Friday, 13 April 2012

Plenty of Fish

The last time I was single I was 21. I met men by hanging around in a car park in my beloved Peugeot 205 Gti (yes guys, it was a 1.9) with music blaring, back end weighed down with three mates in the back seat and a sub made from MDF in the boot. That car was a man magnet. I didn’t have to do anything else to draw them in, except drive and sit in that car. The approach was all sorted and it’s always getting that initial approach that’s tricky. I met some great guys with that car (the man included), and have a huge number of long standing friends as a result.

These days, hanging around in a car park is not the greatest way to meet men. Sure there is a new generation of “Kevs” hanging around in the car park, although the cars are more technical and the sound systems more sophisticated than they were in my day. But they are unlikely to be interested in a thirty four year old mother of two. And a beat up old estate car with two child seats (complete with apple cores and the obligatory cheerios crunched into the footwells) in the back does not a man magnet make. The men in my age bracket tend to drive family saloons rather than beefed up XR3i’s (showing my age there) and are probably only hanging around in the car park waiting for their Mrs and the kids to get back from Blockbuster. So I knew if I was going to get myself out there and meet men I’d have to try more age appropriate methods.

So I signed up for a free dating site that some of my friends have had limited success with in the past.

Within an hour I had received my first message, and over the next 6 weeks I got nearly 200 messages from different men. It was so exciting to suddenly have all these men at my fingertips, no awkward approach required. I quickly learned that while you can meet men sitting in a car park or by going to a local bar, the internet dealt with the approach to literally thousands of men, all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, almost a man supermarket if you will. Sure you can pop to the corner shop for a loaf of bread, but if you go to the supermarket you have access to a lot more choice, value for money and you can also get those posh seeded breads and exotic sounding ‘pan de campagne’ which you probably won’t find in your local Spar.

Of those 200 men, I replied to the few who most interested me (I started out trying to reply to them all, just to say thanks but no thanks to the ones whose opening lines were things like “Hey baby, you’re sexy.”, “Do you like DIY?” and many times, things far too forward and inappropriate to quote here). I went on to have some great conversations with really wonderful guys (and some less wonderful if I’m honest) and had a few interesting dates, which was what I was looking for. I wanted a Carrie Bradshaw style dating experience, and for a few weeks at least, I kind of had it. OK the dates took place in crappy pubs that often didn’t even stock cranberry juice let alone know how to make a Cosmo, but it was still kind of exciting.

But as I’ve said before “dating” in the UK doesn’t really work. I was messaging a few men for a while and it just got confusing. I was getting them muddled up, my phone never stopped bleeping and it all became a bit of a chore. The problem with internet dating is there is too much choice. You meet someone who seems great, and spark a brilliant messaging conversation with them, but in the back of your mind you are always wondering if someone better might come along (and you know that they are doing exactly the same thing). It makes you both kind of greedy.

There is always the danger of getting the timing wrong too. Meet them too early and they’ll be a string of other people you need to meet and rule out before you can “choose”, leave it too late and you could suddenly find yourself in the “friend’s zone”, messaging has told you everything there is to know about them and you have used up all those sparky, excited feelings that you should have when you first meet.

Then there’s the way the UK dating rules seem to turn one date into an instant relationship, so the “exclusivity discussion” must be had, and sometimes even what feels like a full on break up.

I’ve now hidden my profile on that dating site, although I’ve met some great guys through it. I’ve even met someone who I think will be a friend for life and also a potential boyfriend so I can’t knock it. But in reality, when I was playing the field, I missed those days of cruising round town in my 205, and having a sexy stranger knocking on my window. They were simpler times. I love Pan de Campagne, but at the end of the day bread is just bread and it doesn't matter where you buy it.

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