Try Before You Buy?
By Dan Siron
Ordinarily I can only cope with breathing, eating and the very serious business of Angry Birds on the iPad, but I have been thinking about how life has changed in the last 25 years. Who’d have thought that I would have to get dressed before answering the phone in case “video calling” was activated? In the 90’s I couldn’t have envisioned telling a computer my shopping list and expected it to turn up 5 hours later, delivered by someone’s Grandad. Even now, I struggle to comprehend the psychic abilities of 1471 and how my video knows when the clocks have gone back. Oh yes, iPad and VHS. Cutting edge retro here.
In the early 90’s I was fighting my way into adolescent life, with all of its trials and tribulations. In those days, dating was a simple matter of timing. You arrive at the youth club disco. You don’t dance. You stand with your mates and until the disco ended. Scott’s Dad arrives to pick you up, you dash over to Doris to ask if she would “go out with you”. She says “no”. and you go home. Dating was so easy! If she did say yes, that only meant you relinquished your Swatch for a few days a week.
University was a little more successful with lots of people all crammed into various students unions and sweaty nightclubs and predominantly available. Post University, the workplace provided a handsome opportunity to be turned down on a respectably frequent basis. As time has plodded on, I have noticed that there are more people on dates. I don’t mean the drunken lottery at ten to two on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. I mean proper dates. Where people are meeting for the first time and look awkward when trying the European “two cheek” kiss combo.
Old fashioned people like me are going the way of the Teas Maid. A cup of Tetley the instant you wake may seem like a good idea, but is inherently dangerous, disappointing and by the time the night has elapsed, your milk has gone off. While I hang around in bars, people are cutting to the chase. With a simple mouse click, people are avoiding the physically non-compatible, swerving the nauseatingly boring and subtracting the accountants. Internet dating has emerged as a sensible, viable and advisable method of searching for companionship. The embarrassment of joining dating sites is becoming the embarrassing tea stained dual purpose alarm clock of the 80’s and 90’s. The stigma is still there, as was shown when I turned to Twitter and Facebook for people’s views and opinions;
“You have to ask yourself, are you going on a date with this person because you like them, or are they the least desperate and vomit inducing person that contacted you?”
I received a more open minded view from a woman who, I can confirm, is very attractive, successful and not at all desperate. “We use the internet for jobs, homes and even our food shopping. Why not dates?” Why not indeed? She goes on to describe how the profile vetting can sort the wheat from the chaff without the distraction of having to do this in a bar or at work where everyone is watching and you can’t just click away from the rejects. Of course, this sorting process relies on all parties to provide honest and accurate information, and this is where the system has a bug.
You know when you arrive at the drive through “restaurant” and browse the laminated, neon lit menu? Everything is a work of culinary art, beautifully constructed and succulent, oh so succulent. After waiting in “Grill Parking Bay 3” for 15 minutes you finally open the wrapping and look inside to see the back of one of your Mum’s cork sandals trapped between a tired looking bread bun. And the buns don’t even line up! They resemble the simple kid at school with the massive underbite! The “meal” in the bag seldom resembles the banquet in the picture. And so proves to be the case when looking for a takeaway from dating sites. Fancy a Bachelor King anyone?
My inbox was full of stories where pictures of handsome men didn’t meet up with the reality of physical appearance. While the person you have met may well be the person in the picture, the two visages could well be from different decades. Always check the background for Ford Sierras and Betamax video players. Amending the evening’s plans to include the cinema so you don’t have to look at Shane McGowan’s teeth will only work a number of times.
One girl told me how she had sent photographs to her internet beau and agreed a meeting that involved a 6 hour train journey across Spain. Once in eyeshot of each other, they realised that neither was quite what the other expected, although he was less able to hide his disappointment than she. And so began an entire evening of awkward silence as he clearly would rather she wasn’t there, and she knowing there wasn’t a train home until the following day.
Sometimes it is the personality that leaves you running for the fire door, as was the case when Victoria met David;
After seeing photos of a tall and handsome man, Victoria met with David. And David did indeed resemble an Old Trafford legend, though it was Bobby Charlton rather than Beckham. Despite his charming messages from behind his PC, his conversation quickly became overtly sexual and he insisted that Victoria could feel the “inevitable sexual attraction” between them. With a watchful bouncer only a handbag throw away, she explained that, while she was flattered that she elicited these animalistic feelings, she did not share the same uncontrollable desire when faced by Donald Trump’s uglier brother. Quick as a flash, David played his Trump card and licked her from her chin, all the way up to her forehead. That’s right, licked her. Fighting back the inevitable lust, she ran to her car, helped by the bouncer (whose number she had received before David’s arrival, incidentally) who stalled her pursuer. Her rear view mirror showed the man running after her rapidly accelerating car, his remaining lock flowing in the wind.
Another charming story came in about a man who, upon being told that his “date” would not be requiring a second visit from him, insisted that she “Die in a car crash on the way home”. Less extreme, but no less disturbing is the man who constantly talked about his mother while rubbing his hands on the tablecloth because, “I like the feel of the fabric under my skin”. This was topped off with “You eat a lot for a girl” and “Do you really think you should be eating dessert?” Without wishing to be judgemental, is it any wonder that internet dating is considered, by some, to be the boiling pot of the desperate and undesirable?
By contrast, there are some heart warming stories too. I was frequently told that “Everyone knows someone who met their soul mate through internet dating sites.” And this seems to be true, although you are more likely to hear this from women, as men still seem reluctant to tell people about using a computer for more than War Craft and porn. But there may be a more acceptable face to internet dating that has been staring us in the face for a number of years. Facebook.
“We met through a friend of a friend” is being replaced by the much less delicate “I Facebooked her”. People use it in a similar way to more traditional dating sites, but with the label removed and the ability to browse without anyone knowing you are shopping at all. In fact, one of my contributors re-found the apple of her eye after 12 years of estrangement, through Facebook. Despite going down their separate University paths, the “People you may know” section became “Person you will marry” section after a romantic proposal atop the London Eye.
Another “bit the bullet” and eventually responded to an electronic bunch of flowers and married this stranger 6 years later. “Even though it was full of freaks, it was a great ego boost to see how many people wanted to contact me, and in the end it paid off even when I didn’t expect it too.” Harmless ego boost? Why not! Whether it is fair to pretend you intend to meet some people is another matter.
In direct comparison to meeting in the traditional way, i.e. bars and nightclubs, internet dating makes a great deal of sense. How many people would you have to talk to in a bar to find one that shares your interests, is attractive, is available and is interested in you? That said, there are no guarantees that what your research tells you is honest. But is that different from meeting a stranger in a bar? Perhaps it should be viewed like shopping in general. You can research the shoes online to make sure you’re not accidentally walking into a shop that only sells Crocs. And no one likes Crocs. Not every pair of sling backs will fit you perfectly, but you might be able to avoid the loafers section completely. And as every bloke knows to their cost, women love shopping for shopping’s sake. You browse a shop, touching every single item and holding up things you like, things you don’t like and things you are not sure if you like or not. Be it shoes, jumpers or lovers, shop online first. You may still have to try a few pairs on, but at least you can browse the range before wasting your bus fare.