Despite being a billion-dollar industry, online dating remains one of the great taboos of the Internet age. Few admit to trying it – much less to being active in it – and those willing to give it a go are often thwarted by either a niggling fear of embarrassment or a Facebook comment suggesting it would be ‘so weird’. And trust me, it will be ‘so weird’ for roughly the first month and definitely for the first real-life meet up and most certainly if the date doesn’t go so well and you give an awkward shoulder hug and make a swift exit. But is answering ‘we met online’ to the ever important ‘how did you two meet?!’ such a bad response?
I had been properly single for almost three years. That’s not to say I hadn’t briefly dated – or made some very profound errors in judgement – but I hadn’t stuck with anyone, and no one had stuck with me. I had tried online dating before with semi-success and not a whole lot of luck, but in January when I made the move to central London, I thought it was time to give the medium another go – even if it came to nothing but getting me out of my second-floor flat a few times a week. I told myself I’d really give it a chance this time, going on any date that seemed worth a try, even if I wasn’t entirely sure. And whilst setting up my profile, I was genuinely excited about the prospects ahead.
I really committed myself to putting an effort into dating, and not just hoping my perfect match would seek out my slightly-too-long profile. Though I was relatively choosy in whom I replied to, I sent out messages and carried on conversations, even when they occasionally grew dull. Within a few weeks, I was getting ready for my first date – at a death exhibition in Euston Square.
Mind, I had been the one to choose the location (maybe a bit too morbid for a date, but my interest in art and all things a bit odd prevailed over my hesitation) and it was a relatively interesting exhibition in the end, even if I found myself looking for a way out of the second half of the date. He was nice, and had been incredibly polite as we wove our way through the museum of medical equipment and skeleton sketches, but I wasn’t feeling it. Maybe the issue was that I’m not quite that polite, and I felt that I had to be on my best behaviour – or maybe it was that he’d said he was six-foot-one and was actually five-foot-ten or maybe that his hands were noticeably smaller than mine and I couldn’t stop staring at them. Or maybe I’m incredibly judgemental and shouldn’t have made excuses not to meet up again. But as my friends agreed when I conferenced with them at a post-date drink: if there’s no attraction in the beginning, there is likely to never be an attraction.
So as I maturely dodged texts (note: don’t start sending someone ‘goodnight’ messages after a first date – it’s uncomfortable, and will make them ignore you more), I hesitantly agreed to another date with a different dude and met him outside Old Street station, where the trains had just been cut off because a woman suffered a heart attack (sensing a pattern emerging yet?). I felt no attraction to the ill-fitting suit wearing, briefcase-toting guy who took me for Vietnamese food and then awkwardly told me ‘I have a lot of socks’ in a trendy Hoxton bar. I walked the twenty minutes home in the cold so I wouldn’t have to catch a tube with him and told myself I’d probably delete my profile after all.
But as the dawn rose on another loveless, luckless day, I made one last, frantic scroll through my ‘matches’ and set my eyes upon a burgundy-suit wearing, dark-eyed boy to whom I sweated through sending an ill-crafted message. I bumbled words and sentences and hoped that I’d come across as the intelligent, interesting person I think I am – and not the uninspired, unwilling, slightly desperate and enormously frustrated person I’d become in the course of online dating. I almost gave up, but he replied the next day… and the next day, and the next day, and it didn’t take very long at all for me to accept another date. And another, and another, until they weren’t really dates anymore. Until ‘I am your boyfriend, right?’ was responded to with a laugh, because it was so pointless to ask. And nearly three months later, I’m glad I gave it a go – and I’m glad I had some ‘so weird’ moments along the way.
And while both of us are eager to create a fantastic story about how we met and fell in love, we aren’t ashamed to tell anyone that we met online, because if we hadn’t gone on that site, we wouldn’t be together now. I’m not telling you that you’ll definitely meet your soulmate – but even if nothing comes of online dating, at least you’ll have some interesting anecdotes about sock collections and bad suits to tell him or her when you find them.
If you’re timidly hovering on the line between clicking ‘sign up’ and ‘escape’, don’t listen to the naysayers – it’s an experience, and as long as you put the effort in, you’re bound to have a few laughs and a few frowns and a few awkward exits. Or maybe even a really good time with a really good person who is really good for you. It will definitely be weird. But nothing good came from not trying.