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.
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…