating. Granted, there were a number of creepsters in the mix, but the good ones definitely outweighed the bad, and if a man isn’t willing to embrace your relief map tummy, then he’s not worth your time anyway!

    • Emily

      Thanks for commenting. As I’ve said in my last comment, I am far too cynical. I don’t believe in knights in shining armour, but I have taken it a bit too far to the other extreme. Maybe I’ll get braver in 2012…

  2. I’m all for it. There’s no difference between stipulating things online and storing them in your head for when you’re out in the real world looking for love. As one website put it “serendipity is the halmark of an inefficient market”. Not all things are best left to chance. I’ve been with my real-world-met boyfriend for years but if I were unattached I woud definitely consider it. In my group of friends there are already two highly successful couples who’ve stood the test of time that met online.
    I actually set up a profile on plentyoffish.com a while ago to investigate and wrote up my experiences: http://katekatharina.com/2010/10/17/we-just-clicked-why-internet-dating-is-a-hit-and-miss-afair/

    • Emily

      Thanks for commenting – and for sharing the great post. I think past events and horror stories have turned me into a bit of a cynic. The child thing does confuse things, but maybe it’s time to get braver. I definitely don’t want to leave it to chance, nor do I want to put myself out there and say “I REALLY WANT A MAN” because that can be like putting yourself in the firing line. I need to be a little bit more positive I think; I am about a million miles away from being naive, so I don’t think there’s any danger of me venturing into that territory.

  3. All your post rings so true with me, one of my problems with the sites/men (ok 2 of the main ones) first being a bit older than you it seems that nearly all men around my age want younger women, I am just over the 25-35 category but men seem to tick that one & that is where I get the rage as they are often 38+ and want a 25 year old!
    The 2nd one is men who have children then list their interests as going out/clubbing/holidays & traveling. Well I guess if you either don’t see your child weekly then you can be doing those things all the time but they are not things I can do often.
    Ok and last (oh I’m on one now) when I write my interests & life down it seems crap, but it isn’t. I can be quite funny, I’m kind but as I can’t say I love the gym, I’ve read *list pretentious books* or that I have an exciting /well thought after job I look like a desperate single mum longing for a man to rescue me. And that is so no what I’m after! I love my life, I’m busy & fulfilled but yes sometimes think a man would be a nice addition (and as we have previously discussed) and to do the bins πŸ˜‰
    I do wander if doing the job I do, & being a parent 100% of the time I am (in the eyes o dating sites) the worst catch ever πŸ˜€
    And my last thought… When choosing body types as you said you have slim, athletic, average and then curvy. In the real world I like you am a normal, average 14 with a tummy created from a baby then supported by cake. So does curvy mean the tummy bit??? :o)

    • Emily

      Thanks for commenting Jo, you’re obviously really ambitious and driven and I am sure your profile would be anything but boring. If the figures from Gingerbread are right, in separated families, it’s usually the mother who is the parent with care, so the fathers probably do have a lot more time on their hands. The age thing is infuriating!

  4. You sum up people so well, but if someone is bothered that you have stretchmarks then you wouldn’t want to go out with them regardless of how you met. I fancied going on a few dates and had no expectations of internet dating beyond that, but then I struck it lucky. The third person I met online turned out to be the love of my life. Our first lunch date lasted 8 hours and we’ve been married 5 years this month. So, you never know…

    • Emily

      Thanks, Sandy. People are superficial though, it’s so annoying! Thanks for the encouragement, maybe I will pluck up the courage in 2012..

  5. mumsyjr

    I can’t handle the internet dating sites, either- feels too much like filling out a resume. But I do know a married couple who met online…only not on a dating site, they haunted the same geeky forum about Star Trek or X-files or something and realized they lived nearby each other.

  6. Karian

    How somebody hasn’t read your blog and fallen in love with you already completely shocks me.
    I have a huge girl crush on you and think your little boy sounds divine. So if I ever get too pissed off at my boyfriend and decide that all my girl crushes on women I idolise are actually real, you can consider this your online dating form, and me your first respondent! Tehe. You’re amazing!

    • Emily

      Wow, thanks Karian! My son is divine and hilarious – he thrashed me on the karaoke last night and was doing some ace dancing too.. maybe I should take him on dates with me.

  7. Kay

    I’ve tried internet dating and it sucked. That being said, I wouldn’t hold it against any one who tried it, because I was there once. Yes, I’m quite young, but when I came home my first Christmas from university without a man on my arm, my family became concerned. I didn’t see what the rush was, but I also didn’t understand why I hadn’t met that nice guy yet. So I tried it. It wasn’t for me, so I went back to “real life” which also sucked. Haha! But things worked out. I’m sure you don’t need to hear this from a 21 year old, but things will work out and I think you’re doing great as it stands. πŸ™‚

    • Emily

      Thanks Kay, I don’t hold it against anyone who tries it – I wish I could be as brave as them. Although a couple of friends who have have had some really negative experiences which scares me a little. I used to not be bothered about having a man, I’ve written about it here before. But I was busy with parties and going to work and meeting new people and it didn’t feel like a priority. Now I am getting older and so is Tom and I can see the benefits of having someone around.

