The Reassurance Boogie vs. The Denial Twist

Goodness!  The sun!  Isn’t it glorious?

Yes, it’s another day in that cosmic circle of disappointment that is online dating.  I’m waiting for your message, you’re waiting for his, and he copped off last night with someone so unsuitable that he is now creating an inbox rule that will send all of her emails tumbling into his junk folder. Marvellous isn’t it?

It’s like being back in the school playground.  Rob fancies Jenny, but Jenny fancies Mark.  Mark fancies George, but George’s parents are involved in a messy divorce, so he’s busy pulling the legs off flies.  Yes.  Happy days.

Actually it’s not like the playground at all.  My son is six, and he’s got a girlfriend.  They hug and kiss and discuss their mutual interests with passion.  Which is mostly dragons, but don’t knock it.  On the evenings before their playdates, they each get so excited that they can’t sleep.  Which makes them infinitely more clued-up than any of us.  Fact.

Although there maybe something worrying lurking in the gene pool.

He bounced out of the classroom door on Friday with a grin that would make the Cheshire Cat slink off and consider its options.


“She said it!”

“Said what?”

“She said it, she said it, she said it, she said it …”

Turns out that, during tidying-up time, my son had found it necessary to throw a few advanced wrestling techniques on the boy who was competing for his girlfriend’s attention.  Which I think mostly involved sitting on his head.

After he had sat there for a while, releasing the obligatory fart into his opponent’s face and flexing his muscles (think Achilles dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy), his girlfriend had said, “I love you”.

Man, he was giddy as, well, a schoolboy.  And I know the feeling.  That kind of affirmative message you get after displaying like a demented silverback (whether it’s wrestling all-comers , or discussing a mutual love of Neil Gaiman over email) is pure intoxication.

Four hours later, and he’s as glum as anything.  Quiet, and avoiding eye contact.

“What’s the matter?  We’ve had an awesome day!  Remember what she said.”


“I want to hear her say it again.”


Oh dear.


Yes. The old reassurance boogie.  Bad at the best of times.  But infinitely fucking worse in the digital age.

For each loving positive message that arrives by text/email/twitter, there seems to be a rapid countdown after which its meaning and validity decays at the rate of minutes passed.

You get a lovely message.  Funny, and thoughtful.  And although not spelled out explicitly, indicates that the small amount that the person knows about you is floating their boat.

You reply immediately, because you’re shit at being aloof.

A minute passes.  Maybe ten.  Suddenly you’re hitting the ‘check mail’ button like John Bonham kicked his squeaky pedal.

OH MY GOD.  She’s met somebody else.  That guy she gave up on has got back in touch.  That bastard.  Actually she was never into you.  ACTUALLY SHE’S BEEN MESSAGING YOUR MATE.  BLAAARRRRGGHHH …

I'm sorry.  It's been 45 minutes. Indications are that she's shagging your mate.
I’m sorry. It’s been 45 minutes. Indications are that she’s shagging your mate.

I blame twenty four-hour news.  Has the headline changed?  No?  You mean the last report filed was an hour ago?  THEY COULD ALL BE DEAD BY NOW!

But your correspondence is not like world news.  Wolf Blitzer is not sitting at his desk bullet-pointing all the humiliating things that might have happened, or are likely to.  It’s not life or death.

Let’s institute a law.  We’ll call it Maturin’s law.

Your budding relationship or friendship is as good as your last message, and remains that way, inviolate, until you specifically hear otherwise.

Unless it’s been ten days, and you can tell that they’ve been on the dating site EVERY DAY SINCE, and that they HAVEN’T LOOKED AT YOUR FUCKING PROFILE ONCE.



Fuck the reassurance boogie, this just might be the denial twist.


Some Unique Saving Tips, the Skinner Sisters, and the Word ‘fuck’

Now I like a bit of Anglo-Saxon.  I like words like dim, and glimmer, and ruin.  I like the part of our language that splashed out of a longboat on a misty morning, sword in hand, and with ruthless thoughts of animal husbandry heavy on its heathen mind.

And I like the word ‘fuck’.  A lot.  A fucking lot.  A fucking load.

Not so much as a verb, more as a standalone.  I like it used joyously by my correspondents, like the rather fantastic person who wrote to me yesterday, “I fucking love Vikings!”.  Yeah!  I fucking love ’em too!

I immediately know that we’re going to get on; it’s like they’ve secretly daubed a chalk mark outside their house, indicating to me that all brethren are welcome.  In fact, I think I’m going to institute a yearly award.  Call it the Penelope Skinner award for the most poetic use of the word ‘fuck’.

I love the Skinner Sisters.  No, I fucking love the Skinner Sisters*.  Have I mentioned that? Almost as much as I love Aragorn.  The fact that there are two of them makes the world a doubly happy place.

[gazes smiling somewhere over your left shoulder, until you feel inclined to clear your throat] …

Ummm … Sorry – yes, where was I?  Oh yes.  Sorry.  The word ‘fuck’.  Yes.

Now.  Because I talk in my own awkward way about ‘dating’, and enthusiastically use the word ‘fuck’, I get a lot of stuff sent to me from other sites that use those two words a lot.  Except, yep, not quite in the same context.

Jesus Creeping Christ, there’s some horrible stuff out there.  For instance, one guy is telling me to use my STATUS and DOMINANCE to get sexual acts performed upon my person.  I mean, my status currently reads, “Sunday! Another veggie pizza and four-pack of Carlsberg from the garage :)”.  I’m not sure how that will work.

