When I was a young and wide-eyed girl thinking about my future, I may have day dreamed about dating River Phoenix or marrying The Edge and raising a brood of musical offspring, but in no version of my planned future was I a forty-something single mother facing the daunting prospect of dating in 2011.
Things have changed beyond recognition since the 90s when I was last dating. Back then I was pretty impressive. I had a teeny waistline and I was a dancer. I had fellas queuing to ask me out. And I was cocky with it.
I remember being in a night club with a pal when a guy came over and asked if he could take me out. I waved him off with a beautifully tanned arm and told him if he really liked me, he’d find out my name and number and call me. Two weeks later I was in work and the phone rang. “Hi, Andrea, it’s Vinny.” Vinny? Who the heck was Vinny? “Vinny from the Buzz,” he said. I was pretty impressed so I dated him for a while until John came along in a swanky Audi flashing a pair of Del Amitri concert tickets.
So you can only imagine the shock and horror felt by an older, paler, washed-up version of my twenty-something self; with all of the stuff I had back then only more padded and several inches lower, trying to, ahem, get to grips with dating in the noughties.
The first dilemma is how to go about meeting potential dates when your best years are a distant memory. Early on in my new-found singledom I went out with some pals to a bunch of, erm, let’s just call them pick-up bars. One night I watched in awe and fascination as one friend identified the best looking guy in the place, went over to him and said, “OK sunshine, it’s your lucky night. You’re coming home with me, you’d better be good and don’t expect any toast in the morning.” To my utter astonishment, the guy looked like he’d had a big win on the lottery and was led away by my friend with a massive grin spread across his face.
Woah. Now, I’m pretty confident, but that kind of thing is so far beyond what I’m capable of that I might as well try throwing myself off a tall building and attempting to fly.
So what next? I’ve had friends set me up with guys they know. I’d say this had mixed results if by ‘mixed’ I meant anything from ‘meh’ to outright disaster. The problem I’ve found is that when friends say, “I know a great guy for you,” what they actually mean is “I fancy the pants off him, but I don’t want my husband to know.” Rather than looking for a guy who’d be ideal for me, they pick one who they’d love to get it on with. And, let’s face it, who wants to go out with someone else’s ideal fella?
The worst thing about going out with friend-recommended guys is that it ended up feeling like I was going for job interviews for jobs that I wasn’t really interested in. Like if you’re on the dole and they make you go for a job applying the egg glaze to sausage rolls in Gregg’s when you really want to be a window dresser for Debenhams. Not good.
The next option was to find an ideal date myself. As we live in fancy modern internet times a lot of my friends have met their partners through on-line dating sites. So I kind of assumed that this was the cool new way to meet people. One very dear friend of mine, who I’ll call Mindy, possibly the world’s most hopeless romantic, was always looking for the man of her dreams on various dating sites and frequently ended up with blokes who were total nightmares.
To give you an idea, she met one guy on-line who turned up at her house at 1:30 in the morning saying he’d been lost in some sand dunes where he thought he’d hit a fox with his car. Mindy spent most of the next day in a police station after a dead body (human, not fox) was found in the same sand dunes and her date was taken into custody as a murder suspect. I kid you not. And it didn’t put her off.
Mindy urged me to join one of these sites and promised me I’d have the pick of the blokes on there since most of the women were, in Mindy’s opinion, a bit ropey. “OK,” she said, in the face of my implacable cynicism, “go on as if you’re a fella and look at the women on there, then you’ll see what you’re up against.”
I relented and joined a free dating site using all of my own details, but calling myself Andy. And who was my perfect match? That’s right, bloody Mindy.
One of my oldest friends, who lives in Canada, called me last year to urge me onto dating sites, which apparently are all the rage over there; and a few of my close friends over here are on various sites, so in the interests of researching this blog post (the things I do) one friend, who I’ll call Fiona, let me in on the world of internet dating in 2011.
Showing me round her on-line profile, I was gobsmacked to see that Fiona had been emailed or ‘winked’ at by dozens of blokes. I asked Fiona to show me some of these blokes in more detail. Now I was brought up good and proper and always taught to never judge a book by its cover, but my mum and dad never had to trawl through potential partners on catch.com when they were raising me.
The first guy we looked at, Johhny, had taken a photo of himself in an immaculately tailored suit on a landing that was covered in masses of dirty washing and old towels. Johnny described himself as ‘romantic’ and said his best feature was, I kid you not, ‘a sweet spot not on the list’ of legs, bum, lips, hair and so on. His best feature certainly wasn’t ‘putting shit away’.
I was amazed at the number of men who think that any woman alive would be wildly interested in a) a picture of them naked from the waist up against a background of floral wallpaper and a pink velour headboard; b) dozens and dozens of pictures of them climbing mountains in snowy, dangerous looking landscapes; c) a passport picture that is so old it’s about 2 pixels big or d) a list of what a they are looking for in a partner that sounds like a checklist for a Miss World winner. And yet, they do. This picture is a screen dump from a guy called Neil (who has a profile picture from around 1984) listing what he must have in a partner.
This guy’s specifying his potential date’s weight to the nearest pound (how many 6st 4lb women have you ever met?) and even the type of films she must like. And he wasn’t alone in making huge lists of demands.
To be fair, I have to say that there were a couple of what seemed to be genuinely nice chaps on Fiona’s catch.com, as I’m sure there are lots of equally lovely women. So why am I not signing up?
Well, like Marie Curie, I’m a great believer in chemistry. I need to look into the whites of someone’s eyes and feel that “whoof!” when you like someone and you can tell they like you back. The last time I felt one of those mutual ‘wallop!’ moments was with a man who alas could not be mine.
So maybe I’ll follow the advice of a thousand agony aunts and start off by taking up a hobby. Now if only I can work out what activities all the tall, interesting, witty, intelligent men in my area are doing. Or German. I always wanted to study advanced German. What’s that you say? Das ist keine gute Idee, dumbkopf.
Ah well, back to the drawing board. Single, fortysomething, mother-of-two seeks alright, decent bloke, great kisser. Like Tom said in Four Weddings and Funeral, I’m looking for that moment of “Golly… bloody Thunderbolt City!”