4. Proper v. online dating…..

Like me, I’m sure you’ve bought things online. It saves time and effort and you can do it in your armchair, wearing your dressing gown and sipping a G&T. It doesn’t always go to plan though.

Needing something for a party this Saturday, you browse the internet for hours before you find a little black dress modelled by Elizabeth Hurley.  It’s nipped in at the waist, cut low to reveal a neat décolletage and just above the knee, showing off her shapely legs.  Believing that it will look equally chic on you, you send off for it.

When it does finally arrive on Saturday you rip open the package, but far from the stylish little black number you saw online, it’s made of material like a tea towel and the seams are coming undone. As it’s now 7pm, you have nothing else to wear, and you’re hoping that tonight may be your lucky night, you dash upstairs to put it on.

The dress looks nothing like it did on Elizabeth Hurley, the only similarity being the safety pins holding the seams together. It’s baggy on the bum, too tight on the tits, and it cuts across the middle of your calves making your legs look like tree trunks. There are deodorant marks under the arms but you’ve expended so much energy trying to get into it, you’re not going to take it off again. You rick your neck trying to grapple with the zip and follow this with the mother of all hot flushes. Standing by the freezer with the door open for half an hour to cool off, you try not to think of the vision of Liz H. You look at your dishevelled self in the mirror and think “that will have to do”.

You really wish you’d made the effort to go into town and try the dress on properly in a changing room, so that you could see what it looked like, whether it fitted and what it was made of. You may even have found something even better, not in your usual style but that looked fabulous when you tried it on.

Meeting someone in a conventional way is a bit like proper shopping. Imagine yourself as a single woman at a bar/club/party one evening. You look up and see a rather handsome man watching you from the other side of the room.  He’s not your usual type, but there’s something about him that you find attractive. You make eye contact, look away and make eye contact again. He smiles and you smile back. This goes on for a little while before he plucks up the courage to come over and talk to you. He offers you a drink and you chat for a while.

He has a gorgeous smile and he smells delicious. He’s well-spoken, interesting and confident. His hair is combed, his shoes are polished and his nails are clean. He laughs at your witty anecdotes and tells you that he too adores Girls Aloud and Dusty Springfield. Eventually you have to go, but before you do he asks for your phone number and tells you he’ll call…..

Internet dating is much more like online shopping. You’re choosing from pictures and you’ve no idea what the person is really like until you actually meet him.  His photos could be twenty years old and, although he’s told you he’s 6’1″, that’s on tiptoes, wearing built up shoes and standing on a box!

One evening you’re browsing Hebay for hours and you find a reasonable looking man. His photographs look ok, he can spell and he has no peculiar hobbies (that he’s admitting to). A little message appears on your screen telling you that he has also looked at your profile. He sends you a “nudge” which tells you that he has looked at you and might be interested. You nudge him. He nudges you back. You nudge him again.

A week later you get an email from him saying “Hi” (nothing else, just “Hi”). You write back the next day, telling him that you’d enjoyed reading his profile, and you tell him a bit about yourself in a few paragraphs.

Three days later he replies in two sentences, one telling you a little about him (his name, age and marital status) and the other asking “how is your week so far?”. (This is a question many men ask frequently. I’m sure it’s in the Hebay “What to Write to Women” manual, along with “walking on a windy beach” and “cuddling up on the sofa with a dvd and bottle of wine”.  Tempting as it is to reply “nothing much” which is probably more truthful, I usually make something up, giving the impression that my social life is more hectic than Paris Hilton’s.)

This goes on for weeks, his sentences gradually becoming a paragraph, and you running out of interesting things to reply to his question about your week. It’s a bit like pulling teeth but you persevere, because compared to the other profiles you’ve seen, his is actually ok.

After six weeks of email pingpong, and at the point of losing the will to live, you pluck up the courage to email him your phone number. He writes back with enthusiasm, telling you that he’s been wanting to ask for your number, but has been too shy to do so. Now he can’t wait to talk!  This email is positively encouraging and contains three paragraphs! You’re practically excited!

He says he will call you on Wednesday….. he doesn’t…..he texts you on Saturday saying he’s been busy and he will call you on Sunday…..

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