I wrote the below for a blog I made that never really came to fruition, back in 2012, largely because I got an actual job and couldn't spend all my time going on dates and writing lengthy missives about them. I also, just a few weeks later, met the man I would marry. But I'm posting this now for all my single readers, who for whatever reason may have been sucked into the bullshittery (not a word. don't care) of the Valentine's vortex.
Reading this again took me back to those early 20's moments that you don't realise you're in at the time- when nothing is decided yet, and you're a little bit scared, and you're on your own, and you're probably an arsehole, but you're also unwittingly and unfailingly more funny and fresh than ever before. In some ways more than you'll ever be again. Hindsight. It's a beautiful thing. Now read the below. Happy Valentine's Day one and all.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that, these days in the concrete-jungle-where-dreams-are-made-of, or anywhere else for that matter, the only sexual experience you’re likely to have without a broadband connection is with a hirstute sex offender on the subway who’s stuck his willy up your coat. Unless you are demonstrably advertising your pair of personalities on the interweb, your crotch area may as well resemble one of those spinny wheels you get on your screen right before your mac deletes your life’s work and your hard drive self combusts into flames.
Ok Cupid. No, it’s not a surprisingly accurately described semi-mediocre lubrication product sold at a Bangkok sex store. Or the name of Beyonce and her former Feyance Jay Z’s new baby. Whack on the Etta James, god rest her bygone soul. Your lonely days are over, life is like a song. Drive on to the gateway of true love.
Or, so it seems, in New York City, where every dinner party I’ve been to in the past six months seems to be full of couples, tentatively stroking each other’s bony knees, before telling you how once-upon-a-time-like-three-weeks-ago their artfully clipped profiles connected oh-so-beautifully across the vast black hole nothingness of cyberspace, before materialising, POOF, into a genuine bona fide love affair over an 18 dollar plate of pasta and a shared love of Maya Angelou in the West Village.
All the gin joints in this town are gone, leaving you nowhere to walk but a log-in page and an empty box with which to make yourself as appealing as possible in less than 1000 words. A recent study found that in 2012, internet dating, after meeting through friends, is the second most common way that new relationships are formed. The website Ok Cupid, which is currently at the forefront of internet matchmaking, estimates it has about 4 million users. That's the population of New Zealand. In short, fellow Luddites, this is, and I’m reluctant to say it, the future.
The first thing you'll notice after arriving at Ok Cupid.com is that it describes itself as “the best dating site on earth,” a startlingly powerful claim that proceeds to unravel as fast as the Patriots's offensive line on third and long. But it starts simply enough. Just confirm your gender, sexual orientation and relationship status and you're off to the libidinal races (animals, vegetables and minerals are helpfully banned from the primordial love pool). The relationship status options, it must be said, are a little curious, ranging from “single” to “I’m married/here for friends” which is, I suppose, what they call it these days. In the left hand corner are a range of reviews. The Boston Globe calls it the “Google of online dating,” implying it could help you find a man to simultaneously teach you how to roast a chicken, tell you exactly how liposuction works and fetch you a Balmain dress from Net a Porter. The Village Voice notes it's "A favourite hang out for internet goers,” which of course limits only the bits of China that it’s possibly been outlawed in so far.
Once you’ve confirmed, as in my case, that you are female, straight and single, you’re presented, almost instantly, with a pick-and-mix of bachelors, all with artfully named pseudo-identities, designed to incite mystery and excite the senses.
Having journeyed into this new kingdom I’ve decided to go all Walter Raleigh on you and deliver a few observations, beginning with:
THE NATIVE LANGUAGE
In this brave new world, grammatical structure and basic syntax are passé. When it comes to enflaming the potential loins via modem of an appropriate suitor, it's more art than science. Take these beauties.
"Contact me if your an intellectual" (sic).
"love reading wikipedia literly could read it all day lol i love knowing whats going on i also love documentires, and the simpsons an family guy and sponge bob"
" No body is a winner or a looser "
I beg to differ.
