Tag Archives: online-dating

Reversing the Polarity – A Guest Post.

[Guest post by J., from ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’]

If you half close your eyes, it feels like the world is moving in slow-motion. There’s no dry ice, but the atmosphere feels smoky as the figures before us turn and twist in slow motion. The neon blue lights underneath the half-finished stairs make the dilapidated basement feel like a half constructed Starship Enterprise, a chariot to the Dancing With Stars. She leans in to kiss me, and the world forgets to breathe for a second.

But… I’m getting ahead of myself. As usual.

A few days ago, the author of ‘Wish There Were a Manual’ got in contact with me over email, saying: “You might be a male version of me.” She’d been laughing at my posts over at ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’, and seeing as we both had dating disaster blogs, the logical thing to do seemed to meet up and see if we could engineer the worst date in all of dating history.

Strangely, that didn’t quite happen.

Online dating is so much about presenting a front to people, a shop window for people to browse. You need to be able to sell yourself, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people cut a few corners to entice people to sample their wares. Some might add inches to their height, some post old photos, some even ‘forget’ to mention their offspring. As both of our blogs had been wincingly honest in places, I was fascinated to see what it was like to go on a date with someone who already knows pretty much the worst there is to know about you. As it turns out, it’s pretty freeing not having to posture or throw your swagger about. Although I still managed to do that obviously, because I’m a complete idiot.

We’d agreed that we’d walk through Regent’s Park and She arrived with a backpack of shoes and a gob full of anecdotes. After grabbing a couple of organic ice creams we sat on the benches and discussed everything from Dutch/Chinese Stalkers to time travel, via would-be-boyfriends who can’t read social cues while getting touched up by drunken chavs. At one point she lay on her back and smoked into the sky, one knee slightly raised, and I started to think… yes.

After a while, she got cold, so we started walking through the park. We named a lighter, laughed at ducks and almost kissed. Although I unfortunately managed to time the kiss at the exact moment she said the word ‘toilet’, which made us both laugh and totally blow the moment. “I can’t kiss you after saying that!” she laughed, and her eyes sparkled. But we did anyway.

As the date drew to a close, she asked if I wanted to escort her to Waterloo to meet a friend. As I didn’t have anything else planned, I agreed, and we walked through the streets of London. Halfway through this walk, dinner in Waterloo became dinner in Chinatown, and I got invited along. We had a great time chatting with her friend, and he asked “Are you coming dancing with us?”.

I looked at her, and I thought I might.

We headed to the Blues Fusion night, splitting with her friend along the way. Alone again, we stepped though the streets, holding hands. We got to the basement club and were arrested with visions of dedicated dancers contorting and spinning to bass-heavy slow jams. I watched her dance with some other guys. She’s stunning to watch, and there’s motion in her poetry. I shyly tried a few steps with her. While dancing someone said we looked so happy. Another lady asked us how long we’d been together and She said, without hesitation, “Seven years”, and we then bantered back and forth with various improvised stories of our dating history, and about how to keep your relationship alive. The lady said “You can see you’re still in love – you look like you just met yesterday!”

We walked home through the night streets at 4am, and ended the night swimming in a ball pool. I felt so clear and relaxed and happy – it was wonderful to have someone accept you for the awesome idiot you are, rather than the wonderful lie you’d like to present yourself as. Before drifting off in her arms on a battered sofa, the last thing she said was “Don’t mess this up.” I’m sure I will/already have, but if nothing else, at least I had a night that felt like a slice of hot magic.

I guess, sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.

This is Muriel. If you want to read my account of the same night, head over to impresswoman.tumblr.com. No, it doesn’t contain a graph, but I’m talking about expectations, humor and reverse psychology. 

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Just Ctrl C Ctrl V (part 2)

I’ve recently described the phenomenon of the well-crafted generic message that is posted to hundreds of girls at once, equivalent to flyering your neighbourhood with valentine’s cards.

There are many different approaches to constructing these messages, and I would like to highlight some of them.

