Right. Let’s get one thing clear straight away. Online dating is sick. And dreadful.
It turns natural law on its head. It turns you on your head. And then it walks away, and it doesn’t say sorry.
In the old days, you rarely met a TOTAL stranger. You knew something about them. Even if you met on the bus, you knew that they got that bus, at the very least. And that cocktail of chemicals at the bottom of your tummy knew you were interested in them before you did. This is how it should work. You notice. You fancy. You work out a few basic facts. Then *maybe* you approach.
Online dating is fundamentally fucked. All this happens backwards. And it’s not healthy. Usually because your brain will not let go of the old way. You know nothing, so you speculate. You daydream. You invent. That cocktail of chemicals at the bottom of your tummy is replaced by a drip of dopamine. Some neurotransmitter rewards you each time you receive a ‘like’, or an affirmative message. You have become that rat, who dies a slow death because she keeps battering the pleasure button, and forgets to eat.
But, the fact is (and don’t I know it), you just REALLY want to meet someone, dammit. It’s later than you thought. You’ve got maybe twelve sexy years left. Just think about that for a second. Or actually, don’t; because you’ll need to keep the light on when you sleep tonight.
So what the hell. Let’s pop a coin in the slot.
So, some rules for survival, learned in the trenches, on the front line, under heavy fire and incurring some horrible injuries …
DO NOT OVERSPECULATE.
It can go like this. You message on Monday. He replies. You actually find him funny, which is a surprise (you thought the first few would be twats, natch). It’s Tuesday, and you find you’re messaging each other at work. Great stuff. By Wednesday, there’s a part of you (which you won’t admit to) that is actually thinking of baby names. And then on Thursday he doesn’t message, and you FUCKING HATE HIM. You drive around in your car singing “Baby, you’re time is gonna come” really loudly, and wobbling your head from side-to-side in a sister-I’m-liberated manner. He’s not gonna get one over on me! HELL NO.
Actually it’s only been fourteen hours since his last message, and you haven’t even spoken to him yet.
See what I mean?
SO KEEP THE MESSAGING RELAXED.
Realise it’s not yet real-life. You are like two hostage negotiators, and at stake is your self-worth, happiness and emotional security. Reveal yourself slowly. Share control. You don’t want Special Forces bunging tear gas through the windows and shooting the innocents, and demanding statements of romantic intent.
UNDERSTAND THAT THE OTHER PARTY IS AS FUCKING USELESS AS YOU ARE.
Easy to forget. I have usually assumed that my prospective date is the most laid-back woman on the planet. Everything is water off her back. She is ice-cool, and has a list of male reserves so long she needs two handbags. She can take me or leave me. She’s dated a load of guys, most of whom were more clever, taller, better-hung and hugely more successful in the arts than me. This leads me to over-compensate, i.e. the real me (the guy she might have noticed on the bus in the old days) is still as far away as ever. Sound familiar?
THE OTHER PARTY FEELS THE SAME AS YOU.
He is convinced that, although he would like to be Oscar Wilde, he will, in any phone call, end up mumbling balls to you in a high-pitched squeak. He is absolutely convinced that when he arrives at the date, he will fall over the next table/leave his flies undone/cough his coffee into your face all in the one same horrible extended slapstick moment.
DON’T JUST TRY TO ENTERTAIN, ALSO TRY TO LISTEN.
Important one this. You can get so anxious about seeming ‘fun’ that you suddenly realise you’ve just guffawed at his ex-wife’s cancer. Not everything the other party says will be funny. Similarly, one date spent some generous effort explaining to me that over-messaging freaked her out. I sent her fourteen messages reassuring her that I wouldn’t. And I rue the day. Is that how you spell ‘rue’? I’m not sure. So listen, is what I’m trying to say.
Don’t rue. It’s not pleasant for you. And it takes a while to go away.