Alas I fear that I am anachronistic in the extreme, but call me old fashioned, I have to insist: a healthy grasp of English grammar is the sign of an excellent future partner. I want a man who can make love to me as if he was forming a complete, grammatically correct sentence, with a whispery little parentheses, a fat strong apostrophe or two and a nice definitive full stop at the end, rather than in sloppy syntax, miscreant adverbs and hastily assembled text speak. Cher said it was in his kiss- I look a bit like cher in low-light (and in my head) and I say it's in his ability to spell. In fact, next time I'm on a date and they've walked me to the door and I wonder whether or not I can just give-them-the-thumbs-up-and-run-into-my-apartment-even-though-i-know-they-want-to-kiss-me I will simply start barking out spelling problems. Any man who knows the correct amount of c's in necessary will have passed the first (necessary) test.
Let's talk about LOLs. WTFs. BRBs. Real life dispatches from the front line below.
“lol... Consider myself very good in the bedroom, lol its time to get freaky"
“There is a thing or two that I've been told I'm really good at but it's not something I'll mention here(ROFL)”
OMG make it stop. Firstly, it abbreviates one of the great joys in life, which is cursing, unabashedly and with gusto, which I for one, find deeply horny in a man. And the sheer INSINCERITY of it…the only time I’ve ever actually ROFL’d in my ENTIRE LIFE was when a bat flew into my best mate’s head and then she peed herself, so I am simply not convinced in the truthfulness of these pretenders who all claim to ROFL like Sufi’s on Molly at the smallest knob joke. Laughing at your own sentences even in WORD FORM is simply bad etiquette. To these hysterics, the only ROFLing I suggest is that which can be performed at the sheer edge of a bottomless gorge.
It’s mortifying having to choose photos that typify who you are as a human being while also being enticing enough to make strangers want to shag you. While many get it spot on with the 60:40 ratio of WACKY FUN TIMES to smouldering sex kitten, the most common problem is the inclination to bear one’s t and a for all to see.
The fairer sex are, regrettably, the worst offenders. A profile peruse of the females on offer is practically a first year med school introduction to obs and gyno. Girls posing sulkily to their Mac Photobooth in crop tops, half naked on the beach in Miami, strolling casually around a the park in a string vest and a merkin (ok I made up the last one). But, truth be told, after about an hour, and an approx 40,000-strong battalion of bikini clad babes later, I have to have a lie down. Some men like that, absolutely. But generally wife-beater types.
BUT OKAY IT IS HARD WHEN YOU ARE NOT PHYSICALLY BLESSED
There are unfortunately, some people, whom I describe, lovingly, as possessing “Gettysburg face” whereby their facial features seem to be sadly engaged in an ongoing and seemingly endless civil war. For Gettysburg faces, I recommend muted lighting, black and white photos and a nice big smile. Unfortunately, the generic myspace pose, self portrait, slight cock of neck, vague glint of bosom/pec often ends up being the Gettysburg-face vogue of choice. Glowering like you're auditioning for Mossad simply isn’t sexy, guys.. Buy hipstamatic and bathe yourself in fuzzy black and white.
If however, you have a sweet little bonsai tree of a noggin that looks like it’s been whittled away at, artfully, by Michelangelo during a particularly creative period, you of course have nothing to worry about, except for clarifying your charming personality. Which leads me neatly to...
RANGE OF "INTERESTS"
Oh "interests" we all have them. We have to reel them off all the time, at job interviews, usually. Some of us like swimming, some of us like painting, some of us like surfing the internet for pictures of formerly fat people grinning while holding their old trousers (guilty as charged). All of these add, appealing or grotesque, to the basic semblance of personality.
What does not is the alarming tendency some people seem to have, Ok Cupid-eers in particular, for biological functions masquerading as interests, of which “sleeping” seems to be the major culprit. Unless you are a lonely sloth, sleep doesn't count. Doing a wee, feeding my cat, and having a fully functioning pancreas are NOT "interests." And even when faux interests, "eating" "drinking" "walking" etc. are not cited, many a profile still has my lady parts shrinking with fear at the sheer idiocy on show. Take the following kaleidoscope of anti-hilarity:
Loves tattoos want more
got 5 piercings guess where" (Your brain? Ed)
"So imma nice guy lookin for a nice girl that has her head rite. Not too much for the controlling girls that get mad at u talking to anyone but them.......i mean dont get me wrong, if ur a chick with nothing but guy friends imma probably have a problem w/that further down the line"
“My interests are eating, walking, sleeping and drinking"
This is your moment kids, your one chance to make yourself sound like a fucking Renaissance man, not a mono-celled amoeba. Sod your biological functions and show me something I didn't know I wanted to see. Which takes me seamlessly to...
