“When you see crazy coming, cross the street!”

–          Iyanla Vanzant

Computer

Since throwing my hat into the dating arena, I have to say that I’ve had my fair share of craziness walking down the proverbial street, and luckily I’ve high-tailed it in the opposite direction. Initially when I was first single, I met people (aka The Italian for example), face to face , which is great. You see them, they see you – there is an attraction and maybe chemistry. It’s a little more organic. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Boy is that all blown out of the water though when you dip your toe into the parallel universe that is on-line dating! Now I should clarify here that I resisted the whole on-line dating deal for a time. I  figured that there would be plenty of men in the real world to meet and that I wasn’t one of “those” people who couldn’t meet men or rustle up a date. I mean I’m hardly a supermodel, but I’d never had problems with men talking to me in the past or giving me the tip of the head when I’d been married.  I’d been living in a protective bubble of married bliss, unaware of how slim the pickings were for my single friends).  Once I was single, I found out quickly. 

Yes girls, there probably are lots of great guys out there, but no one seemed to know where “there” was exactly! My friends don’t have any eligible single male friends to set me up with. Then from the men out there, some are already married, some are gay, some are confirmed bachelors or players, some are dating women ten years their junior, and some guys you simply don’t connect with. Then there’s something apparently called a man drought! Who the hell was left to date? When a friend suggested I go on-line I was dubious but I was open to the possibility.

Firstly I needed to pick an on-line dating site. I was pretty lazy and just went with the one most advertised. Bigger is better, right? There are a lot of choices out there – Australia apparently has around 250 internet dating sites. I read some of their “success stories” and it all seemed like a good idea at the time.

I then created an online profile, which by the way I found really daunting.

Clearly I am a girl blessed with the gift of the gab, but how do you market yourself to a potential love interest? What words can you use to completely sum up who you are, in such a way that the right man might contact me from a sea of profiles. I wanted to get the wording right so that I, heaven forbid, didn’t come across as sounding needy or desperate, or easy  – or too intelligent, or too vapid? This was harder than I thought. It just felt rather contrived.

So in the end, I just wanted to be as honest as I could. I added that I was looking for the right person and players need not apply. I mentioned in my profile that I had children up-front, and a dog. (I stopped short of saying I liked piña coladas and getting caught in the rain…).

I tried to be friendly and witty, but it felt rather like I was applying for a want ad, rather than looking for a possible partner!

Position Vacant: Girlfriend. Please enquire within. Please provide a current CV and attach a current photograph.

Yes, you are required to upload a photo of yourself, but more than one they advise would be better. So I uploaded current selfies from my trusty I-phone (taken at just the right angle of course) and hoped for the best. Hit send! At first I decided to make my “profile” visible to everyone on the site, which made me pretty nervous. What if someone I knew saw me on there?

Let’s be hones, the “desperate and dateless” stigma no longer exists with more than 70% of Aussie singles hitting the computer in search of friendships and partners, at one point or another. We live in an age of technology so it makes sense that more more dating sites are cropping up, with their own phone apps.

Initially I can say the intenet experience was a bit of an ego boost. I was inundated with lots of messages from men. I had no idea that might ever be a possibility. I was a little chuffed. Oh yeah, girl, you gots it goin’ on!

I politely and enthusiastically looked at each message. I checked out their pictures. I read each profile, sometimes twice and something started to occur to me. Some of these guys clearly hadn’t even read my profile! We had absolutely nothing in common.

 Some were a little creepy, some were a little crass or even disturbingly honest.

One guy informed me,  “I’m married. I’m telling you up front. You look pretty hot and if you’re after a good time, by all means email me.” Well, kudos for being honest Mister but um, didn’t I say I was looking for a relationship and I actually applied the ‘no players’ rule?! Oh dear.  

Another true-ism started to occur to me also. I took the time to read profiles but often I dismissed people based on their picture if I wasn’t attracted to them. So it occurred to me that men were probably totally dismissing me also, based on mine. My unshakeable belief that dating was going to be easy started to waver. I realised that I had so many “hits” not because I was more special, but simply because I was new to the site! (Cue deflated ego!).

The very first meeting I had from the on-line gig was the Hedgehog.

He had a nice professional black and white picture, and he was, according to his profile successful and tall. Like me, he enjoyed galleries and museums.  He liked red wine and great books. He contacted me first via email on the site and he was charming. The emails went on for several weeks and then he asked if he could text me. I was intrigued at this point so of course I handed over my number. He consistently sent me lovely, engaging text messages. He spoke quite poetically. We decided to meet.

When I arrived I was a little distracted by a strange-looking guy hovering near the front doors of the eatery. Small, wiry, with an odd grin, he looked somewhat like a hedgehog.  I walked right on by, smiling politely and stopped dead when he said my name.