  8. I, too, was a single mom for a lot of years and didn’t date once (no, I’m not a weirdo, yes, I’m pretty ok looking…I just found that most men who are interested in young women with children are….hmm…how to say this….let’s just say they don’t look, sound, act or smile like George Clooney). Internet dating was in its infancy in my single parent days, and back then it was for desperados. Not sure that holds true today. But I did eventually find a great guy and we’ve now been married for 12 years (and are expecting our 4th child together). He’s from Stoke-on-Trent (I didn’t understand the significance of that when we met so please don’t hold it against me. To be fair, he left Stoke long before we met) and I’m from California, but it works. Where did we meet? Summer camp. It is a fabulous place to meet men who like kids (why else would they be there?). And your child goes for free – a real bonus for single moms. I know lots of relationships (and loads of marriages) that have started at camp. You get weeks to check people out, other people already know them, and there are none of those awkward restaurant moments. Whatever you decide – I hope you have fun!

    • Emily

      There’s nothing wrong with being from Stoke, unless you’re called Robbie Williams. Maybe I should find out more about summer camp, but they don’t have it in Englasnd. Thanks for encouragement and congratulations on your pregnancy!

  9. Paul

    Emily, looking forward to this book being on sale, have the utmost respect for single parents
    As my mother raised us 3,from 8 down to 2 when her marriage without much support on any
    Front… 35 years on she is & had always been single..(that was the way then-parochial bullshit).. Enjoyed your piece on dating websites, where it seems that all the people on then, I speaking as a guy , where all the females are top class athletes & have photos of themselves climbing kilamanjaro or jumping from planes,- post 7 year old photos..
    My point is that not all guys are against meeting
    A girl with offspring… There are better balanced, easy going, realistic, not ball breakers ;( no guarantees there now!!) & can appreciate the simple niceities of life, so hats off to you !… Internet dating is hard work,
    Enjoy you tweets- not on it myself but a friend of mine follows you …. Next time I’m over in mcr
    Would enjoy your chit chat…. By the way the rest of us are still trying to figure out what’s it all about !!! The smug married aint all happy either πŸ˜‰
    Keep writing !
    Cheers
    Paul ..

    • Emily

      Thanks for your lovely comments, Paul. It’s great to hear a bloke’s perspective – and that it’s not just men who think everyone wants to go out with Action Man (or Woman.)

  10. Brilliant post. Time for a male response. I’m from Oldham. Every girl over the age of 18 has at least one kid, pretty much. Okay, slight exaggeration. Over 21, let’s say. If you’re a man who wants a girl with no kids, you’re numbering your options RIGHT down. ‘Sides, girls- if men shy off from you because you’ve got a kid, they’re not real men. Neither do they expect a woman to demand loads of support for their kids- most don’t let you meet them until they know you quite well- by which time it’s not a problem. Next, men may be very outdoor and active, but those things are hobbies. I do mixed martial arts and get punched in the head and choked out, but I wouldn’t expect a woman to do that too. I don’t want her to have a body like mine. I’m also happy to chill in a pub. Nobody does action sports 24/7, unless they’re on the run in Arizona or something. Next, if someone you know sees you on a website, they might be just as embarrased as you. I suppose that’s a bigger deal for others than it is for me. Just don’t contact them or mention it face-to-face! I agree with your last point- chemistry is far more important than interests- but I don’t agree that it can’t possibly happen over the internet. If you can be made to laugh or cry online, or be coerced into buying something, or be shocked, or scared- then why can’t you feel attraction or chemistry?

    • Emily

      Thank you – very good points, very well put. I know a few people who’ve met some right baduns on dating sites, but people have left some positive comments here. I think it might be time to stop being so cynical…

  11. Katie Belly

    EMILY!!!!!
    If you don’t try it you will never know, if you do try it and its shit then hows about some great writing material, ok maybe not but I like the comment about it may just define for you what you want……a nice drink with a (possibly) nice man doesn’t sound too bad
    I am not smug

  12. I wouldn’t worry about internet dating – your sense of humour and wordsmithery are evidently intact, which is more valuable than having a computer-savvy man to connect with.

    I live in Manchester, but rather than seeking one of its citizens to pair off with, I hope to escape to sunnier climes and leave the abandoned mills and grey clouds behind. There’s a tibetan monestary with my name on it out there somewhere. (Tibet, most probably).

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

    • Emily

      Thanks, Paul. I don’t know what it is about those abandoned mills and grey clouds that have kept me (and so many others) here for so long. Good luck on your travels!

  13. I’m thinking about internet dating at some point – my husband left me 5 months ago very suddenly – I liked being married and I’d like to be with someone again. I don’t know that it does reek of desperation – my opportunities for meeting new people are significantly limited by two small girls, so it seems a convenient way to get to know people. I do wonder how easy it will be – I’d be looking for a long-term relationship with someone who likes children enough to really love mine but doesn’t want any of his own.

    Perhaps you could try a range of sites and write a review for us?

    • Emily

      Sorry to hear about our husband. I know what you mean about convenience, but writing an ad for yourself is horrible. Have you seen those sites? They all write the same, which is that they like going out as much as staying in with a bottle of wine and a DVD. And if anyone tries to be creative about it, they come off looking like a twat.

      I’ve always kept men a million miles away from my son but that might change if I met someone ‘serious’. When you’ve been living on your own and being the main earner and running a home your (chaotic) way for years, it’s hard to see how anyone else would fit into it – or whether you’d really want them to. Nice idea about the reviews, but I’m afraid I’m just too chicken!

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