Speaking to a large group of people yet achieving that everyone in the crowd feels uniquely addressed is a form of art, and a skill honed in expensive management classes and nights down the corner pub. One strategy that I previously discussed, is to keep the message very short and concise. This will intrigue the reader and make them hunger for more.

Today I will share a message with you that followed quite the opposite approach. The writer decided to reveal everything, and draw me in with full, honest disclosure. He discusses his employment details, his goals in life, his hopes for our relationship, and his medical history. He also alludes to sexual preferences. All in all, a self-summary that could not be more open. What else could a girl want?

But read for yourself.

Example B:

I am Egyptian man I work a lawyer and I have 25 years love life simple hope that Atovq through this site to find a Wife is shared by my life in the future and had a children and live in peace and I am open-minded and it is not none other bad, to search for Wife by sites the net and I hope you understand me

I’m good-hearted man looking for love do not look for the shape I’m looking for a good heart and a sense of fulfillment I am sincere and I hope to get to know a lot about you and your love of your life and future .. Surely I do not know what is possible in the future I am, a pair for you.
Obviously, you are so beautiful white heart Ok I’m raring to get to know you.
Do not leave me

I want to marry you, I did not unprotected sex never in my life I really need to get married and wish to marry a foreign girl Do you agree, and I admitted I did not never unprotected sex with any girl in my life

Full message, no edits. Life is that good.

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Deciding Between Two Men

Remember how I went out with N.? How it was all lovely and picture-perfect, but neither of us really felt a spark? Well, seeing as we’re nearing our one-year anniversary of that date (and haven’t really been in touch since) we decided to repeat last year’s performance and go to the same outdoor festival. Now, I’m still not really in the market for dates, but this seemed to be more a reminiscent outing than anything else- we had a fun time watching a movie last year, so why not do it again.

The organisation was very simple- after all, we’d done this date before. The only apparent problem was that on the day of the festival, it was raining like mad (what with it being August in London and all), and I couldn’t really see us sitting outside on the ground, huddling in the downpour, trying to keep the mud from seeping into our mats and blankets, all while balancing umbrellas,  trying to see the screen and eating sushi. I guess you can see my priorities here.

Either way, I proposed what I thought of as an excellent alternative to outdoor cinema: Prom 55. It has the same picknick+culture spirit as the original plan, but instead of in the rain, we’d sit in the Royal Albert Hall. I love opera, I love Handel, I love Handel operas- I was already completely sold on the idea. In a quick text, my date agreed and we settled where and when we’d meet.

I spent half the afternoon researching Rinaldo, reading synopsis and interpretations and pre-listening to important arias online. I was positively giddy when I arrived at our meeting point. Also because I was curious to meet N. again. But yeah, mostly for meeting R.

Our preprom queue banter quickly showed that N. hadn’t even realised he was going to a partially staged opera performance instead of an orchestral concert. His face twitched slightly when he asked “Oh, with singing and everything?”- which should have warned me. However, I was in my own little bubble of enthusiasm and just replied “Yes, it’s going to be amazing!” instead of picking up on his scepticism.

We got gallery tickets, and found space to sit near the bannisters about in the middle of the gallery. Excellent promming! We could see the entire stage, albeit through “prison bars” as my date charmingly put it, and I got even more excited.

I was enthralled from the first notes of the ouverture (go listen to it here). Prom 55 was the Glyndebourne 2011 production of R. by Georg Friedrich Handel, where the crusade age plot is reimagined as a revenge-fuelled school boy’s dream after he’s been bullied one time too many. Seeing as the original baroque opera’s plot is confusing at best, and racially, sexistically and religiously insensitive and bigotted at worst, I thought this was a clever choice(although on a whole the “transported in modern time through one thing or other” strategy isn’t my favourite staging tool) and overall for me, the transformation into a teenage fantasy worked for me.

Sadistic teachers, wise teachers, mean girls, luring synchronised swimmers, armies of bicycle riders and football playing boys- R. filled his dream with some too-well-loved stereotypes and cliches along with some very bright ideas. While the latex-clad Armida as teacher with cane and posse of St Trinian lookalikes felt a bit heavy-handed for me, I found the reimagining of the final battle scene of christians and muslims as a slow-motion football game that ended with R. scoring into the orchestra simply ingenious.

