Thank goodness online dating’s no longer the shameful secret it once was – indeed these days when I hear a friend has a new partner, I assume they’ve got together via the internet. (And if I discover that, actually, they’ve been introduced by friends or met ordinarily in person, it feels a bit wow – how amazing, charming and even old-fashioned.)
But while it might feel as if the rest of the single world is internet dating, thinking about getting out there for the first time can be daunting. Then the party season arrives, and guess what – you’re a bit bottom-lip-sticking-out because you’ve no partner to celebrate with or go home with after those festive get-togethers. Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year.
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So, time to act. Part of my hesitation in signing up for internet dating was because I was a sort-of public figure, being on telly and so on. I imagined that once I put my face on a dating site, with a vague description of my work, I would be inundated by enquiries from men of all types and ages. So should I be clear who I was? I was angsting about all this with my sister Karen, a no-nonsense straight talker, who told me to get right off my self-built pedestal and sign up. (She’d tried online dating before she met her partner at a party.)
All well and good, but where to start with compiling a profile? How much of your true self do you want to share? I was worried that too much might be off-putting; not enough and would it sound like everyone else’s profile and perhaps get lost? I was surprised at how difficult it was to get going. And as for writing the ‘headline description’ – condensing my whole romantic self into a brief phrase – I found that impossible.
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Somehow or other I managed to write the damn thing, so I took a big breath and pressed send. It was 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I was now officially an online dater! I felt very brave, all prepped and ready for the avalanche of enquiries that were about to descend on me.
I was knocking about the house that afternoon doing bits of work, every few minutes checking my computer to see what had come in. Nothing. After an hour, more nothing. Two hours went by – still zippo. I called Karen to complain. Her response: ‘Ag: you need to do a bit of the legwork too – make contact with a few men, and that will get things moving.’
I followed her instructions, but still it was slow. Karen asked to read my profile. Her response was instant. ‘It’s clear why no one’s been in touch – you’re all about what you don’t want in a man! It’s so defensive that you sound as if you’re trying to keep them at a distance.’
I read it again. Mm, she had a point. The section on what I was looking for was far longer than the bit about me. Not only that but the first section was more or less exclusively a string of my dislikes: moustaches; short-sleeved shirts with loud patterns; beer bellies; sandals worn with socks; gnarly, fungal toenails; standard lamps with chintz shades… the list went on. No wonder they were all steering clear of me – even if they didn’t carry any of those traits!
Back to the drawing board. I turned the negatives into positives and added to the description of me, introducing a few more of my likes while injecting a bit of fun (humour is my number-one draw to a man).
The next day Tom got in touch. His profile read very differently from the rest – original, funny, warm, self-effacing. Although he lived 80 miles away, this one definitely seemed worth pursuing. Maybe this Christmas could turn out differently, I thought.