I’m an online dater and it changed me

Posted on May 9th, 2013

There are a few things you learn when you do online dating. You learn about the different faces of humanity’s heaving, aching loneliness. You learn just how lonely you are. You learn about the opposite sex. You learn about how much your ego can take (from the incessant rejections; on most sites you’re alerted to who is checking you out…followed by a loud silence when they don’t make contact; on one site one works their way up the “most popular listing” by responding to all contacts, which results in a lot of automated rejection emails). But mostly you learn about yourself.

Photo by Tierney Gearon

Photo by Tierney Gearon

I first gave the phenomenon a go a few years back. And I approached it as just that: a phenomenon. With my journalist’s hat on, I used my need for a column topic as my excuse for entering the fray. But, really, my excuse was that I was lonely and the tactic, frankly, was cowardly.  In the resulting column I wrote about how online dating is a great way to learn to be thoroughly yourself. That is, the forms you fill out to join the various services are a great way to remind yourself of what you like doing, what your values are, and so on. I stand by my theory, even if the pretense was a cop-out.

But I learned more this time.  This time I signed on to two sites. I’ve been on them for two months.

About men, I learned this: they like to hold fish up high in the air, go to a lot of events on boats toting bottles of boutique beer, “hit the gym”, watch Two and Half Men and Shawshank Redemption and read the Sunday papers. They’re “laid back” and “easy going” and “down to earth” (what Australian man isn’t!?), but “don’t do the club scene any more”,  don’t have time to read (except for aforementioned Sunday papers and Bob Marley’s biography),  get into a bit of the Foo (as in, presumably, Fighters) like it’s 1997, and take “selfies” in bathroom mirrors.

I also learned that young men with tribal tatts wearing muscle tees living in outer suburbs with Mum and Dad (a detail I gather by the bathroom accoutrements I can see in the reflections of their selfie portraits) are overly represented in the single scene. Actually I didn’t just learn this. I already knew it. It’s just that on online dating I’m connected with them (they’re overwhelmingly my main pursuers on the sites). I’ve written about how educated, career-orientated women in their late 30s and early 40s are overly represented in the Western world today, while for men it’s this younger, blue-collar demographic. It’s the result of “hypergamy“. And it leaves a huge disconnect in the dating market. Although, frankly, I find this kind of bloke more authentic and open with their intentions and overall spirit than a lot of the polished men working in finance, divorced and in their late 40s and 50s.

I learned I don’t like internet dating, but I stick to it to see if it can surprise me. I find attending to “criteria” is not how I want romance to strike. And the point being, I want to be struck. I want to be pursued, courted. Knocked over. It’s going to take that…a real blow to the kneecaps from a guy who’s brave enough to come that close. Which leads me to… Read more

it’s better to fall in love later

Posted on November 1st, 2012

I keep coming up with theories on love. It’s a theme in my life. I’m of that age where it strikes everyone around me as odd that I should be single and approaching 40. A real estate agent on Saturday proclaimed he thought it was profoundly weird I wasn’t married. “I mean, you keep yourself fit, so why don’t you have a husband.” It was a logic I refused to try and follow.

I’m also of that age where everyone around me are in relationships that strike me as, well, more than odd (toxic, perhaps? highly compromising?). And so I come up with, and collect, theories.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman. PS This giraffe has nothing to do with this post. But it’s the third giraffe to pop up in my orbit in 12 hours.

I was thinking about this theory this morning. I met a woman in Provence called Francine who made me lemon balm tea late one night and in her soft voice told me she thought it was better to fall in love later in life. She was 50 or so and single and still believed it wasn’t her time yet.

Her theory has a wonderful French fatalism about it. With a dose of “eat your cabbage first and leave your succulent pork chop till last” thinking (you’re either a “eat the best thing on your plate first” or a “save the best till last” type, right? I’m the latter.).

“When you fall in love and find your match when you’re  young, ” she said, ” you haven’t been around enough to handle the hurt. So when it ends, the pain is so bad,” she said. (French fatalism dictates that love will, of course, end.) Read more

my interview with Nicholas Sparks on what makes love work

Posted on December 4th, 2011

This week in Sunday Life I discuss The Notebook

If you ever find yourself in the laundry at a party skewered against the tub of stubbies by some eye-glazing, go-nowhere conversation, try this tactic. Ask everyone’s thoughts on The Notebook. In my experience everyone has a take on this 1996 novel, turned into a film in 2006. And it’s always pleasantly diverting.

I mean, most of us admit to only having half-watched the movie, and only to witness Ryan Gosling work his magic. Right? Blokes will say their wife made them do it. But in the next breath they’ll confess it made them cry. I know an ex-world number one light heavyweight boxer who’s watched it 14 times and a burly fireman who’s seen it nine. Both cried every time. Which is a phenomenon in itself.

But what I find interesting when I spike party small talk with such a conver-bomb is that invariably women say they love the film because the female protagonist Allie – who’s faced with choosing between first love Noah and her posh, sweater-n-chinos fiancé – eventually goes with her heart. Chicks love this.

Blokes, however, say they get all prickly-eyed because the dude who sticks to his belief that he’d found his girl (and built a house in readiness for her return) wins the day. The nobleness entailed in this and the fact he stands by Allie through all kinds of calamities hits a waterworks nerve for men. Chicks also love this.

Choosing to go with your heart, and determined, stoic nobleness – it’s fundamental Venus vs Mars stuff. But at the core of both takes is the same principle, I think. A “good” decision was made. And committed to. Simple! Phew!

Since seeing the film myself, I’ve always wanted to know author Nicholas Sparks’ take on love. Is he a romantic? A cynic? This week I got my opportunity during his visit promoting his seventeenth novel The Best of Me. Read more