The orchestra of enlightenment was fantastic, and although I wasn’t entirely convinced by his harpsichord solos, I really liked Ottavio Dantone’s musical direction. The singers were spirited and lively, with Sonia Prina’s title role a special treat.

You can tell, I adored it from the first minute. Poor N. really didn’t. He hadn’t read the plot beforehand, and my hastily whispered 45 second introduction to a story along the lines of  “…and then A dresses up as B and her lover C falls in love with her in costume, so she plots revenge together with B’s lover D, who she has imprisoned earlier. Oh, and she’s a witch!” didn’t really enlighten him either.

The prom performance was not supertitled like most other foreign language opera performances (a decision I don’t understand), N. thus had hardly any chance to understand what was going on for the next two-and-a-half hours.We discussed our experiences in the first interval, and it became clear he had resigned to just listening and ignoring the plot completely. And although he was too polite to explicitly state it, it was quite obvious that baroque opera was not the music he would usually choose to listen to for an evening while sitting on the linoleum covered floor amidst a bunch of opera-fanatic strangers.

This essentially gave me a choice to either a) be a very nice person, suggest to leave during the interval and get some drinks instead and spend some more quality time with X. or b) resist the social clues, stay for the rest of the opera and spend some more quality time with R.

I went with b). Because I truly fell in love with R. I’ve been obsessively listening to the recording over and over again in the past days. I’ve imagined our future, how I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out and how I’m going to go to all future Glyndebourne proms. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends, and just writing it down now makes me smile.

N. took it very gracefully, and I promised him non-operatic drinks next week.

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Be Descriptive

The below post contains personal ramblings about body type, weight, public perception etc. I’m happy and healthy, and not too neurotic about these things apart from when typing them up for my blog, so I think it’s ok to post this. However innocent my intentions, if you have weight/body issues, this post might be a trigger.

Second note: I’m using terms like “fat” and “skinny”, when I talk about people. This doesn’t denote a value judgement.

When filling out an online dating profile, you will almost invariably find a page with a host of dropdown menus that make it able to comparably describe you to others. While your personality gets little empty textboxes you have to fill in yourself, your physical attributes get an array of 9 point Likert scales.

However, while there are very fixed measurements for some attributes such as height, and quasi-objective descriptions for things like eye colour (step away from the qualia issue, please) there are certain dropdown menus that rely on rather more insight and subjective analysis.

I’m specifically talking about the “body type” field. My dating site of choice gives you the choice of:

Rather not Say, Thin, Overweight, Skinny, Average, Fit, Athletic, Jacked, A little extra, Curvy, Full figured and Used up.

So yes, plenty of options to choose from. I initially chose Average, as a cover all term, because  it’s hard to be more specific. There are two different issues at play. The main point is a) How I perceive myself, and which words describes that. Even more tricky though is issue b) How the consensus of site users uses and perceives these terms.

It’s no use if I put Skinny because I totally lost a pound last week, and haven’t had breakfast today, so my stomach looks practically concave. I’m still very firmly not-skinny in the eyes of others.

I thus went with the elimination method: I’m definitely not Skinny (too many things under that skin), Overweight (BMI says not), Thin, or Jacked. I’d also like to believe that at not-even-the-end-of-my-twenties-yet I’m also not Used Up, although my under eye circles tell a different story on Monday mornings.

That leaves me with: Average, Fit, Athletic, A little extra, Curvy and Full figured.

And this is where it becomes difficult. First of all these six seem to fall in three clusters: Fit and Athletic belong together, and so do A little extra, Curvy and Full figured. The former two are for sporty figures, the latter three for various forms of the higher range of the BMI.

