Monday, September 28, 2009
The perils of internet dating
After a long absence, Slightly Nutty recently returned to the exciting, unpredictable world of internet dating. What a ride it’s proving – and I haven’t even met the Gentleman in question.
I admit to being on a rather ‘questionable’ dating site, down a notch in the respectability stakes from RSVP, which I hate to give free publicity to but have to admit is probably the best known dating site in Australia.
But I prefer the dodgy site I’m on, for a host of reasons. And they don’t include posting naughty pics of myself in compromising positions with my face artfully blanked out.
I’ve only met one person through this dodgy site so far and he, like me, was a refugee from RSVP. And the Gentleman I’m hoping to meet up with in the next week or so also looks like he could easily be on RSVP – he’s fully clothed in all of the three pics he sent me.
So why do I bother? Why not just get back on the RSVP treadmill?
The main thing is the expectations are lower. RSVP meetings are fraught with danger for the slightly nutty. I’ve been on and off RSVP for ages (you can hide and display your profile at will) and, now that I’m in my forties, I’m finding that dates basically expect me to own. Yes, property. They don’t like genteel poverty and fear you are going to sponge off them. My one and only female date asked me if my job was full or part time, and whether I owned or rented. It felt like a job interview.
It’s not just that, but the general expectations that accompany an RSVP date, mine included. They evoke a host of long-buried needs, hopes and unrealistic expectations. In contrast, when I meet someone from the dodgy site I’m not scrutinising them as closely and asking the questions: ‘Could this be my next life partner? If so, does it matter that they like playing obscure board games/have appalling taste in restaurants/break wind in intimate moments?’ The thing I’m mainly interested in is the chemistry. Is there something there? Are there things to talk about? Do I want to spend time with them?
But there are still difficulties, the main one being the need to have a recent photo on hand for prospective suitors.
Because the site I’m using is a bit dodgy, I didn’t want to have pictures of myself on my profile for all the world to see. Even if I did, the last decent picture of me is two years old and shows someone who looks younger and prettier than I normally do. When this current Gentleman responded to my profile, sending me recent non-rude pictures of himself, I realised I would have to update my own pics and send some to him. (On the website you can post your photos on a ‘private gallery’ and tick a box when sending a letter to allow the recipient to view the pics.)
So I asked an obliging friend to help out. We went to the urban forest near where he lives and took lots of shots, in heaps of different poses, in the hope of choosing the best ones. Predictably I was disappointed with the ones he sent me to choose from. I’ve never been that photogenic, but I’ve become less so as I’ve gotten older. It didn’t help that I had bad PMT that day either. And it also didn’t help that the photos were on large files that gave uncomfortably detailed close ups! (Tip: if you're not happy with photos of yourself, blame the photographer!)
But no excuses. I would upload the best three to my ‘private gallery’. I did, asking the Gentleman to contact me if he still wanted to meet up for coffee. (The photo-taking friend and I had rationalised that it was preferable to supply ordinary photos rather than pics so flattering that the prospective would be dreadfully disappointed when he first clapped eyes on me.)
I uploaded the pics on Wednesday. I went away on an overnight trip on Thursday and was hopeful that on my return on Friday afternoon a response would be waiting for me.
No response. Saturday morning arrived. Again nothing. Saturday afternoon also proved unfruitful.
I reeled, I quavered and I quaked. This would be the first time I had been rejected on the basis of a photograph!
I spoke to another friend whose roles include being a kind of mental health buddy. We discussed the concept of exposure, a popular therapeutic tool in the treatment of anxiety and OCD. Exposure therapy involves putting up with discomfort in relation to a phobia, fear or obsession, and gradually increasing one’s exposure to that discomfort.
As someone with a minor case of body dysmorphic disorder (which in my stronger moments I admit is actually an impossible demand that I be beautiful) one of my worst fears is being rejected on the basis of my appearance. The silence on the Gentleman’s part suggested this might have actually occurred.
But in fact, my mental health friend and I agreed, there was no way I could know this for sure. Perhaps the Gentleman didn’t like my ‘look’ rather than my ‘looks’. Alternatively he might simply be away, or incredibly busy, etc etc. Staying in this state of uncertainty, of unknowingness, rather than forcing some unalloyed truth from the world is the essence of exposure therapy.
I told my mental health friend I had wanted to send the photos to him to get his opinion. But we both agreed that that would constitute seeking reassurance, a no-no in exposure therapy.
Anyway, on Saturday evening the longed-for answer finally arrived. Yes, the Gentleman would still like to do coffee. He explained his slowness by saying that he wasn’t addicted to the dating site and didn’t check his messages that often. This had the ring of truth to me, as there had been a lapse of several days between telling him I was going to post the pics and actually doing it.
We still haven’t spoken, but it looks like we’re going to catch up on Saturday morning. Wish me luck!