Oh. My. God!

This could not be the guy?! Where was the guy in the picture? Red Flag!! He was all excited and I kid you not, he was literally wringing his hands and sniggering. He jumped in to hug me. Oh shit! I was rendered speechless.

Things got worse when the Hedgehog pinned me into a booth seat so I couldn’t get out and decided that he could put his grubby little mitts on my thigh!  Alarm Bells!!!   I almost pushed him out of the way and ran to my car as fast as my spiky stilettos could carry me. I was shaken, and not in a good way. I was just shocked at the audacity that someone could misrepresent himself and then be so disrespectful to lay his hands on me. Adding insult to injury, I’d gone to a lot of effort to get ready, damn it!

One valuable lesson learnt. Not all people are honest about themselves and not all pictures are accurate! I can never understand why anyone would put up a picture of themselves that wasn’t current. I’ve heard stories from people who turned up to meet someone only to discover they look 20 years older than the picture they put up, and in some cases 20 kilos heavier. The reality is when they turn up to meet you, you are going to actullay see them!  If they have started with deception to get you there, their winning personality may not be enough to win you over!

By date number two then, I thought I was more prepared, and far more realistic. A very distinguished man (think Imran Khan in his finer days), contacted me and his profile was brilliant.  Of Indian descent, he was well educated, humorous, a parent of teenage children, well read, successful and articulate. On paper, this guy was a good catch. We met for coffee somewhere very public and in daylight) and he seemed quite lovely, and respectful. He asked me out for dinner. Nice.

He picked me up in his BMW 4WD with the heated leather seats, but strangely decided to make a stop along the way and parked near Albert Park Lake (which is a man-made lake surrounded by park land). He insisted the detour was for the lovely view, but then suggested we climb into the back of his car! When I declined, (do I look sixteen?) he threw himself at me! I felt hands everywhere and he forced a kiss on me, pushing his tongue down my throat while I struggled and pushed him away! Dam Octopus! All hands and no substance!

I actually went home that night and blocked my profile and took a bit of a break, feeling quite distressed. I mean, did I have a neon sign hanging above my head that said “Please grope me”?

 After a bit of a hiatus, I went back to the drawing board, updating my profile in an attempt to assert that I wasn’t a push over. I resumed the experience with my eyes wide open, a good dose of courage and a new set of rules for myself.

  1. Never email for too long. It’s easy to form an emotional response to a pen pal that may not be truly representative of the person.
  2. Always get their phone number early. Text and then call. Though not a guarantee, hearing a voice gives some indication of who they are, and if they have misrepresented themselves.
  3. Make the first meeting a quick coffee. Chemistry cannot be confirmed in a photograph, nor in carefully crafted and edited words. Coffee is quick, if you’re just not feeling it.
  4. Always tell a girlfriend where you are going, just in case!
  5. If you see red flags come up, trust your instincts and walk away!

Sometimes the red flags are fairly obvious.  I went on a couple of dates with a guy I met on-line that was fresh out of a long-term marriage. He was intelligent and made me laugh but there were obvious signs he wasn’t ready to date. He talked about his ex quite often, and in very scathing terms. I’m a believer that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s indifference. If a guy is still that passionate about his ex, he’s really not over the pain yet. He had dramatic mood swings, was drinking a lot and made plans he quickly forgot. He admitted to being lonely all the time and I realized that I could have been any generic women – he just didn’t want to be alone. Had I met him a year later, who knows. Though we had an obvious chemistry, there were too many obvious warning signs that he wasn’t ready for a relationship.    

I have met some really interesting people, I should add, via the on-line dating experience.   I’m sure I’ll be confessing all in future posts!

It gives me hope also that I know people who have met on-line and are enjoying being loved up. One is even getting married this year. So it’s possible that you might find your ideal partner, but I do believe it’s a numbers game. Be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince!

One friend told me that she went on-line originally as she had very little dating experience. She deliberately set up loads of dates with different people just for the practice. She got better at the dating game and in the process figured out that she was looking for. By the by, she’s been in a relationship now for a few years with a guy she met on-line!

Just be realistic, have lots of fun and be careful – there are great people in the world but there are also hedgehogs and octopuses! If you see them coming, cross the street!

For me, I’ll keep my options open while I’m holding out for Mr. Exceptional, regardless of whether he’s out there in cyberspace or walking down the street.  I’m okay on my own though I’m open to the possibility of love.  I just don’t want to sell myself short and settle for less than my ideal guy. (Nor would I want someone to “settle” for me). I’d love to hear any stories you have of on-line experiences too!

I’ve come pretty close to finding him at least once, so I’m holding onto plausible hope that he’s out there…wherever “there” is!