Thursday, March 09, 2006

What The Papers and Books Say About Dating On The Line

Judging by what goes on in the media and in bookshops and that, you'd think it was still 2001. You know, like it's not that normal to do online dating. I heard a weird stat the other day - something like 1 in 6 adults have tried online dating. Can't be that bloody weird then, can it. So can someone tell me why all journalistic and literary stuff about online dating seems to assume that it's a new phenomenon that you need to have explained to you like you're a halfwit? Examples include:

1. Breathless twenty-something female journo writes truly appalling diary on her online dating adventures in ladymag. Invariably, she is inundated with dates, and has a couple of boring ones, about which she writes with no particular energy, and then, like, has another couple and then stops writing about online dating and starts writing about speed dating. Reason lady has no boyfriend is because she is simply Not That Interesting. I mean if you can't write an interesting piece about online dating, you might as well kill yourself. Lady journalism is usually about how they are surprised at foxiness of men, how they are all normal, how they write well, and how exciting it is to get emails in your inbox and find you are in 30 peoples' 'favourites' list. (No shit!). They also then comment on how pleasant many of their online dates are, and sometimes they have a relationship. Their conclusion is that it is really good fun and worth a go, if they have a generally good experience; if their twattiness is evidenced by their failure to connect with anyone interesting, they describe it as a thing for geeks.

2. Over-excitable male journo in early 30s falls in love via email with mysterious woman. Finds out she is Russian person (not necessarily originally a lady) looking for husband OR finds out she is normal, meets her, and goes out with her. The other option, depending on the sophistication of the magazine for which he writes, is that he comments on the enbonpoint of the laydeez on the line and raises awareness of online dating as a place to get an endless stream of one night stands without making any effort. Whether he has the wherewithal to actually have a one night stand is a moot point.

3. American guides to online dating. Books and on the line. How something that is so much fun, and so entertaining, can become the subject of books so dreary and uninformative is beyond me. You know, "How To Write A Profile And Win!"; LITERAL AND ACTUAL emails you can copy and sort of customise a bit in case you can't think of one yourself; how to take a photograph of yourself; how to approach a woman. Is completely insane and the thought of anyone taking these guides seriously makes me weep with gratitude for being English. These are the literary equivalent of self-help books written by the sort of people who run seminars in hotels in St James's for the terminally confused, for which the terminally confused pay hundreds of pounds.

4. 'The Rules for Online Dating'. You know those evil witch-faced harpies who wrote 'The Rules'? Them. They wrote it. As far as I know 'The Rules' was written for the single New York lady. In summary, the idea is that ladies have to pretend to be soft, feminine, and always busy and unavailable in order to get millionaires begging for a piece of them. You know, you can't return calls within 24 hours, and you have to pretend to be busy every other time he asks you out (whilst you are in fact sitting at home memorising the Rules). This book encourages women to behave like calculating, disingenuous, insincere vixens, whilst pretending to be wide eyed, fluttery, and innocent. The Rules for Online Dating are kind of the same - you know, appear casually interested in emails; don't log on every day; don't reply to emails immediately. Why the fuck not? THAT'S PART OF THE FUN. Plus it implies that at the back of your head is the idea that you are going to Search For A Man (I'm suddenly reminded of that (American) woman who wrote that book on how to find a husband - she recommended that you put aside 30% of your income for manhunting) in a really calculating way. And if you do that, you lose all the magic of it; the idea of chance; the sheer enjoyment of exchanging emails with someone funny and interesting; the whole idea that, well, you might meet someone amazing. Anyone who takes these kind of things sincerely deserves to end up in a cul-de-sac outside Slough with a husband who's a cost controller at Asda Head Office, grateful for the fact that she's married but otherwise regretting every single second of her desperate existence. See? That's what happens if you take witch-faced New Yorkers seriously. (Like Dr Atkins, who I think died fatly and of a massive heart attack, I suspect both these women are now divorced, simply because they are rubbish and you can't make a relationship out of pretending to be someone else.)

5. Chick-lit books about it. Oh just FUCK OFF. If anyone thinks this is the new epistolary novel, they've got another think coming. Badly written tat in a pink cover sold for £4.99 in Tesco is badly-written tat in a pink cover, however you look at it. Online dating just provides another source of plot lines strung together by words of no more than 3 syllables, consumed with passion by people who can barely write. Yes, it does piss me off. Had you noticed? I'm partly pissed off because I didn't write that novel myself about 4 years ago, but better.

6. Stuff like this:

You are about to learn secrets that will cause women to leap off your screen and fall into your arms as effortlessly as leaves falling from trees.

Inside you'll learn...

The single best place on the planet to meet women (and how to get the hottest women there to actually seduce YOU).

The biggest mistake men make that will instantly turn her off before she ever talks to you (and you may not even know you're making it).

How to get her to think of you not as a perv trying to get into her pants, but as someone she likes and trusts and wants to meet.

The one item you must have to ensure success with women. (It's more important than toothpaste and flowers.)

No, I'm not giving you the URL. I don't want to give him the traffic.


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