Monday, August 29, 2011

The online dating game

If you're a woman who has perused the single male talent of Melbourne on one of those online dating sites in the past few years, you may have come across me. Yes, I'm out 'there'. Funnily, in the last year or so a lot more people I know - male and female - have either joined up, or owned up, as well.

It's been mostly fruitless but over the weekend I had my first 'date' or face-to-face meeting... who knows what it really was.

She saw my profile on a site I hadn't visited for a while and sent me a message. Looking at hers I was pleasantly shocked - why was such a gorgeous girl contacting me (finally)?! Of course similar interests are also important ... that was covered too to I felt the urge to immediately reply. Of course, you can't appear too desperate, so I waited an hour or so.

Emails flew back and forth over the next few days and we really seemed to click so arranged to catch up for coffee. Although neither of us actually drink coffee. I was sure we'd be bursting with things to talk about - and said as much - from music to travel to footy.

On the day I was nervous as hell. Showered and shaved, but with an acne outburst that had me worried about a US pre-emptive strike on my face to secure its oil, I tried to scrub up well and wandered down to the cafe. I was fashionably five minutes late, but fashion isn't my strong point and she was later. Sitting outside on Swan Street, trying to look suave, or at least occupied, I wondered whether she'd recognise me given the photos on my profile were a few years old when I had much shorter hair.

When she arrived I knew it was her - a young women alone poking her head uncertainly into the cafe - but pretended I hadn't seen her and looked back at the traffic as I sipped my water. So cool. When I turned back she faced me and we examined each other's face and quizzically said each other's name. Yup, we were each other.

I can be a hopeless romantic. I'll admit to daydreaming and romanticising this a litte; it's been several years and a few disastrous experiences since I've had a good, settled, mutual love-interest. I probably over-imagined how it would all play out. My instinctive reaction was mild disappointment. We didn't hit it off the way I'd imagined we might, her personality didn't quite meet the one I had created in my mind and she didn't even seem to look exactly like the photos!! Clearly, this was a harsh, superficial reaction, so it was pushed aside as much as possible.

Not to mention that she was probably thinking the same thing as I sat there awkwardly, with my hair tucked behind my ears, revealing the minor growth on my forehead.

There were a few awkward silences, but the mood seemed to relax with even a few laughs. After 90 minutes the cafe was closing so we had to call it a date. I paid and refused the offer of reimbursement, she insisted and I took graciously, attempting to successfully navigate the line between old-fashioned chivalry and respectful equality.

Meeting someone for the first time in that setting - where you're measuring them up for potential romance and know they're doing the same - is a little odd; you're strangers yet you know bits and pieces about each other. Yet it feels creepy to go on about things on their profile for fear of coming across like you've been up all night studying it.

We walked out of the cafe, being adorably naive as I am I wasn't sure if a kiss on the cheek was appropriate but she leant in so I went with it. I walked away, saying 'Catchya later,' with genuine intention. She just smiled and said 'I'll see ya around'.

That was that.

There wasn't really much spark, I knew it and it seems she felt the same. I decided it was worth catching up again if she was keen so texted her a day later and suggested lunch in a week or two. After a couple of hours passed without response - given the rapid responses to all previous messages - I knew the message coming, I just hoped it would come. She did reply a day later saying thanks but she wanted to do the right thing and let me know she didn't think I was her type. It was the right thing to do, and I appreciated it. And I wasn't bitterly disappointed. In fact, I was a little relieved. But the little questions still pop up as to why she changed her mind ... what was it about me in person? Even though I wasn't especially keen either, it's still not fun to have an attractive girl say you're not her type after she was quite keen to meet you!

Obviously, its not always easy to gauge a person's real personality from a profile and a few nice photos. And obviously we all put up our best photos. I'm still suprised she contacted me in the first place - friends say I sell myself short but they haven't seen my profiles, I don't think they're particularly good. You have to sell yourself, and one of my major assets is my extraordinary modesty so it's tough to know how to stand out without looking like a cock.

Despite the security of browsing a list of photos and contacting potential dates from a shopping list, I still prefer to meet someone in 'real life'. Where you can start by just chatting without the prospect of evaluation hanging so obviously over your head, and where you maybe move into that realm having established a real connection. Where you meet through some mutual friend, situation or interest, rather than having been randomly placed in a list. But my profiles stay and who knows what's around the corner.

Although, of the 'first dates' or 'meet ups' I've had, the most relaxed have been over a couple of drinks rather than 'coffee' (I don't drink coffee, which might be the first issue). So maybe I should stick to the bars!

Anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; it was an interesting experience.

But if you're an attractive, single twenty-something female well, um ... hi!

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