Lately I’ve taken up a fun new hobby. It’s called ‘dating’.
This may surprise you, coming from a shy, introverted writer with self-esteem issues, but I haven’t dated much up until now. The relationships I’ve been in were largely kick-started by helpful friends prodding me towards my crush, telling me “Yes, he likes you. Yes, I’m sure. NO, this isn’t a trick.” When it comes to doing things off my own bat, I’ve traditionally had two seduction techniques:
#1: Drink lots and latch onto the guy like a koala
#2: Say nothing and die alone
Funnily enough, this wasn’t really working out for me, so I decided to try a different approach. A few of my friends had tried out online dating, and it hadn’t been as terrifying as they’d expected, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I signed up to OK Cupid, and immediately got sucked into the personality quiz that’s part of the sign-up process. I love quizzes, especially ones that tell me ridiculous and useless things about myself (“Which Care Bear would be your BFF?” “If it was the zombie apocalypse, what kind of cake would you be?”) An hour later, I was still clicking on answers, and had actually forgotten that I was on a dating site.
Then the messages started coming in.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from online dating – apart from hundreds of dick pics, which thankfully haven’t materialised. (Please don’t send me dick pics. I’m perfectly capable of finding them by myself). I have had my fair share of weird messages. The guy who asked me about my peeing habits was particularly memorable, as was the guy whose message consisted of “Hey honey, got Skype?”, and whose avatar was literally Johnny Bravo. I’ve also had some that made me laugh, such as the guy who referred to me as a “slightly older attractive woman” (I told my dad, who made the very good point that it was better than “a slightly attractive older woman”). What I didn’t realise, though, was that online dating would teach me a lot more about myself than it did about other people.
As you may already have worked out from my list of seduction techniques, I am genuinely terrible at talking to men when romance is an option. This is a step up from my all-encompassing social anxiety of a few years ago, when I was genuinely terrible at talking to absolutely anyone, unless I’d already known them for the better part of a decade.
I’d hoped that talking to possible dates online would be less nerve-wracking than it was face-to-face. Nope. The first thing I learned from online dating was that I can get just as flustered when messaging a guy who I might maybe possibly like as I would be if I were talking to him. At least on the Internet, he couldn’t read my petrified body language, and I was in no danger of spilling my drink on him or accidentally elbowing him in the face (this has happened).
Luckily, I managed to fake enough confidence to ask a few guys if they wanted to meet up. The second thing I learned was that I can talk to men when there’s the possibility of romance – but I don’t necessarily talk to them about anything good. Instead, my brain latches on to the most inappropriate topic of conversation you could imagine, and thinks “This is great! Let’s run with this.”
Before I started online dating, my fear was that I’d meet guys for dates and not be able to say anything (well, my biggest fear was that they’d agree to meet me just so they could point and laugh, but that’s my ol’ pal depression talking). But no – apparently, I’ve switched from ‘shy person who barely talks’ to ‘shy person who covers up her shyness by talking’. Which would be fine, if the things I was talking about were remotely appropriate for a first date.
I’ve had two first dates so far. On one, I talked about terminal illnesses for about half an hour. On the other, I talked about tentacle porn. (I’ve never even seen any tentacle porn – or wanted to, for that matter).
These stellar conversations somewhat overshadowed the rest of the dates for me. Yes, we talked about plenty of other things – music, books, films – and we seemed to have a lot in common. There were very few of those horrible, painful silences. But I was pretty much convinced that neither of the two would want to spend another evening with tentacles-and-Alzheimers-girl.
I was wrong.
I’ve got two second dates lined up for next week. This leads me to the third and probably the most important thing I’ve learned from my adventures in online dating. No matter how awkward I feel, no matter how much my nerves bite, no matter what nasty things my low self-esteem whispers in my ear – I’m not actually as repellent as I’ve always believed. After years of believing that no-one would ever want to date me, I’ve been proved wrong.
So, for anyone reading this who’s in a similar position to me, and who’s considering online dating as an option – I would say, go for it. You’ll be fine. And if you get stuck for a topic of conversation, then apparently, you can’t go wrong with terminal illness and tentacle porn.