A little extra is probably just a euphemism for overweight or obese, where the extra is the bit that goes over the normal weight. So I decided to exclude that. Even though I think there’s plenty of extra on my lower stomach for example. overall it’s probably a misleading term. Again, I’m not actually that big, have a NHS approved healthy weight and wear clothes from the not-plus-size range. I have a similar problem with Fuller figure, which seems even more cryptic. Does it mean fuller than Average people? In a society with rates of 60% overweight and  23%  clinically obese, that puts the bar quite high. Or am I fuller if I’m heavier than my healthprofessionally determined normal/ideal weight (which then seems to hold true for over half of the population)?

Again, this term seems to be euphemism for extra weight, maybe a little, maybe a little more than a little. In my perception fuller figured also correlates with increased height, and brings up a Wagnerian heroine: tall, big and impressive.  Concludingly, I’m not happy to conjure a Rubenesque image, where my creamy, fleshy thighs overspill the dainty red velvet chaiselongue, naughty bits barely covered up by some cleverly draped leaves/waistlength hair.  Any guy hoping for that when reading my description would be surly disappointed upon meeting me.

Ok, we’re down to Average, Fit, Athletic and Curvy.

The problem with the sporty descriptions is that they also suggest a very clear image. If I describe myself as athletic, guys will hope for a tall Swedish triathlete with lithe, toned legs, flat stomach and small, but perfectly perky chest.

Fit probably goes in the same direction, possibly with slightly bigger breasts.

Much as my arms and shoulders are about as defined as you’re allowed while still wearing strapless dresses, and my calves are “proper hiker’s calves” as my granddad approvingly called them, my overall figure is nowhere near lithe. I have the aforementioned extra stomach, a very non-sporty looking bum and breasts that when running require the attention of a maximum security sports bra that costs more than my running shoes and should really come with a valet that helps you putting it on and lock the three (!) different closures. Comparing myself to the Swedish triathlete seems false marketing at best.

This brings us to Curvy.

Ah, Curvy. This is the one description that inspired this rambling post. My friend suggested that’s what I should call myself as it “sounds much sexier than average“. And with aforementioned bum and boobs in relation to my waist he might not be altogether wrong. However, I have two problems with this term.

a) Some people seem to use Curvy as another girl-specific euphemism for overweight. And while the two populations certainly overlap (pun definitely not intended), there are plenty of overweight girls who are not curvy, and still claim this term, as it gradually morphs from “very distinct boob/hip to waist ratio, regardless of actual size of either” to “lots of boobs and bum, we’ll not look too closely at your waist”. The main point of debate seems to be whether curves require a distinct “in-out” movement, or whether say, an apple or barrel with their convex outline can be called curvy.

Again, I have a hard time calling myself fatter than I already am and feel no desire to group myself with lots of big-is-beautiful advocates.

The second point goes rather in the opposite direction.

b) In the eyes of some guys, curvy seems to mean a mix of Betty Boop and J.Lo. I’m neither. Yes, I have boobs, but I can still walk straight and thankfully don’t get a backache from my bra. Likewise, my butt does not shatter baked bean can pyramids in supermarkets when I turn around, and my not so dainty arms and legs are in proportion with my torso.

Between a and b, and the implicit message of “I’m a fat version of Betty Boop”. I’d rather stay clear from the term and be safe.

Which leaves me with AVERAGE.

My fit shoulders, athletic arms and legs, curvy boobs and waist, little-extra belly, full hips and thighs simply average out.

I feel misrepresented.

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Just Ctrl C Ctrl V (part I)

The more attentive of my readers have noticed and the more pestering of my readers have remarked that my blog posts have been getting less frequent, and that I haven’t reported a current date story in quite a while. Well spotted.

Yes, I haven’t been on a first date since the beginning of the year. Instead, I met what my mother calls “someone nice” and have had a few whirlwind dates with him which quickly spiralled from “dating” to “going out” to “seeing each other”. While this is great, it means that I have no hilarious stories of terrible dates for you and I don’t intend to share the gooey, doe-eyed stories that my current dating life could inspire.

However, I’m blessed with friends whose dating life is much more turbulent and entertaining than mine and hope to share their tales of woe and my take on them. Recently, many of them have taken up online dating. Obviously I’m very opinionated about this, but  I don’t know whether they are not afraid of anything or simply haven’t heeded my warnings. In the following posts, I’ll highlight some of my experiences regarding online messages. Sorry, this post quite clearly targets hetero males, because those are the ones messaging me.

