…Everyone does it. It’s a worlwide fenomenon that’s been going on for a while and has recently become as common as having a gym membership. Some do it for fun, some are incredibley serious about it, I used to know a guy who would spend all his free time in front of a laptop writing to women he would never try to meet. What I find interesting though, as an international traveller, is the different approach different countries have to this funny fenomenon: internet dating
Lets’ start with the Americans. I was introduced to online dating by my American cousin, who mee her husband on a matching website. Americans are practical people. Time-wasters they ain’t. Newyorkers especially (and my cousin was one of them before moving to leafy New Jersey) are the least keen to waste time in the entire galaxy so their approach to dating is simple and fast: he sends you a brief email saying your profile is interesting – or you send an email to him saying the same thing; if the interest is mutual, you exchange phone numbers and arrange for a quick coffee.
If the meeting is positive some proper dating ensues. If there’s no spark, all you’ve wasted is half an hour in Starbucks, no big deal. Women on NY websites seem to compete for the “wittiest, sexiest and I can live without you no worries” international award, and let you know exactly what they’re looking for – whether it’s S&M or lots of children. Sex and the City rules.
My cousin used to meet men during her lunch breaks, half an hour each. After six months she had met nearly a hundred people, including a few “maybes”, a couple of “very possible” and, eventually, one Mr Right (Erik, if you read this, don’t let it go to your head. This is an anecdote). She had lots of fun and got to know men she even managed to stay friends with. Many other NY women aren’t so lucky, but most of them manage to have at least a good time.
Italy. Men write first. If a woman writes first, they assume you want a shag straight away, so it’s not recommended unless you want a shag straight away
The moment a woman appears on an Italian dating website, her email account stops working, her internet provider starts sending her death threats, while her computer produces strange sounds as if about to explode and disintegrate. All this thanks to the amount of messages she’s received from wannabe-boyfriends. Italian men might not be the most selective but they ARE good at this game, let’s face it, they know how to flirt! They’re instantly romantic, full of innuendos, and if you send them more than one message they assume there’s a relationship going on and start asking about past relationships, sex, family and who you voted for in the past election. By the third email they want to come and see you in London (or wherever you live) – without specifying where they’re planning to find accomodation. Overwhelming, flattering, but if things go wrong and you don’t fancy a second date, you might want to consider moving to New Zealand for a while, just to make the message clear.
London. This is my territory.
I have tried 5 different dating websites over the course of 4 years and I haven’t met ONE SINGLE GUY that I wanted to see for a second time. A total disaster. Right, I AM difficult, I know. But admittedly the selection of loosers and weirdos I’ve managed to meet is quite impressive. Two exceptions: Roger, but he was American so he doesn’t count. No romantic sparkle but we stayed friends. And Ariel, an Israeli that I quite liked but he never wanted to see me again, despite the fact my grandmother’s family was killed at Auschwitz. How heartless is that??
Everybody else was English and unfortunately… most Englishmen don’t have a clue when it comes to women. Sorry, but it must be said. I know there are exceptions, but they are usually taken so they don’t qualify.
The main thing about the London dating scene is “playing the game”. And the game is: let’s all pretend we’re 15 and that we only want fun and drinks!!!!!!!! Especially the women seem convinced that the only way to get a man is, sorry, by looking cheap. Laugh a lot, drink a lot, talk nothing serious, show lots of flesh… Even in this case there are exceptions, but I can’t apologize every time I make a statement or I’ll sound like Silvio Berlusconi. The average woman on the London dating scene (I read the profiles!!!!) wants to look like Kate Moss. And I don’t mean that they want to look like top models. Kate Moss, together with Sienna Miller and other similar blonds who make daily drunk appearances on the free newspapers distributed on the Tube, perfectly embody a type of woman whose only aim in life is shopping, drinking, laughing, partying and shagging.
I’m not saying all this isn’t fun but a) it isn’t REAL. Men, wake up!!! Even Kate Moss wants more than THAT. b) it reduces the image of women to some sort of funky kittens.
Result:most women’s profiles require “men who can make them laugh”. They describe themselves as “bubbly”. They like cuddles on sofas and a chat over wine. Any words that could even vaguely make them sound “high maintenance” are carefully avoided.
Men profiles require women who are “low maintenance”, “with no baggage” and who “appreciate a laugh”. They also love cuddling on sofas and conversing over wine (or the other way round).
Overall, it sounds like a comedy competition, whoever manages to make you laugh the most gets to stay overnight.
Some guys sound macho and say that if you like soap opearas you’d better piss off. What if one “dubs” soaps? Does that count? Some fitness fascists threaten “I’m fit and have a good body so you’d better know how to look after yourself”. Or what, I’d ask? Then there are lads who aim at impressing by looking smarter than you are. They mention books by obscure American writers, or some equally obscure film by a Burmese director who died in 1964… Great!
In my first profile, back in 2003, I wrote about 6000 words and I ended up looking like a mix between a feminist lesbian, an intellectual nerd and nun. Luckily, I had a very “hot” photo so I managed to get quite a few emails. But London men aren’t Newyorkers. They seem to love wasting their time. They send LONG, sweet emails. So you reply with equally beautiful emails and you both end up having such high expectations that the real thing is bound to be disappointing. English men never ask you direct questions in their emails and expect the same from you. And they can go on emailing like this for weeks… Some of them never ask you out! After a while you both get bored to death and stop the correspondence.
The ones who do ask you out, want to plan a whole evening with dinner, a film and a drink (hoping for a coffee at your place afterwards, I imagine). At the beginning I would agree. But dinners are a damn LONG business when you’re with somebody you want to run away from after 20 seconds. Besides, they are expensive. During these interminable evenings I met a very nice recovering alcoholic, a lawyer who told me his plans for pension, two guys with missing teeth (you don’t need a dating website you need a dentist!!), a weird architect who for the whole date went on explaining the safety regulations for the building he had been planning (which happened to be a prison) and somebody who spent the evening looking at his shoes.
When I started proposing quick meetings over coffee as a first date, the men seemed annoyed, as if I wanted something short in case I got bored… Well, yes, that was EXACTLY my goal guys!!!! I do want something short in case WE get bored and I say WE, because usually the feeling is mutual.
Last summer I told all this to Erik, my cousin’s husband (the matching datesite man). He laughed like crazy and said, in American accent, “Lara, this is exactly what you need to write on your profile! I promise you, in New York, you’ll have guys throwing themselves at you. Londoners can’t be that stupid.”
So I did it. I erased the feminist-nun profile and I wrote a shorter one inviting men to buy me a coffee. I listed the things I liked about myself including my ass and what I didn’t like, including my ears. I sounded witty, independent, funny and quite mischevious… I hope!!!!!!
Result? MANY replies. BUT… Mostly from men over the age of 49. Despite stating in my “search” criteria that I’m looking for somebody between 33 and 43, lots of 50somethings seemed completely besotted with my profile. Now, nothing against men with a bit of experience but… These guys looked like my dad! A bit overweight, balding or grey haired… I know I’m over 35 myself but… I look young – I think…. Or at least young-ER. Why can’t I have somebody who doesn’t look like he’s walking on the sunset boulevard? Why is it that men my age don’t want me? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME???? And, more important, IS THERE ANY SINGLE NEWYORKER IN LONDON? Write to me!
Today I’ve got two new emails. One form a crazy psycologist and one from 47 years old, of course, quite good looking, pity he’s an occasional smoker, which I’d hate. They both have interesting profiles and said things that, I must confess, did tickle my ego…
I don’t have any expectation anymore and I should probably try something else instead, like rock climbing or tango. But I’m quite curious. Shall I answer?