As you read last week, I have eliminated escorts and adult dating from my enquiry into online dating. I’m going after something a bit more vanilla. But how to decide among the bewildering array of websites?
EHarmony, Match.com, Zoosk? I try one and to my horror it’s like a computer game or a Tesco club card. You have to wink at people and earn coins! For what, for goodness sake?
I find this gamification undignified and trivialising. Not for me… not the sort of fun and games I am after at all.
The Telegraph recommends the usual suspects plus Encounters and an odd one called Muddy Matches. Maybe there are dirty people on it? It turns out it is for people who like the country or who live in the country. Well, I have just moved to the country so I qualify…
The people on the site seem straightforward. Amid the odd horny-handed sons of the soil and pics of men and their tractors, there are some who look eminently suitable. And some with red trousers so there might even be some posh boys to boot! I pays me money and look to takes me choice.
Goody, you can add people to your favourites so I save everyone who I think I might look at later. All of a sudden I get a message from handsome Nobby in Norfolk, who notes that I have added him to my favourites.
What! How does he know? It doesn’t say he’s a clairvoyant on his profile. Why don’t they tell you that saving a person’s profile sends an alert to them? I had no idea! I have clearly said hello to dozens of men who no doubt will be on to me in a heartbeat.
Dishy Nobby, who appears to own an Aga (a good sign, I think), asks me why I haven’t uploaded a picture and I say that the site has yet to approve it. (Sites check pictures to keep it clean.)
The men’s pictures are generally poor quality. Lots of furtive selfies. I try to gauge if they are handsome. Tall, it tells you. Dark, some of the photos are so bad that, frankly, it’s hard to tell. Some even have cropped someone out as you can see a female hand just showing round the shoulder.
I discover that the norm is to have a portrait as your profile and a full length in the additional photos so that people can assess what sort of bod you have. There are lots of pics of men on holiday in their swimmies. Generally porkers don’t put a bod shot in.
I quickly work out that most men in their 50s are looking for much younger women. Good job I had lied about my age, then! It seems that to attract a man in his mid-50s I need to be 35 to 50. So my dating age of 48 looks like a good call. I am only lying to an algorithm, I tell myself.
When I meet them and they can see how lovely I look, I’ll come clean. The rank injustice of it makes me want to run round screaming.
People also speak in code. Men want tactile soulmates, it seems. I find this off-putting; are they proposing to stare meaningfully into my eyes and then feel me up in public? I later realise that this means they like sex, and the soulmate part means that they’d prefer to quite like the woman too.
A friend of mine recommends Encounters, a site for Times readers, so I subscribe on the basis that the men will be likely to be older and intelligent if not necessarily tall. There are loads more men than the Muddy ones. Lots more men from London. Lots more odd people, including a Mr Grey who wants to spank us.
I am not very keen on dating men from London. Probably unfair, but I feel that there is too much competition. Too many young women from Eastern Europe with great bodies, small bank balances, trick pelvises (probably) and 30 years on me. I won’t stand a chance.
Messages from all my favourites on Muddy Matches roll in. Not. There is one from a toothless man in his seventies in my inbox and I am still waiting for handsome, Aga-owning Nobby to get back to me.
You need to learn a new language. Find out how the sites work before you start. The odds are stacked against you if you are female and older. Life isn’t fair, and you just have to get over it.
Louisa Whitehead-Payne is not her real name but the stories are real