Sending a message on an online platform is the equivalent of introducing yourself to someone at a rave party at an international airport. As a girl, you simply have to be there, but as a guy it’s really difficult. You’re not the only dude at the party, girls are overtired of seeing the same thing over and over again, and there’s a lot of background noise. Your mission thus is to be brief and memorable, while not being creepy or trying too hard.

Yes, this takes a lot of time, and most women won’t even have the decency to respond to you. So why waste your time on elaborate witticisms and references to their favourite pokemon? The temptation is large to just write this one more-or-less fantastic catch-all message, and spam every single female in a 10 mile radius. Someone will respond, right? Right?

Wrong. Or actually: maybe. But your message has to be darn good.

The following examples are all taken from actual messages that I have received online. I’m fairly sure that they were not drafted with me specifically in mind, and would bet good money that copy and paste were involved.

Example A

u r sexy sexy

Note that this is the entire message. No opening or closing formula, no question, no punctuation.

In a way, this message is the Bauhaus example of online messaging. Reduced to the minimum, it does away with all the useless details, rationalising the effort that goes into massproducing pickup lines while preserving their functionality.

And isn’t there a certain poetry to the simple form created by this minimalist approach?

“u r sexy sexy” is not just “You are sexy.” but can also be parsed as “a a’ b b”, indicating a classic form at the foundation of this seemingly radically modern message. The repetition of “sexy” at the end of the line can be construed either as a stress and consolidation on the word sexy, which would make the meaning “You are very sexy indeed”. An alternative interpretation, due to general lack of punctuation, can lead us to believe that the second “sexy” is meant to address an intrinsic quality of the reader as in “You, the inherently sexy one, are sexy.”.

Without further context it is impossible to decide between these alternate hypotheses, and the sweet ambiguity lets our brain toggle between the different meanings, adding a flair of mystery to this message.

All in all, a masterfully crafted first approach. My interest in the fine literary mind shrouded in mystery behind this line was piqued.

The only question was what to respond to this level of poetic genius. All my answers seemed prosaic (!) and trite, my phrasing overly elaborate and my similes too garishly colourful compared to his serenely minimalist style. I didn’t want to resort to copying him and churning out something along the lines of “yo yo hot”, but my original ideas just couldn’t compete.

In the end, I gave up. I didn’t dare to respond to this iconic message.  Sorry, modernist1*, I don’t think it’ll work between us.

The take home message: Don’t overcraft a message, and leave some room for the other person to come back to you. This is not about showing off your creative writing class or creating a monolithic block of text, but about inviting the other person to a conversation. You don’t need to be hugely original, but you should open up a topic that makes it easy for the other person to respond.

*name changed by author.

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Sine Qua Non?

Maybe a bit too glum and dry, but a not-too-recent date brought up this musing.

This blog is about dating. However, it’s not about falling in love, having sex or finding a life partner (or debatably all the interesting aspects of dating).  Instead, most of my posts centre on the formalities and mere technicalities of dating. Maybe this is due to my personal predisposition to feel more at ease once I have established a routine, and identified all the rules. In the end, this routine provides the necessary framework for the exciting rest, right?

With this premise, I happily blog about what goes wrong, what feels right, about patterns that I observe and about the little anecdotes my life provides me with that support this presumption.

But once in a while, a date comes along that challenges my framework. Much like any scientist, this leaves me astonished and a bit disgruntled. Acknowledging that my model can’t account for my data,  I either ignore the new data point as an outlier (the easy way out) or I need to change my model.

Some time ago I had a date that reminded me of an important flaw of my model, in that the date itself wasn’t flawed at all – it was simply perfect.

The pre-date communication went well, with several short messages that made me laugh and curious about N. and when we did meet, he proposed a good outing. We had time to talk, we shared sushi and hot chocolate, we walked around a bit, we laughed. As his emails had suggested, N. was attentive, spontaneous and great fun to talk to. He wasn’t rude to anyone. He wasn’t creepy and overly personal. He wasn’t boring or taken either. And you know what? He didn’t mention how drunk he was at university even once!

