Online dating likes to present itself as a carefree, almost randomly fun undertaking. Especially now thats we are in The January. The cure, it seems, for The January, is to find your perfect match. It is a concept flawed for many reasons, not least that The January is the most miserable and discontent of Northern Hemisphere months, a time when the air is heavy with self-loathing so thick, you can see it solidifying.
This is not the right time to find your other, significant or not. Walking around sucking your stomach in and wishing you were not you is not going to cut it. Self-loathing, disgust or feeling like a gutter whore do not make you attractive. (Actually feeling like a gutter whore can make you very attractive to the right man. But he is not on Match.com) Anyway, even the really shit dating books like this one will tell you that to be liked and indeed loved you need to love yourself. Nobody in The January is loving themselves. There are plenty of people loving someone they shouldn’t (this is after all the Divorce Month of the year, next week as it happens) but they are hating themselves for it. This is the wrong time of the year to do anything other than eat whipped cream with caramel biscuit spread. I can do this because I do not have to suck my tummy in and in The January you must drive home any advantage you have over anybody else. So I can tell you that without trying I have lost weight and I didn’t have any extra to lose. This is what The January needs to be about. This is the only way to feel good.
If you want to feel worse in The January you start thinking about The February. Not only are you on a dating site with men who use the word ‘naughty’ to describe sex, now you being pressured by the Valentine Nazis. Soon it will be February 14. In theory, once you surface from the detritus of Christmas, coated in goose fat, you have maybe five weeks to find someone to go through the motions with on Valentine’s Day. Then you will sit in a restaurant surrounded by other couples, mostly dining dead, who are looking at their phones, unsmiling and wishing it was all over now.
Meanwhile the advertisers persist in portraying their dating businesses a place where you will have a happy, random accident. Online dating is not a happy accident. It is the illusion of mass potential spiked with misplaced optimism. A happy accident is meeting a man in the transit lounge and spending 3 hours fucking each other before catching a plane onwards. A happy accident is sitting next to the guy on the train that you spotted on the platform and now he is looking at you smiling and you are smiling and he is beaming. Soon you will get off at the same stop and exchange numbers. Something may happen. Or it may not. It doesn’t matter. You shared a moment. A happy accident is the guy who walks past you and just says “You look great” and that’s all he says and your whole day spikes upwards by 300 percent.
And so when a correspondent asked me if I was going to continue my online dating experiment I said I wouldn’t. Once you find yourself talking to men you would not flirt with at the self-checkout in Waitrose, you are on a slippery slope. I have never enjoyed a date with a man unless he is someone I could immediately put into ‘good fucking potential’. Without that there is no point. People do not grow on you. Well not me. And as for what kind of relationship it is well this is the other problem I have with online dating. Categories and lists. Even when I was running 11 projects simultaneously in the corporate world I never made lists. I do not make shopping lists. I abhor the concept. And this whole modern dating concept is list heavy, which is stressful. If you don’t make a grocery list and you come home without stuff you just go “Yeah, like whatever.” If you make a list and you don’t fulfil it, you get stressed and feel like a failure. The January is not a time to take on extra rejection. You think online is less risky in that department than smiling at a man or woman in real life? It is not: it’s ruthless, cruel and does not even know you exist. Online dating forces you to make a list of the things you think other people want you to be. Is this really what you want to do in The January? No you do not. You do not want to second guess what others might want from you when you are still getting over the fallout from New Year.You want to get a supply of home grown green and smoke it until March begins. You want to be put into a pleasant coma. In The January what you don’t need is a grocery list you can’t live up to. Or one you can’t fill.