Up Front by Emma Hart


The Up Front Guide to Internet Dating

Six months ago, I decided I’d write a column on internet dating. I’d been dating for a couple of years, and boy did I have some Reckons. Still, the people I’d been out with deserved their privacy. What I needed was for other people to tell me their stories. I’d anonymise them, and then sneak my own in among them. They’d be the sort of stories that made you laugh while saying, “Oh god, that’s awful.”

So I asked. Then after a couple of days, I specifically asked men to send me their stories about women, because I wasn’t getting any. Meanwhile, the stories from women kept coming. And they were increasingly awful. They were so awful I put this column on indefinite hold.

I was reminded of it again at the National Writers Forum, when Chris Cleave was talking about how he does character research. One of the things he admitted to doing was signing up to dating sites and reading people’s profiles. They do two things there, he said, that people don’t do elsewhere. They describe themselves, and they describe what they want. Given my profile includes the phrase “If you're smart, funny, and kind and you like cricket and kinky sex and have an opinion on the Oxford Comma, you should get in touch urgently,” I conceded he had a point. And I really should write this column, despite its intrinsic difficulties.

(I once had a guy message me to say, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen cricket and kink mentioned together.” Bless.)

Here’s my advice for women. I’m bi, so obviously I’ve dated some women. Keep doing what you’re doing, women, it’s excellent. Straight women, I do have some advice:

-          Don’t talk about how much you hate your children

-          Don’t endlessly bitch about your ex

-          Don’t bring the ghost of your ex-husband on dates with you

Men. Sit down, men, you’re a bloody tragedy.

Look, I’m sorry you still have to do most of the initial approaches. Seems mad. All this time and women are still sitting back waiting. And I guess sending the same message to forty or fifty women seems like a time-saving measure, but stop it.

Hey gorgeous, how are you?

hoooowdy bombshell........ how are you today?

Hi, how are you today? Love your smile and your profile

Hello pretty how are you doing

These are from the top of my OKCupid inbox. I’ve received literally hundreds of these. I’ve never responded to any of them. Read a woman’s profile. Mention something from her profile when you message her. Pretend you give a shit.

Dudes my age? You are probably not George Clooney. What the hell is wrong with women your own age that isn’t wrong with, y’know, you? Your 18-35 ‘looking for’ age range is just fucking creepy.

Dudes my son’s age? Bless. But stop it. You’re my son’s age. It’s creepy.

But mostly, guys, STOP LYING. I’ve had guys turn up to first dates and been unable to recognise them from their profile pics and description. Don’t lie about being single: it’s really awkward when your wife calls during our date wondering where you are. Don’t lie about being Scottish, FFS. And you, the three guys I heard about who faked their own deaths? I don’t even know what to say to you.

Don’t abuse a woman for not replying to your messages. You’re just proving her right.

If a woman asks you to stop contacting her, do it. Then. Not seven months later.

If a woman lets you give her a ride home after a date, don’t go back and break into her house when she’s sleeping.

Yeah. It got awful.

There’s a lot I still don’t know about dating. It wasn’t a Thing when I was single the first time. I don’t know how long I’m allowed to simultaneously date multiple people for. I’m not sure when there’s a commitment. I find the difference between vanilla dates and FetLife dates fascinatingly tricky. In one case, at some point I need to bring up kink, and it’s always awkward. In the other, we’re sitting there knowing each other’s kinks and probably having seen intimate photos of each other, but not knowing each other’s jobs or names or hobbies.

There is a lot I have learned, though. I can, as it turns out, hold a conversation with absolutely anyone. I’ve dated lawyers, lecturers, programmers, truck drivers, machinists, artists, people of six different nationalities. I’ve learned really interesting things.

I’ve also learned I have very high standards. If I want someone who hogs my bed, ignores my needs, and doesn’t respect my boundaries, I have a new kitten.

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