Instead we spent a few delightful hours doing some of my favourite things, eating my favourite foods, and generally agreeing a lot.

It’s probably worth mentioning that he’s not bad-looking either.

However (you knew there was a catch, right?), we didn’t go out again. Yes, I realised that I’d absolutely love to spend more time with him. He’s clever, kind and we have similar interests. I was almost sure that we’d make great friends. There, I said it. Friends.

I just didn’t feel attracted to him.

I always knew that attraction isn’t easily summarised or defined, but somehow I presumed that missing attraction was usually based on something tangible being wrong with a date –  like the dealbreakers I previously described on this blog. To a certain degree, I thought that if someone came along that “ticked all the boxes”, I’d also be attracted to him.

Yet here came N., handsome and entertaining, with no discernible faults  on a picture-perfect first date. And my visceral response was completely absent.

I therefore think my model needs revision. The above mentioned factors, collectively named “dating skills”, while necessary, are obviously not sufficient. Something else is missing here.

It could be called attraction, chemistry or spark, but for my model, I’m naming it sine qua non, or “the one without which nothing else will be possible”.

Now I’m not sure whether the consequence of this discovery should be to only date people who I initially feel this sine qua non with, or whether I can only discover this magical spark once I’m on an otherwise mediocre date that is lit up by it.

Stay tuned.

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The Dating Simulator

The reasons why I have not been dating much lately are partly  professional and partly because my private life was taken up by looking for a new flat. Dashing around London,  visiting perfect strangers in their homes and going through their cupboards has been my major evening pastime in the past weeks, taking up most available dating time. However, I’ve come to realise that dating and flathunting aren’t  that different altogether. You could probably see flathunting as a good practise for dating. You don’t see how? Let me elaborate.

1)   You put up an ad or react to ads online.

The most proliferous and reliable source of flats/dates comes from the internet. Yes, in a perfect world we would just run into Mr. Right on the street and find the keys to a free, airy, hardwood-floored studio apartment around the next corner. However, when looking for a flat on a deadline or a date for Saturday night, tempting fate isn’t the most reliable option.

And so I find myself screening ad after ad for the “lovely spacious double room” or “tall & handsome with good sense of humour” of my dreams.

2) People speak gibberish in ads.

The amount of jargon in both the world of online dating, and real estate are astonishing, and terribly confusing for the layman. Because webspace isn’t paid for per word or line, the earlier usage of crazy abbreviation “2bdr, k/b and GSOH” is now subsiding, but euphemisms and embellishments still abound. Funnily enough, lots of the words used are the same for both personal ads and room offers – however, the underlying meanings are very different. This goes together with point 3).

3) People lie.

You’ll find enough offers that seem too fabulous to be true. All the advertised flats are “roomy and light” with “great flatmates, who like to chat over a glass of wine”. Similarly, every single guy with an ad online “doesn’t take himself too seriously and has a good sense of humour”.

However, once you see the flat or meet the guy you’ll discover what the code stands for, and it turns out the “roomy and light” flat has no radiators, while the guy who “doesn’t take himself too seriously”, also doesn’t take drug laws too seriously, and thinks dope should totally be legalised, man.

To spare other people the same mistakes, I’ve compiled a quick list based on my experiences:

Term Used in Ad What it Means in Real Estate What it Means in Dating
lovely small room boring
charming chipped paint job, mismatched furniture lies to get you into bed
cosy shoe box that smells of mould overweight, and not willing to do anything about it
sociable and lively noisy flatmates gets drunk at least three times a week
lots of character no straight walls, carpet smells funky contradicts you a lot and wears obscure band t-shirts
decent-sized average average

I hope this helps with deciphering the code and finding the right room or date.

In my case, after being quite disillusioned by my online finds, I returned to the more oldfashioned way of being newly introduced to someone I already knew. Turns out you don’t need to look online, when you might already have met the perfect opportunity.

I’m not talking about a date – but I’m moving in with a friend tomorrow.

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