This post is sponsored by the words Pot, Kettle, and Black.
A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled Modern Dating. It portrayed any guy who partakes in ‘alternative dating’ (online, personals, chloroform, etc.) as a maladjusted misanthrope stuck behind his computer with a seething erection and crispy tissues plastered irrevocably to his hands, and any girl as the female equivalent; this perhaps involves a cucumber. A number of people more experienced in the online dating world did not take kindly to this astringent assumption. They suggested I should try it myself before mouthing off on the Internet. This, combined with a growing phobia of dying alone beneath a railway bridge and my bloated corpse only coming to light after several weeks of being eaten by cats, encouraged me to give it a go.
I chose a free dating site, which, days later, was in the news after one of its members beat another member half to death with a hammer following a bad date. Now, the very crux of my previous dating post was that no one shows their true self in alternative dating. Gaping flaws, such as a penchant for hammer-orientated violence, become endearing quirks, crippling anxieties charming idiosyncrasies. Even with this insight I soon found myself glossing over my personality defects and listing only my most esoteric of tastes. Yes, my favourite film is Three Colours Blue by Krzysztof Kieslowski! The only photos I uploaded were either pretentious Instagram or pretentious black & white, and all conveniently devoid of bad skin, fat belly, and hairy back. By the time I was finished, my profile was home to a version of myself I’d never met.
Initial interest was exclusively pugnacious transsexuals in bondage gear inviting me to their house for a blow job. Their numbers have been safely stowed for a few years down the line. Online dating is particularly belittling due to the arrival of a notification each and every time someone visits your profile, balks at the abhorrence of your photographs, and hurriedly absconds. It took a few weeks before I made contact with any real females.
This blog is built upon a foundation of disastrous dates and romance run aground. Who else can say the first girl they ever kissed promptly threw a pint glass at their head? However, this entry will be slightly different. Although not one of my four dates was a success per se, all of them, to varying degrees, went smoothly.
The difficulty lies in a superficial notion of imaginary science upon which people judge the future viability of a hypothetical relationship: chemistry. Although I understand the importance of getting along with someone, this apocryphal natural harmony has eluded me at every turn. It might be the fact that I am naturally awkward and take a while longer than most to feel comfortable around somebody new. This, as well as an archaic adherence to chivalry, often sees my relatively unhurried pace to sleep with someone diagnosed as a chemistry deficiency. Whatever happened to taking the time to get to know someone?
This is a disadvantage in the world of online dating. When finally I do meet someone I am plagued with a heightened awareness that I must make a great first impression. I arrive with a gargantuan flashing sign around my neck that screams LOVE ME. So scared am I of failure the date becomes a job interview, a frantic dissimulation, the desperate concealment of all blemishes to try and appear as the perfect man, as someone who isn’t inwardly terrified of being revealed as not worth knowing. Amid the exertion of maintaining the charade there’s no space to formulate chemistry.
The result was three non-awkward but ultimately lacklustre dates. Three separate girls sent near-identical postdate messages: You’re a really nice guy, but there was just no chemistry.
I persisted with a fourth date. Within ten minutes of sitting down in a pub on the Southbank, I knew it was doomed. Every time I spoke her eyes glassed over in a way I’ve only seen before in students I’ve taught. My chemistry vacuum yawned widely between us. So I decided to experiment. If being myself doesn’t work, and presenting a version of myself modified for social acceptance doesn’t work, I would be somebody else.
So the next time I opened my mouth I told her about the years I spent as a primary school teacher for troubled kids in Manchester. I regaled her with the tale of my near-goring in the running of the bulls at Pamplona. I made a devilishly inappropriate joke about Chlamydia.
And she laughed. And she believed. And when I text her the next day to ask how it went, she replied that there was great chemistry.
Although I’m not proud of lying to someone, it was necessary in order to stop deluding myself. Dating, online or otherwise, will not work for me. I will never make an earth-rending first impression. I will never glide inside the doorway in full Navy uniform and sweep someone off their feet back to my villa in the hills to engage them in headboard-abusive acrobatic sex.
So my online dating profile currently stands idle. All that’s left is to wait in the hope that one day there will be someone patient enough to get to know me, that time will outweigh lacklustre first impression. And if not, you will find me by following that smell to the noise of feasting cats underneath the railway bridge.