Online dating sites (and London Underground) are awash with gushing testimonials from people who claim to have found the love of their life at the click of a mouse. In the interests of balance, I thought I’d offer some testimonials of my own.
A new chapter
I’d been on Solely Mates for about three months when Moira’s profile caught my eye. She was 35, down to earth, trim, unfussily attractive, and was pursuing what she described as an enjoyable and successful career in journalism. So I fired off a message, crossed my fingers … and to my astonishment, received an encouraging reply.
We arranged to meet at a central London cafe on a Sunday afternoon. Having never tried internet dating before, I was a mess of nerves – but excited too. This woman really seemed as if she might be my type. And sure enough, the fireworks began the moment we met!
We’d barely said our hellos when Moira noticed the book I’d taken with me – Simon Baron Cohen’s The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism – and launched into a diatribe against anyone who dared suggest that men and women were not identical in every respect. For all my protests that I was reading it with an open mind, Moira would not abandon the notion that I was Sid James, Benny Hill and Jim Davidson all rolled into one simply for having opened it.
We’ve now been apart for six years!
- Andy, 2008
It’s usually guys who make the first approach, so I was pleasantly surprised to receive a friendly note from Just_Jo. There was only one blurry picture on her profile, but her vital statistics – age, height, build, location – were all within acceptable tolerances, and more promisingly, her profile was completely free of cliches! (Most female members of dating sites will use some variation on at least one of the following: “comfortable in his own skin”, “someone who can laugh at himself and me”, “confident without being arrogant”, “bonus points if you know how to cook/play the guitar”, “I like a man to be a man”, “a best friend who I fancy”, “ultimately it’s all about chemistry” and “is that too much to ask?”) Jo, though, was an original.
And she sustained that originality throughout the correspondence that we kept for the next two weeks. She was playful, cheeky, flirty, and full of obscure but fascinating titbits. Every time I replied, I found myself obsessively checking my inbox for her next message!
So by the time we met up at Borough Market, my expectations were sky-high. And Jo exceeded them! She was as energetic in person as she was in prose; street, petite, and endlessly upbeat, and the light danced in her eyes when she laughed.
I knew from that moment that I’d found the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with! Unfortunately, she only wanted to be friends.
- Andy, 2008
Too much information
The first few dates I arranged through Solely Mates were interesting, but never quite progressed to the next level. Then I met Ines!
We met at a trendy pub in central London. Ines was a 41-year-old architect from Spain, and in way better shape than I was! She kicked the evening off by asking me how it was that a reasonably good-looking man was still single at the age of 38. So over the course of about 10 minutes, with another three for questions, I gave her a potted history of my romantic misadventures.
Then I asked her what her story was. At which point Ines proceeded to regale me with every tiny detail of every relationship she’d ever had – and a couple that she hadn’t – including what she was wearing, what he was wearing, every nuance of what she was thinking, what her friends said, what her family said, and what the various ex-partners were up to now. I barely got a word in edgeways, and when I did, she ignored it. By the time she’d finished, the bar staff were standing menacingly over our table.
The remarkable thing was, judging by the texts I received from Ines the next day – and continued to receive for six months after I’d told her I didn’t think we should see each other again – she seemed to be of the opinion that our date had been the most fantastic date in the history of dates!
- Andy, 2008
Sense of humour failure
Scouring through my thousands of online matches, I was drawn to LizzyBennet74′s profile immediately – and not just because of the alluring portrait picture. Her profile was positively pulsating with zingy one-liners!
Alas, on our first date, she revealed that the zingy one-liners had all been written by a friend, and for sheer, spleen-rotting dullness, the evening was surpassed only by the time I missed the ferry at Dover and had to spend the night alone in the terminal with only the instructions to my CD Walkman to read!
- Andy, 2009
When Andy met Sammy
I had low expectations when I started online dating, but they rose a little when I stumbled across Shyster’s profile! Her bio was brief and to the point, and she looked like my ideal woman: a dirty Meg Ryan.
On our first date, at a restaurant in west London, Sammy confessed that she was an old-fashioned sort of girl, and believed that the man should pay for everything on the first date. Since I’ve always been taught to respect other people’s beliefs, I duly coughed up!