An alarming number of men and women, in an attempt to carve out their identity in the spiritual wasteland of 2012, resort to littering their public profiles with a range of pseudo holistic advice- presumably with the unspoken intention of proving that even if they look like a pit bull chewing on a wasp, their prospective dates can comfort themselves with the fact that they've got the power of Merlin and the foresight of the Sybil. Or, alternatively, they're just massive twats. I didn't look into a crystal ball and found the following:
“I try to be the best human I can, which involves both nurturing the growth I crave, a constant process of self-creation, and building the human connections we need, our "we"-creation.”
“This spiritual search has allowed me to build a personal philosophy about life, some elements of my own way to see the life lay down over axioms that I have concluded a long may years based on my own experience and the one of many other people I have met.”
“I spend my life building a spiritual raft, a kind of like rescue-device spaceship, out of this world kind of enlightenment for the benefit & well-being of all ..."
Blimey. It’s enough to make me a Catholic.
HONESTY, AND ITS VALUE
Honesty is what you'll talk about with your marriage counsellor ten years from now. At the Ok cupid profile stage, however, as you stand, half-naked and resigned in the forum, with a placard around your neck and only 4 hours to make a sale before your hymen grows back again, honesty can be counter productive, and over-sharing is a malaise common to the ardent cupideer. Take the following examples from these soon to be annihilated love jihadists.
"sometimes I twitch for no reason"
" I am interested in meeting people i can learn from….and that's if i am interested in meeting anyone at all. i recently got out of a long-term thing (red flag!), and i'm trying to re-engage."
"I currently live in Northern Japan. I visit Manhatten twice a year"
"after years of skepticism, i finally got into therapy. and after 4 years of therapy, it's become really important to me. i hope you understand."
YOU KNOW WHAT. I DON'T UNDERSTAND. My Grandma's got more game than this pretender.
It's not all bad. In the immortal words of feminist icon and all round philosopher, Dolly Parton, it's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world. And, believe it or not, there, deep in the detritus of pent up despair, lurks many a shiny gemstone. Guys who can juggle six oranges at a time and care for sick kittens. Girls with wicked tattoos and jobs in finance. You will probably lose rather a lot of hours in the process of finding them. But you'll meet them, you'll talk. Most likely, they’re the sort you’ll find yourself lazily tonguing at 4am, even if they’ve just audibly said the non-word LOL instead of actually laughing. You will overlook this, because otherwise this night will have been a monumental waste of make up- and a pyrrhic victory is better than nothing. At worst, you can comfort yourself with the fact that the poor dabs are making an effort, and at least aren’t asphyxi-wanking themselves to death in front of Love Actually.
L’amore is, after all, in cupid terms, initially meant to hurt. So, ladies, gentleman, rather than smarting from the blow of an arrow fired cheekily into your bottom from a diaper clad cherub with a cross-bow; before you meet the right sort, you must endure a few nights of eating fetid sushi in Queens with an IT specialist named Stanley, who has a passion for NASCAR, a palpable whiff of anxiety and a voice as sensuous as a vuvuzela.
Perhaps all these endless constellations of message-to-profile-to-date-and-back-again are actually rather lovely. Buzzing throughout the city in waspy nuances of photos and text, linking us all to one another, singing little arias into our in-boxes, banging on the doors of our smart phones, fizzing in silent symphony hour after hour.
The story of Cupid, the real one, goes like this.
On instruction from his jealous mother, Venus, the goddess of love, cherubic Cupid is ordered to make the beautiful nymph Psyche fall in love with the ‘vilest thing’ in the world. But although Cupid does sneak up on Psyche, and shoots her good, he scratches himself in the process. In an instant, Cupid has cast himself as both divine lover and vile creature. Which is, perhaps, as fitting a description for the denizens daring to tread into online dating as one might be able to find.
And, well, that's ok.