Daisy Buchanan is the author of Meeting Your Match: Navigating the Minefield of Online Dating. She's here to make you feel better about that disastrous online date you just went on...
Sometimes, online dating will make you feel less like a human being looking for love, and more like a figure from Greek mythology who has been sent to the Underworld for a bit in order to work out what they did wrong in a past life. You will be dazzled to discover the number of people that don’t know how to eat with their mouth closed. Prepare to be amazed by the sheer volume of singletons who harbour extreme political views and have no indoor voice! You won’t believe how many daters think it’s appropriate to use a first meeting to put all sorts of weird sex stuff on the table. Literally.
Take my friend Jenny, who had been exchanging perfectly nice, flirty messages with a man she met on Match, and arrived at the designated tube station to find a dishevelled man shouting abuse at passers by. “CALL THAT A PAIR OF TROUSERS?” he bellowed at some poor woman who was clearly heading to the gym. “Bloody hell, I hope that scary man leaves soon, before my date turns up,” she thought to herself, when he looked at her, stopped shouting and walked towards her, offering his hand and saying “Oh, hello! You must be Jenny!” (Thinking quickly, she told him she wasn’t and then pretended to get a phone call.)
Or Abi, who had a lovely first date dinner, and was excited when her date said he had a “surprise in mind” for dessert. “I thought we were going for, you know, pudding,” she explained “and we left the restaurant and walked to a place around the corner. It was a tattoo parlour. His mate ran it. He’d designed a sort of leaping panther that he wanted us both to get. And when I said ‘NO WAY’, he cried.”
The best nightmare dates are the ones where the awfulness of the situation becomes apparent immediately, and you can run away. The worst are the dates where you sit, sipping and laughing, and you let yourself hope, only to discover something dreadful two hours in. It’s like skipping through a forest listening to songbirds, marvelling at the way the golden sunlight is peeping through the leaves, only to take your eye off the ball for half a second and find yourself falling down a giant, muddy hole. Like the glorious, laughter filled pub lunch I had with the man who I started to think might be my soulmate, only to have him reveal “I’m a bit more married than I made out.” after I’d ordered pudding. Mate, you can’t be ‘a bit’ married. Or the time my date generously insisted on paying for our drinks, confiding “to be honest, this isn’t even my credit card. I’ve got a bit of a scam going.” Or the gentleman who kissed me tenderly and passionately, whispering “I’d invite you back to my place…but I think you need to lose at least a stone first.”
There is no way of avoiding nightmare dates. These people will be single until the end of their days, so you’re bound to encounter at least five, thanks to the law of averages. Dating sites are where they congregate, like ants under a log. But I think bad dates are badges of honour. You learn a lot about yourself every time - even if it’s that you’re capable of making up a brilliant excuse on the spot, or that you’re capable of holding back tears until you’ve got the bus home.
I’m sure some people do meet the love of their life within a week of signing up, but where’s the story in that? Would true love be the subject of so many songs and stories if it was that easy to find? No! Your romantic journey begins with the words “I’d practically given up hope, and I was about to ring up the convent and ask for directions when suddenly, without warning, we found each other!” I’ve lost count of the friends who came to the conclusion that internet dating just wasn’t for them, until they went on ‘one last date’ and met the loves of their lives.
Having spent years writing about and researching internet dating - and going on lots of dates - I’m afraid I can’t supply a spell or magic method that will help you avoid the nightmares. But I can say that every bad meeting means you’re one step closer to the great date that makes you cancel all your subscriptions forever.
If that hasn't put you off, here are 11 online dating sites to try. Go forth and find love. If not, bring back a funny story, will you?
Meeting Your Match: Navigating the Minefield of Online Dating is available to buy now.
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