On our second date, at a bar in Soho, she revealed that her old-fashionedness extended to believing that the man should pay for everything on the second date. I briefly wondered whether this was in fact a legitimate belief system, then coughed up. Anyhow, all was forgiven when it turned out, at the end of the date, that she was a dirty Meg Ryan!
Sammy was less old-fashioned in one respect, however. The following morning, she told me she was still meeting other people from the site, and one of them had his own jet.
They’re now celebrating six years together and are expecting their first child!
- Andy, 2009
Everything Everything but the girl
I was exhausted after a marathon shift at the office when I got home and logged on to Solely Mates to check my inbox. None of the women I’d contacted had replied, but there was a new message from a name I didn’t recognise – ManicPixieDreamGirl. There was no picture, but she was roughly the right age and her bio was largely free of spelling mistakes.
“What music do you like? I can’t get enough of Everything Everything! I just want to stay at home all day and listen to them. Do you think I should tell my boss? How are you?”
It was slightly odd, as first approaches go, but I sent a friendly reply, and went to bed.
But when I slept on it, realisation dawned. The breathless, hyperbolic style; the complete lack of any information about her beyond her musical preference, or of any questions for me … it stank of press release. Now that I thought of it, I’d heard about PR agencies setting up false internet dating accounts as a marketing wheeze. I threw back my covers and furiously typed out the following reply:
“Please disregard my previous message – I was too tired to think straight. Here’s a new one.
“So, the vile PR scum have invaded internet dating sites now, have they? How low will you stoop to peddle your wares, exactly? Killing babies and tattooing your brand on their faces?”
I was more than a little surprised to receive a reply within the hour:
“I was only telling you who my favourite band was.”
I was blocked the very next minute!
- Andy, 2009
Change of heart
I’d almost given up hope of finding true love when I rejoined Solely Mates in late 2013. The real world hadn’t delivered anyone I fancied who fancied me back, and my previous foray into the virtual world had, with one notable exception, come up empty.
And to begin with, it looked as though this stint on a dating site was going to whiff too. I favourited some people, and put out feelers to the dozen or so most promising candidates, but not one replied. Even the one or two brave souls who favourited me failed to respond to my missives. When my membership expired after three months, I hadn’t had a single message or been on a single date.
Then, the very next morning, an email arrived. “You have a message on Solely Mates!”
I logged on and read it. It was from NotBridgetJones. “Hey, AndyB! Your profile made me laugh. Do you fancy meeting up some time?”
Now, when your membership on this site runs out, your profile remains live, and you can still receive messages. You cannot, however, send any. But NotBridgetJones seemed friendly and cute, so with a mixture of reluctance and excitement, I shelled out £70 for another three-month membership, and fired off a reply.
Two hours later, she got back to me. “Sorry, I changed my mind.”
Now I’ve completely given up hope of finding true love!
- Andy, 2014
♥ There’s an unfathomably large set of data out there pertaining to online dating. The vast majority of it, though, comes from dating websites themselves, and should thus be taken with a Dead Sea-sized pinch of salt. Here, anyway, are a few choice nuggets.
• A 2010 survey by MSNBC found that around one-third of the users of internet dating sites were married.
• In 2011, US users of dating sites lost $50m to romance scammers.
• According to research by a company called SNAP Interactive in 2013, the average straight man on a dating website will have to send 25 messages to women his own age in order to procure a single response. The average straight woman, meanwhile, will only have to send five.
• In 2012, a study led by Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at Rochester University, concluded that more couples were getting together online than by any other method, save meeting through friends. (He also warned, however, that the medium has its dangers; that skimming over hundreds of potential mates can promote a ‘shopping’ mentality, resulting in single people becoming excessively picky. Told you so!)
• A study in 2013 found that people who met online were (marginally) more likely to be happy and to stay together than those who met through more traditional channels. The research was funded by eHarmony.
• Oh, and then there’s this 2005 press release by match.com, containing two facts that sound quite impressive separately, but together, don’t quite have the same effect:
“Last year alone, more than 500,000 singles found meaningful relationships through Match.com’s online personals and singles ads. Match.com … today serves more than 15 million singles in 240 countries!”
In other words, if you use an online dating service, the time it will take you, on average, to find the person of your dreams is just … 30 years. (A separate anaylsis of match.com’s figures by the people at PlentyOfFish concluded that one in every 1,369 dates with the company led to marriage. Assuming one date per week, that’s 26.3 years.)