Another advises that at a first date, I should always have my SEX LOCATION already worked out, and that whilst taking you there, I should play-fight, because my PLAYFUL AGGRESSION will TURN YOU ON [looks confused and appalled].

I get tips on how to get your kids out of the house, and then how to get me out of your house, presumably after you’ve performed the above mentioned act.  Which I happily coerced you into.

But also, and this is the point, that I should use f**k, instead of Fuck, because it WILL OFFEND WOMEN [outright belly laughs].

Christ up a tree.

I do.  I Really do.  I try to explain it to them, but apparently I’m a prude, not being honest as a post-liberal man, and obviously not getting laid (actually one of those is true).  I’m a broke-ass bitch.  A ninety-nine percenter.  I let women keep me down.  I mean, these guys wear shades, and quote Tyler Durden from Fight Club.  The implication is that I’m not very Rock n’ Roll.

nob, yesterday.
nob, yesterday.

Oh really?


Because, my friend, in any stand-up rock n’ roll deathmatch, you and all of your mates are going to come a very poor fucking second.  Have you read nothing else here?  Look into these eyes.  I won’t even have to break a fucking sweat.  Amateur.

I mean, it’s not a healthy thing to serial date for a long time.  It’s like therapy.  I don’t want to hear that you’ve been proudly doing it for twenty years and counting; I would much rather hear that you did it for 18 months, and now you’re much better, thank you.  Online dating is that nasty, awkward thing you have to do before you get to the good stuff.  You need to get past it, quick.  Like the pilot episode of Fortitude.

And it doesn’t even sound as if you like women.  You define every encounter and relationship with them as combative, or something that you need to ‘win’.  You seem happy with manipulation.  And subterfuge.

I mean, why even date?  There are massage parlours for people like you.  And, actually [gets calculator out] yes; would probably be more economic, on a per-month basis, than Guardian Soulmates.  And at least they wouldn’t have to listen to your blistering crap.

If you’re going to be that shit-mouthed offensive about women, why are you worried about actually spelling out the word FUCK?  I would rather have one good honest ‘fuck’ than any of the wank you’re selling.  And you can take that in any way you want.


*all views on Penny & Ginny Skinner are entirely the author’s.

Advice on your first Guardian Soulmates date …

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.

Good times.

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 …


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?


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.


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?


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.


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.


Advice for ladies on their Guardian Soulmates profile …

Okay, so this is a random collection of inappropriate tittle-tattle based on a great deal of surfing the popular online self-harming festival that is Guardian Soulmates.  It is for ladies over the age of about thirty, as I tend to avoid women younger than that.  I’m sorry, but you’re often frighteningly well-adjusted.  And that won’t do.

There are many things to consider when constructing your profile.  I mean, this is going to go out there and represent you.  You want people to laugh when you’re being funny, and to furrow their brow when you are channelling your inner Keats.  Not the other way round.

Firstly, it’s important to get the basics right.  You are a WOMAN looking for a MAN, or whatever.  Just pause for a second, and make sure you’ve got that bit right.  You would be surprised how many punters actually get that bit wrong.  AlphaWolf77 often shows up in my suggestions, talking about his love of weight training and his impressive way with the ladies.  And I’ve got a beard.

Then there’s the photo.  A few ground rules.  Crop EVERYBODY else out.  Especially if there’s a *slight chance* that they’re prettier than you.  You don’t want his first reaction to be “who’s your mate”.

The same goes for other guys.  I don’t care if he’s gay, or your brother.  Or even your gay brother.  From this angle it looks like he could probably beat me up.  And he’s almost certainly better equipped than I am.

Don’t pose.  Don’t recline, or do that thing where you put your finger to your mouth in that “who? lil ol’ me?” fashion.  It’s just odd.  A really good smile is great, or if you look like you might laugh at my jokes.  That’ll work.

Don't do this.
Don’t do this.

Oh, and despite preconceptions, you don’t have to show any, you know, décolletage, or anything.  I mean, it’s nice that you have some, but no two guys like the same thing.  And we’re honestly not that straightforward.

And there’s a good deal of guff going around that we don’t read profiles.  Cobblers.  Of course we do, if only to see if you absolutely require us to be ‘financially savvy’.  Because that counts most of us out.

And, do you want to know a secret?  of course you do.  One of the ones I really fell for, she didn’t have a picture.  Sure, there were a couple in her gallery.  But no upfront glossy.  Just a lovely profile.  What can I tell you?  Good writers are hot.


Talking of profiles, you really don’t have to declare your love for adventure, or that you’re equally as happy practising your capoeira in the park as you are climbing the campaniles on a windy day.  Or that you like to round it off by throwing some shapes on the dance floor.  I’m in my forties, and that sounds fucking exhausting.  I’m happy to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ and have a good snog.

Basically, think of your ideal guy, give him a name, imagine what he’s into, and write it for him.  Don’t be afraid of frightening anyone, or being intimidating.  Go niche.  Because that’s entirely what you deserve.  And he’s probably out there.  Somewhere.  Having the same torrid time as you.

If you follow some of these rules, I’m not sure if you’ll be successful, but you might find me knocking on your door.  Which if you’ve read anything else on this blog, you may find blisteringly terrifying.

Finally, if at any point you suspect that the guy that you’re talking to does not feel any of the above, steer well clear.  He’s only talking to you because the twenty-something he’s been grooming has finally laughed in his stupid shiny face.